Archive for the ‘James Bond’ Category

Goldfinger (1964)

Posted: April 5, 2019 in James Bond
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And so we’re onto the third Bond film. Worth noting that back then they made three of them in less time than there’s currently been between Spectre and Bond #25…

But I digress. Time for 007 to take on a simple smuggling case that turns out to involve plans for the worlds greatest bank robbery, well, maybe not a robbery…

Ask a cross section of Bond fans, be they rabid or occasional, to name their top three Bond films and chances are Goldfinger will probably feature in a large number of rankings. To this day it’s an iconic film, the epitome of the franchise, but is it actually any good?

To be honest it’d been a few years since I’d seen it in its entirety, and I’d got it into my head that it was a film that wasn’t nearly as good as its reputation suggested.

How wrong can a guy be?

Sure it has a few creaky moments, and one altogether distasteful element, but I’ll get onto that. For now let’s just say that it is iconic, a film that laid the groundwork of much that was to follow, and however good Dr No and From Russia With Love were, this is the film that cemented Bond as a powerhouse, and it introduced elements that resonate to this day.

In many ways it’s the very antithesis of FRWL, sure we’re not in the realms of hollowed out volcanos just yet, but Goldfinger isn’t remotely the gritty spy thriller FRWL was, it’s more fantastical then what came before, but a tad more grounded than what might follow.

Goldfinger’s pre-title sequence is a doozy, and it set the bar really high in terms of a miniature movie in its own right. Bond infiltrates a secret base, blows it up, gets the girl, gets betrayed by the girl, kills an assassin and even has time for a pithy one liner, all in less time that it took Daniel Craig to walk to a hotel in the pre title sequence of Spectre. That Connery plays it with effortless cool is the icing on the cake. Frankly there are possibly whole Bond films less exciting than Goldfinger’s pre-title sequence is.

Not that what follows is dull, although you might be forgiven for remembering the film being more action packed than it is, and pacing wise there’s nothing formulaic about this Bond film, for starters 007 spends pretty much half the film as Goldfinger’s prisoner, which I’m pretty sure isn’t something we’ve seen since (though rumours suggest Bond #25 may try and emulate this.)

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“Make Gold Great Again!”

Ah, Auric Goldfinger, the titular villain is larger than life in every sense of the word. In many ways  something of a buffoon, a cheating blowhard in love with the sound of his own voice, and once you throw the love of gold and golf into the equation it’s disturbing how reminiscent he is of a certain American President. And yet, despite this, he’s also quite clearly very dangerous, and not a fool either, and whilst you can credit Michael Collin’s dubbing for part of the appeal, it’s  Gert Fröbe’s physicality and mannerisms that really sell the character. He also has a natty line in bestowing imaginative ends on his enemies. See poor Mr Solo (nice little Bond-Fleming-Man from U.N.C.L.E in-joke there) crushed in the scrapyard, or one of the most iconic deaths meted out in the entire franchise, when Shirley Eaton’s poor Jill Masterson pays the price for betraying Goldfinger by winding up suffocated under a coat of gold paint. Whether that would actually kill you hardly matters, the image was seared into history, to such an extend that the producers tried, with far less success, to emulate it in 2008 by covering Gemma Arterton in oil. And of course, Jill’s sister, Tilly meets a grisly end courtesy of Odd Job’s steel rimmed hat (sad that Tania Mallet died just a few days ago).

And whilst Goldfinger doesn’t actually kill James, he comes pretty close, and his method has a delicious irony to it. Let’s be honest, Connery strapped to a metal bed as a laser beam creeps ever closer to his family jewels is almost as memorable as poor Jill’s golden death. Much like when he was facing certain death in FRWL Connery sweats fear, again he’s desperate, trying anything he can to escape. Goldfinger isn’t interested, and as exchanges go there’s few better in the franchise than “Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die.”

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But then Bond wriggles his way out of ending up a Damien Hirst sculpture by mentioning Operation Grand Slam. Goldfinger, correctly, intuits that Bond merely overheard the phrase and has no idea what it means, but can he afford to take the chance? The Chinese agent working with Goldfinger (and yes that is Burt Kwouk) clearly feels they need to keep him alive. Yes, it might seem ridiculous that Goldfinger chooses not to kill Bond, but watching the film again it’s clearly a shrewd move. With Bond still very much alive, 008 won’t be despatched to investigate, especially with Felix Leiter (three films in and onto our second Felix) foolishly believing Bond has everything under control, in reality it’s Goldfinger who has the situation firmly under control, or at least he thinks he does.

