Towards the end of 'Skyfall' one character remarks to James Bond, "When all else fails, sometimes the old way works best." After an unfortunate stumble with the clunky 'Quantum of Solace,' 007 is back with a thrilling adventure that manages to be both classic Bond and a top notch modern action film.
After an extended and exhilarating opening sequence, Bond is missing and presumed dead. He is (spoiler alert) not dead. He has, however, developed a drinking problem (highlighted in a bar scene reminiscent of Marion Ravenwood's boozing skills), shagged a random Turkish woman and realized he is no spring chicken.
He is recruited back into duty at MI6 after an...incident, but continues to wrestle with both his age and, perhaps, waning abilities. Is he the same super agent he's always been? It's this theme - old school vs. new school - that permeates much of 'Skyfall.' At one point, there's a scene in the film where the classic Aston Martin DB5 makes an appearance (complete with ejector seat!) and is promptly blown to smithereens.
With 'Skyfall' Craig proves he's one of the best Bonds, adeptly balancing the action, charm and bone dry humor needed for the film. It doesn't hurt that he's surrounded by a remarkable cast including Dame Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris (though I would've liked to have seen more from Berenice Marlohe who sparkles in a brief turn as the "Bond girl").
Oh and Javier Bardem... Not since Blofeld stroked his kitten has a Bond villain quite so memorable. As the flamboyant Raoul Silva, Bardem really only has two scenes to strut his stuff but strut he does. No one does bad quite like Bardem and the Oscar-winning actor turns what could have been a traditional Bond villain into something very much non-traditional (and we'll just leave it at that).
The Bond films have never been short on huge set pieces and although 'Skyfall' takes place in Turkey, Scotland, London and Shanghai, the film feels surprisingly intimate. Silva isn't looking to take over the world, he just wants revenge and the third act of the film plays more like 'Straw Dogs' than 'Goldfinger.' This doesn't mean the film doesn't look beautiful - Roger Deakins does some next level stuff the digital Alexa camera.
'Skyfall' may be the only franchise I can remember that actively looks to reboot itself halfway through a reboot. Whereas 'Casino Royale' was a breath of fresh air after 'Die Another Day,' 'Quantum' spun the Daniel Craig era into a quizzical and frankly boring mythology. 'Skyfall' wisely ditches most all continuity from the prior films and reinvents itself as a modern throwback to Bond classics like 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' and feels as dazzling and fresh now as 'Casino' did was when it was released.
Like Craig's version of Bond himself, by embracing it's past 'Skyfall' is able to build a successful future for itself. Sometimes the old way really does work best.
Mike Sampson is the Editor-in-Chief of ScreenCrush.com.
'Skyfall' hits theaters on November 9th.