Skyfall: Scene by Scene

Mise en scene contributes significantly to character development when Mendes cuts to a shot of Bond recovering from his wound. At the beginning of this scene, there is a shot of Bond laying on a bed with a beautiful woman draped over him. The room is filled with natural, predawn light which gives the shot a morose and desolate feel. The stone wall behind the bed is cold and grey. This sense of melancholy is reinforced by the cool blue of Bond’s clothing. He stares into the distance and sips from a beer bottle emotionlessly, ignoring the woman beside him. As he removes the bottle from his mouth, his hand drops apathetically to his side. “You can tell from this one shot and the shots that follow that he’s still struggling,” says Mendes the commentary. “You see his wounds, you see his state of mind and even though he’s dropped out in this beautiful, rather desolate location on the coastline of Turkey, he’s kind of a solitary and lonely figure.”


Mendes cuts to another shot of Bond later that day. Although the light in this scene is comparatively warmer, it only serves to accentuate Bond’s grizzled appearance. His chin is covered with stubble and his face is gaunt. He scowls and grimaces, chewing a couple of painkillers. Filmed at twilight, the next shot has been colour graded to give it an overall blue tint which again expresses how despondent Bond feels. After the scene in the bar, Mendes cuts to another shot of Bond in the early hours of the next morning: hunched over the bar, head resting on his forearms and a morose expression on his face. The mise en scene in this shot conveys a sense of unhappiness. The shot is dominated by blue tones: his suit jacket and shirt, the glimpse of water and land beyond the ramshackle bar. The use of lighting also reinforces this as Mendes cuts to a wider shot of Bond reaching for a bottle of alcohol. The key light in this shot comes from the overcast sky, reflecting off the water and into the bar. Bond and the entire interior is backlit, creating a sense of gloom and reinforcing how far the character has fallen. There is a close up of Bond as he hears the voice of a news reporter saying, “Early reports from the scene indicate at least six dead, many more injured, with victims being evacuated to local hospitals within minutes of the explosion.”

After the devastating terrorist attack on MI6, Mendes cuts to a shot of M paying her respects to the dead agents. There is a shot of several coffins draped with British flags, the camera slowly moves down and tilts up to reveal the caskets stretching into the distance and M standing at the end of the room. This camera movement accentuates the number of coffins and emphasises the burden that M feels. Moments later, Mendes cuts to a close up of her grim expression. “I’m going to find whoever did this,” she says.


When Bond confronts Q at her house, Mendes uses handheld camera movement to convey the tension between these characters. While they’re talking, the camera moves restlessly which subtly helps to establish their strained relationship. “The scene between M and Bond in M’s house is a handheld scene that’s very static because I just wanted it to be uncomfortable,” says Mendes in his commentary for the film. “I just didn’t want it to settle. It felt too set.”

M: Where the hell have you been?
Bond: Enjoying death. 007 reporting for duty.
M: Why didn’t you call?
Bond: You didn’t get the postcard? You should try it some time. Get away from it all. It really lends perspective.
M: Ran out of drink where you were, did they?
Bond: What was it you said? “Take the bloody shot.”
M: I made a judgment call.
Bond: You should have trusted me to finish the job.
M: It was the possibility of losing you or the certainty of losing all those other agents. I made the only decision I could and you know it.
Bond: I think you lost your nerve.
M: What do you expect, a bloody apology? You know the rules of the game. You’ve been playing it long enough. We both have.
Bond: Maybe too long.
M: Speak for yourself.
Bond: Ronson didn’t make it, did he?
M: No.
Bond: So this is it. We’re both played out.
M: Well, if you believe that, why did you come back?
Bond: Good question.
M: Because we’re under attack. And you know we need you.
Bond: Well, I’m here.
M: You’ll have to be debriefed and declared fit for active service. You can only return to duty when you’ve passed the tests, so take them seriously. And a shower might be in order.
Bond: I’ll go home and change.
M: Oh, we’ve sold your flat, put your things into storage. Standard procedure on the death of an unmarried employee with no next of kin. You should have called.
Bond: I’ll find a hotel.
M: Well, you’re bloody well not sleeping here.

Shortly after Bond’s return to London, Mendes uses a combination of music and editing to structure time, compressing the tests that Bond has to undergo into a few seconds of screen time. The sequence begins with a shot of a heart rate monitor, the camera dollies left to reveal Bond on a treadmill. “We’ve attempted to trace the computer message,” says Tanner, “but it was it was sent by an asymmetrical security algorithm, which bounced the signal all over the globe through over a thousand different servers. And now that they’ve accessed M’s codes, it’s only a matter of time before they’re able to decrypt the list.” The conversation continues when Mendes cuts to a shot of Bond doing sit-ups, then to him doing chin ups. The use dialogue and music give the montage a sense of continuity, helping to compress the long process of performing these tests into less than a minute of screen time. “You know, we can always do this later,” Tanner says as the montage ends.