Home Features The Bond Countdown – ‘Skyfall’
The Bond Countdown – ‘Skyfall’

The Bond Countdown – ‘Skyfall’

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Following 2006’s Casino Royale and 2008’s Quantum of Solace, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, alongside 007 himself, Daniel Craig, were looking for a new direction to take the character of James Bond in. And in 2012’s Skyfall, audiences were given a thoroughly slick, sexy and modern new Bond film, and one which has come to be regarded as one of the best Bond films of all time.

An ex-MI6 agent steals a hard drive with top-secret information to carry out a vendetta on Bond’s overseer, M. Bond must face his past in a bid to try and save M.

Stepping into the director’s chair this time was revered dramatic director and Academy Award winner Sam Mendes, and he brought a thoroughly new and distinct vision to the character of James Bond in Skyfall. Mixing both operatic elegance and racy film noir together resulted in the astonishing Skyfall. And Mendes really new what he was doing with this project. Placing emphasis on character, narrative and scale, Skyfall felt like a truly modern Bond experience and a lavish one at that. Every frame of this film was gorgeous to look upon, and Mendes gave the film an elegance and sexiness that was distinctively its own and not inspired by the past. But it was his focus on the character of James Bond, and the forces that drive him, along with the relationship to his boss and mentor M (Judi Dench) where this film really made its mark.

Audiences had grown to accept Bond as an icon, and for many years and many Bond films, the emphasis was on the past inspiring the present for plenty of retro throwback cool. Here in Skyfall, Mendes and his team worked to place the emphasis on the modern and make James Bond stand out on his own on a technologically interwoven planet and where new threats arose more from lone actors rather than nation-states. Giving Skyfall a tech edge, and finding a new place for Bond within it made the character that much cooler, and Mendes was also able to give the film its own iconic status. From its opening moments, this film gripped audiences, and its pace was well-thought-out with each event feeding into the next for a well-balanced and purposeful narrative. Skyfall was Bond made contemporary and with its added sense of operatic scale and dramatic depth, audiences were in for an intense ride.

Skyfall also gave Bond star Daniel Craig new avenues to explore as the tuxedo-clad superspy. And he looked damn cool while doing it. Beaten, broken down and renouncing his 00 status, it was only when tragedy hit close to home that Bond returned to put things right and we were seeing a new shade to Bond’s character as that of a hunter who was on the prowl. Craig again brought out his tough elegance in the part and whether it was racing a motorcycle through the streets of Istanbul or prowling the smoke-filled halls of a Macau casino, Craig would display effortless cool as the debonair 007. In my own mind, Skyfall was a perfect portrait of James Bond as a character, being equal parts devil-may-care and dashing, and this was truly Ian Fleming’s character remade for a brand new age with Bond reinvented for a modern era.

Of incredible importance to the success of Skyfall was the presence of Academy Award winner Javier Bardem as the film’s lead villain Raoul Silva. A dangerous and unhinged cyber-terrorist, Silva also happens to have once been an MI6 operative under M’s control, but whose own actions turned him into a rogue asset that had to be terminated. Swearing revenge, he turned his attention to destroying M and everything around her. And with Silva we had a terrific villain for Bond to face down. Silva was a perfect opponent for Bond, and was very much Bond’s equal and a man who could go to war with him on a level footing, which until Skyfall we had not seen Craig’s Bond have to contend with. With his sickly blond hair and stark eyes, Bardem’s Silva was a completely distinctive character and the infamous first meeting between Silva and Bond created an uneasy tension, which was only amplified by Bardem’s sadistic creep factor. Bardem’s Silva was a definite highlight of the film and the Bond villain that we’d long awaited for and wanted to see.

A central tenant to the impact of Skyfall was the presence of Judi Dench’s M, Bond’s long-time superior and mentor, and who had a vital part to play in the film’s narrative as the target of Silva’s deranged plan for revenge. Skyfall is also the most intense of Bond and M’s relationship, especially when explored through the film’s third act when Bond and M seek refuge in Bond’s childhood estate home in Scotland, and where the layers of his past, and the impact of this past on his character, is revealed. As always Dench is once again superb in her role as M, and there is an almost understated love between Bond and M, which is explored here as we come to see M as a somewhat ‘mother figure’ to Bond. This subtext in the film, which had not been explored in previous Bond films gave the narrative so much further depth and made Skyfall’s third act and emotionally wraught ending that much more powerful.

As an experience, Skyfall definitely added some serious sex appeal to its setting, and of all of Bond’s recent appearances courtesy of Daniel Craig, Skyfall certainly ranks as the most scintillating and sexy. Bringing the sex appeal to this instalment was the glamourous, elegant and sexy Bérénice Marlohe as the scintilationg and salacious Sévérine. A classic femme fatale in both attitude and action, Sévérine was an eningmatic presence within Skyfall and elevated the Bond girl troupe to a new level. Dangerous and alluring, she was a vixen temptress who weaved her way around Bond and you couldn’t help but be drawn into Marlohe’s performance as Sévérine. Added to the sex appeal of Skyfall was also the presence of Naomie Harris as Eve, a new MI6 field operative who is later revealed to be Eve Moneypenny, and Harris added her own level of tension to Eve’s interactions with Bond. There was a terrific flirty back and forth between Bond and Eve, courtesy of Craig and Harris, and this added sexual tension between these two characters certainly made their interactions very interesting to watch.

If there was one central part of production that aided unequivocally to the success of Skyfall then it was far and away the visual eye of legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins. Regarded as the greatest cinematographer of all time, Deakins brought his lavish visual touch to Skyfall and shot one hell of a gorgeous movie. Painting scene after scene with his terrific understanding of light and shadow, Deakins captured the modern operatic quality that Mendes was searching for here in Skyfall and the imagery before our eyes was beautiful to look upon. Key standout scenes from the film included Bond’s fight with an elusive hitman in a neon-lit Shanghai, his meeting with Sévérine in the smokey elegance of a Macau casino and the film’s penultimate firefight on the burning Scottish highlands of Bond’s past. All of it was captured in the perfectly rendered high-dynamic-range detail of Deakins lens, and his touch was the key in elevating this film to a new standard for both the Bond film and modern cinema in general.

In terms of the cinematic experience, Skyfall is the complete and total James Bond package. Narrative, character, action, location and production all came together in this monumental movie, and audiences were truly given the ultimate modern Bond incarnation with this story. Skyfall is a perfect Bond film and it makes for a very compelling and rewarding watch for audiences who are looking for a bit of supercharged adventure.

No Time To Die will arrive in cinemas on October 7.