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This year marks the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film series. Maybe that's why the 23rd official Bond film, Skyfall, spends so much time defending old things, old methods, and old ideas. In fact, a variation of "Sometimes old ways are the best" is said almost any time the explosions let up—and that exact phrase is repeated at least twice.

This heavy-handed argument may come off as grumpily defensive to some—Get off 007's lawn!—but it seems intended to be a declaration for the series' relevance, both a celebration of Bond history and a return to it.

Surprisingly, Skyfall strays from the deeper, grittier, more human Bond introduced in 2006's Casino Royale and continued in Quantum of Solace. For the first time, Daniel Craig's Bond isn't so dark, moody, or conflicted. It's back to lighter fare; thankfully it's not overly silly or dopey. And when it's all over, the pieces are in place to continue the franchise as if Casino Royale never happened. The quips are back. The odd nemesis with a weird trait is, too. As are the flirting, the winks at the audience, and the tone-deaf, insensitive commentary on women.

This is your father's James Bond. And director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) makes it thrilling, fun, and fresh. For Bond devotees, there are great homages and treats.

Skyfall opens with Bond tasked to retrieve a top-secret list of MI6's undercover agents. While this action sequence starts with a fairly standard car chase, it builds to proper levels of Bond audaciousness as he drives a tractor over cars—all of which are being transported on top of a speeding train. The pre-credits sequence ends with a quiet and poignant voiceover of a ...

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