So, 5 years after they scattered our brains with break-neck, seizure-inducing action in lieu of deep story with Quantum of Solace, the Bond crew have blessed us with another gritty ‘realistic’ addition to the longest-running action franchise in cinematic history. Daniel Craig returns as the iconic British (not so) secret agent and again, knocks ‘it’ outta the park. This time around, Bond is on the receiving end of a shitty deal when a ‘recovery and capture’ op goes sour, resulting in a ‘friendly’ bullet fired into him…and an obituary. Of course, he’s not dead and after a reclusive, drunken and whoring existence in rural Turkey, opts to return to MI6 after receiving word that his ever-disapproving boss M has fallen into the cross-hairs of an unknown and cunning antagonist. Being a life-long fan of the Bond franchise, I was naturally interested when I got wind of this ones ‘greenlight’. I’ve really liked the tone that Daniel Craig has brought to the character through the previous two entries, as well as the ‘trappings’ of the more cynical, ‘realistic’ world that he inhabits. What arched my eyebrow even further was word that a cinematic genius would be taking the helm of this one. Sam Mendes is a terrific director, as his filmography can confidently boast ( American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Jarhead etc) and I was certain that his particular brand of ‘style’ would serve the Bond franchise well. And…I was PRETTY much dead on. Skyfall is damn cool…but in the spirit of fairness, not perfect. Casino Royale (in my opinion) still comes out ahead, as the ‘Daniel Craig’ Bonds go. But as a ‘strangely intriguing’ Bond film, Skyfall takes the lead. This is a really interestingly thought-out (but NOT flawless) story, with regard to choices and directions taken for the main character. We find out a surprising amount regarding Bond’s past, and the ‘hand’ that certain events in his upbringing had in shaping him into the ruthless machine that we know him as. What’s interesting to note is that while much of the tone is somber and bleak, sly instances of smart-ass humor, clearly inspired by the dry ‘dead pans’ of Connery and Moore, manage to sneak in to well-timed and subtle effect. Also sneaking in are loads of not-so-subtle throwbacks to the earlier films, almost like a subliminal apology for stripping the ‘fun’ out of the series with the ‘new’ tone. Some of the ‘winks’ worked for me, while a couple fell flat on their faces (looking at YOU, Aston Martin!). One element the certainly did not fall on its face was the spot-on casting of Javier Bardem as the villain, Silva. His ‘take’ on this character, under the assured direction of Mendes, is a terrific addition to the list of memorable ‘Bond Bad Guys’. Several things make his character quite intriguing but none more so than his not-so-subtle homosexuality. Not since Milo, from The Last Boy Scout (1991) has an effeminate male come off as SO predatory. This is not homophobia speaking, not at all. It’s just that the willingness of this character to REALLY invade our protagonists personal space is rather unnerving. There is a ‘hidden lair’ interrogation scene that Bardem ‘handles’ in a manner that had me squirming NEARLY as much as when Le Chiffre went to work on Bonds nuts with a heavy chunk of rope in Casino Royale. Silva is a formidable ‘bad guy’ and his scenes are a treat to behold. Another ‘applause-worthy’ piece of character reintroduction was the inclusion of ‘Q’. This time around, he’s not a ‘tsk tsk’ing befuddled old man (no disrespect to Desmond Llewelyn, RIP) but instead a malnourished 20something computer nerd with permanent bed head. Ben Winshaw brings a cool slant to the character that just sorta fits into this World of Bond well. He is the COMPLETE opposite of Bond and therefore, an effective foil. The rest of the cast add a positive weight to the flick as well, with Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris naturally standing out. There’s probably a ton more that I could delve into with Skyfall, both good and bad (FAR more good) but suffice to say, I think that any Bond fan will get a kick out of this entry. It seems intent on catering to ALL Bond followers, both the ‘new’ and the ‘old’. On that level, it’s ‘Mission Accomplished’.