Despite the requisite melodrama and a sprinkling of well–timed one–liners, “Skyfall” is, in some ways, a refreshingly different Bond film. In one early scene, Bond takes part in a clandestine meeting at an art museum with the new Q (Ben Whishaw), a young, scrappy bespectacled thing. Bond dismisses the suburban computer whiz and his high–tech toys, but it soon becomes apparent that our hero’s facing a new enemy here, one that fights not with guns and fast cars, but hard drives and codes.
What’s most clear after only several scenes, though, is that M, played by the ever–sharp Judi Dench, is the real hero here, with Bond merely as the trusty sidekick. Dench shines in her role as the head of the old guard, struggling to prove her worth. The age of espionage and spies is over, she is told over and over again, and she and Bond just aren’t needed anymore.
Whether or not this is true is revealed at the end, but the problem with “Skyfall” is that the means to this end are too clear. The villain, played by an unsettlingly blonde Javier Bardem, is identified early on, and there’s never any question about his motives or actions. All Bond has to do is catch him. The action sequences do satisfy, though, as do the seduction scenes, which are pretty standard. All in all, while a good effort on the part of Dame Dench and Craig, “Skyfall” doesn’t live up to its predecessors.