2012, UK/US, directed by Sam Mendes
Given the number of variations over the years both in personnel and style, I find myself increasingly confused by the complaints accompanying each Bond release that the movie in question doesn't adhere adequately to some cherished formula. While certainly an entry like Quantum of Solace seems to veer far away from what the series does most effectively, for the most part surely part of the pleasure comes from the ways in which novelty is grafted to a familiar template. In that regard, Sam Mendes's entry is one of the best Bonds in quite some time, referencing and celebrating some of the most cherished moments from the past -- a wonderful thrill passed through the audience when the Aston Martin makes an appearance, and the rejuvenated Q got some of the bigger laughs -- while deepening and humanizing Bond as a character without making him an especially gentle or even necessarily likeable individual (he is, after all, a tool of his masters, and generally a very willing one at that). The film does find some nobility in the character, though: there's a lovely, almost painterly shot near the conclusion where Bond, seen from behind, looks briefly like a medieval knight kneeling before an altar, and the reference is entirely apt -- a fighter in service to his paymasters, loyal to the end.