Skyfall Final Cut Score: 93%
Commencing with a so-so opening sequence in comparison to say Casino Royale's parkouring-on-a-crane epic, Skyfall rolls right into Adele's stellar title track; the most memorable since Duran Duran's A View to a Kill. The accompanying hypnotic visuals - often a stylized mess - are the finest of recent note, certainly a vast improvement over Quantum of Solace. I mean, how can you argue with swimming Chinese lions?
With MI6 agents getting offed after the theft of a flash drive containing their embedded locations, Bond is called back to duty following a bit of alone time. Returning to the fold, sporting a grayish beard and just a tad off his game, Bond aims to end the reign of terror targeting his matronly superior M (the indomitable Judi Dench) and taking hold of his home base, London.
As Bond villains go, Javier Bardem instantly ascends to the upper echelon as the hell-bent on revenge, ex-MI6 agent-turned-sneering-cyber-terrorist Raoul Silva. Introduced with a spellbinding, speechifying sashay towards a bound-to-a-chair Bond, Bardem is a silver screen Siegfried Fischbacher — a flamboyant, bleached-blonde nutjob with some homoerotic designs on Craig's chiseled physique.
Craig gets to let his hair down - what still remains - in his third go-around as Bond. Cracking an occasional smirk, Craig, and the film, benefit immensely from the return of gadget guru Q (Ben Whishaw). Q and 007's initial meeting in the British Museum produces Skyfall's best quips and the series' loosest moments since Pierce Brosnan's run with the spy franchise died in 2002.
The man responsible for a pair of cinema's most scintillating outings over the past decade plus: American Beauty and Road to Perdition, Sam Mendes mans the cam in a pairing that sounded a bit mismatched when first announced but proves to be sensational. The Brit's exquisite skills bring an added dimension - and layers - to what could at times pass for a routine action flick, with a strong nod to Bond's past in the process.
Yes, the final stanza borders on overblown, but there's no debating the overall finish. Skyfall is a kinetic wonder, proof that well-traveled roads are capable of offering new thrills, as long as those behind the wheel know precisely what gear sequence gets the thing up and gunning. Or in this case, hauling - and kicking - ass.