Off The Cuff
We’re opening this feature on something that any self-respecting Bond fan (hell, even any movie fan in general, and their dog) will have seen. But be warned, there are some HUGE spoilers to follow.
These 50 Best Moment features are designed to go in-depth on the experience of watching the best films of the year - to remind you of bits you enjoyed, or highlight stuff you might have missed first time out, to encourage you to see it a second time.
So if you haven’t seen Skyfall , leave now (and don’t even think about reading the comments section), and return once you’ve caught up with James Bond’s 23rd (official) adventure.
Still with us? Then we look forward to going in-depth on the greatest bits that Skyfall had to offer (and there were plenty). And as ever, we’d like to hear about your favourite moments in the comments.
So, to kick things off, we’ll go for a moment that played in countless trailers, TV spots and celebratory GIFs before Skyfall was released but was still worthy of an emphatic round of applause from the cinema stalls.
James Bond, in hot pursuit of Patrice (Ola Rapace), has just torn half a carriage off the back of a train (using a digger), and leaps onto the locomotive to continue his pursuit.
So, the stunt’s pretty impressive, but the killer detail comes when Bond checks his cufflink, just after landing, without missing a beat.
Put simply, Bond doesn’t do anything without doing it with impeccable style.
There’s a long acknowledged rule that Bond actors really get comfortable in the role in their third film, and Daniel Craig has never seemed quite so 007 as he does here.
Right, we’re moving into spoiler territory here, so it’s your last chance to bail if you haven’t seen Skyfall yet…
The credits sequence has become a customary Bond, as much a part of the experience as the gun barrel standoff, the power tux, and the ‘Bond, James Bond’ introduction.
Quantum Of Solace was a quantifiable disappointment, lacking many items from the Bond checklist, without being coherent enough to work as a standalone action thriller. Its credit sequence was poorly served by an odd song selection (not a terrible song per se, but not really Bond) and a lack of decent imagery to draw on.
With Adele’s single returning the franchise’s music to form, we had high hopes for an opening salvo to match, and we weren’t disappointed.
The familiar musical keys throb in the background, while Adele’s sizeable vocals hark back to the classic Bond tracks of yore. A contemporary update on a classic franchise staple, the song neatly encapsulates Skyfall ’s modus operandi - giving Bond a service and tune-up, rather than a complete overhaul.
With Bond’s watery crash serving as the ideal intro to the subaquatic sequence, the imagery that’s thrown up - stags at Skyfall lodge, Chinese dragons, art deco skulls, flames, halls of mirrors, shadowy villains - hints heavily at plot turns, without actually spoiling anything for first timers.
And that bleeding Bond-shaped shooting-range target, it’s a very prescient recurring image. And it looks damn cool.
It’s telling that the sequence wraps up on a close-up of Bond’s ice-blue eye. Cold, yet seductive, this one’s going to dig deep.
Our first introduction to Ralph Fiennes’ new character, Mallory, sees Judi Dench’s M receiving the kind of dressing down she’s used to being on the dispensing end of.
Telling her loyal sidekick Tanner (see next page) that she feels like she’s being called to the headmaster’s quarters, the scene attests to the seriousness of M’s mistake - the loss of a hard drive containing the names of every undercover MI6 agent on active service.
Fiennes is such a apposite cast-member that it makes you wonder why he didn’t join the franchise earlier.
Owning the scene, he makes it impossible to tell if Mallory’s a bull-headed bureaucrat, a decent chap, or an enemy within. One thing’s clear though: his voluntary redundancy offer makes it clear that M’s on shaky ground.
Rory Kinnears Tanner
Spare a moment for the little guy. The quiet one who’s never going to have a shot at active field duty. The most dangerous part of his day is probably when he pours boiling water over M’s teabags.
But credit to the Bond team for hiring Rory Kinnear, an actor of considerable Shakespearean talents, for making Tanner meek, but not entirely detestable.
