Tag Archives: James Bond

“How long have we got?” The James Bond blogs: ‘Quantum of Solace’ (2008)

11 Nov

Quantum of Solace is a James Bond film that wants us to forget it’s a James Bond film. Whereas Casino Royale raised our expectations of what a modern Bond film could be, Quantum of Solace seems almost embarrassed to be in the company of the franchise’s other entries; as if it’s determined not to be in any way formulaic or even representative of the series. On one hand this sounds a refreshing proposition; why should a new Bond film be a slave to past expectations and practice? What Quantum of Solace actually does is throw us uncompromisingly and suddenly into the action from the very first scene, and takes bold risks within its economical running time (Quantum harks back to the punchier duration of Dr. No or Goldfinger). These ‘risks’ with the overall presentation, render the film unlike most entries in the series. Difference is often a very good thing, and is welcome, as we’ve seen before with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Casino Royale, to name but two. But alienating your audience in the pursuit of being different, and sometimes sacrificing a clear narrative, is not welcome at all. Continue reading

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“The bitch is dead now”. The James Bond blogs: ‘Casino Royale’ (2006)

1 Sep

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As with Timothy Dalton before him, Pierce Brosnan’s tenure as 007 was cut short by circumstances largely out of the lead actor’s control. Although Brosnan had fulfilled his contract for three films and an option on a fourth (which he did fulfil with Die Another Day), the actor was in talks for a fifth instalment, and the general consensus was that the cinema going public would like to see him return in a fifth instalment as well. Continue reading

“Vodka martini, plenty of ice… if you can spare it.” The James Bond blogs: ‘Die Another Day’ (2002)

13 Jun

During the pre-credits sequence of Die Another Day, I realised just how pleased I was to be seeing Pierce Brosnan in the role for a fourth time. He had proved himself a worthy addition to the ranks of Bond actors before him, and there had been none of the perceived failure (from certain quarters) associated with some earlier Bonds (Lazenby especially). Bond can be a fairly ridiculous character in some of the films, but Brosnan had never been anything but convincing, even if  his version of the character was far more removed from Fleming’s original creation than say Dalton or Connery’s interpretations. Perhaps his popularity lies in the ability to combine a bit of that grittiness with some of the light hearted quality of Roger Moore. Die Another Day is the 20th outing in the official series. Although Bond now transcends time and place (as you are not expected to consider this to be a spy who has been on Her Majesty’s secret service since the 1950s and ’60s), Die Another Day goes to some great lengths to celebrate the series’ past, as evidenced by a scene in Q’s workshop where various gadgets from earlier films are in evidence, including the jet pack from Thunderball. The female lead, Halle Berry, also emerges from the sea in homage to Ursula Andress in Dr. No, which is subtle enough to be welcome. All these nods to the past threaten to interfere with the rest of the film but never do, I’m glad to say. The problem with Die Another Day IS the rest of the film. Continue reading

“…never let them see you bleed….and always have an escape plan”, The James Bond blogs: ‘The World is Not Enough’ (1999)

3 Feb

I thought Goldeneye was a good return for Bond after six years absence. I’ve also always felt Tomorrow never dies was a worthy follow up, but not exceptional. For Brosnan’s third outing as Bond, though, we’re in a different league. The World is not enough is a very good entry, and gives Pierce Brosnan an epic adventure in the spirit of Thunderball and You only live twice. Here Brosnan also feels more like the Bond we knew and loved all those years ago. His seduction of his female Doctor while on sabbatical, echoes scenes of Connery at the health farm in Thunderball, and the ski chases are easily some of the best since The Spy who Loved Me. But this never feels like a deliberate ‘greatest hits’ package, unlike some earlier entries, and survives on its own merit as an exhilarating and comic action adventure.
The film has a great title for starters, and like Goldeneye takes its inspiration from a source linked to Bond’s creator Ian Fleming. Whereas Goldeneye was the name of Fleming’s Jamaican hideaway, The World is not enough was Bond’s family motto, as featured in his 1963 novel On Her Majesty’s secret service (and on screen in Peter Hunt’s 1969 film adaptation). Continue reading

