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Bond is back and better than ever in ‘Skyfall’

Daniel Craig returns in his most explosive James Bond film yet.

“Skyfall” is a film tour de force, featuring enough car chases, shooting and explosions to please any fan of action flicks.

And yet just calling “Skyfall” another Bond movie would be doing it a great injustice.

“Skyfall” is bound to please any Bond fan new or old, make no mistake. But director Sam Mendes takes a different approach.

Taking a few steps back, he attempts to examine Bond not just as the suave agent, but as a man who has weakness as well as strength.

The film includes the expected Bond action scenes. The opening act itself is a high-speed chase through city streets, over rooftops, through shopping centers and ending on a speeding train where Bond challenges his prey to a bare-fisted showdown.

After the musical title sequence, which features singer Adele, things slow down to a walking pace. At least for a short while.

Without giving out too many spoilers, Bond is lost during the mission. After being shot — twice — Bond decides to take a bit of a breather from the action by staying low and sliding into a liquor bottle.

When a terrorist, played magnificantly by Javier Bardem, strikes MI6 headquarters leaving smoking cinders, Bond decides to return to the country he loves and the agency that left him behind.

The bitter feelings create a schism resulting in a few tense moments between Bond and the head of MI6, M, played  with perfection by Judi Dench.

Here we get to the heart of “Skyfall”: the relationship between Bond and M. Both characters stand by their convictions. Bond feels betrayed, and M says that she only did what was expected.

However, it’s clear as the movie goes along that both characters are simply too proud to admit how much they care for one another.

The injuries Bond suffered from his last mission have caused him to miss his step, and his inability to get back into form  frustrates him.

The film takes a look at an element rarely featured in a Bond movie: age.

Prior Bond flicks have always featured a young, roguish lead. But Craig plays a Bond finally feeling the effects of a long career spanning the franchise’s 50-year history.

This is a dark, gritty, down-to-Earth Bond, and the movie is all the more better for it. The film has been stripped of much of the flash and flair that had embodied Bond flicks before.

Gone are the exploding pens and invisible cars; Bond’s cache of gadgets becomes limited to a gun and a small radio.

I was pleased to hear that Bardem was chosen for the role of the villain Silva for “Skyfall,” as his performance as Anton Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men” forever imprinted him as an incredible bad guy in my mind. In “Skyfall,” well, he certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Bardem reveals to Bond that he was another agent for MI6 and, like Bond, was forgotten and left for dead. Years of torture fractured his mind, and he directs his fury back at the agency and, more specifically, M.

Bardem’s performance has an “abandoned son” is believable, and his twisted persona draws pity as well as terror.

I loved every scene that included Bond and the new Q, played by Ben Whishaw, who reinvents the character as an arrogant, geeky tech guru. Their interactions brought some comedy which smooths “Skyfall”‘s hard edge.

“Skyfall” is the best Bond film starring Craig and, arguably, the greatest Bond film ever — I’ll leave the Bond fanatics to argue that one out. I am confident, however, that Bond fan or not, “Skyfall” is more than worth a viewing or two.

Bond is back and, yes, he is ready for his next mission, and we will be there waiting for him — with pleasure.

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