James Bond is not unlike Batman in that they both become cooler when they've got their cars with them.
Late in “Skyfall”, the newest edition to the legendary series, Bond has to resort to using a classic car because it doesn't have the fancy gadgets and, more importantly, the tracking devices installed in it. He gets in his new old ride (seen in previous Bond films) as he sets the stage for the final showdown that involves old shotguns, dynamite and other delightful old-school, house-of-horror tricks that would be more expected in a “Home Alone” movie. When Bond starts driving away in this car, the famous popcorn theme music with the gunshots even starts playing.
Indeed, the best part of “Skyfall” was the throwback feel, which paid homage to old Bond movies without insisting on itself too much (though there certainly was a little of that going on anyway). “Skyfall” doesn't disappoint, especially in the last 45 minutes or so, though the movie certainly won't wow audiences. That's okay, though.
Part of what's great about franchise movies is the familiarity with the characters, styles, mannerisms and common threads that become easy to pick up on for longtime fans. Daniel Craig, now in his third rendition of Agent 007, has brought a grittier, more realistic flavor to the character, and he's no different in “Skyfall”. He'll be jumping across cars of a moving, crashing train while fixing his cufflink. He has tantalizing dialogue with a lady at a casino bar, knowing her three goonies are watching them, waiting for the chance to take him out. Craig meshes that prim and proper stereotypical British behavior with his rough-and-tough style that blends together for a great secret service agent.
The cool gadgets, high-speed chases, sexy girl and exaggerated action scenes expected in a Bond film are all present and accounted for. It isn't an underwhelming film by any means, but it won't necessarily blow away an audience, outside of maybe the final explosion (no pun intended) that was simply gigantic and fantastic.
The story was pretty straightforward, even a bit unimaginative, but much clearer. Maybe the writers learned their lesson from the dreadful “Quantum of Solace” disappointment. In “Skyfall”, Bond and “Mom”, agent M (a role reprised by Jude Dench), are forced to track down a former agent, Silva (played by Javier Bardem), who went rogue. Silva sets up a devious, though easily predictable plot to get caught and work against the agency from the inside (think Joker in “The Dark Knight” or Loki in “The Avengers” a little bit). Bond and M work together to take control of this battle on their terms. Expect a somber moment at the end of this, though.
This film did touch a little more on the personal side of Bond. Left for an orphan, Bond returns to a place he knew very well growing up and reconnects with an old friend named Kincade (played well by Albert Finney), furthering the throwback feel.
Page 2 of 2 - “Skyfall” also becomes more personal when M is forced to make a decision that renders Bond expendable. This proves difficult for M, who has quite the affection for her favorite agent (though when Bond is discovered to be resurrected, she won't even let him sleep at her house for the night!). Indeed, M does turn out to be a sympathetic character.
An interesting layer of the story is when M is forced to defend her agency and methods in a court session to explain why the program is still necessary. Kind of fitting for a film in which Bond shows the old ways of doing things aren't totally useless. Even more, it's fitting considering the fact that, after Bond's resurrection and subsequent attempt to get back out in the field, he fails to pass physical and mental tests. But this old dog apparently still can learn new tricks (a line used in the movie in a very tongue-and-cheek manner, by the way).
The sets were extraordinary. High up in a skyscraper, Bond swims in a lit pool at night, giving a unique glimpse of Shanghai. At the end, Bond's secluded house lays in a ravine with forest landscapes all around. The opening scene with Bond chasing his target across train tops reaches a highly elevated bridge with great camera shots and angles, especially as they go through tunnels.
Wouldn't be much of a 007 movies without that kind of stuff, now would it?