“He was married once. But it was a long time ago”, The James Bond blogs- ‘Licence to kill’ (1989)

17 Sep

Timothy Dalton’s more intense and serious interpretation of James Bond has won him many fans, as they see his version as the closest to Ian Fleming’s original creation. Of course, many other people found him too dour for an escapist action adventure film, which is also why The Living daylights and Licence to kill are not as light hearted as other Bond films. However, whereas The Living daylights has several things in common with the later Roger Moore films (mainly the cold war era politics), Licence to kill follows a path not trod by any Bond film before. Not until Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, in the 2000s, would any Bond films follow such a vengeful story. In some ways this is the film Diamonds are forever could have been, if Broccoli and Saltzman had decided to do a true tale of bloody revenge following the death of Tracy Bond in On Her Majesty’s secret service. Those fans who were once worried about Quentin Tarantino directing Bond and turning it into a Kill Bill style bloodbath may well wonder what he would have done with the aftermath of Tracy’s death. In Licence to kill, it is Felix Leiter’s new wife Della who is murdered, and Felix himself is seriously injured. Bond is Felix’s best man, who returns to his friend’s home after he realises Felix’s nemesis- the drug baron Sanchez- has escaped gaol and is out to avenge his past failure. He finds the body of Felix’s wife and his friend is also there, but close to death. Continue reading

“Forget the ladies for once, Bond”, The James Bond blogs: ‘The Living Daylights” (1987)

7 Aug

“I bet I scared the Living daylights out of her”, smirks Bond as he considers the blonde sniper he managed to shoot at before she did. The same could have been said of an audience used to the on screen exploits of Roger Moore for 12 years. Fans of Roger’s light-hearted interpretation may well have been a bit scared about the new gritty direction the franchise seemed headed in. This of course was completely deliberate. ‘Cubby’ Broccoli concurred that the series needed to get back to its roots, and that meant the literary creation of Ian Fleming. Add to that idea Timothy Dalton, a Shakespearean actor well known for his intense roles, and 007 had never looked so interesting. Veteran Bond writer Richard Maibaum then set to work on a script with Michael Wilson that would showcase this new direction with the first segment of the film being a faithful adaptation of Fleming’s short story of the same name. The presentation also sometimes lacks the spectacle and glamour of earlier Bonds. Even in the more ‘realistic’ espionage tales there was plenty of gloss. However The Living daylights still looks more like a classy Bond film than parts of A View to a Kill, and the unofficial film Never say never again, which sometimes looked like the TV movie of the week. Continue reading

“Haha, you amuse me, Mister Bond”; The James Bond blogs: ‘A View to a Kill’ (1985)

18 Jun

I’m more liable to give A View to a Kill a more positive opinion these days than I once did, but it’s still one of the weaker Bond films. It wasn’t quite the high point at which Roger Moore should have left the series, but I still think it’s a better film than most people would have you believe. Both this film and Octopussy have long had quite poor reputations, but they are far from without merit. If it wasn’t for the inappropriate humour, I’d marginally consider Octopussy to be the better film, because in A View to a Kill there are some moments were Bond’s adventures start to resemble an uninspired TV movie.

But despite any positive points, Octopussy was seriously marred by Moore’s fatuous portrayal of 007 and his performance here is an improvement. While he’s not as good here as he was in For your eyes only, he still displays more of his wit and sly charm than his silly side. In this film he leaves all we loved (or loathed) about his Bond to posterity. I still think he was a great James Bond, but very much a Bond of the 1970s and early ‘80s. His tenure is a right mixed bag of the sublime (The spy who loved me) and the ridiculous (the worst parts of Moonraker and Octopussy) with lots of shades in-between. He played the role with his tongue firmly in his cheek, but there were moments where you could tell he was capable of playing Bond with a bit of gravitas. But, as his View to a Kill co-star Patrick Macnee commented, Moore was great at light comedy. Sadly, this could often degenerate into a whimsical portrayal that seemed at odds with the character created by Fleming and later brought to life by Connery and Lazenby (or even early pre-cinema Bond actors Bob Holness and Barry Nelson). Fleming purists might resent Moore for that, but he certainly made the role his own for 12 years.

