What a sensational way to turn 50. James Bond marks his fifth decade with this dynamic release. Daniel Craig scowls and broods beautifully, of course, as the latest Bond. The storyline delves into Bond's past (and M's past, for that matter) in a resonant way - and allows for some winking references to previous Bond films, too. The movie is a wonderful mix of nerve-jangling action sequences and character-exploring drama scenes. Who would have thought that director Sam Mendes, who also helmed the lugubrious "Revolutionary Road" and "Road to Perdition," could fire up a Bond film with such flair? He's assembled a deep-bench cast. Javier Bardem has a total ball as the resident Bond villain. Judi Dench digs into M's emotions. Albert Finney rocks a Santa beard and an old-man-with-nothing-to-lose attitude as the gamekeeper at a certain estate. Young Ben Whishaw is adorably dorky as the latest Q. All in all, "Skyfall" is one of the most enjoyable films of the year.
- KRISTINA DORSEY