I am generally intolerant of movie ad campaigns that go in for this sort of thing, but in the case of Skyfall, the new James Bond movie, I can honestly say that "Daniel Craig is James Bond." Apart from Sean Connery, whose suave sophistication and elliptical wit defined the legendary British spy for so long, Daniel Craig inhabits the role of 007 as if it were a well-worn pair of bedroom slippers. Author Ian Fleming is smiling somewhere.
Truth be told, I was a little worried that director Sam Mendes — best known for the over-praised American Beauty — was not the man for the job. Wrong again! The U.K.-centric plot line of Skyfall is a perfect fit for native son Mendes, whose deft handling of British actors is equaled by the gobsmacking action sequences and high-tension facedowns between Craig and his nemesis, Silva, played with queenly viciousness by Javier Bardem.
The twist in this new James Bond movie is that his rival is overtly gay and, of course, borderline psychotic. The plot turns on the unfortunate decision to "out" Silva as a former military intelligence agent (and thus, once-colleague of Bond) in exchange for a half-dozen agents being held captive by a foreign power. Lay the blame on MI-boss, "M" — again played with steely determination by Judi Dench — and you have a professional love/hate triangle built for maximum revenge and destruction.
However, once the narrative engine room has stoked the story's arc in the first act, the amount of fortuitous twists and turns become increasingly improbable. Coincidence doesn't explain Silva's psychic ability to plan six steps ahead of his adversaries — no, blame the hard-to-put-together joists and beams of this story on the screenwriters, whose need to amp up the tension results in some unfortunate choices. No villain is that smart.
But such plot peccadilloes matter little in the end. With Daniel Craig as Bond, his aging face lined with crags and crannies, one has a hero one can ultimately care for. He may be a step or two slower than his salad days, but his determination to protect the flag and his MI colleagues is ever-inspiring. That is the enduring theme of this crackling edition of the 007 movies: like a fine vintage wine, age only improves the old spy, whose old-school hardware (a primitive radio transmitter and his trusty old Aston Martin DB5) and native wit and physicality carry the day over shadowy terrorist scumlords like Silva. At 2.5 hours, it went by like a rocket.