The world's best-known secret agent finally becomes three-dimensional in Skyfall, the brilliant new James Bond film that puts fully-developed characters into a blockbuster landscape.
Although the movie opens with a stupendous action sequence and provides all the expected thrills of 007's world — fast vehicles, beautiful women, exotic locales, dangerous killers — it all looks new and fresh here.
It's exhilarating, in a violent sort of way. It's witty. And it's completely engaging.
Bond is particularly mortal in Skyfall. He turns up to work below par physically and psychologically just as a terrorist goes after M and MI6 in a way that looks personal. M (Judi Dench) is under attack from without and from within; there's a movement to shake up MI6 and discipline her over the loss of a crucial list of NATO agents. Bond and M band together to fight off both the external and internal enemies who would challenge their ability and their loyalty.
Bond encounters a particularly chilling villain in Skyfall in Silva (Javier Bardem); the character is a sort of evil mirror image of Bond and Bardem is perfect in the role. The less you know going in with this film, the better, so that's all we'll say about Silva.
The cast of Skyfall includes Berenice Marlohe as Silva's moll, Naomie Harris as a fellow agent, Ben Whishaw as a computer expert and Albert Finney as an aged family retainer.
It's the mix of action and emotion in Skyfall that sets it apart from all others in the franchise; what we can tell you without spoiling anything is that the film has a terrific script, director Sam Mendes makes the characters so alive you can smell them, and the cinematography magic on offer from Roger Deakins will likely account for one of the Oscar nominations this film will attract. What Deakins does with shadow and light mirrors the story's themes and its characters and makes the movie a treat to look at. Skyfall is a film about old and new, past and present; visual reminders of other Bond adventures are a welcome part of that mix.
James Bond has now been on the silver screen for 50 years, and everyone involved in Skyfall was determined to make a film that would properly honour such an impressive anniversary. They have succeeded.
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