Bond’s never been one to shy away from audacious stunts, and when he really needs to catch a train in Instanbul, he chooses the only sensible option available: launching himself off the side of a bridge, using the momentum from his motorcycle.
If it wasn’t for the stunt team, this could’ve easily looked silly. But instead, it adds an insanely cool action beat into an already jam-packed opening.
Judi Dench’s M made a trademark of her tough-talking, no-nonsense schtick (the “sexist, misogynist dinosaur” line from GoldenEye introduced her with flair), and before she croaks her last in Skyfall , she gets to drop the franchise’s first F-bomb.
“I fucked this up, didn’t I?” There’s something quite touching about the moment when M drops her guard in front of Bond, after putting on a tough façade for seven franchise entries, across 17 years.
And, y’know, high-five for getting that F-bomb in there!
A Close Shave
Despite a fairly limited amount of joint screentime, plenty of sparks fly between Bond and Eve.
The sexual chemistry between the pair works itself up into a lather when the future Miss Moneypenny (well, the present Miss Moneypenny, we guess) drops in to Bond’s Macau hotel room to assist him with his cut-throat shave. As the pair agree, some things are best done the old-fashioned way.
A tantalising blend of dangerous, dominant and sexy, you could cut the atmosphere as easily as Eve could sever Bond’s jugular.
And she makes a deft job of shooing off Bond’s wandering hands, which will come in handy for that desk job she takes up at the end of the film.
For Her Eyes Only
One of several knowing nods to 007’s movie heritage, Bond’s request for confidentiality raises a smile, as a congenial reminder of a Roger Moore installment.
Following Bond’s introspective self-surgery (plucking shrapnel from his chest in another scene that plays heavily on mirror imagery), the drop-off at the ad-hoc lab in MI6’s new digs further adds to the feeling of the threat being closer to home than ever before.
On top of all that, the line creates an oddly familial relationship between Bond and his ma’am, and hints at how high up this conspiracy goes at MI6. The chips really are down.
Enter The Dragon
Another nod to Moore-era Bond comes during Bond’s face-off with a Macau casino goon, when the scrappers tumble off a decorative bridge and into a dragon pit.
Again, Mendes cleaves close to classic 007 (villains tend to have a taste for audacious pets), but manages to stay just on the right side of believable (these are Komodo dragons, not laser-firing sharks).
Adding a reptilian frisson of tension into an otherwise gritty mix, Mendes plays the moment for drama, before reminding us of the singularly terrifying stunt carried out by Ross Kananga in Live And Let Die , when the crocodile owner sprinted across the backs of a bunch of his own farmed crocs.
Bond’s frantic chase across the London Underground in pursuit of Silva incorporates a host of great bits, but the culmination is something special.
The first half of the chase is rivetingly real. Yeah, OK, so the type of train might not match the underground line, but in all reasonable respects, the sequence is frighteningly familiar, hurtling through a location that’s all too recognisable (it also adds to the fact that, coming in the same year as the London Olympics, the feels like possible the most British-set Bond movie ever).
So it’s down to the final standoff of the set-piece to take things epic again. Following Silva’s shadow into a disused section of the tube system, Bond soon finds himself on the unfortunate end of a wayward tube train.
And as if launching a train at your enemy isn’t harsh enough already, Silva throws salt on the wound by making a callback jibe to Bond’s earlier comment about good old-fashioned radio technology.
Credit is due to Chris Corbould’s miniature work here, as the end result is anything but small.
Watch a clip of the Underground Explosion.
The most significant sequence in Bond’s back-to-work assessment comes when he’s faced with the hanging paper target at the shooting range.
Stubbled, red-eyed and kitted out in a standard issue tracksuit, Bond’s not looking his as he squares up to the half-body facing him down. Rather than obliterating it RoboCop-style, our man fails to strike the target, and it doesn’t get much better when he marches towards the target, firing in frustration.
It’s rare the 007 is unable to hit the target, and it’s a marked contrast with the near-invincible agent we’ve come to know over the years (he didn’t even sustain a broken bone until The World Is Not Enough ).
It’s a fresh coat of vulnerability for the superspy, which was neatly foreshadowed in the opening sequence.
Setting up an action climax that’s both intimate and epic, Skyfall flips the Bond formula to shoot the ending on home turf.
Gone are the giant satellites, nuclear weapons and grand schemes, and in are two OAPs helping Bond fashion makeshift weapons out of the detritus littering Bond’s family pad (well, former family pad, considering it was sold off on his presumed death).
We already mentioned that another Macauley Culkin movie was invoked, and here Skyfall goes a bit Home Alone , and it’s all the better for it.
M’s lightbulb nailbombs are a masterstroke, and Kincade’s sawn-off shotgun packs a considerable punch.
Maybe it’s because M’s impending death had our emotions running high, but the Skyfall lodge showdown had a genuine ‘last stand’ quality, with the kind of heft that you rarely get in a multi-installment franchise, let alone one on its 23rd outing.
The Effects Of Cyanide
It’s tricky, when it comes to Bond villains. We’ve come to expect some sort of flamboyant flourish, a trademark affectation that marks them out from your standard bad guy, and gives them an almost cartoony edge. It was that darn white cat that got the ball rolling.
While Casino Royale pitched it just right, with La Chiffre weeping bloody tears, Quantum Of Solace went for a ‘naked’ villain, and it turned out that eco-villainy on its own was just a bit boring.
Skyfall redresses the balance with Silva. When Javier Bardem came onboard, we thought the blond frightwig would be his key physical attribute, when in fact he reveals that a failed suicide attempt while facing torture lefts his insides in tatters.
Removing the false teeth that hold his face together, Silva’s cheek collapses into an almost zombiefied hollow. The slightly dodgy CGI doesn’t detract from the overall power of the scene, and it’s an impressive way to show of his disfigurement, without the need for Bardem to mug his way through the whole film under make-up.
It’s also interesting how far M is implicated in the making of this monster, adding an intriguing moral murkiness to the jurisdiction of the Secret Service.
And credit's due to the make-up team for the more subtle magic involved throughout the entire movie, in transforming Bardem's tanned, rugged, Spanish exterior into a deathly, toad-like pallor.
It’s commonly accepted that getting it on with Bond is bad for your health. Craig’s Bond has a particularly damning track record, with three out of three ladies he scores with across Casino and Quantum ending up dead.
So, we never really fancied Sévérine’s chances much to begin with, but there’s something especially cruel about the manner of her demise.
Returning to Bond’s favourite brand of whisky for the William Tell trick, 007 does his best to offer Sévérine a stay of execution, but Silva’s coldness ensures she doesn’t survive too long.
For a character who’s seen little chance of redemption in her life, it’s a pretty brutal way to go, and another blow to Bond’s abilities, his offer of salvation being proved painfully futile.