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Actress Berenice Marlohe, director Sam Mendes, producer Barbara Broccoli and actor Daniel Craig (L-R) pose on the red carpet as they arrive for the German premiere for the film 'Skyfall' in Berlin October 30, 2012. The movie opens in German cinemas on November 1. [Photo/Agencies]
If you just looked at the cast and crew of "Skyfall," you could easily confuse the assembled talent for a prestige costume drama. Director Sam Mendes, actors Judi Dench, Javier Bardem and Ralph Fiennes, and cinematographer Roger Deakins might just as easily be mounting a Shakespeare adaptation.
But "Skyfall" is, of course, a James Bond film, and not only that, it's the 23rd installment in a blockbuster franchise marking its 50th anniversary with only slightly less fanfare than the Queen's Jubilee. "Skyfall" is a touch more high-minded than those previous 22 films, but it's also arguably the best crafted movie in Bond history.
Those involved in the 007 empire overwhelmingly credit the higher trajectory for Bond to one man: Daniel Craig.
"Daniel was like, `Everyone said yes! Look at this incredible cast!'" says Mendes. "I'm like, `Mate, it's because of you.'"
Now in his third film as 007, "Skyfall" is Craig's most emphatic statement yet on how he'll define his stewardship of the beloved British spy. What's clearest on "Skyfall" is that Craig has taken full ownership of Bond, not only filling out a tux, but molding the entire production.
"That was an ambition of mine," says Craig. "They give us a lot of money to make these films. If we can spend the money in the right way - it's not just me, it's the collective thinking but I'm very much behind it - if we can spend the money in the right way and on the right people, then we're going to create something that's very special."
The result is the best-reviewed Bond film yet, one that's already made a whopping $287 million in its first 10 days of international release. "Skyfall" is the culmination of The Daniel Craig Years, a chapter in Bond history that's proving a resounding success.
Craig's first Bond film, 2006's "Casino Royale," was a visceral introduction to his version of 007. Less successful was 2008's "Quantum of Solace," which was marred by script problems partly caused by the writer's strike. The film's heavy somberness disappointed many and fueled the correction in tone on "Skyfall".
After the postmodern deconstruction of "Quantum," "Skyfall" puts Bond back together, restoring many familiar elements, albeit with certain twists. Ben Whishaw inherits the role of Q, Naomie Harris settles in as Moneypenny and Fiennes comes aboard as the new head of MI6. Bardem plays a flamboyant, effete former MI6 agent whose cyber destruction is motivated by a past with M, the role Judi Dench has memorably inhabited for seven films.
Overall, "Skyfall" is set in a more realistic world - particularly situated in London - where MI6's activities are answerable to government and where the threat of terrorism has firmly displaced Cold War fears as the dominant concern.