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Daniel Craig as Bond has been a bit of a mixed venture for some, with Casino Royale receiving high praise from just about everyone (including me); whereas his last outing as the martini drinking, charisma wearing agent proved to be more of a spectacle of stupidity, with bullets replacing smarts in Quantum of Solace (even if I enjoyed it). Now we have Skyfall, which tries to encapsulate the grit, excitement and humanity of both films, yet the charm of the series. Does it succeed? Review after the jump.
Daniel Craig once again stars as James Bond, replacing martinis with Heineken yet still keeping faithful to MI6 and M (Judi Dench). However things look more dire than ever, when a villain of the worst kind directly attacks the organization and M herself, and in doing so reveals something of M’s past and her connection with the crazed terrorist himself. Bond, (being the only identity left in MI6 that hasn’t been made known to the world) is dispatched to find the terrorist, and do what he does best.
The villain in question is Silva (Javier Bardem), who knows more about the agency and M than almost any other Bond villain to grace the screen. Unfortunately for MI6, he also happens to be one of the craziest. Bond, with a subtle dedication and admiration to the service and M does everything he can to save both, even if it means losing whatever’s left of him.
Craig as James Bond is a perfect fit, we learnt that in Casino Royale and it was confirmed in Quantum of Solace, contained a great performance from Craig. While he is still on form in Skyfall, he isn’t given very much to do. Very little of what he says or does stands out in any way – there is no impact or defining moment of character.
The ensemble cast provide great performances with special mention to Ben Whishaw as Q. His timing is great, as is his dry delivery of his dialogue. Naomie Harris is also fine playing a fellow agent (and Bond girl substitute), and she does the best with the limited material she’s given. The performance to define them all however is that of Bardem’s as Silva. He isn’t merely scoffing at the camera whilst blowing things up; he has charm, and his snake-like physicality and mannerisms are accompanied by a smile more terrifying than most villains seen on-screen.
The direction by Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Jarhead) is good for the most part, and the visual flair is there while the timing of each action set piece is meticulous. However, the screenplay written by Robert Wade, Neal Purvis and John Logan is where the problems lie. The characters are fleshed out only just as much as they need (and not an inch more), while the film is littered with instances of very clunky dialogue.
The real problem with Skyfall above all else is its third act – it’s clunky and overlong, and feels incredibly weak compared to the rest of the film. Some will love where the story goes, but I unfortunately did not. The third act serves only to weaken the story, and even the characters themselves.
Skyfall relies too much on the series’ nostalgia, and it is as if Bond himself is merely a vessel for the action rather than being a character who thinks or feels anything at all. The action at times is memorable, but as we now know after Royale, the running, jumping and shooting is the easy part – creating fully-fleshed out character(s) and story is much harder indeed.