There are some mild spoilers about Skyfall in this post if you’re sensitive about that stuff.
Skyfall is a great James Bond movie. Sure, it’s action-packed and well-written, and it’s been photographed beautifully, but what makes it truly great is that it’s a story about the character of James Bond, who (as much as I obviously enjoy his series of films) is usually more of an environmental force than a person–he never changes and he never stops. That’s why Bond’s villains and lovers get so much attention, because they’re the only people in his movies who seem to want anything or do anything beyond a stock set of programming. Between this film and Casino Royale, two of the very best Bond films made in the 50 year history of the series have been made in the last few years, and it’s mostly because the character of James Bond is finally on the table.
Whether or not we’re living in a golden age of Bond movies (there is that pesky Quantum of Solace to talk about), we’re definitely at the peak of the pre-credits sequences, and I say that as a guy who went through puberty on the Maurice Binder’s franchise-defining work. But ever since Daniel Kleinman came onto the job for Goldeneye, his work has taken the sequences to such heights that they’re one of the highlights of the experience. And the Skyfall credits are his best work yet. Just look at this piece of art:
There are so many incredible images to unpack in there. It’s the whole movie laid out right in front of you. Some of it is literal, some of it is symbolic, but it’s all right there. And one of my favorite bits was so subtle that it took a few viewings for me to notice it. The whole sequence seems to be pushing forward through a wave of images, and on two occasions the camera zooms in on a manor house with a chunk ripped right out the side of it, and a pair of steely cold eyes staring out.
The first time this happens is around 1:10 on the video. Here’s the shot:
When I first saw those eyes, I didn’t know the context of the image or the manor, but I instantly read those eyes as Daniel Craig’s. They’re a little smoother than Craig’s eyes but, hey, Photoshop. But at the end of the video, at around 3:30, the same image appears…
Except it’s totally not the same image. THIS image is Daniel Craig. Look at those eye jowls! But then who is that in the earlier pic? From the context of the film–it’s revealed that the manor house that appears in the credits is actually Bond’s childhood home–I can only assume that the first picture is actually of Bond as a child. That jibes with what we learn about him in the film, that (again, spoilers) his parents’ death sent him into the walls of the building, literally underground, to hide, and when he returned, his childhood was over. The manor house is both a symbol and a literal location that forges his personality.
And there it is, bam, right in the opening credits. (Also, the credits have a preoccupation with doubles and mirrors, which is a theme that runs throughout the film. This flick was very, very carefully planned.) I’m going to write up Skyfall for the James Bond project when the film hits DVD, but until then, take this as a sign to go hit up the film in theaters and watch this amazing credits sequence on a massive screen with blaring music. I’m going back as soon as I can.