Skyfall | 2012
Memories of double-taking pigeons (Moonraker) can finally be laid to rest as the reinvigorated series pulls of the trick of being more grounded in reality without sacrificing excitement.
There’s no renewable energy source, so the MacGuffin has to be the other standby, a computer list of of undercover agents – though to be fair this does neatly fit the film’s themes of responsibility and betrayal.
With one agent already dying, Bond chases the assailant, Patrice (Ola Rapace), through the crowded Eminonu Square, one of Istanbul’s oldest squares, overlooked by the minarets of the fabulous Yeni Mosque, and filled with over two hundred and fifty market stalls for the production.
The high-speed pursuit continues across the rooftops and then inside Istanbul's famous Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. If you cringed as Bond’s motorbike roared over the historic structures, don’t worry. The existing roof tiles were carefully protected by reinforced steel roof panels.
The chase continues through the city of Adana, almost 500 miles to the southeast, towards the border with Syria, with a series of spectacular stunts climaxing in that perennial favourite – the fistfight on top of a speeding train.
The Varda Viaduct, near the village of Kiralan about 30 miles northwest of Adana, was built by the Germans in 1912 as part of the Istanbul-Baghdad railway line, to connect Berlin with Basra.
Believed dead, Bond takes a little time off, recuperating in a beachfront shack on Koca Calis Beach, at Fethiye, a coastal town in the southwest of Turkey. Fethiye is a popular tourist venue, but don’t go looking to play scorpion-themed drinking games. The bar was constructed for the film and immediately dismantled.
It’s clearly implied that the venue is one of the many government buildings in the area. In fact, it’s way to the east, near to the Tower of London. The building at which M arrives was the vast and elaborate office of insurance company Willis Faber, 10 Trinity Square (formerly the Port of London Authority building), looming over Trinity Square Gardens, EC3. It’s currently being converted into a five-star hotel, private members’s club and private residences.
The building’s distinctive frontage is not completely revealed: if it were, you might recognise it as the home to villainous lawyer Manfred (Iain Glen) in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider or, further back, from the 1960 Peter Sellers comedy caper Two Way Stretch, or from the 1976 screen version of Sweeney!.
After being informed that she will be ‘retiring’, M returns to the real MI6 HQ, the SIS (Secret Intelligence Service) Building, 85 Albert Embankment, just in time to see her office blown to smithereens as she crosses Vauxhall Bridge. The up-front HQ doesn’t fare too well in Bond movies – The World Is Not Enough saw it struck by a missile and in Spectre... well, what can I say?
M attends the funeral of the victims of the attack at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London SE10. Most of the sequence was cut from the final release, leaving little more than the shot of M paying her respects to the flag-draped coffins in the austere King William Undercroft, beneath the famous Painted Hall.
She returns to her Knightsbridge home to find Bond miraculously alive, and drawn back to service by the call of duty. Her house is 82 Cadogan Square, SW1, at Clabon Mews, between Knightsbridge and Sloane Square. The film sneaks in a tribute to the man responsible for so many classic Bond themes – this was the home of composer John Barry, who died in 2011.
With the Vauxhall HQ out of action, Bond is taken to the standby underground facility, apparently entered by the underground Smithfield Car Park in West Smithfield, EC1, alongside the famous Smithfield Meat Market.
The subterranean interior is, as you might expect, a different locale. The brick corridors and training area are the Old Vic Tunnels, 30,000 square feet of disused railway vaults hidden beneath Waterloo Station on the South Bank, which were recently acquired by the Old Vic theatre as a performance space.
It’s claimed in the film that the underground facility was used as Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s command centre during WWII and, while this is not true, Churchill did operate from an underground bunker during the war. You can now visit the real Churchill War Rooms at Clive Steps, King Charles Street, SW1, much closer to Downing Street and Parliament.
After much physical and psychological assessments, Bond is informed by M that he’s been deemed fit enough to return to the field. In these austere times, his armoury of gadgets, though, is reduced to a gun and a tracking device.
