Directed by Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem
Rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking
2 hrs. 23 mins.

After decades of watching the invincible James Bond with his smug smile, speedy reflexes, endless weaponry and smooth sexuality, a new Bond has appeared. Call him the inevitable Bond —  less amusing, emotionally savaged and with nothing to live for except the pursuit of death.

Skyfall strips away the old Bond’s superior macho persona and reveals a different sort of man, older but not necessarily wiser, aging, a booze addict. And the inevitable end for any agent who does this as long as Bond? Someone who ends up dead.

Some may prefer the previous Bond. Perhaps it ties them to their own erotic fantasy life. The guy with the gun and the girl. The girl seduced by the dangerous hunk. While not completely devoid of these stereotypes, this version of Bond unveils the darkness behind his facade.

Skyfall picks up in Turkey, where Bond (Daniel Craig) is pursuing a thief who has stolen a hard drive containing all the names of agents who currently work for MI6. Someone is out to destroy the agency and plans to use these files as a death list.

While Bond fights with the thief on top of a moving train, his partner, MI6 agent Eve (Naomie Harris), has pursued them in an SUV in hopes of shooting the thief. As the train passes her, she has one last chance to take out the enemy. Unfortunately, Bond is in the way. M (Judi Dench), the head of MI6, orders her to take the shot anyway. Eve fires and hits Bond, who disappears over the side of the train and is presumed dead.

Weeks later, a huge explosion at MI6 headquarters in London reveals that a powerful enemy has infiltrated their offices and has a vendetta against M. Under fire from her government over the security breach, M needs to track down the infiltrator and avoid further political damage.

She needs someone ruthless for this assignment. Someone like . . . Bond. Yes, despite all appearances to the contrary, Bond proves he is very much alive by showing up at her house, bitter and cynical but ready for duty.

What is revealed in his pursuit of M’s invisible enemy is that M herself has a long, ruthless history within the agency. That history has now come back to haunt her in the form of former MI6 agent Silva (Javier Bardem). In a daring cat-and-mouse game, Bond and Silva begin to hunt each other like two gladiators on the prowl.

Director Sam Mendes has done a yeoman’s job of holding together a complex and lengthy script. Sometimes it feels weighted by its length, but overall he manages to hold the viewer’s attention with his artistic visual touches and tight dialogue. There are no wasted words in this script, and what is uttered seems to have several layers of meaning.

Yes, there are a few typical Bond moments, even some small tributes to the 007 legacy. But the casual flings, the cutesy quips, even the high-tech weapons have been trimmed down to the bare essentials. This story is really about pursuit, survival and the urge to kill.

Skyfall is perhaps the most visually stunning and emotionally powerful of the Bond series, insightful because it explores the long-term effects of violence and how patriotism, betrayal and murder are often closely intertwined.

The film subtly explores Bond’s psyche all the way back to his early childhood. The picture painted is of a man haunted by his past, cynical about his work, splintered by his loyalties. Bond still has a spark of light, especially when it comes to M, but that light is a barely glowing wick.

Skyfall is a telling prophecy about his future as 007. Cold eyes. Bone, muscle and reflex attached to a shrinking soul. A man turned machine turned killer. In short, he’s the right man for the job.