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Review by LJ

Daniel Craig is James Bond, but his Bond doesn’t seem quite as comfortable with the rules of Bond as some of his predecessors.  I’m not the first to say it, but it’s the elegance of Bond that’s gone missing.  You can put Daniel Craig in a tux but you can’t make him wear it, if you catch my meaning.  This is not a criticism, it’s an observation.  Craig’s Bond plays the part of the mythic MI6 agent we knew.  He doesn’t inhabit him.  Which in itself is an interesting commentary on the rolls Bond has to play in order to get the job done.  So it begs the question, if the results are the same, do the ends justify the trope bending means?

While Skyfall plays with the ingredients of what makes a Bond film, the only part that seems additive to the Bond recipe is the location and action of the final showdown.  But the elements that make the finale interesting are simultaneously so overblown with psychological metaphor that it becomes almost comical.

Craig does a fine job as Bond, but Javier Bardem’s turn as the literally tortured Raoul Silva is worth a mention as well.  His portrayal of a man that is in every way formidable to both Bond and MI6 is simultaneously histrionic and nuanced.  Not an easy combination.  Unfortunately he turns into a bit of a cartoon by the end, but that’s more of a critique of the writing than the performance.

So, as I earlier asked, do the ends justify the means?  Skyfall doesn’t really answer that question.  It’s an enjoyable action film.  All the individual Lego pieces of the prototypical Bond film are there, for the most part.  But it doesn’t so much feel like a Bond film as remind you of them.  B+

Review by Courtney

Let me preface everything I’m about to say with this: I really enjoyed Skyfall.  It’s far from perfect, but it’s a fun film, with more brains than most bond films, and a healthy dose of both style and sentiment.  Now keep that in mind, because I’ve got a bone to pick.  Skyfall is essentially a Bond movie having an existential crisis.

Skyfall seems to be asking the question, “what place does Double-O-Seven have in the modern world of espionage?”  For instance, it pits Daniel Craig’s Bond against a cyber-terrorist Mr. Silva, played by Javier Bardem.  This is a distinctly modern villain, who is frankly a bit mundane.  But then they spice him up with a little classic Bond-esque surreal creepification.  Still, this match up begs the question, where does James Bond fit in a world where wars are waged by nerds behind computer screens?

The filmmakers spend half the film mocking everything that has historically defined Bond, having the young hipster Q basically call him an out of touch dinosaur.  Then they metaphorically wink at the audience and embrace the old school Bond in a handful of other ways, while throwing in a bit of A-team ingenuity.  The message seems clear, that Double-O-Seven will find relevance in the modern world by sheer force of will, but he’s not your father’s Bond any more.  As evidence, I might point out that my own father–a life-long Bond fan who grew up reading the Ian Flemming novels–in fact hated Skyfall.

None of this is unforgivable, however I don’t agree with many of their choices about what to keep and what to shed.  They mock the gadgets but keep Bond’s misogyny.  They won’t let Daniel Craig say “shaken, not stirred,” but they will let the villain be comical, even silly.  These seem like odd choices to me, and they don’t always sit well.

Regardless, I will reiterate that Skyfall is an enjoyable movie.  It manages a tricky balancing act between hard-core action and interesting character development.  And it marks a return to a more witty Bond, of whom we haven’t seen much in recent years, while also being more thought-provoking than most action films.  Ultimately, there’s a lot to enjoy, just don’t think too hard about it.  B+


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