He hasn’t counted on 007’s sheer animal magnetism however…oh dear.

Let’s talk about Pussy.

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In so many ways Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore is the best Bond girl to date, and unless memory really doesn’t serve me well, will remain so until another star of the Avengers arrives on the scene in 1969 (but I’m getting ahead of myself).

You could argue she isn’t as drop dead beautiful as Andress or Bianchi, but she’s still gorgeous and, more importantly, she has presence, she can act, and the character has agency, well, up to a point. Pussy is Goldfinger’s trusted ally, a woman who’s formed her own flying circus composed entirely of sexy women pilots (you don’t think she might prefer women to blokes do you?) she’s also got no time for 007’s bullshit.

Until she does.

Whilst it isn’t as explicit as it may be in the book that Pussy is a lesbian, it’s clearly inferred. Even if she isn’t gay, Bond effectively forcing himself on her is distasteful enough, that his seduction “straightens” her out just makes things so much worse, and it’s a shame that this has to serve as the reason she betrays Goldfinger, rather than Bond appealing to her better nature. There’s a certain amount of misogyny I can tolerate in the franchise, this moment crosses the line.

For whatever reason, Pussy betrays Goldfinger (cats are notoriously fickle) and his plan to irradiate all the gold in Fort Knox comes unglued.

It’s interesting to note how uninvolved Bond is in all of this, he isn’t even able to defuse the atomic bomb in the end, he has to rely on one of Felix’s men. He does get revenge for both Jill and Tilly however, by killing Oddjob.

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I take my hat off you you, sir

Ah, Oddjob, another high flyer in the pantheon of henchmen. Weightlifter come wrestler Harold Sakata might be near mute, but he’s a powerful presence, with an unmistakable silhouette—in fact the first time we see him it’s only his shadow—and whether he’s throwing his deadly hat, or crushing golf balls with his bare hands, he’s a dangerous foe, at least until 007 electrocutes him; not so fun fact, Sakata burned his hand during that scene, yet refused to let go, what a pro.

We’re in less exotic climes this time, with much of the film taking place in England and Kentucky, with a stop off in scenic Switzerland, and at times there’s a leisurely pace to the film, and not in a bad way. Can you imagine a modern Bond film spending so long on a game of golf? Can you imagine a modern Bond even playing golf?

Ken Adams outdoes himself yet again with the set design, be it Goldfinger’s Kentuckian lair, or Fort Knox itself, and whilst the franchise dallied with gadgets in the last film, here we get a clear sign of what’s to come with the tricked out Aston Martin DB5; machine guns, oil slicks, scythes, rotating number plates, oh and it also comes with an ejector seat. “You must be joking,” says Bond in Q’s lab.

Hah this is nothing, wait till we give you an invisible car…

One final fun fact before I hit my conclusion, the devious dancer in the pre-title sequence was also Kerim Bey’s mistress!

Goldfinger isn’t perfect, Bond is a little inert at times, and a few things don’t quite hang together (why would Goldfinger explain his plan to rob Fort Knox in so much detail to the Mafia guys when he’s about to murder them?) And of course, there’s the scene in the barn.

But despite its flaws it’s a rightfully iconic film that embodies pretty much everything about the franchise. A great pre-title sequence, a wonderful villain with an equally memorable henchman, a diabolical, and slightly left field, plot, the first Bond girl who’s more than two dimensional, a gadget laden Aston Martin, Sean Connery at the top of his game ( and he really is great in this) and I nearly forgot, one of the best damn title songs of them all sung by my dad’s favourite singer, Miss Shirley Bassey!

I know I’ve thrown the ‘I’ word around a lot, but damn it’s well earned here. A top-notch Bond film.

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From Russia With Love (1963)

Posted: March 15, 2019 in James Bond
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And so my epic re-watch of every Bond film, in order, reaches the dizzy heights of, er, the second film. It’s fine, I have all the time in the world…

Anyway, Bond’s off to Istanbul, not Constantinople, to see a girl about a cipher machine.

