In case the marketing spiel has somehow escaped you, James Bond is 50 years old this year. Well, maybe a bit older – he wasn’t exactly a newborn in “Dr. No” – or a bit younger, if you choose to take only 44-year-old Daniel Craig’s salt-and-pepper-stubbled visage into account. Either way, he’s not young anymore, and boy, does “Skyfall” ever want you to know that.
“Brave new world,” 007 mutters grumpily, after his first encounter with a whizzy new Q (Ben Whishaw) who scarcely needs to shave yet. “Old dog, new tricks,” twinkles Naomie Harris’s sexy MI6 underling, her tone vaguely patronizing, as if teaching an elderly uncle how to send an email.
As such platitudes suggest, clever quippery is not one of the many strengths of Bond’s 23rd feature outing. They aren’t even accurate: the perma-dapper spy isn’t learning any new tricks, but rediscovering ones fallen into disuse, like scuffed Oxfords polished to a high shine. The same goes for “Skyfall,” which endearingly stresses fashionably analog traditionalism at every turn: Bond’s gadgets are restricted to a gun and a radio, the beloved, Connery-era Aston Martin makes a reappearance, while for the bulk of the action, far-flung locales are curbed in favour of the Land of Hope and Glory. (In Britain’s banner year of Jubilee and Olympic celebration, that can’t be an accident.) Another old-school touch, Adele’s Bassey-aping title ballad, is pretty splendid, but they may as well have gone with a big-band cover of “Everything Old Is New Again.”