Critics purr as Bond returns in 'Skyfall'

LONDON, United Kingdom - The new Bond film "Skyfall" has its world premiere on Tuesday, October 23, with critics declaring it one of the finest movies in the British spy's 50 years on the silver screen.

Daniel Craig, in his third outing as 007, will walk up the red carpet at the Royal Albert Hall in London along with the film's other stars for the screening in the presence of heir to the throne Prince Charles.

In "Skyfall", directed by Oscar winner Sam Mendes, Britain's foreign intelligence agency MI6 comes under attack, leaving Bond to hunt down the threat.

There is far more prominent role than normal for Judi Dench as Bond's controller "M" while Spanish star Javier Bardem brings malice to the role of Bond's latest nemesis Raoul Silva.

Other luminaries include Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw, playing a younger version of Bond's gadgets man "Q" than his predecessors Desmond Llewelyn and John Cleese.

The 23rd Bond film opens with a spectacular scene in an Istanbul market but returns to home ground with a terror attack in London.

Craig said in one interview ahead of the film's release that the directors were conscious of the need to show sensitivity, as London was the scene of Al-Qaeda bombings in 2005 in which 52 people were killed.

"We’ve had to be sensitive about things, (but) we can't shy away from storylines," he told Time Out magazine.

"We've not been trying to please any particular group of people. That's just been part of the storyline."

In his two previous outings in "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace", 44-year-old Craig has played Bond as a brooding presence, which critics say is far closer to the Bond portrayed in the novels by his creator Ian Fleming.

Craig said he hoped "Skyfall" would show a lighter side too.

"It's a good, dense storyline but it's adult in many ways. It’s also got a lot of fun in it, and people might be surprised by the fact that there’s a lightness of touch in the movie that hasn’t been in the last two.

"There's a lot of humour going on."

Time Out's critic found it a "highly distinctive Bond movie", praise echoed by most reviewers.

The Daily Telegraph's reviewer said that while the Bond staples remained -- fast cars, beautiful women, high-tech gadgets and vodka Martinis -- it was a "blistering comic book escapade" that he predicted will be "a stratospheric hit".

A former Bond, Roger Moore, is among those who believe Craig is the best 007 in history.

"I think they've now got the best Bond ever in Daniel Craig. A very fine, classically trained actor, and doesn’t he look like a killer?" Moore, now 85, told Time Out.

The release of "Skyfall" has special resonance because it was exactly half a century since Bond strode stylishly into a film for the first time in the now classic "Dr. No".

The anniversary was marked with a series of events across the world earlier this month.

The Bond franchise has gone on to become one of the most successful in history, with the 22 Bond films released so far taking more than five billion dollars (3.85 billion euros). - Agence France-Presse