Skyfall ★★★★★

I won’t go so far as to claim that "Skyfall", the twenty-third installment of the James Bond franchise, is the best Bond movie thus far, but it definitely belongs in the top tier. “Resurrection” is the keyword here, as this amalgamation of old and new fully brings 007 into the modern world while also acknowledging the character’s past through absolutely delightful homages to the Bond films of old. At the end of the movie, Bond has come full circle. If it were the final film of the series, "Skyfall" would stand as a thoroughly satisfying ending to a remarkably successful cinematic franchise.

The opening-credits sequence and Adele’s accompanying theme song are simply terrific, and it’s interesting to note that the lyrics of the song relate specifically to the narrative of the film. All the action scenes, including the adrenaline-pumping opening sequence, are viscerally exciting, not to mention coherently shot and edited. The character-study elements of the story raise the stakes and resonate well with the viewer. Tastefully and organically integrated into the proceedings, the humorous bits serve their purpose effectively.

The movie requires a healthy dose of suspension of disbelief and the acceptance of certain formulaic ingredients, but that’s not exactly uncommon for a Bond film. In this case, I’m more than happy to oblige. I do, however, have one minor complaint regarding something I just can’t ignore in a motion picture that gets so much right: the depiction of computer hacking comes across as too inaccurate, even though I have to admit that it looks pretty cool. And by the way, the phrase “security through obscurity” is used incorrectly here; in the real world, it refers to a bad security principle, not to an advanced technique for protecting digital secrets.

Sam Mendes proves to be a very inspired choice for the director’s chair, and his consummate directorial talents are integral to the film’s success. Mendes handles the material, from the action scenes to the quieter moments, with unwavering skill. Credit must also go to screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan, whose excellent script ensures that "Skyfall" delivers just about everything one expects from the Bond franchise’s fiftieth-anniversary film. Furthermore, the practically flawless editing by Stuart Baird creates a steady narrative momentum and helps make the movie feel somewhat shorter than its 143-minute running time would suggest.

I can’t emphasize enough how great "Skyfall" looks. Roger Deakins’s gorgeous, gorgeous cinematography makes the film’s various locations truly come alive on the screen. This is quite possibly the best-looking James Bond movie to date, with the Shanghai and Macau sequences being particular standouts.

After "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace", this is Daniel Craig’s third outing as James Bond and he really nails the part, finally becoming the 007 that the two aforementioned movies have been leading up to. Judi Dench shines in the role of M, who turns out to be the primary Bond girl in the movie; Dench’s emotionally powerful acting evokes the viewer’s sympathy with impressive effectiveness. Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, and Ben Whishaw are perfectly fine additions to the cast in the roles of Gareth Mallory, Eve, and Q, respectively.

And then there’s Javier Bardem, the marvelous Javier Bardem, whose great performance as Silva, the antagonist, results in one of the most memorable Bond villains of all time. The scene that introduces him to the viewer is expertly executed in every way and not easily forgotten. Silva does what he does for personal reasons rather than having some grand world-domination scheme or something like that, which makes him more complex and more interesting, and the film is all the better for it.