There is a common nostalgia amongst some fans for the halcyon days when Bond films were realistic, gritty thrillers, before all the more fantastical elements that clearly arrived with that Roger bloke. Anyone with even a passing understanding of the franchise knows this is something of a fallacy, some of Connery’s films are the most fantastical of all (hollowed-out volcano anyone, a madman with metal hands and his own nuclear reactor?). That being said, of course some Bond films are gritty, and precious few are as grounded as From Russia with Love.

Yes, there’s an evil genius with a nefarious plan, but as diabolical schemes go it’s relatively tame. He doesn’t want to blow up Fort Knox, or start World War 3, he just wants to steal a Russian cipher machine so he can sell it back to the Soviets, oh and maybe get revenge for Dr No into the bargain by killing 007.

In many ways FRWL is the direct opposite of Dr No, there the titular villain doesn’t show up until near the end, whereas here we meet a whole host of characters before we see James Bond. Okay, Connery’s in the pre title sequence, but he isn’t Bond, it’s a feint, our boy doesn’t actually rock up for real until over fifteen minutes into the film, by which time we’ve met Red Grant, Kronsteen, Rosa Klebb, Blofeld, Blofeld’s cat, and even Tatiana! Off the top of my head the only other Bond films that come close are Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun, but in neither case do we wait so long for 007.

Not that we’re bored without him, from Kronsteen’s gloriously staged chess game, to the violent delights of SPECTRE island and Klebb’s creepy recruitment of Tatiana, there’s plenty going on. If anything the pace of the film slows dramatically after Bond finally appears.

I don’t have anything against slow burn films, quite the reverse at times, but it has to be said that at times FRWL feels a little too slow. Like Dr No this feels like a film in conflict with itself, at once yearning to break the mould, yet at the same time beholden to the good old days. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it hasn’t dated as badly as some Bonds will, but for me it isn’t quite the classic many claim it to be.

Which doesn’t mean it isn’t very, very good.

After exotic Jamaica, this time we’re heading for exotic Turkey, which gives the film a very different feel, and makes it feel like a Cold War thriller in a way Dr No never quite managed.

There’s interesting things at play right from the off, take Bond locating the bugs and forcing the hotel staff to move him to another room, initially this shows us Bond’s competence, but in actuallity he’s merely a pawn moving precisely as Kronsteen had predicted.

Not that 007 is some dupe, he and M are well aware this is a trap, it’s just a trap they’re willing to walk into in hopes of getting their hands on a Lektor (which it has to be said feels like a quaint McGuffin even in 1963). The only thing MI6 don’t realise is that the trap hasn’t been set by the Russians.

There’s some wonderful scenery in Istanbul, in particular the flooded catacombs Kerim Bey uses to spy on the Russians.

DI-From-Russia-With-Love-16Ah Kerim Bey, one of many of Bond allies but one who stands out more than most. There’s something a little disingenuous about getting a Mexican to play a Turk, but Pedro Armendáriz plays him so well that you hardly care. Bey arrives fully formed; noble, hedonistic, brave, intelligent, a man playing a great game in Turkey, they follow us, we follow them as his son tells Bond. Armendáriz injects so much life into the performance that it’s hard to get your head around the fact that he was terminally ill, and would kill himself before the film finished shooting.

He and Connery bounce well off each other, and again Connery is good. Manly yet playful, dangerous yet noble. For the second film in a row he expresses some distaste at violence meted out to women, though he show no compunction is meting it out himself (insert your own Connery commentary here) and when he threatens to leave Tatiana behind, you kinda think he might.

Again there’s nuance I didn’t expect to find, and a genuine sense of mortality. Just check out the look on Bond’s face as he finds himself on the wrong end of Red Grant’s gun. He imagines he’s going to die and is scrabbling around in desperation for any way to survive.

Two films in and my slight disdain in Connery’s Bond is wavering.

Of course it helps if you have a good adversary, and if Kerim Bey is an exemplary ally, then Red Grant is an exemplary villain, even if technically he’s a henchman.

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“You’ll never guess how much these shoes cose, Bond.”

If Connery moves like a tiger, then Grant is a cobra, a cold-blooded snake with only one thought in mind; his mission. Robert Shaw is amazing, marrying an imposing physique with raw menace and genuine acting talent, and however cold he might be, there’s a broiling rage behind those eyes, Grant has a chip on his shoulder, and though it isn’t as obvious here as in the book, Shaw imbues his performance with it. Grant detests Bond, and not just because he killed Dr No.

What’s most disturbing about Red Grant these days of course, is how much he looks like Daniel Craig!

