Is Skyfall the best Bond flick yet?
Turns out, it depends on where you look. The performances, line delivery and production values are as brilliant as any moviegoer could hope for, but there is a caveat that might be cause for concern among more rigorous Bond fans.
In Skyfall, Daniel Craig returns for a third time to his role as British Secret Service agent James Bond. This time, as with his previous performances as Bond, Craig is a stunner. He’s the sixth actor to hold the role, but there’s never been a Bond played as seriously as Craig’s: he’s more violent, less glib and not quite as blithely confident as his predecessors.
Beyond the lead actor, the whole spectacle remains glorious. The Grammy-winning Adele recorded the trademark Bond title song, which is brilliant. There are as many explosions and gunshots as you might expect, including one especially decadent—almost gratuitous—fireball in the film’s final action sequence. Judi Dench returns to play M, Bond’s boss, and audiences can look forward to seeing her in a more central role for this go round.
One performance deserves special attention. From a characterization standpoint, Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva might just be the best Bond villain ever: he’s righteous, dynamic and genuinely terrifying. Bardem manages to take a classic Bond villain—outrageous hair, physical deformity and all—and work in humor, depth and even a measure of sympathy. It’s his performance that makes the film feel weighty and serious.
A huge diversity of lush settings and exotic locations serve as the backdrop for the well-directed action, and the whole experience—Skyfall is certainly an experience—is compounded by smug references to Bond’s bygone era. It’s an effective mix; Bond fans and newbies alike are sure to love it.
The result is a wholly satisfying show. From a line delivery standpoint, Craig is remarkably good—especially next to past Bonds. The understated, less-assured take on Bond feels less like the ultra-smooth Bonds of the past and more like Jason Bourne: deadly, dark and angry. Daniel Craig really doesn’t care how his martini is made.
Unfortunately, the Jason Bourne comparison is uncannily fitting. Skyfall is at its weakest when it tries not to be what it is—a Bond film. The script is largely to blame for this: introducing drawn-out suspense as a new element in Bond movies is probably a mistake, and a plot that feels more rooted in personal conflict than broad conspiracy—complete with a visit to James Bond’s past—leaves a lot to be desired, especially in the movie’s not-so-exciting second act.
The result is a flick that isn’t the unique blend of British wit and outrageous villainy that should characterize a Bond film. Skyfall, more than any other 007 movie, feels like a truly spectacular American spy thriller. Any fan of Bond will tell you that Britain’s finest secret agent can be so much more.