Mendes introduces the Bond-Silva rivalry in a deliciously insinuating, psychosexual encounter and then quickly moves the story through a series of clever action set pieces (the best being a brilliant cat-and-mouse shoot-out between Bond and an assassin in a neon-lit, glass-and-steel Shanghai skyscraper).
The script by regulars Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (“Quantum of Solace” and others) and Oscar-nominated newcomer John Logan (“Hugo” and already on board for Bond 24 and 25) deftly juggles the old and new and makes room for several pithy guest appearances (a new, nerdy Q in Ben Whishaw; Ralph Fiennes as a starchy, meddling bureaucrat, and a heavily bearded Albert Finney as the crusty caretaker of Bond's boyhood home in the rugged Scottish moors).
Then, of course, there are the eye-pleasing Bond girls — green field agent Eve (Naomie Harris), who has a surprising family connection, and exotic Berenice Marlohe as Severine, Silva's strikingly tragic sex slave.
In the five decades and 22 movies of the Eon Productions Bond franchise, the films have wavered from sophisticated to bombastic, from thrilling to silly and back. But “Skyfall” feels like a new high mark for the Bond canon — a keenly savvy, sexy and exhilarating movie packed with subversive secrets that puts the “intelligence” back into Ian Fleming's spy game.
— Dennis King