Skyfall
2012
**½
Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe, Albert Finney

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. No, the 23rd James Bond movie offers a respectful mix of old and new. The gritty realism of the Daniel Craig era continues, but Sam Mendes also sheds light on the hero’s childhood and pays homage to the history of the series (the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger makes a return, for example). In the opening minutes, M sacrifices her field agents to secure a leaked list of embedded operatives. 007 returns from the brink of death to discover that another discarded spy – now a supremely skilled cyberterrorist and computer animator – is hungry for vengeance. If Quantum of Solace was needlessly complicated, this one stretches a simple revenge plot over 143 long minutes. The action scenes are good, but the pacing is all over the place. It’s halfway point before the villain appears and, in the franchise tradition, he doesn’t simply kill his target when he has the chance, he does it in the most elaborate and implausible manner. James Bond has always been about machismo, but this time the female characters receive particularly rough treatment. All three are treacherous or incompetent, and must be killed or put in their place. On the plus side, Roger Deakins’ camera work ensures that the film looks terrific. Adele’s powerful title song won an Academy Award.