Skyfall


I'd read about a half dozen reviews of Skyfall before going to see the movie yesterday evening, and fully expected to hate it. Much of what I read made it sound as if they had toyed with the Bond formula too much, to the point of sacrilege. But the changes were good.

Q is now being played by 31-year-old Ben Whishaw (he looks more like 21). I'd gotten used to Desmond Llewelyn, who'd played the role in 17 Bond movies, up until his death in 1999. And I don't go to a Bond movie to see characters who look like college students. But the movie cleverly works Whishaw's age into the script, and turns it into a plus.

I'd read that Javier Bardem makes the villain campy. Camp was the kiss of death for Never Say Never Again (all prints of which should be destroyed immediately; it needs to be eradicated like the smallpox virus). But Bardem is more gay than camp, and it works in the context of his character. He is evil, but evil for reasons we can sympathize with. He is also, as all archvillains should be, diabolically intelligent.

I'd read that the movie takes you back to Bond's childhood, and explains certain things about him. My initial thinking on that was, do we really need to know that much about his backstory? James Bond is supposed to wind up in bed with a beauty, not on the couch talking to a shrink. But the psychoanalysis is minimal, and the scenes which take place in his ancestral home work well.

There is an old Scottish gamekeeper who is played by Albert Finney. One of the reviewers pointed out that this was a role which must have been written for Sean Connery, who must have passed on the role. I had my doubts until I heard the gamekeeper call Bond as a "jacked-up little shit." Those words were definitely written for Connery.

M, played by Judi Dench, figures prominently in this movie, playing a central role in the plot. As one reviewer said, we now know that M stands for Mommy. (I'd like to claim that line as my own but can't.)

Naomie Harris, as the good Bond girl, looks breathtakingly beautiful from some angles, less so from others. But she is playful and flirtatious, as she is supposed to be. Berenice Marlohe, as the bad Bond girl, is actually a better actress than looker. (Aren't Bond girls supposed to be the reverse?)

Bond movies have traditionally been better in the first half, and tend to run out of imagination in the second. Both halves of Skyfall were great.

The action scenes were as good as ever. It helps that Craig is so athletic-looking. He looks less 'roided-up here than he did in Casino Royale, but his bone structure still makes him look like the former SAS type he is supposed to be. There seems to be a general consensus among the reviewers these days that Craig is the second best Bond ever. I agree.

But while Craig may only be the second best Bond, this may actually be the best Bond movie ever.