Directed By: Sam Mendes

Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Lim Marlohe, and Albert Finney

I can't believe it's been four years since Daniel Craig's last outing as James Bond in Quantum of Solace.  We've all certainly missed 007, his shaken martinis, and his happy trigger finger.  That being said, Skyfall is upon us!  It's been a year full of hype ranging from an appearance by Craig at the 2012 Olympics with Queen Elizabeth, an intense marketing blitz, and, of course, the celebration of James Bond's 50th anniversary.  Now, the beloved British spy is back to help kick off the holiday movie season in the only way he can — kicking ass and taking names.

MI6 has a secret hard drive containing the names of agents embedded in terrorist organizations around the globe.  When it's stolen in Istanbul by an elusive criminal named Patrice (Ola Rapace), M (Judi Dench) turns to veteran spy James Bond (Craig) to recover the stolen disk before all of MI6's intelligence operations are compromised.  M also sends an agent by the name of Eve (Naomie Harris) along with Bond to help him retrieve the drive.  As Bond and Patrice duke it out throughout the city, they end up in hand-to-hand combat on top of a moving train.  Eve, who's on a nearby cliff, does not have a clean shot at Patrice.  However, M tells her to take the bloody shot.  Eve accidentally hits Bond, who falls presumably to his death, and the disk is lost.

When the British Prime Minister learns of what has transpired in Istanbul, she has Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, intervene and coerce M to voluntarily retire, a notion M emphatically rejects.  Meanwhile, someone has hacked into MI6's network through M's computer.  This anonymous hacker leaves a message telling her "Think on your sins".  This hacking culminates in the bombing of the MI6 headquarters and the deaths of countless members of the intelligence organization.  MI6 is directly under attack, and M is at the center of this chaotic mess.

Bond, who somehow survived the shot and fall, is alive and enjoying death.  When he learns of the bombing of the MI6 headquarters, he returns to London to report for duty.  Less than thrilled to see him, M helps Bond get back in physical and mental condition for duty.  She gives him a new Quartermaster (Ben Whishaw) and sends him to Shanghai to capture and question Patrice about the whereabouts of the disk drive and his employer.  The investigation leads Bond to a former MI6 agent by the name of Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a veteran like 007 and one of the last "rats" of the old MI6.  Now, Bond must take out Silva to protect M and become the last rat standing.

In Skyfall, Bond says that his hobby is resurrection, and he means it.  This 23rd installment in the Bond franchise completely makes up for every shortcoming in Quantum of Solace and breathes new life into the long-running series.  American Beauty director Sam Mendes mixes classic Bond with a modern action thriller to create a film that honors 007's past but paves the way for the future.  That's really what this film is all about.  After all, we're saying goodbye to Dame Judi Dench after seven Bond films and we're welcoming a whole new world of colorful characters.

Thanks to Mendes, Skyfall has a very distinct tone that really sets it apart from other Bond films.  At times, it has an old school feel that's reminiscent of classic Bond.  You can see it in the countless travel destinations that include Istanbul, Shanghai, and Macau.  You can hear it in score filled with classic spy music.  You can enjoy it in the introduction of several classic Bond characters that had yet to appear in Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace.  At the same time, Mendes gives us a modern action movie with loads of bullets, plenty of explosions, and countless bullets.  His use of cyber terrorism throughout the film certainly adds to this as well.

Mendes also brings humor back to the series.  When I think of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, funny is not an adjective that comes to mind.  He really plays up the comical elements of Bond's relationships with M, Eve, and Q.  They all deliver loads of laughs in their interactions with Bond.  This really adds a different element to this Daniel Craig 007 flick.  It brings Bond back to his roots.  It's hard not to appreciate all the comedy in Skyfall.

After seven appearances in 007 films as MI6 chief M, it's time to say goodbye to Dame Judi Dench.  It's no secret that the 78-year-old actress is suffering from macular degeneration and is losing her vision.  While I wish her continued success in her incredible film career, it is the right time for a changing of the guard.  In her final Bond appearance, Dench appears to have her most significant role to date.  She's no longer just playing a surrogate mother to the orphaned Bond, she's playing the target with a bullseye right on her forehead.  The veteran actress has no problem stepping up to the plate and gives us a powerful final performance as we delve into her dark past.  Though mommy was bad, I still can't help but love her on the big screen.

As Raoul Silva, Javier Bardem is everything I could have hoped for and more.  The No Country for Old Men star is scary, brilliant, and hilarious at the same time.  He fuses an old school theatricality with a modern menace.  Though Silva is clearly a sane criminal mastermind, you can easily draw comparisons between him and Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight in terms of being a modern menace.  Like Joker, Silva ultimately introduces chaos into the system.  The difference is that Silva has a motive and a legitimate reason to be the baddie he is.  Bardem oozes with evil every moment he's on screen, and you can't help but enjoy this guy.  After all, he delivers some of the film's best one-liners.  I truly do believe that Bardem's Silva will be remembered as one of the greatest Bond villains of all time.

While Daniel Craig does his best as usual as James Bond, other supporting cast members get to shine.  Ralph Fiennes has been the most hyped up addition to the series.  As Gareth Mallory, Fiennes plays a tough bureaucrat who is not afraid to pick up a gun.  He has definitely found himself a new blockbuster franchise now that he's no longer playing He Who Must Not Be Named in the Harry Potter films.  Lord Voldemort, welcome to the 007 fold.  He’s a terrific addition to the cast.  As Eve, Naomie Harris will definitely catch your attention.  She's sexy.  She's funny.  She even kicks some asses when she must.  She's a great new addition to the series.  Finally, we have Ben Whishaw.  Fresh from Cloud Atlas, Whishaw brings a youthful energy to the film as the new Q.  He's the perfect young guy to challenge Craig's Bond in every way.

Sam Mendes has truly vindicated Casino Royale.  We've once again been treated to rich storytelling, elaborate action sequences, and entertaining characters.  Mendes also brings the humor back to Skyfall.  This 007 flick will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish as you watch the last two rats — Bardem and Craig — eat each other alive on the big screen.  Skyfall gets a sober rating.  Don't miss this triumphant film that celebrates the 50th anniversary of James Bond.  After so many years, the old dog apparently still has some new tricks.