PLOT: Bond reluctantly rejoins MI6 when a terrorist begins targeting M.
BOTTOM LINE: A super-suave but softer Bond, with Craig barely wrinkling his gorgeous suits. Bardem, as a dandyish villain, works up a good, greasy sweat.
CAST: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench
Meet the new Bond, same as the old Bond.
"Skyfall" marks the 23rd James Bond film and Daniel Craig's third time wearing 007's suit, but the big milestone here is the 50th cinematic anniversary of Bond, first played by Sean Connery in 1962's "Dr. No." That semi-event has been duly celebrated in entertainment magazines, and "Skyfall" sometimes seems overly concerned with its own publicity campaign. It's cool,
suave and stylish, with Craig cat-walking around in Mod-era suits and Adele doing her best Shirley Bassey on the smoky theme song, but "Skyfall" is so busy recapturing the past that it has trouble moving forward.
The Bond of 2006's "Casino Royale," the one with newfound testicular fortitude (remember that torture scene?), is suddenly a Clint Eastwood-style relic, barely passing the MI6 physical to re-enlist. The new Q (Ben Whishaw) is a baby-faced techno-fop, but grizzled Bond still shaves with a straight razor. ("I like to do some things the old-fashioned way," he purrs to fellow agent Eve, played by Naomie Harris.) Even MI6's dependable leader, M, played by the ever-regal Judi Dench, may be put out to pasture by an ambitious politician, Mallory (Ralph Fiennes).
If this Bond seems date-stamped 1965, his new nemesis, Silva (Javier Bardem), is a vision from the early '70s, an earth-tone dandy in checkered vest and cream-colored hair. He's also a swinger who keeps a pretty sex slave (Bérénice Lim Marlohe) but squeezes Bond's thighs hopefully. Playing Silva as a mincing terrorist/drag-queen combo, Bardem campily steals the show.
That's partly because director Sam Mendes indulges more in mood lighting than in fistfighting. He poses Craig like a Ken doll against various exotic backdrops (Macao, Shanghai) but barely wrinkles the suits. The film's climax, which reinvents more than one origin story (and explains the film's title), feels satisfyingly apocalyptic, which may be a good sign. Perhaps the next Bond will do more shaking than stirring.