As Rosa Klebb, Lotte Lenya is almost as iconic as Grant, a brutal, Machiavellian villain and one of the franchise’s finest she utterly convinces as a Russian officer turned Spectre #3, her natural aura of command never in doubt, even when surrounded by burley men on all sides. She even convinces as a meek cleaning lady, and you have to admire the way she eyes up both Grant and Tatiana.

f3wkOANYRwmzt8ATIl2hbRvF3hwAh Tatiana. Much like Ursula Andress Daniela Bianchi is incredibly beautiful, much like Andress she’s dubbed, and much like Honey Tatiana doesn’t get much to do except be manipulated or placed in peril. Yes, there’s a smidgen of agency at the end when she betrays Klebb, but it’s too little, far too late.

Vladek Sheybal is wonderfully arrogant as Kronsteen, and Lee and Maxwell are always reliable. We get Desmond Llewelyn’s first appearance as Q (though not explicitly named) and Eunice Grayson’s last as Sylvia Trench. Then there’s Walter Gotell as a Spectre agent, Gotell will go on to play General Gogol in several Moore films, and Dalton’s debut. As an interesting side note the body (if not the voice) of Blofeld belongs to Anthony Dawson, i.e. Professor Dent. Damn, this franchise is incestuous!

Now onto the gadgets. The fully stocked briefcase with its knife, gold coins and teargas bomb, is a nice prop, and manages to be both slightly ridiculous, yet also incredibly practical, and whilst woefully underpowered, Bond’s collapsible sniper rifle is cool too.

In terms of action it’s a mixed bag. It would be disingenuous to start with anything other than Connery and Shaw’s brawl in the train carriage. Even decades later it stands up as one of the best fights in the series, in part because its so brutal, with neither man willing to give any quarter, but the lead up shouldn’t be overlooked, the whole scene between Shaw and Connery is magnificent.

And it isn’t the only iconic brawl, kudos to Aliza Gur and Martine Beswick for their vicious gypsy wrestling match. The attack on the gypsy camp is well handled too, with Bond coolly striding through the mayhem despatching bad guys with ease, watched over by Grant’s angel of death.

Bond vs a Spectre helicopter is decent enough, but references North by Northwest a little too closely. I’d always believed Bond cribbing from other films was something that came later, but here they are, doing it in the second film; though if you’re going to crib from anyone it might as well be Hitchcock.

Sadly, the films becomes a bit of a slog at the end, with one set piece too many. The boat chase never really gets my blood pumping, it seems unnecessary and, frankly, a trifle slow. It also overshadows Klebb and Bond’s final confrontation; going straight from the helicopter chase to Venice might have been better.

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“You know this film isn’t half bad.”

The final scenes on the gondola are a trifle strange, and the less said about Bond’s curious wave the better, but little detracts from what is a film that’s more consistent than Dr No and remains one of the highlights of the series, and works just ss well as a chess game of a Cold War thriller as it does a Bond movie.

Dr No (1962)

Posted: February 28, 2019 in James Bond
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“I am smoking a fag.”

Directed by Terence Young

With Spectre over three years behind us now, Bond #25 still over a year away, and in a desperate attempt to revive my frankly flagging James Bond mojo, I’ve set myself the task of watching and reviewing every Bond film, in order, before the next film debuts.

Given that Bond#25 shouldn’t hit our screens until at least April 2020 this should give me plenty of time to go through the 24 canon films (no original Casino Royale or Never Say Never Again unless I finish early) and so long as I’m watching a film every two to three weeks I should make it!

Be warned, much as I love the franchise I expect to ridicule as often as I laud the films!

And so, as Julie Andrews sang, we start at the very beginning, a very good place to start, with Dr No, that sees 007 despatched to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of MI6 head of station, the wonderfully named Strangways, and his secretary. Once there 007 will become embroiled in a plot by the sinister Dr No to topple American rockets using radio waves.

Now it’s been a while since I last watched Dr No, and my view had always been that it was a film of two halves, one better than the other. Overall this view hasn’t changed, except insofar as those two halves have switched. You see, when I was younger it was the secret base, the atomic power and the madman with the metal hands that excited me. Now, however, I find more to enjoy in the first half of the film, and Bond’s investigation of Strangways’ disappearance, and it strikes me that we don’t see Bond acting as a detective nearly often enough, and whilst he’s clearly identified as having a licence to kill, it’s interesting that people are more concerned with him as an investigator. Honey exclaims that she’s never met a detective before, and even Dr No refers to him as just a policeman.

