Film review: Skyfall

Skyfall is the latest in the James Bond saga. It starts out with the obligatory very long chase sequence using multiple modes of transport and has the usual large quota of action scenes, but it also tries to make the characters of Bond and his boss M more complicated and develop her character and their relationship. At times Bond looks old and weary, more like The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

supermanBut on the negative side, at almost two and a half hours, the film is too damn long, dragging quite a bit at the end. It also suffers from serious implausibilities. I know that Bond stories are escapist fiction and am willing to concede major implausible premises in order to build the foundation of a story. What bothers me is when the writers take that premise and then are inconsistent within it. It is like the Superman stories. I will buy the absurd premise of the title character but what bothers me are little things like that the only way he hides his secret identity is by wearing glasses.

In this Bond film, the major problem is the villain played by Javier Bardem. Before the film starts, he has managed, all by himself and unknown to anyone, to build a vast criminal operation that takes a lot of money and computer skills and requires meticulous planning down to the last detail to pull off. He is capable of bringing the world to its knees. That’s the major premise and I can go along with that.

But what you would expect a person like that to be? I think he should be cold and calculating, who has a team of amoral technocrats to implement his plans. A good model for such a character would be the heads of the major investment banks in the US that were responsible for the financial crisis. Instead when we get to actually see Bardem, he goes over the top, with his character having cartoonish and effete mannerisms and psychotic obsessions, not the kind of qualities that would enable him to build such an operation in the first place. His climactic scene with M was so ridiculous that it made me want to laugh, even though it was supposed to be dramatic.

Many films of this genre involving a criminal mastermind fall prey to this failing. The villains are required to have the qualities of corporate CEO types before the film begins and then become psychotic and reckless action figures afterwards. I hate that.

Here’s the trailer.