This year marks the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise. The famed superspy’s first cinematic adventure, Dr. No, hit theaters in 1962. To celebrate, producers have pulled out all the stops to make Bond’s latest big-screen adventure his biggest and boldest yet.
This is no time for self-pity, however, since Bond’s last assignment left a top-secret computer hard drive floating in the wind, packed with the identities and assignments of every undercover NATO agent around the world. Also, MI6 itself has been computer-hacked and fire-bombed. Worst of all, this is starting to look like an inside job. Naturally, our man Bond is called upon to hop around the globe—Shanghai, Macao, London, Scotland—in order to root out the mysterious new terrorist behind it all.
Turns out this hits closer to home than anyone thought. The wonderful Javier Bardem eventually joins the party as Silva, a former golden boy for British intelligence who wants revenge on M for selling him out back in the early ’90s. Bardem’s no slouch in the villain department (he got an Oscar for No Country For Old Men, after all) and he serves up a smooth, seemingly unflappable and very scary big bad here. See, this isn’t just about taking over the world. This time, it’s personal.
While the previous two Bond films built up a storyline about evil, international organization Quantum, Skyfall has no connection to them. It’s got its own, stand-alone story and is all the stronger for it. The script—written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace) and nicely overhauled by John Logan (Gladiator, Hugo)—is fully cognizant of Bond movies past and present. First-time series director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Jarhead, Revolutionary Road) uses it to hit all the right beats, offer up plenty of satisfying moments of Bond trivia (oh hai, Aston Martin DB5) and deliver some of the most emotional moments of any film in the franchise.
No, “emotional” isn’t a word that usually applies to these kiss kiss, bang bang movies. But Skyfall digs deeper into the backgrounds of our familiar characters than ever before. With everything falling down around her ears, M is being forced into retirement by the British government. Bond, meanwhile—his confidence shaken to its core by a botched assignment—is worrying about his own mortality and starting to doubt his fearless leader. The stakes are much higher and more personal than the usual “let’s nuke all the gold in Fort Knox” kind of thing.
Throw in some great new faces (Ralph Fiennes as a more-