First of all, I went to an “IMAX” showing of the film at a Regal Cinema. This differs from an IMAX showing in that it was on a regular movie screen… just in the IMAX aspect ratio. That bugged me. Lesson learned. I’ll go to the Pacific Science Center exclusively for my IMAX fix from now on.
Skyfall starts off with a bang, an awesome chase sequence through Istanbul that had me on the edge of my seat. It involved Bond, of course, and also introduced a new agent, Eve, played by Naomi “She wasn’t nearly as attractive in Pirates of the Caribbean” Harris. This is all standard stuff… until Bond gets shot! What the frick? Bond never gets shot! And then he falls off of a train and “dies”. Segue to a mediocre (for Bond films, anyway) title sequence with Adele singing the song. It’s fine. Nothing great or terrible about it.
The film shifts back to M (Judy Dench) trying to get back the list of covert agents that was stolen in the opening, and getting kicked around by Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), some sort of bureaucrat who works for the Prime Minister. In fact, she’s due for an enforced retirement, which she doesn’t like at all. And then MI6 explodes. (Sadly, the explosion wasn’t followed by a cool boat chase on the Thames.)
In the continuing Bourneification of Bond, we cut to James living in what looks like the exact same down-market beachside shack where Bourne stayed in the beginning of The Bourne Supremacy. It was kind of funny how similar it all was. Anyway. Duty intervenes and Bond runs home when he hears about the bombing.
Next, there’s a whole sequence that seems a bit… early, I guess, where we’re led to believe that Bond is getting too old for the spy game. Which is weird, since this is only the third film since the reboot. But, I guess he was doing lots of 007ing in the intervening years. They just didn’t bother to make movies out of all those missions. Trying to generate some concern in the audience that Bond might retire feels that much more false when you realize that Daniel Craig has signed on for two more films. It’s during this sequence that we meet the new Q, Ben Wishaw, though, thankfully, he doesn’t seem to have any sort of angsty deathwish. I’ve missed Q. I’m glad he’s back, even if he’s way different now.
There’s a lot more stuff that happens, including the most unnecessarily elaborate murder for hire in the history of the movies, then we meet Silva. Javier Bardem plays this disavowed MI6 agent with a lot of showy flourishes, but what makes it work is that he’s so obvious about it, you really think he’s putting on a show for Bond. Watching him on screen is always fun, even if the screenplay makes him one of those “always a step ahead” villains who must have a fricking crystal ball to know that having a bomb in such and such a location would have exactly such and such effect at such and such a time. (This involves a subway. Go ahead. Explain how that scene made any sense. I dare you.)
Where the film really veers from the normal Bondian tradition is that the final act isn’t about death satellites or starting World War III or nuking anything. It’s remarkably personal. And it ties to the meaning of the title. (I love the fact that I was surprised by that reveal, and that it happened so late in the film.) The ending is still exciting and violent and visceral and fun… but it doesn’t have the epic scope of most of these films. This isn’t a bad thing. I thought it was fantastic. But there’s no way they can maintain this kind of storytelling and keep the franchise alive. I think they’ll have to open it up to some ginormous villainous scheme for the next one.
Where does this film fall? It’s certainly better than average, and waaay better than Quantum of Suckitude. Not quite as good as Casino Royale, but that’s a high mark to shoot for. Still, by the ending, I was definitely optimistic about the future. [wink]