Sky-high thrills for Bond
Time waits for no man, not even the suave and sharply attired 007.
In the 50 years since Ian Fleming's debonair secret agent introduced himself in Dr No, global politics have changed beyond recognition.
The Iron Curtain has fallen, the Cold War has thawed, the People's Republic Of China has emerged as a superpower and terrorism has shifted into the digital realm, forcing James Bond and his colleagues at MI6 to evolve.
Actors, who have been licensed to kill during these five turbulent decades, have brought something new to the party. The latest Bond, Daniel Craig, has rugged physicality in abundance but his one-note interpretation of the spy who is shaken but never stirred remains devoid of personality.
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Skyfall will do nothing to dispel those concerns but is undoubtedly the best instalment of Craig's tenure to date. Director Sam Mendes sensibly surrounds his leading man with an ensemble of award-winning actors, who bring gravitas and humour to their iconic roles.
With Bond reportedly killed in action, section chief M (Dame Judi Dench) pens an obituary as a political storm rages around her.
A database of MI6 assets has fallen into the wrong hands, compromising undercover agents around the world.
While M fends off sustained attacks on her reputation, news filters through that Bond has survived and M engages her physically bruised agent to track down menacing cyber terrorist Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem).
Working alongside Q (Ben Whishaw) and field agent Eve (Naomie Harris), Bond traverses the globe in search of Silva, crossing paths with the mysterious Severine (Berenice Marlohe).
As the investigation continues, Bond unearths dark secrets from M's past that threaten to bring down the whole of MI6.
Skyfall looks stunning courtesy of cinematographer Roger Deakins and action sequences don't disappoint. The film dazzles during verbal jousts, Bardem is deliciously camp and menacing, and Dench is wonderful as ever and really excels when she abandons her desk for the field of action.
The closing 20 minutes are the only obvious misstep with a lacklustre final showdown more befitting of an episode of The A-Team than the second biggest film franchise in history.