To all of those who thought that “Skyfall” was the long-awaited sequel to that cheesiest of James Bond films, “Moonraker,” sorry, this is not that kind of 007 movie.
The 50th anniversary film, 23rd in the official collection, “Skyfall” is stylish, dark and dramatic. It’s a serious and well-made film that eschews any campiness — and unfortunately, sucks quite a bit of the fun out of the franchise.
Daniel Craig is back for his third go-around as Bond, and this time he’s a little depressed. He’s nearly been killed and he’s not sure his boss, Judi Dench’s M, really cares about him as a person. Still, when a vengeful bad guy comes looking for M, Bond is ready to fight.
Craig can fight and kill with any superspy, but his Bond is solemn and brooding, almost as if he was auditioning to be Bruce Wayne.
In “Skyfall,” he touches all the familiar talismans — shaken martini, Aston Martin, Walther PPK — in perfunctory fashion. He goes through women in a similar manner: Technically, Naomie Harris (as a fellow agent) and Berenice Marlohe (exotic foreigner) are Bond girls, but the only woman he shows much interest in is M.
Javier Bardem is quite good as the villain, Raoul Silva, a smiling, bleached-blond former agent with a serious gripe about management. Silva is flamboyant, brilliant and without conscience as he wreaks havoc with Britain’s intelligence agency and sends M on the run.
Directed by Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”), the movie is atmospheric and visually arresting. There are a couple of excellent set pieces, particularly the opening sequence, and the violence is mostly well-done.
There are some surprisingly long stretches of inaction, however, and for a movie that wants to be taken so seriously, the climactic showdown scene is a bit silly.
I also find the theme song a little dreary and overbearing. Sorry Adele.
“Skyfall” introduces a nerdy new Q (Ben Wishaw of “Cloud Atlas”), a new Moneypenny and a bureaucratic Ralph Fiennes, and seems ready to launch a second half-century of James Bond.
Hopefully the 24th film will let him have a little fun.
Rental Recommendation: Daniel Craig is a bit of a sissy compared to his leading lady in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” Grade: A-
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Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem
Rated: PG-13 (Rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking)
Running time: 143 minutes