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The 25 Best Movies of 2012

25. Skyfall

Director: Sam Mendes
Stars: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Berenice Marlohe, Albert Finney

It's not that James Bond fell off with 2008's Quantum of Solace—007 merely stumbled, albeit in a mostly boring and ridiculous fashion. In both that film and its predecessor, the far superior Casino Royale, Daniel Craig's phase with the iconic super-agent continued its pushing back against the franchise's trademarks and vintage spirit, trying for a darker, grittier tone that was only half successful. With the rousing Skyfall, though, director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) and screenwriter John Logan brought the character back to his lively, somewhat playful but always thrilling roots, and the result was an action-charged knockout.

Clearly taking several cues from Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight formula, Mendes upgraded the current Bond era into a new stage of visual grandeur, using sterling cinematographer Roger Deakins' breathtaking shots to add colorful, stunning layers to a series of airtight action set pieces (the opening motorcycle chase turned speeding train brawl is a showstopper).

Craig, for his part, gives his best 007 performance yet, executing too-cool-for-school mojo when necessary but also nailing every moment of subtle vulnerability, most of which is sparked by two counterparts: the motherly M (Judi Dench) and the charismatically sinister Silva (Javier Bardem), the latter being the strongest Bond villain in decades.

To say that James Bond got his swag back would be a serious understatement. Calling Skyfall one of the best 007 movies ever made feels much more appropriate.

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