When Bond goes toe-to-toe with Patrice at the top of the Shanghai skyscraper, there’s a pleasing lack of Bourne-style grittiness to the lensing, with Mendes and co opting for some silhouetted shadowplay in favour of docu-style realism.
The close-quarters scrap is rough and ready, illuminated only by occasional bursts of gunfire.
Dripping with style, the scene has the confidence we associate with the best Bond flicks, and fits 007 better than Bourne-aping shakycam ever did.
And it feels like it’s been a while since Bond’s dropped an adversary from a dizzying height.
Javier Bardem’s Silva easily steals the film, nicking all the best lines and showing no restraint in terms of campness, without scrimping on the fear factor.
Bond villains need to make a grand entrance, and there’s something extremely impressive about Silva’s understated intro.
With Bond strapped to a chair, in a building on a desolate, crumbling island, an elevator descends at the back of the frame. Sauntering in gently measured step, Silva purposefully, potently walks towards his captive in one unbroken take.
Along the way he monologues about the last two survivors of an infestation of rats, recounting a story that’s basically a sinister version of Christopher Walken’s ‘two mice fall into a bucket of cream speech’ from Catch Me If You Can .
A scene that not only introduces Skyfall ’s secret weapon, and further emphasises the absolute confidence that this franchise entry has.
Gearing up for the invasion of Skyfall lodge, Bond and his trusty gamekeeper Kincade (Albert) head out onto the estate for a bit of rifle practise.
With Bond back on form after his earlier misfire, the scene is set for a nice bit of surrogate father-son bonding. And who doesn’t relish the opportunity to see Bond being called a “jumped-up little shit”?
On a nice sidenote, the initials on Bond’s father hunting rifle (AB, later revealed to stand for Andrew Bond), also work as a nod to the ‘father’ of the film series, Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli.
If the Skyfall lodge invasion was a Bond set-piece on a more intimate scale, then the scene in the chapel gives it another turn of the screw.
If you’d had an inkling that M would be croaking her last in Skyfall , then here comes your confirmation. Made all the more poignant by the placement of Mr and Mrs Bond’s gravestones outside, it’s marks one of the franchise’s rare reaches for emotion.
Perhaps only On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Casino Royale have previously aimed for heart-tuggers in the same vein, although arguably neither film matched the tenderness of this goodbye to franchise stalwart Dench. “I did get one thing right,” admits M in her last words, and Bond even gives his boss a peck on the forehead.
Bardem’s killer moment as Silva comes during his interrogation of Bond.
Strapped to a chair in the bad guy’s makeshift lair, 007 is defenceless against Silva’s thigh-rubbing interrogation. First inspecting the scars on Bond’s chest, the blond villain works his way down…
It’s up to Bond to puncture the tension by asking, “How do you know it’s my first time?” Whether he’s drawing from genuine experience or dropping in a smart-alec comment to bring his unconventional interrogation to a close, we’ll never know (unless Bond’s backstory is explored even further in future installments).
When you factor in Silva’s rundown of Bond’s MI6 evaluation (“Alcohol and substance abuse… Oof!”), you have a truly classic scene that instantly earns a place in Bond history.
Looks like it was a smart decision to hire an Oscar-winning actor as the Bond villain, for only the second time in the series, following Christopher Walken's turn in A View To A Kill (we're not counting Benicio Del Toro, as he won his Academy Award post-Bond).
Some of Bond’s finest smackdowns have taken place in or around moving vehicles - the train punch-up on From Russia With Love , the plane-based finale to The Living Daylights - and the train-top scuffle in Istanbul pays tribute to that tradition.
The motorcycle chase across the rooftop is thrilling, and the crane vs train segment of the sequence is a standout, but it comes into its own when Bond and Patrice go toe-to-toe atop the moving locomotive.
Adding a tangible ferocity to the scene, both actors throw themselves into the scrap with such vigour that you really believe they’re both equally desperate to walk away with that hard drive.
At the press conference that was held to mark the start of production on Skyfall , producer Michael G Wilson referred to the title as ‘the worst kept secret in London’.
It wasn’t the only confidential information that leaked before the film hit cinemas, although after the initial rumours about Naomie Harris’ character, the team did a pretty decent job of throwing fans off the scent for a while.
In fact, Harris does such a good job with the action moments, that it’s almost enough to convince you that Eve is an entirely new character. Though as soon as there’s talk of stepping down from field work, you know where it’ll lead…
Even given the likeliness of the outcome, there’s no denying the goosebumps when she greets Bond in the MI6 office, and introduces herself by her full name.
With Craig’s Bond now well and truly entering the Bond canon, there’s a distinct feeling that we’re entering an era of ‘new classic’ Bond.
Skyfall gets one classic Bond element perfectly right: the gun barrel.
An fixture of the franchise, the gun barrel that targets Bond before the agent turns and fires is something that we expect, nay demand, to see before the end credits finally roll.
The rustic revamp of the sequence for Casino Royale was completely acceptable, especially given the gritty nature of the scrap that was incorporated. But the barrel sequence in QOS felt hurried, and suffered by comparison.
Riding on a nostalgia high at the end of Skyfall , there’s not better time for Mendes and Craig to perfect the signature snippet.
And it’s perfect.
Dial M For Mallory
Another immensely satisfying moment for Bond fans, as a long-hinted at rumour finally comes to fruition.
So, Ralph Fiennes’ Mallory is confirmed as the new M. But it wouldn’t mean anything if Fiennes hadn’t build up the mixture of warmth and respect that he manages with his limited screentime.
Proving that he’ll be a useful ally for Bond (and one unafraid of putting the agent in his place), Fiennes further proves that he’s a bona fide national treasure. And, really, isn’t that what Skyfall ’s all about?
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Skyfall achieves a feat that Quantum Of Solace singularly failed to - it makes you excited for another Bond film, the immortal credit ‘James Bond will return’ becoming a brilliant promise.
As Fiennes’s freshly promoted M slides a top-secret dossier across his desk towards his #1 operative (who accepts, “With pleasure”), we were literally squirming in our seat with excitement, desperate to know what Bond’s next mission entails.
Thankfully, we shouldn’t have to wait too long, as screenwriter John Logan is already at work on the next two installments (a two-part adventure).
With M and Moneypenny ensconced comfortably in their new offices, and Craig fully owning the 00-status, we’re going to be counting down the days until Bond 24 .
What were your favourite Skyfall moments? Any you’d care to add to our list?
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