By Jeff Labrecque
July 31, 2012 at 08:42 PM EDT
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From the director of American Beauty and Revolutionary Road… James Bond in… Skyfall!!

Sam Mendes may have been an unorthodox choice to direct the 23rd official James Bond film — and the first in four years — but the new trailer demonstrates a great appreciation for 007’s cinematic canon and the evolving action genre in the (just) post-Bourne, post-Dark Knight era. There are nods to WikiLeaks, echoes of London’s 7/7 subway explosions, and a thick cloud of suspicion about even the most trusted institutions. The house has crumbled and Bond needs to become a new man to rebuild it.

Below are a few moments from the new trailer that made me grin, happy that Bond’s Olympic helicopter leap with the Queen won’t be the year’s most awesome 007 event.

We find Bond atop a speeding train, wrestling with a bad guy. Is it the guy with the stolen computer drive that holds all the identities of all the undercover MI6 agents? Whatever it is, M (Judi Dench) is not fooling around. “You both know what’s at stake here,” she says to a gorgeous sniper (Naomie Harris). “Take the bloody shot.” She does — and Bond is hit and presumed killed. Was she aiming for him? Did she misfire?

“What do you say about a man like that,” M sniffs dismissively, as she types up Bond’s obituary. First off, really? M has to type up agents’ obits? That might be the strongest commentary yet on Britain’s austerity measures.

M is feeling the heat from without and within. Not only have many of her agents been compromised and presumably killed by terrorist organizations, but a new MI6 is taking shape right in front of her, led by Ralph Fiennes. For the first of many Dark Knight Rises thematic parallels, M is Commissioner Gordon and Fiennes’ character could be Matthew Modine’s deputy police commissioner.

Of course, Bond is alive. And what does a secret agent do when he’s completely off the grid and assumed dead. He drinks. Bond pounds a few scorpion shots — note the actual scorpion — while he plots his return — or revenge? For all he knows, M had him killed. Of course, when he sneaks up on her in his office, she has the gall to scold him, “Where the hell have you been?”

Fiennes’ agent asks Bond a logical question: Why come back at all? What is Bond really after?

An explosion rocks a London building as M looks on nearby. Her computer gets hijacked on the way there, and her screen reads, “Think on your sins.” Bond seems to have graduated from any bitterness towards her, and is seeing the game more clearly. “They were targeting her. They wanted her to see it.” Is Bond back to protect M?

“Welcome to the new MI6,” says Bond’s new [Q]uartermaster (Ben Whishaw). Oh, Lucius Fox would be so proud. (And, yes, I know, Fox himself is but a Gotham incarnation of Bond’s original Q.) But this younger Q is not only gadget friendly, but cyber-savvy. Plus, he seems to be allowed out of the office for art museum rendez-vous, which is a step up for the character.

How much do you want to bet that Bond’s new palmprint encoded Walther PPK becomes a clever plot device in a lethal situation where it finds itself in the wrong hands?

Bond is back. Tux — check. Exotic location — check. Femme fatale — check. He’s looking for someone, someone dangerous. “How much do you know about fear?” whispers the alluring Bérénice Marlohe. “All there is,” replies Bond. “Not like this. Not like him,” she nervously utters, all Selina Kyle like. Will she lead Bond to Javier Bardem’s underground lair? Will she betray our hero in the process?

Note iconic Dark Knight, protector of the city, pose.

After a few semi-obscured glimpses, we finally come face to face with evil. Javier Bardem’s villain’s bleached locks evoke Max Zorin from A View to a Kill, but his motivations seem very different. Was he an MI6 agent? “We’re two survivors,” he explains to a handcuffed Bond. “This is what she made us.” Perhaps he hasn’t forgiven M and MI6 for that Skyfall breach, and perhaps he blames her for the deaths of his fellow agents. Nah, there has to be more here. He can’t just be a disgruntled rogue agent, like John Malkovich in In the Line of Fire, can he…? Can he? I mean, look at his evil, evil hair!

Cue the mind-throttling action, steamy love-making montage! Huge explosion. Subway station chase scenes. Under-ice submersion. AnotherThe same train sequence. Q monitors the subways tube: Does he see Bardem’s Silva enter a car, dressed in a police disguise? Bond takes a shower with a friend. He races a motorcycle. A subway derails to catastrophic results.

Naomie Harris gives Bond a close shave. IMDb lists her agent’s name as Eve, though some have speculated that the character ultimately could be some version of Moneypenny. Not so fast. I’ve yet to clear her of suspicion from the Skyfall breach and the train shooting. The fact that she survived the initial crackdown at all could be a reddish flag. Or not. Bond couldn’t be betrayed by two Bond Girls in one movie, could he? Vesper would be so disappointed in him.

This amazing train sequence, with Bond leaping from a crane on to a pried-open box car, pausing briefly to adjust his cuffs, looks to be from the same sequence as the beginning of the trailer, so don’t be surprised if this show-stopper pops up in the film’s first act.

At one point, Bond uses his motorcycle to launch himself from a bridge on to a moving train. Here he busts through a glass window. It’s difficult to tell for sure, but they might be separate sequences. Somewhere, Steve McQueen is smiling.

“Mommy was very bad,” Silva told Bond earlier. And he wants retribution. Will he get it? Does M pay the ultimate price? And if she does, will Bond be the one to write her obit?

Read more:

‘Skyfall’ first look: Ben Whishaw is the new Q! — EXCLUSIVE

‘Skyfall’ teaser trailer: ‘Murder?’ asks a shrink. ‘Employment,’ responds James Bond

First ‘Skyfall’ teaser poster unveiled

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