He’s approached by the new Q (Ben Whishaw), in front of JMW Turner’s masterpiece, The Fighting Temeraire, in Room 34 of the National Gallery, on the north side of Trafalgar Square (though the film’s production notes mysteriously refer to the location as the National Portrait Gallery, which is around the corner on Charing Cross Road).
HMS Temeraire fought at the Battle of Trafalgar, and the painting’s full title, The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up, 1838, pointedly signals the fate of a valued asset once its time is up – something of which both 007 and M are becoming aware.
Nevertheless, bullet fragments retrieved from 007’s body, which point to a hitman operating in Shanghai, soon send Bond scooting off to the Far East once again.
There are striking aerial shots and driving sequences in the Chinese city, but most of the Shanghai scenes were filmed in London.
The gleaming blue rooftop pool of Bond’s hotel is the swimming pool at the Virgin Active Canary Riverside Club, West Ferry Circus in Canary Wharf, E14 – with a view of Shanghai added digitally.
The world-famous horseracing venue has already appeared as itself in A View To A Kill, and is just as famous for not having appeared in the 1964 film of My Fair Lady (where it was recreated in the Warner Bros studio at Burbank).
Bond follows his quarry from the airport to the highrise block where a hit has been organised. You can see the striking X-braced office block just to the north of London’s Liverpool Street Station. It’s the Primrose Street entrance to Broadgate Tower, 201 Bishopsgate, EC2, and currently the fourth tallest building in the capital. It stands directly opposite the highrise ‘Moscow’ office of Russian oligarch Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh) in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.
From a fake Shanghai, a handy poker chip leads Bond to the ‘Golden Dragon Casino’ in an equally fake ‘Macao’. The club doesn’t exist outside of Pinewood Studio where even the dazzling exterior, with its bridge, its 300 floating lanterns and 30-foot high dragon heads, was created in the studio’s Paddock Tank.
For a glimpse of the real Macao, see Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom.
Pinewood also housed the eerie ‘Dead City’ island retreat of Silva (Javier Bardem) to which Bond is taken.
Surprisingly, the long-shots are real. The strange Hashima Island, a tiny deserted outcrop off the south west coast of Japan, about 10 miles from Nagasaki. Less than a square kilometre in area, Hashima was once part of Japan’s deep-sea coal mining activity, packed with several thousand workers. Owned and operated by Mitsubishi Motors since 1887, it fell victim to the global decline in mining and closed for good in 1974, when the inhabitants quickly left.
The subsequent revelation of the workers’ living conditions supposedly caused embarrassment and the island was declared off-limits for many years. Times have changed, and you can now take a trip out to visit – though the decrepit condition of the crumbling buildings looks a mite risky.
Silva is captured and brought back to the UK but, hacking into the security system, he escapes into tunnels beneath the isolation cell.
Almost the whole of the following sequence uses Charing Cross Underground Station on the Strand, particularly its decommissioned Jubilee Line platforms.
The stairwell in which Bond sees Silva disappear down the steps is the ventilator shaft of Charing Cross. This surprisingly huge structure runs from way below ground to above the rooftops – you can see its disguised exterior, topped by four 'turrets', on the east side of Craven Street, alongside the station.
Silva makes his way into the London underground system, at 'Temple Station'. In fact, the steps, on which he’s surreptitiously handed a policeman's uniform by accomplices, are those of Exit 3 of Charing Cross Underground, where the main ticket hall is masked by a false wall.
Bond narrowly avoids getting hit by a tube train escaping into a service tunnel. This is the real service tunnel for Charing Cross underground, once used to transport spoil away from the underground tunnelling. It runs diagonally beneath Trafalgar Square toward the National Gallery extension, where there was once an access shaft.
He eventually emerges onto the platform of 'Temple Station'. This doesn't look much like Temple which, being above ground, doesn't have the 'circular' tunnel design. Yes, it’s one of Charing Cross’s old Jubilee Line platforms.
