The Sky is not falling

Daniel Craig’s turn as James Bond has been widely praised, even though reactions to Quantum of Solace as a movie have been mixed. I had no opinion, because despite me being a Bond fan, until a couple of days ago I had not seen any of the recent Bond movies. There are several reasons why. The first is that the Brosnan era ended on the sourest of notes. I loved Brosnan as Bond. Sure Goldeneye was the only true classic in his run, though I will defend The World is Not Enough, but Brosnan was the best Bond since Connery; less jokey than Moore but not humorless like Dalton. Die Another Day was such a turd that it kind of killed my interest in the series. Then there was the long wait between movies, which kind of let me forget that I once liked this series. Most damning, though, was my perception of Casino Royale as a gritty reboot. I reject utterly the idea that realism is inherently better than the fantastic. Casino Royale seemed to be being sold on the fact that it was better because it was more realistic than previous Bonds. That rankled me. After watching it recently, I saw that Casino Royale was better because it was better written, acted and just flat better made than most Bond movies. After seeing Casino Royale, I felt that I needed to see Skyfall.

Casino Royale excised the detritus that had built up over 40 years of Bond. Elements that were there because they had always been there, things like Q and Moneypenny and gadgets, were gone. All that was left was Bond himself. Now that who Bond is has been reestablished, Skyfall starts to add that stuff back in ways that fit with the new tone. As a result, Skyfall feels more like a Bond movie, but it is still exceptionally made. Familiar elements return because there is now a place for them, a reason for them to exist.

Skyfall starts with a rousing action scene, with a motorcycle chase and a fight on top of a train. It is well shot and everything one could want in an opener. While it does set up the rest of the move the end though, goes for a shock that really isn’t followed up on. That is the one problem with Skyfall. There are a lot of great looking scenes and a plot that is simple enough, but the various acts don’t really flow together that well. It just short of jumps to the spot it wants to be at, and the logic getting there is sometimes spurious. Still, that doesn’t greatly harm the experience.

After a surprisingly great credit theme, in the past I really haven’t enjoyed them, Skyfall moves to Bond hunting down the person who stole the information on undercover agents while M deals with governmental questioning the usefulness of her organization in wake of losing said information. Bond goes to Shanghai for a some very entertaining spying and we meet our villain Silva, played by Javier Bardem. Silva is the best Bond villain since Sean Bean played Trevelyan in Goldeneye. Like that villain, Silva is a dark reflection of Bond, a cautionary tale of what happens when a spy goes bad. After Silva interacts with M and Bond, we get to the last part of the film. The third act, instead of more espionage, it is just a complex home invasion and shootout. It works, but it feels somewhat out of place for the climax of a Bond movie.

Skyfall is a really good action movie. It has its flaws, but they are far outnumbered by its strengths. The biggest of which is the acting. I still like Brosnan more than Craig, but Craig is a more thoughtful Bond. Judi Dench is still great as M and Javier Bardem makes Silva simultaneously pathetic and scary. Plus, there are some really great action scenes here. Skyfall is a lot of fun, like a Bond movie should be, but without losing the seriousness that has been there recently. Basically, it is all fans could ask for in a Bond movie.

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