James Bond should be forgiven a little creakiness. Ian Fleming’s super-spy has spent 22 films and 50 years getting punched and shot. His jet lag has to be excruciating. Let’s not even think of the wear on the old horndog’s nethers. But any concern about the franchise’s relevance is silenced within two seconds of Skyfall
, which picks up in the middle of a batshit chase culminating in one of the most inventive train-top melees since young Indiana Jones rode the rails. Bond (Daniel Craig) is presumed dead and loving it: His days consist of anonymous sex and blackout benders. He snaps to when terrorists targeting boss M (Judi Dench) hit MI6 headquarters, and to its very last moment, Skyfall
brilliantly maintains the gritty modernist aesthetic of Casino Royale
while injecting elements that were largely absent in that installment, including gadgetry, sass and humor. Director Sam Mendes subtly humanizes Bond by focusing on his relationship with M while keeping up a breakneck pace. Cinematographer Roger Deakins brings verve to each sequence, particularly a neon-drenched fistfight in a high-rise and a prolonged shootout at a creaky Scottish manor. Each action sequence is shot wide and with the precise choreography of a dance. Skyfall
also delivers an appropriately megalomaniacal villain in the creepy, bleached-blond Javier Bardem, a crazed, revenge-bent computer whiz with an itchy trigger finger and an Oedipus complex that would make Norman Bates cringe. As Bond, Craig brings a hard-edged cockiness and well-earned swagger in one of the year’s most crackling adventure films, which is also one of the super-spy’s most satisfying outings and proof that you can indeed teach an old horndog new tricks.