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Stars: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw, Bérénice Marlohe. Ola Rapace, Rory Kinnear, Helen McCrory

Director: Sam Mendes

The world's most lethal secret agent is back and in fine form to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his initial screen adventure. The first 10 minutes would, in fact (and with a different outcome), make a blazing climax, with a pursuit over roofs and a chase on motorbikes topped by a spectacular fight on the roof of a train flying through more tunnels that even Turkish railways can surely hold.

Harris and Marlohe are along for the eye candy, but Bond's leading lady in this one is really Dench as M, who has the second largest role in the film, and shares banter (though not enough) and adventures with 007 (Craig, mercifully shaving off ageing stubble after the first two reels), right up to an equally blazing finale at Bond's ancestral Highland home - the Skyfall of the title.

Dame Judi (who could win a best supporting actress nomination next year) is centre stage here because she's the ultimate target for Silva, a former agent turned master criminal, a role in which Bardem hogs the camera and has lots of sneaky fun, while his ochre-coiffed character plots revenge for M's throwing him to the wolves to save other lives.

Exotic locations abound - aerial views of Shanghai and Macau are breathtakingly beautiful under the cultured cameras of Roger Deakins - as Bond finds Silva an elusive now-they-have-him-now-they-don't kind of prey,

Lots and lots of action offsets a couple of lulls (forgivable in a film of this length), and there's a notable 007 debut by Whishaw as a new, nerdy Q who has a tough time keeping Bond out of Silva's clutches. When the bad guys blow up our hero's beloved Aston Martin, however, you know they're in trouble.

A guaranteed audience pleaser, with the original theme music in full throat, this is gilt-edged Bond.

David Quinlan

UK 2012. UK Distributor: Sony (MGM/Columbia). Technicolor.
143 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 20 Oct 2012