Everyone knows the man: James Bond, 007 — skilled agent, loyal Brit, dangerous flirt, and refined alcoholic. It’s his character, rather than his exact story, that is legend. Each new Bond movie waves away a little more of the smoke that clouds his past, slowly revealing to us a little more of his emotional, flawed side.
This latest installment in the mysteries behind the most famous MI6 has an unprecedented sense of finality, perhaps because it is the last Bond movie to be penned by the series’ current screenwriters, Neal Purvis, John Logan, and Robert Wade. “Skyfall” is perhaps their goodbye salute to the series’ loyal audiences: all loose ends are quickly and neatly tied up, but sadly, without that deep sense of satisfaction we all crave at the end of a tumultuous spy film.
Actor Daniel Craig, the present Bond incarnate, is thankfully believed to be signed up for at least two more Bond installations. His superstar McDreamy persona is, of course, part of the last three movies’ success. As always, Craig’s rippling pectorals and icy blue eyes get plenty of screen time in “Skyfall”, although the usual steamy Bond and femme fatale romance is absent. Poorly portrayed sexual tensions are apparent between Bond and returning character Eve, and there is brief intimacy between Bond and Severine, but this is likely because the plot is far from being about Bond’s love life.
It is a moving tribute to his mother-son relationship with M, who is played by Judi Dench for the last time. The title of the movie has several connotations with the nonliteral one being the most powerful. Both M and Bond experience their own “fall”, as Bond’s ability to perform as an agent is questioned and M’s old age becomes a hindrance to her work. Once the reason behind the movie’s namesake is revealed, the ensuing events become achingly predictable: Bond and M flee the city to confront the demons of his past and, literally, burn the unhappy memories that hold the agent back, while trite religious symbolism worms its way in. Despite the fact that these touching struggles ultimately redefine Bond, it seems like a cop-out by the screenwriters.
Many new characters are introduced, including a particularly demented villain, not unlike Christopher Nolan’s Joker in the 2008 box office sensation, “The Dark Knight”. Actor Javier Bardem adds a former MI6 operative named Raoul Silva to his already long and diverse acting resume. The villain of “Skyfall” is a copy of the now infamous Joker-template, a sickening character complete with a disturbing visage, maniacal laugh, and devastating backstory. An uncomfortable and controversial homoerotic scene between Bardem and Craig is an unexpected addition, in which Bond does us proud and remains as cool as ever, while Bardem’s performance is cringingly good.
“Skyfall” overall is just that: good. But it does not surpass “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace”, the preceding movies starring Craig. Even though Adele’s song “Skyfall”, written for the film by herself and Paul Epworth, says “This is the end … ”, we all know that there will never be an end for 007.
I miss the untouchable James Bond, who used to tumble from a multi-story building without getting a scratch. It pains me to see him sporting a bloody lip or serious emotional baggage, as Craig’s version of the spy often does. While the latest film’s plot presents what most viewers yearn for, the most humanized and realistic secret agent we have ever seen onscreen, I can’t help but ask, “What’s next?”