Up the Eiffel Tower in a tuxedo. Like you do.

A View to a Kill starts promisingly with Bond on a mission in Siberia. Those pesky Russians are soon pursuing him, and the time is right for some ski action. Sadly, just when you think this film might be a triumphant return to form we get a blatant example of the kind of unwelcome cheesy humour that marred Octopussy. As he shoots down the slope on one ski, a blast of The Beach boys replaces John Barry’s music just in time for Bond skirting across an expanse of water. We’re meant to be laughing, but most of us will be groaning. Then we have a ludicrous looking mini-sub, disguised as an iceberg. Or at least ice bergs that look like plastic resin. In side, Bond’s colleague sets a course while James pours her some champagne. Why the inside of an MI6 issued sub is fitted out like Hugh Hefner’s bedroom is beyond me, but this is a Bond film after all. What rescues the film at this point, and grabs my attention, is Duran Duran’s energetic theme song. It’s a nice return to the more ‘rockier’ style of song, as opposed to the ‘easy listening’ direction of most themes. The title sequence is a bit of a mess though. As if to compliment the music, the titles look like an early Duran video- all day-glo paint and dated electronic effects. Not Maurice Binder’s finest moment. But, whatever you think of the first part of the movie, it’ll probably grab your attention and you’ll probably be keen to see where Roger Moore’s swansong will take him. However, there are times in A View to a Kill where Moore looks like he’d be quite happy having a sit down and a cup of tea. He doesn’t always cut a dashing figure in this outing, and he was wise to call it a day. Saying that, he looks in his element earlier in the film. This is when he infiltrates the villain’s horse auction. He’s charming, witty and cunning. Roger at his best.

Zorin and May Day- both definitely two currants short of a fruit cake.

We also meet Tanya Roberts’ character, Stacey Sutton, whose father had been one of the villain’s financial victims. She’s a Bond girl who looks like a slip of a girl next to Moore’s more mature 007. Not the greatest piece of casting, although Roberts does her best. She’s not the most interesting Bond girl, though, and reminds me a bit of the worst ‘70s ‘bimbo’ Bond girls. The pairing also throws into relief how much better Maud Adams and Moore looked together in Octopussy. The Bond villain this time is Christopher Walken, who I’ll happily watch in anything. He’s also the only actor to previously win an Oscar, who went on to play a villain in a Bond film, if that counts for anything. Like Christopher Lee’s turn as Scaramanga, over a decade before, Walken is the villain in a below-par Bond adventure and is actually one of the best things about it. At times Walken’s performance actually lifts the film, and it would have been far worse off without him. His character, Max Zorin, is a rich industrialist who carries on the tradition of wealthy lunatics, which were a hallmark of the Roger Moore years. Zorin is also a touch psychotic, and the scene where he guns down his dispensable employees pretty much sums up the character. He’s charming and likable as well, and never seems to get angry. If things take a turn for the worse he either gets more ruthless or seems to find the situation utterly amusing. It’s this flippancy that makes him dangerous, and Walken plays him very well (not that this kind of role is a big stretch for him). The role of the villain’s henchman is redefined quite originally for this one. The statuesque presence of Grace Jones adds a touch of novelty, and Grace is actually very good. She’s as hard as nails, but there is some depth to the character. Later in the film, Zorin (her lover) double-crosses her and her reaction is an understandable one of anger and hurt. Still, the idea of Grace Jones and Roger Moore in bed doesn’t quite gel in my mind. Luckily such relations aren’t dwelt upon for long!

