Skyfall is the best modern James Bond movie. I say modern not as a copout. The Bond of the 60s is of a special vintage that has certain properties. Properties which don't lend themselves well to direct comparison. For example, while Daniel Craig is a vastly superior athlete and actor, he is not Sean Connery walking though a Jamaica airport in 1962. Seeing it in IMAX, I watched the film unfold knowing virtually nothing of Skyfall. I generally spoil myself silly with production tidbits and leaked photos. All I knew about Skyfall was that it had a neat title, and I speculated it was either a mission, a MacGuffin, or an allegorical title for a movie which would not be referenced directly. And I knew it had a good cast, and that it was supposed to be "better". I can see the grained-out 60s TV spot in my mind. A male voiceover, excitedly barking "What is Operation Skyfall? Who is Skyfall? James Bond is back, in Skyfall! An MGM Picture of dizzying heights, beautiful girls, and danger!" cue Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey duetting, if such a rugged microphone could exist. Daniel Craig and company restored sanity to the franchise with a very current trend: The Realistic Reboot. In one of these reboots, an old creaky franchise is revitalized with a dose of gritty, brooding realism paired with a tragic, operatic scale.
Casino Royale was a notably good reboot, not just for Bond, for any genre film. Yet by paring down the clutter, Bond lost a little of the sparkle that make the films such events in the 1960s. Skyfall is a complete restoration of the glam, fun, and sizzle of early Bond films. While familiar elements and characters are back, its the cinematography and direction that elevate this one above all others. Composed with an eye for striking visual contrast, deep framing, suspenseful visual storytelling and a real sense of space, Skyfallis a stunner. It looks and sound better than it needs to be. It it quality overkill. It more than makes up for the choppy, sadly bland Quantum of Solace. Its action exists in place and time, intelligible and expensive looking. The old MI6 HQ was never very interesting visually, but the underground bunker is much nicer, and a nod to remote HQ's such as the grounded ship and pyramid remote offices of past Bond films. To say that's it's nice to have Q (and M back as Ian Fleming intended) is an understatement. While Judy Dench was good, she was never as good as she was here. It took her exit and a script worth her talent to bring out her best acting of the series.