December 13, 2017

007 Days of 007: SKYFALL (2012)

Jake’s Take: One Image from Skyfall (Sam Mendes, 2012)

The biggest box office success of the series is M’s film as much as it is Bond’s.

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“Oh, to hell with dignity. I’ll leave when the job’s done.”

It’s no accident that all three of the images from the Craig films have involved the films’ women. And of all the images that I could have posted, I felt obliged to post this one. Sure, there are visually far more interesting shots I could have chosen, but I chose this one for a very specific reason: M is this film’s Bond woman. It’s her movie as much as Bond’s.

I love the way the camera holds on her here. It feels like it does so for a second longer than it needs to, except for the fact that it really does need to. The cut to this shot in the wake of the news of her forced retirement, and the still close-up of M contemplating her next move, is another powerful moment of uncharted territory in the Bond series. And if there is any shot that proves that this is M’s film as well, this is the one. We are seeing what her world is like without Bond in it. When Bond returns to the land of the living, his relationship with M becomes even more meaningful. The first two Craig films were about Bond learning whom he should trust and about M learning to trust him. This film is about what happens when that trust is compromised.

It is unconscionable to talk about Skyfall without talking about Roger Deakins’ cinematography, which is unsurpassed in the history of the series. The Shanghai and Macau sequences alone are embarrassing riches of visual beauty, and the long take fight between Bond and Patrice that is largely in shadow is another one of the supreme action scenes in the series. But Deakins also brings the same exquisite visual sense to every other shot in the film. Take the image above; what sharpness, style and grace Deakins injects into what would otherwise be a pedestrian close-up.

As for the film itself, Skyfall remains an intriguing case. It manages to have a grandeur to it, despite its lack of a plot revolving around world domination, economic collapse, or any of the other traditional Bond plots. It is almost exclusively a story of revenge, and that revenge fascinatingly has almost nothing to do with Bond and everything to do with M. Javier Bardem’s Silva, M’s former favorite agent, may very well be the best villain of the entire series—if not in character, certainly in performance. In the broad strokes, once more, the greatness of Skyfall is similar to the greatness of Casino Royale, i.e. both stem from their adherence to and divergence from the series’ conventions.

This brings me to the end of “007 Days of 007.” I hope you have enjoyed reading this series, that it has inspired you to look at the Bond films in a different or new way, and that it has increased your excitement for SPECTRE, which as I’ve mentioned, I will be writing a longer piece about in the next couple of weeks.

And just as M was a guiding force for Bond, my friends and family have been guiding forces for me with respect the way I view these films…and much else. If you have enjoyed the series, you should join me in thanking Colin Burnett, Casey Coleman, Brandon Cunningham, Chris Cwynar, Heather Heckman, David Klein, Jim Kreul, Mark Minett, John Powers, Dave Resha, Brad Schauer, Josh Shepperd, Rob Thomas, and my wonderful wife, Melissa Carollo.

And with that, the four best words in the English language:

JAMES BOND WILL RETURN.

Rankings

1. Casino Royale

2. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

3. Skyfall

4. Quantum of Solace

5. From Russia with Love

6. GoldenEye

7. Thunderball

8. The Living Daylights

9. Goldfinger

10. Dr. No

11. For Your Eyes Only

12. The Spy Who Loved Me

13. Licence to Kill

14. Die Another Day

15. Octopussy

16. The World Is Not Enough

17. You Only Live Twice

18. Tomorrow Never Dies

19. Moonraker

20. Live and Let Die

21. A View to a Kill

22. Diamonds Are Forever

23. The Man with the Golden Gun