Skyfall changed the way we view James Bond.
James Bond has been a legendary movie character since the 1960s. Over the years, he's been played by various actors. All of them have left an identity on Bond that others can build on. The same goes for the directors who have come and gone. Each has a lasting legacy. But we never talk about Bond in terms of the cinematography. The way Bond looks on screen. The iconic shots and movements that defined the character.
But who did it best? Which Bond movie looks better than all the rest? Which one changed the ethos of who Bond could be?
While the answer is subjective reasoning, my heart and mind are with Roger Deakins' work on Skyfall. While it's true that the cinematography in Casino Royale reintroduced us to the modern Bond, I think Skyfall is both the fulfillment of the new era look for the character and a touching love letter to the most iconic parts that came before.
It's fitting that in a movie about where James Bond came from, we get a movie that helps carry him forward.
Deakins told Entertainment Weekly, "Even as a teenager, I really wasn't a big fan of Bond movies. But there's something about Skyfall that's very different, and I found Sam's take on it really interesting. It's much more a kind of film noir, I think, and it has much more discussion of a character who's facing his own mortality, in a way. It kind of encouraged me to do silhouettes and have people come in and out of darkness."
It's interesting that Deakins comes from a world where he wasn't that interested in Bond. There's the humanity he found in the character and his struggle both with where he came from and where he's going. Entertainment Weekly sat with Deakins to talk about the key moments he shaped in Skyfall and how they affected bond overall.
We pulled some of our favorite quotes from the story. Check it all out below.
How Did Roger Deakins Create the Most Beautiful Bond Ever with Skyfall?
Deakins entered the world of Bond working for director Sam Mendes. Together, they collaborated on who James Bond was, and how they wanted the audience to see him. That began with the way we first meet Bond in this movie. Clouded in shadow.
"Sam had very clear idea of that sequence, and he wanted something very gritty and kind of Spy Who Came in from the Cold-feeling," Deakins said. "But also, he wanted this kind of iconic entrance for Daniel [Craig]. So that was quite a precise design he had in his mind, right down to the idea that there was a slash of light coming through a window or a door. And then I remember on the day, [after] setting the shot, I said to Sam, 'Well, yeah, it's really interesting, but what if we don't rack focus? What if we hold focus on the foreground and Daniel just walks into focus?' So that was something that just developed on the day. I think that's what's so exciting about making a movie: You can do so much prep and think it through, but on the day, things just sort of strike you."
One of the most iconic shots in the movie is a fight between Bond and a villain in front of some projected jellyfish. This battle cast the characters as black shaped on a colorful background. It was an intense look that was so striking and beautiful.
So how did they get there?
Deakins collaborated and listened to some cool ideas.
"One of the art directors, I think, found this piece of advert online, which was these jellyfish, Sam and I looked at each other, and we went, 'Hey, what's wrong with the jellyfish? They're really cool. We just stuck with it, because it was sort of a strange, striking image, and I thought the speed with which they were floating was a great counter to the action that was happening in front."
Deakins loves darkness, and nothing emotes that more than the climax of the film, where James Bond's home burns down, and we get to see the spy in silhouette. Turns out, there was some Deakins magic behind that shot.
"The trick," as Deakins explained, was, "matching the real burning house and the amount of atmosphere" since they shot on a soundstage.
"I was really determined that on location, and then matching it on stage, the only light source would be the burning house. By then, I wanted total darkness," Deakins said.
It's been around a decade since Skyfall debuted. Deakins has continued to be one of the most important cinematographers in Hollywood. So how does he feel looking back?
"I feel relieved that I got through it," Deakins said. "Not that it wasn't a great experience, but it seemed such a challenge, and you have your own expectations. I remember at the end of the shoot, I was relieved that I was pretty happy with most of it. And when I see it, I go, 'Yeah, that was all right, really.'"
That's the signature humbleness of Deakins. A man whose images helped shape the way we understand a historic character and whose ideas have inspired the other cinematographers who came after him in the series.
Let us know what you think in the comments.