Plot Quality: To understand Skyfall, we need to break it into three parts. The first part is an amazing Bond film. It begins with one of the best chase scenes ever in a Bond film as Bond chases a suspect who has stolen a hard drive containing the names of every western agent imbedded with terrorist organizations around the world. The chase opens with Bond trying to decide if he should save the life of a fellow agent or finish the mission; the mission wins. He jumps into a car driven by fellow agent Eve, who struggles to stop the bad guy. Bond casually reaches over, grabs the wheel, and yanks the car into the bad guy, causing the bad guy to crash. It’s a brilliant moment. The bad guy gets out and sprays everyone with bullets until he can get onto a motorcycle and escape. Bond grabs another motorcycle and they engage in a rooftop chase through Istanbul until they end up on top of a train, where Bond and the suspect engage in hand-to-hand combat. That’s when Eve shoots Bond by mistake. This is an amazing chase. I can’t talk highly enough about it.
Now we come to the second part of the film. This lasts about twenty minutes and it’s mind-numbingly stupid. Essentially, these twenty minutes are The Dark Knight without the capes. First, they copy Silence of the Lambs by putting Silva into a glass cage. Silva reveals that he was M’s best agent in Hong Kong but M surrendered him to the Chinese after he hacked their computers. They tortured him and he tried to kill himself with a cyanide capsule that didn’t kill him, but instead ate away the bones in his jaw (like Harvey Dent in Dark Knight). He is crazy and wants to get even with M. Silva is essentially Heath Ledger’s Joker without the face paint.
This. Is. Nonsense. There is no way Silva could have known the things he needed to know to pull this off, no way he could have predicted the behavior that took place. How did he know MI-6 would move here after he blew up M’s office? How did he know M would be testifying today? How did he know Bond would follow him to this subway stop and through the precise door and down the tunnel at that precise speed and then shoot at him but only as a warning shot? How did he even know that MI-6 would plug his computer into theirs? The only reason we can accept them doing this is that Q is an arrogant nerd who thinks he can handle anything. But he’s new. Silva would have no way to know that he would be Q right now or that he wouldn’t have followed obvious safety protocols and decrypted Silva’s computer on a standalone station.
So what you have here is a film that starts as a great Bond film, suddenly goes full-retard, and ends as a completely different movie.
Bond Quality: Craig is solid again as a cold-blooded, efficient killing machine Bond. There are cracks this time, however, and those make this his worst performance of his three films. For one thing, there is a strong vibe of Bond being too old or too tired to continue. Fortunately, this fades as the film progresses. But then we are shown careless Bond.
One of the things that made Craig so great in the first two films was how ruthlessly efficient he was. He never wasted a step, a bullet or a punch. Here, he burns through his bullets repeatedly and then actually throws away his gun... repeatedly. He almost never hits anything he aims at. The punches he throws seem ineffective. We also get stupid Bond. He never has a plan. He races to Scotland to set up a confrontation with Silva on turf that is familiar to Bond, but never stops to get any weapons. Instead, he just assumes there’s still a gun case he hasn’t seen in 20+ years, a gun case that won’t hold real firepower. These are the kinds of things Craig did not do in the first two films and that makes Bond seem far less than he has been. Still, even playing stupid-off-target Bond, Craig remains better than all but Connery in the role.
Villain Quality: The villain is Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva, a former British agent gone rogue after M surrendered him to the Chinese in exchange for a number of other agents China held. A large number of people have said that Silva is one of the best villains ever in a Bond film. They’re smoking crack.
Silva also brings back things that Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace specifically removed from the series. Silva has an island lair. He has armies of killer henchmen. He has no subtlety whatsoever as a villain. He’s insane. He’s also unrealistically powerful. Unlike Green or Le Chiffre, Silva brags about how easy it is to destroy anything he wants. He is clownish Blofeld in a world that is supposed to be realistic. That makes him a poor villain.
Summing this up, the first part of the movie is probably the best Craig has done, and that’s high praise. The second part is crap and belongs down with Die Another Day. The third is a good film, but not a Bond film and doesn’t belong on the list. The public loves this film, having made it the most profitable by far, but I think that the favorable view of this film will slide as the “event feel” passes. Over time, I suspect this will slide below Quantum of Solace and possibly even Goldeneye. For now though, it sits at No. 0010 of 0023.