The latest installment of Bond can't get any more British than this. You have "the" Lord Voldemort in the star cast. Yes, I am referring to Ralph Fiennes. If that isn't enought, you have a British director Sam Mendes, who has found recognition from directing intense drama based on American lives, at the helm. I understand the decision on Ralph. But I couldn't say the same about the director. What is a director who specializes in drama doing in a thriller which ideally should have diluted sensibilities?
The opening reels of Skyfall casts all the doubts away even though subsequent reels are a different matter. You see James Bond(Daniel Craig) chasing a bad guy to retrieve a disk. If the previous movie used the Bourne techniques to give an edgy look for the action sequences, here it outdoes the Bourne. Bourne may be running over the rooftops fighting villains and jumping from across the building. Bond prefers to chase the villain over the rooftops of Istanbul on a bike wearing a suit. How cool can it get? Then both continue their stunt on top of a train. That is where Bond's companion Eve(Naomie Harris) takes a shot at the villain at the command of M(Judi Dench) and ends up hitting Bond.
Now, Bond is presumed killed. MI6 and M are under political scrutiny by the newly appointed Gareth Mallory(Ralph Fiennes). If that isn't enough, MI6 networks are hacked by an unknown organization and the headquarters bombed. It is time for Bond to come out of hibernation. Did you really think he was killed in Istanbul? The non-action if you discount the ones with the local exotic girls, drinks and age is catching up on Bond. He has to pass the medical examination before embarking on the next mission. The next mission takes him to Shanghai, Macau, London and finally to Scotland. Somewhere in between all the globetrotting, Bond meets the mastermind behind all this, Raoul Silva(Javier Bardem).
When you choose Sam Mendes to direct a movie on the 50th anniversary of the Bond, it raises your expectations. For once, we have a Bond with very vulnerable looks. He is more athletic than any of his predecessors. What you need in the series is a bit of drama. That is what one hope Sam Mendes will provide. He does it but in excess. That is the problem with this movie. When there is too much drama, the series loses the meaning. So you see a icon struggling with his past, his mentors and his capabilities. Deja vu if you have seen another caped crusader doing the same a few months back.
The main problem lies in the plot. The plot is reminiscent of the past Bonds, at least some sequences. The die-hard fans, including myself, love it when there are references to the past successful movies in the franchise. The first action sequence is the best and wastes no time to get the viewer in the middle of the action. Then there are action sequences which is over before it even starts. The villain's entry is late, presents himself as a diabolical figure and ends up as a madman hellbent on revenge. Where are the plain old villains with sinister hideouts and a sole intention of global domination? Please bring them back.
The poorly written villain damages one of the best performances of the movie, Javier's Silva. Not a conventional villain, when Javier makes the first appearance walking carefully towards a captured Bond, you are hooked. Javier delivers. During the long stride to meet Bond, Silva begins his monologue, flirting with audience in guessing his sexuality. In that sequence alone, he is able to bring multiple emotions in the viewer, some of them outrageously funny. After this scene, there is nothing much for Javier to do.
The plot is designed to showcase the exit of one character, entry of another character and parental feelings in Bond. At the end of the day, it is a Bond during the initial reels, a Batman Rises in the middle and a Western in the end. Usually, I like to end the reviews with a simple but definite verdict. For this one, I leave it up to you. What the hell? It is a Bond. Are you really going to listen to what I have to say?