007 Cinema Dossier: Skyfall (2012)

Posted in Blu-Ray/DVD, Movies, What's Streaming? by - December 10, 2020
007 Cinema Dossier: Skyfall (2012)

“007 reporting for duty.”

For the series fiftieth anniversary, Skyfall, producers Barbara Broccoli and Micheal G. Wilson wanted something big to celebrate the 007 franchise. They reached out to prolific director Sam Mendes and asked him to come on board. The new direction the series, beginning with Casino Royale, impressed and intrigued him.

Mendes was at the helm, and Daniel Craig returning for his third outing as Ian Fleming’s James Bond. The stage was set for what would prove to be the biggest Bond yet. All the while, it shows that it could also tell a story with a personal subplot. It lends us a little more insight into the character of 007, as portrayed on the screen, literary readers were well aware of a large portion of his past.

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade turned in an initial script. Mendes has John Logan take a pass at that script (incorporating a couple of self-aware moments that play nicely). This served to re-introduce to the series some very familiar names. With Mendes helming, the project was generating a lot of attention, and drew some incredible talent. The brilliant Roger Deakins came aboard as the director of photography (turning this entry into the series one of the most beautiful put to film). Retuning cast members include Craig, Judi Dench (M) and Rory Kinnear (Tanner). Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw (Q), and Naomi Harris (Eve, a piece of casting I delighted in). Berenice Lim Marlohe (Severine), Albert FInney (Kincaide), and Javier Bardem as Silva also came on board. He’s  a character that quite rightly raised the question of what James will do in the line of duty.

The story itself is fairly straightforward, though the script cloaks it in the subterfuge of the spy trade. Silva worked for M, the latter assigning him in Hong Kong (1986-1997). But she sacrificed him (a move reflected in what happens to 007 in the opening sequence). Spending five months in captivity breaks him. He believes she betrayed him, leaving him there. He has vowed revenge, and he has the power to bring her down once and for all. That’s especially true when 007’s actions guide him right to her.

And arguably, for those who have seen the film, Silva gets his revenge, at a personal cost to be sure, but does achieve it.

The film is filled with set pieces, from the opening in Istanbul, to the film’s finale in Scotland. This entry in the series definitely has that epic feel to it. And the production made sure that carried through the entire film with shooting taking place in many places. They shot in Japan, Scotland, Turkey, China, and of course the UK, including, obviously the massive 007 stage at Pinewood.

Mendes intention is not only to tell a Bond film, but also to, in a way, deconstruct the series and character as well, messing with the formula (it’s not the villain’s base that blows up). The deconstruction of the character while causing issue for some viewers is something that regularly happens in the books. He’s always continuing forward, shaped by the events not only of his childhood, but his previous adventures.

The film, a lengthy entry, after the too-short Quantum of Solace, is a beauty to behold, and Mendes’ skill, and those of the cast and crew he surrounds himself with is brilliantly on display. Joining him and Deakins behind the camera was Dennis Gassner ias the production designer, with Stuart and Kate Baird serving as the film’s editors. Gary Powell returns as stunt coordinator, with Chris Corbould continuing his service as special effects and miniature effects supervisor.

Daniel Kleinman returns his work, following in Maurice Binder’s footsteps and delivers a solid main title sequence. It not only highlights the fact that we’re in a Bond movie but, like the rest of the film, offers insight into the character of 007 if you pay attention.

Adding to the main title sequence is the theme song that Adele performs. She wrote it alongside Paul Epworth, and happily, the film’s composer incorporated the song’s themes into the movie. And Mendes’ stalwart, Thomas Newman, who demonstrates easily that he understands the genre, and the character’s musical history. The score is tonally perfect for the film. And it only brings out the iconic James Bond Theme at the most opportune of times.

The film happily, keeps the gadgets to a minimum, one of the self-referential moments, and instead 007 has to rely on his own wits, which following the events of the film’s opening, are a little questionable. But also indicates M knows how to use her resources and has faith in her department, and its officers.

Mallory calls her sentimental, but I think she understands Bond, and despite any setbacks, he’ll give his all, sacrifice himself for his country as needed.

When the film’s production wrapped, the advertising campaign in advance of  the film’s UK release date of 26 October, 2012. North America grabbed a 9 November, 2012 release date (8 November for IMAX). Greg Williams returned with his photographic skills to capture the images that would be manipulated under the guidance of Empire Design. They created the advance, teaser, release and quads for the film’s international release.

I could complain about movie posters here again at this prime moment, but I’ve done it before. I will say, despite the image work, all of the Craig 007 posters feel interchangeable, there’s not a lot in individual flavour separating them. There’s a bit, but nothing on par with the painted posters of yesteryear.

The film proved to be box office gold, becoming one of the most successful 007s ever released. It makes quite the statement considering the franchise’s fifty year run. So much so, that even as it wrapped, the film’s producers were looking at Bond 24. And they were already making overtures to Mendes to return.

Skyfall proved, once again, that Daniel Craig’s Bond, while honoring 007’s past, could tell a more personal story. Meanwhile, it still delivers the thrills that fans have come to expect since the series debut back in 1962. In fact as the film ends, all the pieces we associate with a James Bond film are back on the board. They’re recognizable and ready to be played with. And that, along with the film’s tag, is incredibly reassuring – James Bond Will Return….

This post was written by
TD Rideout has been a movie fan since the moment he first encountered Bruce the Shark in 1975. As passionate about cinema as he is popcorn movies, his film education is a continuing journey of classics new and old. He is at his most comfortable with a book, a drink, his partner and his dog.
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