I’m a pretty big fan of the James Bond films, as a direct result of my partner who has been obsessed with the series since he was a child. My top three are Live and Let Die (1973), Moonraker (1979), and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). I recently re-watched Skyfall (2012), the 24th in the series. Skyfall is the third of Daniel Craig’s adventures as the famous secret agent. As usual, it is filled with action, beautiful women, and some rewarding homages to previous Bond films.
I almost feel like I don’t have to provide a synopsis for this one as (don’t shoot me) most Bond films have a very similar pattern of development, just with different issues and villains. I want to use this post to discuss something else as opposed to the story (which was good, but slightly plot-holey… I’m sure it’s been discussed before) and its characters. When I re-watched Skyfall recently, I was struck dumb by how beautiful the cinematography is. This was my third time seeing the film and I had certainly thought the same thing previously. Maybe I was tired at the time, but the beauty of each shot absolutely blew me away on the third viewing.
Roger Deakins is the cinematographer, and he does a lot of work for both Sam Mendes (director of Skyfall), and the Coen brothers. If you have a look at his Wikipedia page, you’ll see that he has worked on a lot of amazing films; many of which are known for their high-achieving aesthetics. In particular, No Country for Old Men (2007) is another excellent example of Deakins’ keen eye for what can make a film beautiful.
From the very beginning of Skyfall, you notice that Deakins is a fan of symmetry. Many shots are constructed in such a way that they mirror each other; which may or may not be in reference to Bond’s ‘resurrection’ in the film. Deakins is also a fan of establishing shots that show the environment around the characters – which I love. Some reviewers thought the pauses in these moments were too lengthy, but I loved them because I was given ample time to take in the beautiful visuals of a scene.
One scene that is an example of the marvellous cinematography in this film is roughly an hour in, where Bond finally meets the film’s villain, Raoul Silva. The camera looks on from behind Bond, as Silva walks toward him in a slow, menacing way. It’s all done in one take and the slow reveal of the villain has such a good pay-off. Of course, Javier Bardem is great as Silva. But the way the shot is made almost outshines him.
So, here are some of my favourite shots from Skyfall. Since there are a lot of images, I’ve tried to mix them up a bit so that it’s not just a visual summary of the film! Let me know which ones are your favourite shots too.
I found these images here – Evan E. Richards’ website is an amazing resource for people interested in cinematography, and is the source of many high quality stills from beautiful films.
Watch the trailer here.
Excellent review, I am a huge Bond fan as well. Totally agree about the cinematography.
Thanks! Definitely going to keep an eye out for Roger Deakins’ work in the future!
Wow, good eye. I like this film that little bit more now and I loved it the first time around.
Thank you! 🙂
Nice review. A pretty solid Bond flick that reminded us all why we loved him in the first place, and while he’ll most likely never, ever go away.
I hope he won’t go away, I’m really interested in what Craig can do next with the role! And the next Bond, and the next one. However my favourite will always be Roger Moore! Thanks! 🙂
Agreed thoroughly about the visual splendor of Skyfall. It’s truly incredible, one of the best-looking ones they’ve made. Only perhaps Casino Royale’s poker game and that entire scene rivaled the best stuff here. I absolutely loved the way they intro’d Javier Bardem here, too. Great observations!!
Thanks Tom! I definitely would rank it in the top 3 most aesthetically pleasing Bond films in the series. I love the poker scene in Casino Royale too! One day someone should make a list of the top 10 best-looking scenes in all of the Bond films.
Great review. Agree with you completely on Skyfall. Tis very good and like you say exceptionally pretty. Glad to see you are a Moonraker fan. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a strange one. I absolutely hate it, but a lot of people nominate it as their favourite of all of them.
Thanks! 🙂 I’ve always wondered why more people don’t like Moonraker. I really love it, and the book as well. I didn’t like OHMSS either at first, but after seeing it about six times (partner does a marathon of all Bond films roughly once a year… see what I have to put up with), it’s really grown on me.
I think a lot of people dismiss Moonraker solely on the basis of the concept. Ridicule it as Bond in space with laser guns. Which it is, but it is also freaking amazing.
My favourite part is the double-taking pigeon in St Marks Square. Classic film. I might actually write a list of the reasons why Moonraker should be appreciated more and post it on here! Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂
[…] cent more beautiful in motion than in still frame. As I did with my post on the cinematography of Skyfall (2012), I’ll be mixing these images up so it’s not just a big summary of the […]
Good thing to highlight. Lovely use of shots too. If you’re up for a challenge I have 3 Bond quizzes on my site.
Thanks! Love a good Bond quiz! I’m going to check them out. 🙂
How many did you get out of the 18? Highest so far is 15
I think I got 14! So close but no cigar!
That’s an impressive score. Well done all the same 🙂
Thanks! My problem is that I keep mixing all the Brosnan films together into one big film: “The World Never Dies Another Goldeneye”.
[…] movies, yet at the same time, each frame is packed with art. Just check out Film Grimoire’s analysis of the near-perfect cinematography of Skyfall (). It is stunningly beautiful, yet it was still a […]
i agree about the cinematography, but i didn’t really enjoy the film, especially the third act, which was like a cross between ‘The A Team’ and ‘Monarch of the Glen’
Haha, you’re totally right! They really took the ‘back to basics’ approach to the extreme.
I thought this was one of the best Bond movies ever! Really terrific action and the story to back it up.
One day I’ll do a big ranking of all the Bond films on here and I’ll be able to tell you where I’d put this one on the scale!
[…] Skyfall (2012) […]
I just watched this a few nights ago and must say I liked it quite a bit. I really disliked Quantum of Solace which just seemed to me like a full-tilt action flick that could have easily been parallel with The Bourne Identity or any Die Hard film. James Bond always had that ‘cat-and-mouse’ and ‘Chess-game’ style sparring and Skyfall returned to that aesthetic.
Totally agreed, Skyfall is way better than Quantum of Solace although that one had some great cinematography moments too. The story in Quantum is just so impotent that it was difficult to get hooked in.
[…] makes everything feel refreshed and new during each chapter of the story, aesthetics-wise. As with Skyfall, it appears that there is a particular emphasis on visual symmetry in each shot. Cinematographer […]