This is Javier Bardem’s movie – He was chillingly effective in No Country For Old Men, and is just crazy effective again here. He’s mastered the art of trying to stifle the maniacal laugh, the single most oft messed up villain trait. He is by far the gold standard of movie bad asses and yes that includes Darth Vader, the Predator, Dr. Lechter et al.
This in spite of the fact that a singular flaw in trying to make Bond movies more believable is that the concept of the ‘super villain’ of old, ie. Blofeld, Dr. No, etc., works against him or any future Bond villain from coming up with a respectable performance. These older, spectacular villains parodied wonderfully by Mike Myers as Dr. Evil, work because they’re so out of this world, amazingly, ridiculously powerful.
In real life, what’s turning out to be the true super villains are extremists and other forces mostly powered by religious or racist dogma. The real evil in the real world are misjudged ideas, not this singular powerful individual. While there is a leader representative of this ie. Hitler and the Nazis or Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, what’s evil is not just that man but actually, his beliefs.
There exists therefore that deep gorge Bond movies need to pass. If you want to make it more current, Bond needs to fight unglamorous terrorists in the Middle East and Afghanistan, which happen to be what the real M16 is fighting.
On the other hand Bond super villains give the movies a special appeal by being so outlandish and spectacular. So there exists a choice: either make the movies again in their traditional campy fun ala Goldfinger or Octopussy, or try to make it more gritty and realistic. Trying to balance between the two imo will never work.
I personally don’t really know which type I prefer. Realism can work such as with Jason Bourne and even the older Jack Ryan series (I wonder when they’ll resurrect those?). I find it silly though that people want Bond to be more realistic when it being ostentatious was what made it click in the first place. A car that turns into a submarine? A crazy chase on skis after which he jumps off a mountain, and it turns out he was wearing a Union Jack parachute all the time? They were fun and exciting and they worked! But they certainly were not realistic.
Other Stuff – I read most of the Bond books but I probably missed or have forgotten mention of his Scotland digs. I take it its inclusion plus the ever beautiful Aston Martin DB5 and both their destruction was symbolic of the producers’ desire to start anew. There is now a new Moneypenny (a gem of a role for any young actress virtually guaranteeing a lifetime of appearances) a new Q, a new M and everything.
Incidentally I couldn’t help thinking Q can’t be all that good if he allowed a virus into his network no matter how high tech.
And finally I think I noticed a continuity issue where Judi Dench first met Ralph Feinnes, she had a bag sitting on the floor. After their argument she stood up and I was waiting for her to pick it up, but she didn’t. The next scene had no bag. Might’ve been mistaken of course.