Skyfall (Sam Mendes, 2012)

What's it about? The services of James Bond (Daniel Craig) are once again required when a shadowy figure (Javier Bardem) from M's (Judi Dench) past threatens both her and national security. But Bond is showing worrying signs of wear and tear following a action-packed pre-credits sequence. Is he up for it? Snigger.

Is it any good? Well, it took them three attempts, but the Craig incarnation of the franchise has finally delivered the goods. AUDI. What's the difference this time round? They've hired a bloody good director, that's what, one who knows how to construct a good story, rather than simply throw together a pile of action sequences. HEINEKEN. So all the usual Bond ingredients are respectfully included, but in the right balance, in the right order and with the right look, thanks to Mendes' (and cinematographer Roger Deakins') eye for a classy shot, which results in some stunning visuals. JAGUAR. Appropriately enough in this 50th year of Bond, it pays affectionate, crowd-pleasing homage to some favourite moments from previous films, but it also finds ways to freshen up some of Bond's traits, as well as characters such as Q and Moneypenny. It's also a smart move to increase M's role, effectively re-inventing her character into a Bond girl for the second half of the film which lends the film more emotional depth. (Although thankfully Bond never makes a move on her - OAP sex would be freshening up the franchise a bit too much, methinks.) VAIO. Craig continues to impress in the role, balancing the humour and steel with easy grace and softening Bond's edges with a little vulnerability. Along the way, there's good support from newcomers Ralph Fiennes (government official), Naomie Harris (Pretty Bond Girl # 1), Ben Whishaw (Q) and Pretty Bond Girl #2's corset.

It does have some missteps - it's a bit overlong, and it takes an age to introduce the wonderful Bardem, whose potential to be one of the great Bond villains is undermined by his lack of screen time and a vaguely unsatisfying fate. A pity, because he's great, and his opening scene in particular is terrific. And, in the climax, there's a rather odd mash-up of Mrs Brown meets Home Alone, which is saved from outright silliness by the sure hand of Mendes and the goodwill built up by what has gone before. OMEGA. But despite these reservations, it's exciting, hugely enjoyable and the best blockbuster of the year.

Anything else I should know? Back when I was younger and more carefree, I used to be a megalomaniac villain with a penchant for gardening and a diabolical invention for miniaturizing things. Naturally it wasn't long before Bond tracked me down to my underground lair and, after a little light repartee, we had a big fight. He won and foiled my plans for world domination, but I didn't come away totally empty-handed. I ripped his eye out of his socket, and after the dust had settled, I retired to a desert island and planted it. It grew into a Bond's eye tree, so I was happy.

What does the Fonz think? Ah, Mr Bond. I've been expecting you. Welcome back.

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