He delivers some ‘Basil Exposition’ lines with conviction, and is the perfect as the other side of Bond’s lantern-jawed bemuscled secret agent. And despite being a desk jockey, he’s not an absolute drip, and gets to show real concern for Dench’s M in a couple of key scenes.
This one made the list, simply because it revisits a Bond staple that only came into being during Craig’s tenure: the trunks shot.
Cutting a striking figure in his baby blues in Casino Royale , Craig’s impressive body gave a previously neglected 50% share of the audience something to gawp at. Admittedly, former Bond's had sported trunks, but none so strikingly as Craig.
And it became so iconic, that a scene of Bond swimming (in a pool located magnificently above the Shanghai skyline) is crowbarred into a mission.
Well, who doesn’t like a quick dip to sharpen their senses before facing a professional assassin?
A small but key moment in the London Underground pursuit sequence, with Bond and Silva hurtling themselves down the escalator equivalent of the central reservation.
Not only does it add to the intensity of the chase scene (Bond flings himself down there with gusto, and barely keeps his footing as he flies off the endpoint), but as a classic piece of wish-fulfilment for impatient commuters, it’s right up there with the escalator slide in Getting Even With Dad (not the only Macauley Culkin parallel to be drawn with Skyfall , you’ll see).
Next time we’re shuffling behind the braindead hordes towards the Victoria Line, we’re going to be sorely tempted to try this one out.
Your New Quartermaster
Ben Whishaw’s appointment as Q was a crowdpleasing one. Not only did it confirm that Skyfall would be harking back to the golden years of Bond, it made it clear it would be revisiting the classic staples on its own terms.
Meeting Bond in London’s National Gallery, Q makes some pointed comments about a painting depicting “an old warship being hauled off for scrap”, and sparks fly between the surly secret agent and his young, spotty go-to gadget guy.
Craig’s Bond is known for his ‘lone wolf’ temperament, but as this scene illustrates, he’s great fun when sparking with an antagonist. And the conversation wraps Skyfall into a nutshell: the ongoing conflict between the old and the new.
And it’s nice to see Craig get a bit a of cool kit to play with, even if Q branch don’t go in for exploding pens anymore…
Watch the ‘Bond meets Q’ scene.
You can interpret Bond’s symbolic death in a number of ways, but, however you look at it, it’s a bit of a shock to see your protagonist shot off a ridiculously high bridge before the credits roll.
A rare opportunity for Bond to go off the radar, his exotic, opportunistic sabbatical affords him the time for some angry, anonymous cabin sex, the occasional beer, and a scorpion drinking game that most gap-year students would baulk at.
Right from the off, director Sam Mendes presents us with a Bond who can’t be bothered to go back to work. Stripping him of his tailored suits, peppering him with stubble, and loading his eyes with the baggage of a career’s worth of doubt, it’s a rare look at an unpolished Bond.
After 50 years in the game, does Bond still want to do it? And are his services required any longer? It takes a stark news report to snap him back into action.
In Istanbul, Bond wanders into to a dingy apartment, dead bodies leak the red stuff all over the floor, and an MI6 agent sits in an armchair, gasping his last.
Highlighting a rarely-surfaced compassion for a colleague, Bond applies pressure to his partner’s wound, before M orders him to leave in order to trail the stolen hard drive.
Knowing what the decision will mean for the agent, Bond recommends staying, but M stands firm in her decision: demonstrating the kind of cold calculation that’s evidently got her to the top tier of MI6.
As we’ll see again in Skyfall , M doesn’t shy away from tough decisions, and rarely lets emotion get in the way of a job.
Kick My Face
A simple moment, but one that’s almost comical in the immense amount of satisfaction it provides.
Following Silva across the long grass of his family’s estate, Bond refuses to let a generic henchman stand in his way, leaping into a flying kick to the face without missing a beat.
Fast, ruthless, efficient, it’s a showcase for the physicality of Craig’s 007.