If “Skyfall” is the new 50, James Bond is handling it remarkably well. Five decades after the first cinematic incarnation of 007, novelist Ian Fleming’s agent provocateur, the spy-craft in the new film is sharper, the intrigue deeper, the beauties brighter (more brain, less bare). [LA Times]

IT’S LONG past time the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences either included the James Bond franchise in its best picture category, created a new category for blockbuster money earners that are great films, or was awarded a special Oscar for 50 years of epic filmmaking. Because scoring $87.8 million opening weekend, plus a massive $518.6 million worldwide, including $428.6 million internationally, isn’t Skyfall’s best achievement. The film itself, from script to direction to acting, is sheer perfection.

Not all 50 have been good films, let alone great, but “Skyfall” is the best of Bond. Judi Dench, a malevolently disturbed Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, even Albert Finney and many more, including Berenice Lim Marlohe, and Naomie Harris, whom we’ll see again.

To review it is to tease it, so for once that I won’t do, because this one should be savored, not spoiled.

Two words begin it: Sam Mendes. What a director, known for films like American Beauty and the spectacularly brazen Revolutionary Road, if those films don’t give you a hint of some of the places the script goes nothing will.

And, oh, what a script. John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade should get an Oscar nod for the crafting of “Skyfall,” which has more depth and humanity than we’ve yet seen James Bond exhibit. It’s not easy making James Bond new again, let alone resurrecting him from previous bad plot lines, namely Quantum of Solace.

Skyfall soars.

The audience taking it in is older, more men, though this one deserves to change that dynamic. The roles for the women shift to stronger, wiser and less expendable, even as time changes things. James Bond, too, as the franchise grows up.

But in the end it’s Craig, Daniel Craig.

But the weight of carrying the film falls to Craig. The good news is that he’s even more comfortably settled in than his first two outings ““ 2006′s “Casino Royale” and 2008′s “Quantum of Solace.” Craig’s always been a craggier Bond, more solid and serious than Sean Connery, who initially gave James a sly, wry elegance, a tone that was largely continued by the Bonds that would follow. Craig’s shaken it up again here. His James is angrier and more haunted by indecision in “Skyfall.” The emotional charges buried under all that stoicism add another layer of tension to an already teasingly tense film. [LA Times]