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The evolution of a spy Skyfall'

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Newest Bond film reinvigorates the franchise

It's hard to fathom, but the James Bond film franchise is celebrating its 50th year. That's half a century of a single iconic character evolving right alongside our culture. Starting with Sean Connery first gracing the screen as Bond in 1962's 'Dr. No,' there have now been 23 cinematic outings featuring the now-archetypal superspy.

(And yes, I'm aware that there are a handful of 'other' Bond movies; we're just talking about the projects from Eon Productions.)

The latest in the series, 'Skyfall,' is a continuation of the character's evolution. Since Daniel Craig came on as the sixth actor to play Bond in 2006's 'Casino Royale,' the series has steadily been distancing itself from the increasing cartoonishness that had previously befallen the franchise. Instead of the goofy gadgets and pithy bon mots that had become standard operating procedure, we got a darker, more humanized Bond.

So much the better.

'Skyfall' offers a Bond who is struggling with the realities of growing older in what is undeniably a young man's game. After a hard drive containing the identities of deep cover agents is stolen, Bond and his partner Eve (Naomie Harris, 'The First Grader') attempt to retrieve it a mission that ends in failure with Bond presumed dead.

When word of this leak gets out, M (Judi Dench, 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel') finds herself fighting for both her job and the sanctity of MI6, forced to answer to government officials such as Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes, 'Wrath of the Titans') and go before a board of inquiry.

Upon Bond's return (that's right, he's not dead shocker!), it soon becomes clear that the villain behind the entire plot a man by the name of Silva (Javier Bardem, 'Eat Pray Love') has very personal motivations driving his scheme far more personal than what you usually find in typical Bond villainy.

Bond must find a way to combat his own demons physical and emotional alike in order to put a stop to Silva's plans before it is too late.

'Skyfall' is easily one of the best Bond movies in years; frankly, it probably deserves to be in the discussion for the best. Director Sam Mendes has breathed new life into the franchise, offering us a look at a Bond who is more than mere martinis and Aston-Martins (though there are a few knowing nods in those directions). There's a darkness permeating the proceedings that makes this the most compelling Bond film in at least a generation.

Craig has settled into the Bond persona comfortably, foregoing the jokiness and clichs that had dragged down the series before he turned up six years ago. Turning James Bond from a cartoon into a complex character had to be a daunting task, but the choice of Craig (much maligned at the time) has proven to be an exceptional one.

But really, there are three important aspects of a new Bond film that need to be addressed.

Bond song The titular 'Skyfall,' written and performed by Adele, is excellent. Apparently, the song has been all over radio in recent weeks (I'm a bit out of the musical loop), but it was my first time hearing it. Just a perfect fit; the sound, the style, the tone all fit beautifully.

Bond girl French actress Berenice Marlohe is stunning and exotic as the enigmatic Severine. She is breathtakingly beautiful, of course, but she has a degree of dignity that makes her striking on screen. She is the perfect foil for this new Bond. Plus, her name isn't ridiculous.

Bond villain Javier Bardem's flamboyant portrayal of Silva manages to simultaneously feel like a throwback to the Connery days while still being very much grounded in this new Bond universe. The more intimate focus of his villainy allows the talented Bardem to create a new sort of Bond villain he cuts a bizarre figure, but his character is no less genuine for it. Best Bond villain ever? He's in the conversation.

'Skyfall' looks like it might be the most financially successful film in the 50-year-history of the franchise. It would be a well-deserved honor we're looking at the dawning of a new era for James Bond an era we should welcome with open arms.

5 out of 5

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