A James Bond movie can be counted on to include fantastic stunts and feats of derring-do, fancy gadgets, beautiful women, exotic locales and a monstrous villain. It’s an entertaining formula but most have ended up being entirely forgettable. The average movie-goer would be hard-pressed to name even half of the 23 films and only the first few movies starring Sean Connery would be mentioned consistently.
Skyfall has a good chance of joining the short list of memorable Bond films. To make that list a movie needs strong performances to sell the characters and make us accept the over-the-top story. These are provided by Daniel Craig as Bond, Judi Dench as his hard-bitten boss “M”, and Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva, a villain who is frightfully smart and totally insane.
The movie opens with a traditional Bond-movie chase scene, at the end of which the hero is apparently killed by friendly fire and plunges into a surreal underworld. He survives but spends the next few months hiding out and drinking. When he finally makes it back to London he finds MI6 in chaos, seemingly helpless against Silva’s machinations.
Of course he’s willing to take on the job of setting things right. But is he up to it? He’s not as young as he used to be and the booze has taken its toll. He may have lost his edge. In any case defeating Silva will force him to confront his most painful memories and will test his loyalty to “M”.
This is a bit different from the usual James Bond of the movies and is actually closer to the character in the original novels by Ian Fleming. He relies more on determination and resourcefulness than on super-strength and sci-fi gadgets. (There are a few gadgets but they seem comparatively mundane.)
As usually the villain’s schemes are far, far too complicated but in this case there is a reasonable excuse. Silva is obviously insane and the craziness of his plans follows from the nature of his obsessions. What makes him scary is that he is smart enough to carry them out anyway.