I entered the movie theatre with high hopes – this was the Bond movie getting rave reviews from critics, directed by an Oscar-winning director and featuring a brilliant Spanish actor as the villain.
And as the movie began, I was swept up by a gritty, paranoid action sequence that does not end as James Bond intended, and calls into question his professional (yet personal) relationships, and why he does what he does.
The movie continues with MI6 under fire from a modern-style enemy with a personal vendetta (there are some allusions to Julian Assange), some very pretty infiltration of a glass skyscraper, a well-acted scene where Bond girl Severine shows reluctance and fear behind a facade, and then we are introduced to Javier Bardem’s Silva in a brilliant single-shot scene.
Unfortunately the movie takes some ridiculous plot turns (implausible plans that don’t achieve anything) despite some spectacular action sequences (the train – you’ll know it when you see it), and ends up with a decidedly small-scale finale. Supposedly we find out more about Bond, certainly more than we ever do, but there’s not much to make of it: Craig’s Bond is a stony thug whose past doesn’t really matter to him anymore.
Silva’s capture and escape made no sense – yes, he wants to humiliate M and MI6, but this plan is too unreliable to be feasible, requiring that Q (this new cardigan-wearing Q is questionable) infect their own system with known malicious code.
Silva is supposedly a master hacker, but none of the schemes presented in the movie really involve this skill. Additionally, the stolen disk of undercover NATO agents is never recovered, and never mentioned again.
In the end it’s hard to say what Bond achieved; Silva got what he wanted, and Bond failed despite destroying his old home (and lots of mercenaries who like to run into traps).
The acting is excellent – Bardem especially, Marlohe did well, and I liked Naomi Harris’s capable Eve. Supposedly Connery turned down the role of Kincaide.
Some argue that Sam Mendes was really trying to subvert all the Bond tropes: a big plan for a small result, Bond being “killed” in the opening, the evil Bond girl being a victim, Bond playing defence in his home rather than infiltrating a volcano lair. There is some merit to this, but the third act didn’t sit well with me – no matter how many mercenaries Bond wipes out or helicopters he destroys, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this wasn’t a Bond finale. The connection between the characters wasn’t personal enough for this kind of ending (and I think Silva had been hard done by), which didn’t fit anyway.