It’s also nice to see Bond indulging in some actual tradecraft; see as he dusts the locks of his briefcase with talcum powder, and places a hair across the door so that if anyone comes snooping, he’ll know. Not that he doesn’t make use of his licence to kill of course, just see the cold-blooded way he despatches Professor Dent—although this really does seem a trifle short-sighted, Dent was out of bullets and 007 still needed information, so killing him was a bit rash. What was it Judi Dench said in Casino Royale about blunt instruments?

dr no2It’s interesting how many Bondian elements will first appear here. The gun barrel, the James Bond theme, the meeting with M, being armed by Q (sort of given Major Boothroyd is Q, even if he’s not named as such) the flirting with Moneypenny, the flirting with anything in a skirt if we’re honest, and Bond is identified as a gambler and a ladies man before we learn he has a licence to kill, and by my reckoning he sleeps with three women here (albeit off camera, it was 1962) Sylvia Trench (so far the only Bond girl to return as the same character unless Moneypenny counts) Miss Taro and Honey—well ok, it only looks like he’s going to but does anyone imagine they didn’t? Even with the CIA and a bunch of Royal Marines watching?

Oddly once Bond goes over the Crab Key things get less interesting. Perhaps in part because whilst at the time Dr No’s ploy seemed fantastical, these days it’s quite mundane (and it’s never quite clear why he’s doing it, to prove a point? Because someone is paying SPECTRE?) and it also doesn’t help that Dr Evil wears that radiation suit decades later, you’ve got a lot to answer for, Mike Myers (but we’ll get to that properly when I review Spectre).

What can’t be denied is that Ken Adams’ sets are glorious, even before you consider that Dr No was made on quite a tight budget. I doubt you’d be able to make a film that looked this good now for the modern equivalent of a million dollars.

I guess the real trouble is that not much happens in those wonderful sets. Bond and Honey get decontaminated, in a scene that goes on way too long, before settling in for a snoozy nap, and then, finally, our titular villain appears and sets a dangerous precedent by explaining his whole plan to 007. Bond escapes from his cell with consummate ease, and thwarts No’s plan quite easily as well, and notice how none of No’s goons try and take any kind of revenge once Crab Key starts exploding, well I guess they have other things on their minds.

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“That’s Dr No, I didn’t spend three years at evil medical school to be Mr.”

Wiseman does a decent job, but he’s never really given the material or the screen time to make enough of an impression, though you have to admit that he ticks an awful lot of Bond villain boxes in a short amount of time; sinister foreigner, check, disfigured in some way, check, charming and urbane, check, completely immoral, check, genius, check, bit of a nutter, check…

All this and a big aquarium!

Of course no discussion of a Bond film is complete without discussion of the Bond girl (and yes I know it should be Bond woman, but no I’m not going to call them that) and setting aside the delightfully forward and ingenious Ms Trench, and femme fatale Miss Taro, that sobriquet really belongs to Ursula Andress’ Honey Ryder (with vocal assistance from Nikki van der Zyl and the singing voice of Diana Coupland from Bless this House!)

Dr-No-616.jpgNow for many Andress is seen as the iconic Bond girl, it’s all about that bikini apparently. Well let me shatter all your illusions (well most of them) because she’s not a great Bond girl. Yes she’s beautiful (and call me weird but I find her sexier the more clothes she puts on) but that’s about it. She talks tough, with mention of getting revenge on her rapist, and she wields a big knife, but she has zero agency and is no help to Bond whatsoever aside from acting as a damsel in distress for him to rescue then seduce. Contentious opinion #1; Britt Eklund’s Mary Goodnight is a way better Bond girl than Honey is!

As M and Moneypenny it’s hard to disaggregate the performances of Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell here from all their other appearances, they seem right at home from the off. Jack Lord makes for a decent Felix, and though he’s poorly served in the end, John Kitzmiller’s Quarrel does ably assist Bond for the most part, and as a side note, I’m pretty sure there’s some interracial dancing going on at one of the bars, which is nice to see in a film of this era.

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That really just leaves Connery doesn’t it? Now contentious opinion #2, anyone who’s read my blog before will know I’m not always the greatest fan of Sean, but fair dos he’s superb here. He slides into James Bond’s skin with ease and makes 007 a fully formed character right from the off, there’s also some nuance and some downright vulnerability that’ll be lost once he starts phoning it in, but here; he makes an excellent Bond in what is, overall, a perfectly decent, if a touch old fashioned, film.

