M In The Dock
Cranking up the tension to a crescendo at the midway point, Mendes crafted a nail-biting sequence for any viewer thinking that Skyfall might be Judi Dench’s last franchise appearance (pretty much all of us, then).
Helen McCrory’s curt MP doesn’t stand on ceremony for the queen of the series, even in the year of her golden jubilee, “You’ll forgive us for not putting up the bunting.”
Putting Dench on the backfoot only ups the pressure, as instant messages warn Tanner of the imminent threat.
We could have done without the Tennyson reading, but the sight of Bond anxiously sprinting towards the courthouse (thrusting his knees in a manner rarely seen outside of the Mission: Impossible franchise), is enough for even the most stoic Brit to get a lump in their throat.
Hitting The Bottle
Much was made of the filmmakers’ promotional pact with lager giant Heineken, but thankfully, the product placement was kept subtle, with Craig’s Bond fortunately spared going full Wayne’s World . In fact, during the one early sequence in which he does swig from the green bottle, his hand obscures the label.
Throw in a couple more sly references - the stocked chiller in the Shanghai bar, the London Underground ads - and it seems like a pretty fair trade for the amount that was contributed to the budget.
And it wasn’t only lager that Bond swills during the running time. At his lowest ebb, he takes part in a exotic drinking game (scorpion chaser optional), and shares a Macalllan whisky with M in her apartment. The highland single malt hints at Bond’s to-be-revealed origins, and provides a link to the shooting game Silva will later entangle Bond in.
And, it wouldn’t be a proper golden anniversary celebration for Bond if he didn’t down his signature martini, but rather than repeating the instructions, we simply see the waitress shaking the cocktail, before decanting it into a chilled glass. “Perfect.”
Throw in a couple of bottles of Bollinger and you’ve got yourself a party.
For a man who spends most of his scenes pushing pens around a stately desk, it doesn’t take long for Mallory to spring into action, and he even takes a bullet to the shoulder for his trouble.
Recalling Mallory’s infrequently mentioned fieldwork earlier in his career (spending time at the hands of the IRA), it’s a brief, immediate reminder of hidden depths to a character who could have easily been one-note.
His involvement in the shoot-out also had us thinking that, 15 years ago, English Patient -era Fiennes could have been a appropriate candidate for the James Bond role himself.
Beneath The Ice
The second frozen lake set-piece of the year (after Rust And Bone ), Bond’s slippery grapple with a henchman is worlds away from the invisible car chase in Die Another Day , and all the better for it.
In honesty, it’s suspenseful enough when Bond takes a gentle jog across the surface, before his run-in with Silva’s goon. Opting to do things the difficult way, 007 blasts himself and his rival into the icy deep, before besting him with a rather impressive leg-to-neck strangle.
Cool, efficient, resourceful… and brutal in the face of adversity. That’s the Bond we know.
House On Fire
It’s a brave move, giving your decades-old character a whiff of a backstory, before burning his heritage to the ground, but it makes for one hell of a spectactle.
A neat twist on the classic ‘villain’s lair showdown’, Skyfall brings the trouble home to Bond. Destroying the vintage lodge carries a much more weight than seeing a tech-heavy hideout going down.
And, quite frankly, the whole spectacle looks glorious on the big screen, as Bond’s improvised explosive blows away the ghosts of his past and the flames rise and a helicopter gets pulled into the carnage.
Patrices Lethal Weapon
We can’t have been the only ones to notice this, intentional or otherwise, can we?
The Bond series isn’t unfamiliar with phallic imagery (c’mon, you could write reams on the silencer alone), but even by it’s own standards there’s something breathtakingly bizarre about the automatic weapon Patrice (Ola Rapace) defends himself with during the Istanbul market shootout (unfortunately not pictured above).
Below the pistol’s barrel hang two round ammo-cartridges, and the imagery is pretty much unmistakeable. Bond must’ve felt pretty insecure with his PPK in that particular standoff.
Or do we just have too much time on our hands?
Hall Of Mirrors
Mirrors play a key role in Skyfall (something we’re more used to saying about artsy dramas than rock-solid blockbusters); hinted at in the opening sequence and utilised by Albert Finney’s Kincade during the siege, the pinnacle comes during Bond’s Shanghai showdown with Patrice.
Stalking the barely-lit, neon-tinged top floor, Bond aims to get the jump on the assassin by stealthing up behind him, and the glassy workspace is transferred into a veritable hall of mirrors.
It’s a credit to Mendes that he has the confidence to take his time with this scene, as it plays out in connection with a Rear Window assassination. But as Mendes has Roger Deakins’ cinematography to luxuriate over, we’re glad he doesn’t rush through it.
And the shadowplay ties nicely into a recurrent theme throughout the movie (not least when M describes the whereabouts of the contemporary threats the 00 unit has to deal with).
Best looking Bond ever? You bet.
If Skyfall got anything right, it’s villainy was bang on, as encapsulated by this attack on MI6. Fresh from her bollocking from Mallory, M’s on her way back to headquarters when her car’s stopped on a bridge, giving the grumpy madam a scant few seconds to complain before she sees her office blown sky high (thankfully, the bulldog table decoration survives the blast).
The attack marks a rare occurrence in the Bond universe, wherein the upper ranks of MI6 are targeted. The specifity of the attack affords the franchise a welcome change of pace. No grand schemes. This time, it’s personal.
Bond’s fractured psyche has been a key selling point of the Craig-era movies, but never so consciously as in the scene in which Bond, on returning to duty is psychoanalysed by Nicholas Woodeson’s Doctor Hall.
One of the things we loved about this scene - as well as getting a taste of Bond’s flinty sense of humour - is that it plays out rather differently than it did in the trailer, which is always a nice surprise for the cinema if you’ve played out the promos ad nauseam before the film comes out.
Here, Bond’s closing line ‘Done!’, suggests he’s finished with the interview as the topic of Skyfall comes up, whereas the manner of the trailer’s edit suggested he was saying 'Skyfall' was 'completed'.
It was a bit harsh that the first word that came to Bond’s mind when he heard ‘M’ was ‘Bitch,’ though. But she still clears him for duty, so she's obviously not too greatly offended.
When asked what his hobby is, Bond responds, “Resurrection.” Fitting, not only because he does make a return from the dead in Skyfall (after an extended holiday), but it marks one of the key attributes that has seen the character survive the harsh, changeable tastes of the multiplex for half a century.
Bond’s arguably been reborn five times during the course of the official series, and will doubtless get another go around the block after Daniel Craig moves on.
It’s a bold move to draw attention to this facet of the character so candidly in Skyfall , but as the film reinvigorates classic Bond for a new era, it’s a move that pays off.