I Fall You Fall We All Fall for Skyfall

The third Daniel Craig headlining Bond flick, Skyfall, opens up like many Bond films of yore with a spectacular chase sequence that involves motorcycles atop Istanbul’s famous market and a fist-fight atop a moving train that ends with Bond getting accidentally shot by another agent trying to take out his combatant.  And as he falls into the river below, the traditional Bond credit sequence begins with Adele’s superb theme song recalling Shirley Bassey’s iconic Goldfinger.

It seems we were in for more of the same, but did they just kill Bond…even if only symbolically?  During the credits you are reminded of the masterstroke of hiring cinematographer Roger Deakins (arguably the best in the biz today) and his frequent cohort, Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes as their names come up in that comfortably familiar Bond credit sequence font.  Never before has a Bond film been given such behind-the-scenes pedigree, and armed with a sharper than normal script – the dynamic duo pay homage, deconstruct, and resurrect from one amazing set piece to the next the entire Bond oeuvre.

It’s as if Mendes (a Brit, lest we forget and so obviously a Bond fan) decided to give buddy Deakins carte-blanch to create pure unadulterated cinematography fantasia with each passing set piece.  Witness the lighting in the Shanghai sequence that culminates with a silhouetted hand-to-hand combat against skyscraper glass walls overlooking a night sky lit up by revolving electronic advertisements projected onto the building’s exterior.  There’s a delirious Macau sequence full of color and darkness and one smoking-hot exotic Bond girl (Berenice Marlohe) that’s followed up by the big-villain-reveal on a crumbling fortressed island where Mendes in his delirium manages to fit in an homage to an obscure French film, Toto the Hero (which also influenced the floating bag in his American Beauty) with his choice of song during a deranged target-shooting sequence.  The villain here is played with insane deadpan gusto by Javier Bardem, and he ranks amongst the greatest of Bond villains, if not the oddest.

There is a plot, of course, where Bardem’s villain is targeting M (Judi Dench – receiving her most screen time ever during her long tenure with the Bond franchise).  Eventually the action moves to a Scottish manor where not only the plot but also the cinematography technique has gone full tilt gothic.  Here themes of orphaned children, cruel “stepmothers”, bad seeds and returning to one’s roots are played against a grand cinematic canvas of encroaching darkness and bombastic flames.

I mean seriously…when has a Bond film ever been able to be deconstructed on a symbolic level?  In a weird counter-intuitive way, Mendes and Deakins have completed perhaps the first ever reverse reboot.  Symbolically they “kill” what we all know and love, resurrect it, dress it up in the fashionable psychological complexities of the day (ala Nolan’s Batman films) only to literally burn that idea to the ground…and lo and behold…all of our familiar players (Bond, M, Q and Moneypenny) are returned to their cozy confines ready for future action.

So let’s get off all that jazz and bottom-line this slick puppy – Skyfall is by far the best Bond film of the Brosnan-Craig era and is armed with a great villain in Bardem and top-line supporting cast (including Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Naomie Harris and Ben Wishaw).  There are scenes that should’ve been tighter or cut and overall the film is bogged down by an unnecessarily bloated run-time.  However, you won’t mind because this is the best-looking and most creatively shot Bond film – perhaps ever.  All in all, Skyfall is the tops.

And Mendes and Deakins…it makes you wonder if there was a top-secret deal for them to do more if this one sticks?  Frankly, during Bardem’s gleefully sarcastic death sequence, I had another “outside-of-the-box” idea.  How about Mendes and Deakins team up for a new cinematic incarnation of Dracula…starring in the lead role…you guessed it…Javier Bardem.  Now that would be something they could really sink their teeth into.

Written by David H. Schleicher


  1. Bond films are always all about style, at least they’re supposed to be, and yet very few of them are actually ahead of the curve. This movie was so gorgeous and well-stitched it rejuvenated the cool quotient of the series without having to rely on the fumes of old. And Craig is the only Bond with a convincing stature and mien.

  2. Shall we share our Top Five Bonds of All-Time? I’ll start:

    On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
    From Russia with Love
    The Spy Who Loved Me

    Regards to Thunderball and Goldeneye

    Best Guilty Pleasures: Moonraker, The World is Not Enough

    Most Overrated: Casino Royale

  3. Excellent review! I’m totally with you in all that you’ve written about the film, David… including the clever title of your post. Thanks for pointing out the superb partnership of Mendes and Deakins. Have thoroughly enjoyed your deconstruction of the Shanghai night scene. And the dream cast… how apt to put Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw in, can’t believe the latter is John Keats in Bright Star. I think Skyfall has brought the Bond films up a notch, if not a few. There are a few scenes that I think might be a bit over the top. However, I think they pull it off just fine. As for faves, I’ve seen almost all of them. I’m a traditional Sean Connery fan… don’t care much for the other guys, least of all Roger Moore. But Daniel Craig has just shown me he could be a totally convincing, new style, 21st C. Bond. I’m ok with that… provided it’s another Mendes/Deakins production.

    • Holy cow, Arti – I forgot that “kid” was in Bright Star (good movie!). He was in Cloud Atlas too. I’m also a traditional Connery guy…though I always thought On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was one of the best despite being sans Connery, and Moore had one shining moment with The Spy Who Loved Me. Skyfall is the best of the modern era by far.

  4. Yes, Whiteshaw is in the masterpiece BRIGHT STAR indeed! David, you have outdone yourself with thei stupendous essay on a film I do like quite a bit, and one I have been defending passionately over the past week! Superb set pieces, scene-stealing from Craig, Dench, Bardem, Fiennes and even Finny, and the great Roger Deakins at the top of his game! You are right that the opening is terrific and the final segment in Scotland is electrifying!

    Yes I’ll play your game here!

    1. Goldfinger
    2. Skyfall
    3. From Russia With Love
    4. The Spy Who Loved Me
    5. Moonraker
    6. Dr. No.

    I also agree that the pyrotechnic-heavy CASINO ROYALE is overrrated!

  5. […] David Schleicher has authored a magnificent essay on the new James Bond movie “Skyfall” at The Schleicher Spin:                                             https://theschleicherspin.com/2012/11/15/i-fall-you-fall-we-all-fall-for-skyfall/ […]

  6. […] David Schleicher has authored a magnificent essay on the new James Bond movie “Skyfall” at The Schleicher Spin:                                             https://theschleicherspin.com/2012/11/15/i-fall-you-fall-we-all-fall-for-skyfall/ […]

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