Another breath of fresh air in this film is Patrick Macnee, who adds a touch of class to many a dog-eared production. I still smile at my Dad’s appraisal of the film one time, when he exclaimed “They’re all in this one!” By “all” he was referring to those icons of ‘60s spy cool, Simon Templar from The Saint and John Steed from The Avengers, the other roles Moore and Macnee played respectively. The two are old friends and work colleagues, and the on screen chemistry is very warm. Macnee plays Sir Godfrey Tibbit, who helps Bond out on the mission. The scenes where they both go undercover, and Tibbit poses as Bond’s butler, are very amusing. Apparently a lot of the dialogue was adlibbed by Moore, who has far more talent that we usually give him credit for. Sadly, time was no longer on Moore’s side, as there was a distinct feeling that the times were changing. The pairing of Moore and Macnee reminds us of the kind of stylish screen heroism that had been eclipsed by the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan, Mel Gibson’s Mad Max or Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo. As if to drive the point home, Macnee’s character is swiftly disposed of by Grace Jones’ May Day, less than half way into the film. Yet, the film bottles out here as well. By giving us a strong female (physically and mentally) in May Day, we are almost promised a showdown between Bond and Day. This never really happens, and May Day meets her fate by teaming up with Bond and letting herself be blown up to save the day. It’s almost as if having Bond get his backside kicked by a woman was never going to be acceptable. On the other hand, a ‘heavy’ like Jaws would probably live to make another appearance. It speaks volumes about the gender roles, for better or worse, in a Bond picture.

The story involves Zorin’s plan to flood ‘Silicon valley’ in California, by setting off a gargantuan earthquake. The plot has several points in common with Goldfinger. Goldfinger wanted to ‘destroy’ Fort Knox so the value of his own gold would increase; Zorin wants to destroy Silicon Valley so that he can corner the world market in microchips. Bond is also working alongside the CIA, as in Goldfinger, and there is a Communist presence lurking in the shadows (Goldfinger was backed by Red China, Zorin is ex-KGB). However, the presentation is nowhere near as inspired or lavish. The chase through San Francisco in a fire truck, with lots of police cars getting smashed up, somehow feels too pedestrian (no pun intended). It’s here, and when Bond escapes from a burning lift shaft, that A View to a Kill doesn’t feel much like a Bond film at all. As I said before, the impression is of a well-funded TV movie. Fortunately, this impression doesn’t last too long.

The scenes that form the film’s climax are nothing short of breathtaking and vertigo sufferers should be warned. High above the Golden gate bridge, Zorin’s air ship ends up tethered to one of the beams. A lot of the fight scene was done on a 3’ high replica of the bridge top in Pinewood studios. You would never know. Apart from one instance of not quite convincing back projection, the whole segment looks like it was filmed above the real bridge. Some scenes were, admittedly, and they are the majority of the ones including the air ship’s arrival. John Glen is rightly very proud of the work done here, and it’s one of the film’s high points (no pun intended again!)

I’ve started to quite like A View to a Kill in recent years, despite its below-average reputation. It’s a tighter story and easier to follow film than Octopussy, and the humour never gets quite as silly. Some fans do actually consider Octopussy to be Moore’s best film, believe it or not. I’m sure this is mainly down to the interesting story. A View to a Kill also gets given a very positive assessment from some quarters, but I would never say it’s one of the best Bond films. It does feel a bit uninspired in places, but a good villain and an audacious scheme give it a bit of worth. But if the film’s promotional posters asked “Has James Bond finally met his match?”, the answer seems to be ‘no’ in the context of the film, but in the real world the series may have met its match in the form of audience apathy. Within little more than 18 months, both Connery and Moore had said their last goodbyes to the role of James Bond, and the hunt was on for a new actor to play the part. As predicted by the media at the time, A View to a Kill was not as sizable a hit as other Bonds, the previous four films having all been bigger box office draws. Re-invention was the only way forward, if the series was to survive.

The franchise was going to have the living daylights scared out of it.