The film opens with a bravura action sequence featuring a beautifully staged motorcycle chase over and around the Grand Bazaar in Turkey and ending with the best Bond theme since 1999's "The World Is Not Enough". At the end of it all, Bond is missing and presumed dead. Meanwhile, MI6, led by the enigmatic M (Judi Dench), comes under attack by an unstoppable cyberterrorist. Bond quickly reappears but worse for the wear. He's unshaven, achy, and his reflexes are off. But he returns to the field to track down the culprit. From there, the script by long-time Bond writers Neal Purvis & Robert Wade, and John Logan ("Gladiator"), follows a fairly straightforward trajectory, with Bond tracking an assassin to Shanghai, hooking up with a femme fatale and facing off with the evil Silva (Javier Bardem, with a wicked dye job).
New-to-the-series director Sam Mendes ("American Beauty", "Road to Perdition"), struggles with the rhythm of the film. For all the concern with relevance, it's reverence that threatens to scuttle the movie. The key moments are romanticized to the point of stiffness calling attention to the formulaic nature of the series and skewing frighteningly close to "Austin Powers" territory. The flirty banter with the femme fatale goes nowhere and is quickly dropped, the gadgetry - via a new Q - is pointedly a throwback to the old days with no twist, and Silva's plot is so straightforward that his inability to execute it makes him nonthreatening. (As we saw in "Live Free or Die Hard", a cyberterrorist is not an interesting villain for an action hero; Bond is a larger than life character, he needs a larger than life challenge.)
But why bother with all this when 2006's "Casino Royale" already successfully rebooted this franchise without calling attention to itself? 2008's "Quantum of Solace" had the feel of a slapped together B-reel of "Casino" outtakes (largely due to the crippling writer's strike) but at least it felt like a Bond movie. "Skyfall" has the opposite problem. With four years in development, the script is too over-done, spending an inordinate amount of time on relationships and not enough on thrills. As good an actor as Daniel Craig is, it's simply not that interesting to see James Bond confront his personal demons - particularly when they're so ill-defined. It's an ambitious concept, but we like our Bond as a man of action not indecision.
And yet, at the end of the film, the pieces appears to be reset. Mr. Craig seems to be more at ease in the role than he has been since "Casino" and the closing moments promise a return to form. More than anything else, "Skyfall" feels like a transitory film, as though the next one might be the "Casino" follow-up we've been waiting for. And if this franchise has proven nothing else in the past 50 years, it's that James Bond will return.
|Summary||An obsession with age, and an underwhelming plot, has this 50th anniversary Bond installment showing its years.|