One Great Shot: Skyfall (2012)

Preamble

To quote Gandalf from The Return of the King, “We come to it at last.” Skyfall is my favourite James Bond film for many reasons. One of them has to do with the shot under discussion. So, without further ado, let’s get into it. What’s your favourite shot from Skyfall? Let me know in the comments below.

One Great Shot: Skyfall

Aside from the four years that it took to come to the big screen, Skyfall would also mean a lot to audiences because it came out just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Bond franchise. Rather than being a bludgeoning nostalgia-fest like Die Another Day, Skyfall tastefully celebrates the movie series.

One of the subtle ways in which it does this comes from a recurring form of imagery. Starting from the first shot that sees Bond’s silhouette come into frame, Skyfall plays with silhouettes in a number of contexts. In conception, they feel like a homage to the iconic gun barrel sequence that has graced nearly every entry in the series.

Crucially, the shot of Silva (Javier Bardem) in silhouette amid the backdrop of Bond’s burning childhood home is striking. At the same time, it marries up with one of the themes of the film. At this point in his career as 007, Silva is contrasted with the British Agent as a mirror of what he could have become. Both men are highly capable agents who in some way have been spurned by their boss- M (Judi Dench), who represents a maternal figure for the pair. In fact, Silva has some quite pointed dialogue about this notion throughout the film.

Roger Deakins’s stunning cinematography (particularly in the use of silhouette) is a means for Bond to be cast in a larger than life manner. It’s almost as though they cement the iconic status of the character after the first two films depicted his beginning. By the same token, Silva is given a similar treatment, existing as a shadow version of Bond, who is responsible for stripping away part of the character’s identity, by burning his childhood home (Skyfall). In this way, the shot is akin to something from a feverish and apocalyptic dream.

Much like the film itself, the shot is a distillation for Skyfall’s knack for providing iconic shading for a character that’s existed in our collective cinematic consciousness for over fifty years.

About Sartaj Govind Singh

Notes from a distant observer: “Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”
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