“Skyfall,” the latest entry in the long-running James Bond franchise, is less about action and suspense than about the Bond brand itself. The film serves to assure an anxious world that our hero, played by Daniel Craig, will continue to battle evildoers.
From the lengthy opening credits, enlivened by an original song by Adele, to the aging Bond’s flinty promise to return to duty, the film is mostly a series of gunfights in exotic locales punctuated by nerdy excursions into cyber security. It seems that someone has stolen a list of NATO intelligence operatives, a list the British were not supposed to have. “M,” the security chief played by Judi Dench, will go to any lengths to get it back.
Bond takes a bullet intended for his adversary in a lengthy fistfight, but movies being what they are, makes a miraculous recovery and returns to work. Dench uses him to track down the bad guy who has the list, who is clearly a turncoat with inside knowledge of MI6 and its cyber-security. A harsh judgment M made many years before comes back to haunt her.
Unable to rely on high tech, Bond reverts to the old ways, using shotguns and booby traps to battle the villains armed with automatic weapons. Fortunately he has his machine-gun-equipped Aston-Martin from the old days to even the odds somewhat.
A chief interest in a Bond film is watching the exotic locales, in this one Shanghai and Macau. (It’s amazing what a Komodo dragon can do to a bad guy without a gun.) From those high-rise, ultra-modern cities, the action shifts to London’s underground, where the subway system and Winston Churchill’s wartime bunker provide a cramped, subterranean setting for further shootouts, until the scene shifts to a bleak landscape in Scotland. It seems that Bond grew up in the boondocks.
The film is one or two shootouts too long and lacks any real tension among the main characters. Dench is getting too old for her role, and Bond’s implied romantic attraction to the agent named Eve is unconvincing.
But the franchise rolls on. The closing credits explicitly mention the 50th anniversary of the franchise, launched in 1962 with Sean Connery in the lead. Words on the screen assure us there will be another Bond film. As if there was any doubt.