Our hope that 2012's Skyfall could make a good change in the James Bond series once more came true. Every Bond movie with Daniel Craig's participation brought a big alteration to the previously established course of the franchise. 2006's Casino Royale was the first big surprise, which rebooted the famous secret agent's story timeline and offered a non-conventional treatment of the character who was not capable anymore of saving the world effortlessly. 2008's Quantum of Solace was almost a U-turn again reinstating Bond as an omnipotent hero and lacking a good story. Finally, Skyfall accomplished another drastic reversal bringing the competent characterization and the good storytelling of Casino Royale back at the expense of Bond's invincibility.
After an unsuccessful mission to secure an important computer drive containing the names of British secret agents back from a man who has stolen it, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is considered to be dead, incidentally shot by his partner Eve (Naomie Harris). Months later the British government's upset with MI6 and particularly with M (Judi Dench) has reached the point to offer her a retirement due to the inability of MI6 to recover the drive. M prefers to stay until the issue is resolved. But it appears the government is not the only one wanting M's head as there is an explosion in MI6's headquarters. After the explosion Bond decides to return despite his unstable condition and possibly woolly attitude after being shot by his own colleague in consequence of M's instruction. Once he becomes a secret agent anew it appears the man having the drive (Javier Bardem) is not so unknown. His name is Silva and he has his own agenda for dealing with M.
As it becomes clear since the very beginning of Skyfall this time James Bond is not a powerful and invulnerable hero. This leads to a more interesting story, which the characters of Javier Bardem and Judi Dench also contribute a lot to. Javier Bardem is easily acceptable as a villain and he has already demonstrated in former movies he is quite capable of portraying bad guys. Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney also have memorable roles and they show good acting skills as usual. Having seen them in two previous Bond films, Judi Dench and Daniel Craig are what you would expect from them (which means good). And Ben Whishaw makes a decent appearance as Q. As a whole, the introduction of more personal sides of the characters furthers Skyfall's quality.
The cinematography is left in the hands of Roger Deakins and this makes Skyfall one of the most beautifully shot films in the James Bond franchise. There are plenty of lovely places presented in the movie (Istanbul, Macau, Shanghai, the Scottish Highlands and of course, London), which give you enough opportunities to appreciate Deakin's mastery more than once. The soundtrack is better than Quantum of Solace's score and this includes Adele's opening song. The direction of Sam Mendes is also great, which is of course easier when a good script is on hand.
To conclude, Skyfall is definitely a huge improvement over the former James Bond installment. It is probably not so surprisingly strong and pleasantly different as Casino Royale but it is a solid effort and deserves attention.