Skyfall Review
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The 007 franchise celebrated its 50th anniversary this year—a half-century of cool cars, sinister villains, beautiful women, and, of course, Bond. James Bond. But while Bond may be 50, as one character explains in Skyfall, this old dog still has a few new tricks up his sleeve.

Sam Mendes directs the franchise’s 23rd installment, which once again stars Daniel Craig as the legendary secret agent. When, after a failed mission, Bond goes missing and is presumed dead, things begin to look pretty grim for MI6—so grim, in fact, that M (Judi Dench) is told to prepare for her retirement.

After hiding out and enjoying his own death for a while, Bond is suddenly drawn back to London following a terrorist attack on MI6. It seems that someone is specifically targeting M—and though some believe that Bond may be past his prime, he’s determined to return to work and put an end to the latest threat.

Like its iconic hero, this 50-year-old franchise continues to prove that it’s nowhere near ready to be put out to pasture. With each new installment—especially since Craig took over as a grittier, surlier young Bond for 2006’s Casino Royale—the series continues to grow and evolve in some surprising ways.

In order to prove the series’ worth—especially in light of MGM’s financial difficulties—it would have been understandable if Mendes had gone to outrageous extremes to produce a Bond film that’s bigger and flashier than ever before. But Skyfall is actually a pretty simple—and some might even say subtle—Bond film. Sure, there are still more than enough chase scenes and explosions to keep adrenaline junkies entertained. The women are still beautiful, and the villain is still delightfully over-the-top. At the same time, though, the story is not only straightforward (especially when compared to 2008’s messy Quantum of Solace) but it’s also timely, with the secret agent facing a newer, more shadowy kind of enemy. Meanwhile, Bond’s usually non-stop womanizing takes a back seat to the action—and even the gadgets provided by the new Q (Ben Whishaw) are almost shockingly minimal.

This new Bond film is as seductive and stylish as ever—complete with a stunning fight scene that takes place entirely in silhouette—but it’s also refreshingly sophisticated. Between fights and chases and explosions, it’s thoughtful and reflective, and it offers a rare look at the mysterious secret agent’s past. Even Bond’s signature one-liners are smarter and less cheesy than usual.

Maybe it’s just taken me this long to get used to the new 21st-century Bond. Or maybe Mendes is just the first director to get it right. Whatever the case, Skyfall is the best Bond in years. It’s fresh and innovative enough to prove that the franchise isn’t stuck in the past, but it’s also familiar enough that audiences will know without a doubt that they’re watching a Bond film—and not just another generic spy thriller. So even if you’ve given up on Bond because you thought he was a thing of the past—or because the new Bond movies just didn’t have the same old-school style—give Skyfall a shot. You won’t be disappointed.

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