Skyfall completes Daniel Craig's trilogy as James Bond with a bang. Casino Royale set pace, a brand new Bond, not suave, a thug. Quantum of Solace, while pretty weak, showed Bond evolving, going from a plain assassin to the guy who drinks Vespers.
Then, Skyfall. Bond is tired, almost burned out. M (the incredible Dame Judy Dench) has been using agents, and using them up. She even gives another agent the order to fire at a villain when Bond is in the sites. And predictably, Bond is shot, fall 300 feet into a river and is washed ashore. He washes up in a beach colony and figures he'll play dead, hang out on the beach and drink a lot. Beats the spy game.
But in the meantime, M is being stalked by a supervillain, who blows up MI6. Bond can't let this stand, and is soon back in the game.
Now, there's a funny thing about all of this. M is a petty tyrant who has been making a lot of mistakes. Bond is a drunk and a pill-popper whose hands shake too badly to aim a pistol. Their tactics for the final showdown leave a lot to be desired - "Home Alone for grownups" is the usual crack. The plot is mostly holes tied together with string, like a fishnet. And yet, somehow, this is one of the best Bonds ever.
I don't really know what makes this so great - Dench and Craig, for sure, surprisingly deft direction by Sam Mendes (he hasn't directed anything else I though I might like), an appreciation of the Bond legacy, including an instant classic theme song by Adele all helped. The theme and credit sequence, the use of the James Bond theme, the martini gag (the bartender vigorously shakes one up, and Bond pronounces it "perfect") all show a great respect for the series.
And the final scenes do something interesting to the chronology - the Craig trilogy has been a prequel to the classic series. Bond started out as a neophyte, got some seasoning, burned out and came back and now is ready to start his career as we know it, presumably with Dr. No.