The main operations room was a vast, split-level set at Pinewood.
After Silva escapes, the London Underground assumes a major role in the film. Its depiction, though, is a fascinating mix of misdirection and invention.
Bond identifies Silva’s immediate destination as ‘Granborough Road, an abandoned tube station on the Metropolitan Line', and since the audience is told previously that this new MI6 base was once Churchill’s wartime bunker, this would locate the station and the base somewhere near Whitehall, where the real Cabinet War Rooms are indeed now a popular tourist attraction.
In reality Granborough Road was indeed a station on the Metropolitan Line but one deep in the Buckinghamshire countryside, although the remains of the similarly-named Marlborough Road station, which closed in 1939, can be found to this day in St John’s Wood to the north west of the centre of the city and so this may also have served as inspiration to the Skyfall writers.
The District Line is also mentioned and the trail leads next to the real-life Temple station, named as such on screen and further fitting in with this suggestion.
Practically, the Skyfall crew filmed inside Charing Cross London Underground station over the course of four weekends to simulate both Temple and Embankment, the next station along on the District Line and also featured in the script. The Jubilee Line originally terminated at the station before the line's diversion to Westminster in 1999. That re-routing left two platforms, a low-level circulation area and flights of escalators entirely abandoned, providing a much more realistic environment than the much smaller and older Aldwych station, which closed in 1994 and is routinely employed as a filming location. A full-scale reconstruction of one of the platforms at Charing Cross, some tunnel and tube train cars was built at Pinewood for other scenes. Needless to say, the spectacular tube train crash was also achieved on a set.
The entire sequence thus represents a fascinating melange that almost works, though regular tube users will detect the curved platform walls of ‘Temple' station and know these are particular to the deep, bored tube lines like the Jubilee and not the much shallower District Line. A more connected use of the tube in Bond's London might have built on the Vauxhall Cross concept established in The World is Not Enough, but it is an amusing conceit nonetheless.
One last architectural special effect occurs in the film’s final scene, when Bond and Eve come down from the roof of 55 Whitehall and formally introduce each other; the buttoned leather doors of the new M’s office are a direct copy of those seen in The Spy Who Loved Me.
It is a neat and fitting end to a film whose built environment is often a carefully-contrived illusion.
Posted 14 November 2012, amended 1 January 2015
Skyfall lodge, its gateposts modelled after those of Duntrune Castle, Argyll, built in Surrey (Lucy Browne)