QUALIFYING STATEMENT:There's no way I can give Skyfall the full BlogalongaBond treatment without giving away most of the film's surprises, so if it's all the same with you I'll save that for a few weeks. In the meantime, here's a spoiler-free review which contains no comedy captions or cock jokes.
Bond's relationship with M has been gently probed ever since Dench took over the role in GoldenEye, but it's so vital here that Skyfall might just be the first Bond Film that's actually an M Film. The result is an almost subdued entry, with the usual epic action sequences reduced to staccato beats of fights and explosions in favour of wordy exchanges about the inherent danger of misplaced trust and loyalty.
While all this might sound like a return to the form of Casino Royale after the disappointing Quantum Of Solace, it's not. Not because Skyfall isn't as good as Casino Royale, but because it's a unique type of Bond film altogether. It's a curious mixture of old- and new-school Bond which succeeds for the most part but occasionally jars: Daniel Craig's delivery of a few weak one-liners betrays his own discomfort with them, while Thomas Newman's score tries to reinforce familiarity by crowbarring the Bond theme in at painfully obvious moments. It's elements like these that sit awkwardly with the more atypical ingredients: a Bond who's an unshaven shadow of his former self for the first hour; a villain who displays a surprising interest in 007; and a plot which, for the first time, unfolds mostly on British soil.
So while it's my duty as a Bond fan to identify the flaws in the diamond on an initial viewing (and there are more that I haven't mentioned), I have absolutely no doubt that repeat visits will ensure that Skyfall takes its place among not just the best of the Bonds but the best of all this year's films. And if nothing else, it's certainly the most unexpected.