Leaping on the back of the train, Bond tails Silva to 'Embankment Station' – which is the other Jubilee Line platform of Charing Cross.
And it's still Charing Cross as Silva makes that daring slide down the escalator – daring because if you try this (just don't) you'll soon find that the regular 'Stand on the right' signs make for an uncomfortable ride.
This being the disused part of the station, the signs were removed. Even so, rails needed to be laid between the escalators to give the actors and the camera crew a smooth ride (these were later removed digitally).
As you might notice, Charing Cross is not on the Jubilee Line but, until 1999, it was the line's southern terminus. With the development of Docklands, the line's proposed route was changed to run south from Green Park and the Charing Cross platforms were closed.
This part of the station is still maintained, though off-limits to the public, used to try out new design ideas, to audition buskers (who need a licence to perform within the tube system) and – importantly – as a film location, seen in The Bourne Ultimatum, Paddington and Creep.
From the real underground, it’s off to Pinewood Studio and the famously huge 007 Stage for the underground chamber into which the tube train crashes. Two full size train carriages, each weighing seven tons, were built for the sequence which was so risky it had to be filmed with remotely operated cameras, ten of which covered the stunt from various angles.
Even something as apparently simple as Silva exiting Embankment Station isn’t what it seems. You’ll have a hard time finding that particular exit.
This is nothing more than a rear entrance to the National Liberal Club on Whitehall Place, opposite the entrance to Charing Cross Station and the Playhouse Theatre on Northumberland Avenue. Silva hops into a bogus police van and is whisked off along Whitehall Place.
Unscathed, Bond finally emerges from the real exit of Westminster Station on Whitehall and sprints north along the tourist-thronged thoroughfare which is home to most of the UK’s government ministries in a desperate attempt to get to M and the parliamentary hearing before the vengeful Silva.
Mysteriously this brings him, not to Trafalgar Square, but back to Trinity House near the Tower of London in the East, where the hearing is being held.
It’s from the rear of Trinity House, between Pepys Street and Muscovy Street that Silva makes his getaway and Bond bundles M out to his car.
Having rescued M from Silva’s attack, Bond spirits her off to the garage where the Aston Martin DB5 has been hidden away.
This turns out to be the arches of the Parkside Industrial Estate, beneath the railway track, on Arklow Road, just to the south of Childers Street in Deptford, SE14. He heads off under the railway arches on Arklow Road.
In the penultimate Bond novel, You Only Live Twice, written in 1964, after Sean Connery had so successfully established the character, author Ian Fleming gave Bond a Scots backstory, with his father hailing from Glencoe. This becomes the place to which Bond takes M to draw Silva out into the open.
Bond and M arrive in the Highlands on the A82 in front of the misty peaks of Buachaille Etive Mor and Buachaille Etive Beag in Glencoe. It’s a suitably breathtaking locale, previously seen onscreen in Braveheart and Highlander.
Considering its fate, you might assume, correctly, that ‘Skyfall’ was a set built for the movie. The chapel looks pretty solid, though? There’s more cinematic trickery here.
Bond’s childhood home, along with the chapel and entrance gate, was constructed on Hankley Common, a stretch of Ministry of Defence land just south of Elstead in Surrey – which had previously appeared in two Pierce Brosnan Bond movies: The World is Not Enough (where it stood in for the oilfields of ‘Azerbaijan’) and Die Another Day.
The coda, which finds Bond atop a ministry building offering fantastic views along Whitehall to the Houses of Parliament, was filmed on the roof of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), 55 Whitehall. You won’t be able to repeat the experience – this location is not open to the public. The domed towers alongside are those of the Old War Office Building, Whitehall, which itself appeared – in pre-Vauxhall Cross days – as the MI6 HQ in Bond movies A View To A Kill, Octopussy and Licence To Kill.