The only word I can used to describe Skyfall is wow. I've never been a massive fan of James Bond but Skyfall converted me completely.
I didn't like Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace because I found the plots to both films impossibly dense and confusing. I also didn't like the fact that people seemed to respect the films simply because they were so 'dark and edgy' - as if this made them more realistic. All the characters were constantly talking in hushed tones, the violence was less cartoonish and more gory and Daniel Craig always had a solemn look on his face, as if he'd just swallowed a bumblebee. I hate to break it to you, but I'm sure even the life of an assassin isn't this depressing? In real life, people do crack a joke once in a while.
Skyfall gave Daniel Craig's Bond the much needed extra dimensions of a real person that he had lacked in the other two films. His relationship with Judi Dench's M became much more compelling and layered, and we got introduced to information about his past - and particularly his childhood - that had never been explored before. This gave Craig a lot more meat to work with as an actor and he made the most of it. Getting to prove his quality as an actor, something that had been drowned out in the previous films by the 'dark, edgy' monotone.
Revenge couldn't be sweeter
Javier Bardem's villain Silva was also a lot more three-dimensional than most - reinventing the 'revenge' motive instead of recycling the standard 'megalomaniac who wants to rule the world' plot. Intriguingly Bardem's character is deliberately camp and at times darkly comic but it doesn't make him any less threatening - which reiterates the point that making Bond overly brooding and masculine doesn't necessarily make it any more exciting. A little campness in Bond never hurt anyone and actually it can make for more fully rounded entertainment!
Naomi Harris's Bond girl is one of the best there's been in the franchise - because they flirt but it's mutual - Bond doesn't have her wrapped around his little finger (or anything else for that matter). And her and Bond work brilliantly together in the breath-taking opening sequence. Unfortunately Bérénice Marlohe is a more obvious Bond girl - all sexy and vulnerable and just as easily disposable.
The action scenes were incredibly inventive - such as chases with a digger on top of a train, a fight in a komodo dragon enclosure, etc - and proved with their slickness that Sam Mendes isn't just a great director of actors, he can also pump adrenaline with the best of them.
I loved that so much of this film was set in London - it felt like it was long overdue to bring the franchise back to its roots after all the fancy globe-trotting. The British setting also provided a great backdrop for us to find out more about Bond while he was in his country of origin. Skyfall also managed to do what the newer Star Wars films comprehensively failed to do - namely make the politics of the plot involving. This is partly because the script is brilliantly written - allowing the plot to be complex without being confusing.
A lot of retro Bond moments were referenced in the latest installment which was a great nod to the rich history of the franchise. But let's not forget that there have been a lot of really rubbish films in that half a century. And after 50 years, it's good to see Bond has finally gone back to basics - focussing on the storytelling and the characters first and foremost - while at the same time being really current with some groundbreaking action scenes. Bond is now back at the forefront of action thrillers, leading the way again, instead of just being a camp follower.