One final note. Say what you like about Pussy Galore, Holly Goodhead or Xenia Onatopp, I’m pretty sure Puss Feller has dibs on being one of the most ludicrous names in the franchise!

Sir Roger Moore

Posted: June 11, 2017 in James Bond
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There’s something I hoped I’d never see, even though I knew it was an absolute inevitability. We have finally lost a Bond. Sir Roger Moore, the third man to officially play the part, passed away just a few weeks ago at the age of 89.

I know some feel it churlish to feel grief for the death of someone you’ve never met, especially someone who reached a ripe old age—a good innings as the saying goes—and yet it did hit me hard. I read something last year that tried to make sense of why we feel grief when celebrities die and the notion struck a chord with me. For many of us the people we see in films or on television, or even whose music we listen to, are constants in our lives, like a lighthouse we drive by every day, or a favourite building we pass on the way to work, and it’s always jarring when something you’ve grown accustomed to isn’t there anymore. When the light goes down or that building’s demolished.

I knew Roger Moore wasn’t going to be around forever, and yet there was a curious familiarity about the man, a sense that he was an impermeable facet of our world; as if he’d always been here and always would.

His age helped. That so many of his contemporaries passed away long before him only added to this façade of immortality. Sometimes I felt sorry for him, it must be sad to live so long and see so many friends and colleagues suddenly vanish from your world.

I won’t ramble on for ages about what I thought of him as Bond, my feelings are captured here in a blog I wrote a couple of years ago and they haven’t really changed. He was underrated as 007, and that’s a crime. I re-watched Live and Let Die not long after he passed away and it really is impressive how comfortable he is in the role right from the get go. There’s a lightness to his performance that feels natural, compare him to Lazenby who often seemed like a rabbit in headlights.

Of course it helps that even back in 1973 Sir Roger was a veteran. After some initial modelling and TV work he was signed by MGM to a seven year contract, and as such was in Hollywood during the the decline of the studio system. He wasn’t a success there and MGM released him after just two years.

It was after this that he found success on television, and Roger soon became a bona fide star of the small screen. Initially in the tv show Ivanhoe but—after some stints in American western shows—he took on the role that really made his name: Simon Templar; The Saint.

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He played the character created by Leslie Charteris for six seasons and over a hundred episodes, and if it wasn’t for a certain other role it’s possible The Saint would have always been what he was best known for but, after a couple of films and The Persuaders tv show which he co-starred with Tony Curtis, he was offered the part of Bond.

I haven’t watched nearly enough episodes of The Saint, an omission I plan to correct as soon as I find a tv channel showing it (and I also need to watch The Man Who Haunted Himself, widely regarded as Roger’s best acting role). For me though Sir Roger Moore is Bond, but it isn’t only Bond I love him for. During his tenure he made many other films, and amongst them are The Wild Geese, which I always cite as my second favourite war movie, and The Cannonball Run. Two polar opposite roles.

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As Shawn Fynn in The Wild Geese, he channels the light hearted, boyish bravado that served him well as Templar and Bond, yet with a slightly harder edge. In contrast in The Cannonball Run he was Seymour Goldfarb, a millionaire heir who so idolised Roger Moore that he had surgery to look like him! Never let it be said that Roger Moore ever hesitated to take the piss out of himself. Just one more reason to mourn his death.

By all accounts he was a joy to work with, professional and not at all up himself—I’ve read various reports that suggest he ate and drank with the crew on every film he was in, and there’s also this joyous anecdote that’s been doing the rounds since his death.

Finally we shouldn’t underestimate his charitable work with UNICEF, he’d been impressed by Audrey Hepburn’s work with the charity and he became a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF in 1991. He also did good work on behalf of PETA.

At the end of the day he likely wasn’t perfect, he was a human being after all and no one is without flaws, but it does strike me that, as human beings go, the world might be a slightly better place if we were all a bit more like Sir Roger Moore.

Farewell Sir, you’re gone but you’ll never be forgotten!

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With the announcement that Michelle Yeoh is going to play a recurring part in the new Trek series, Discovery, it got me thinking. Yeoh was, of course, a Bond girl, starring as Wai Lin opposite Pierce Brosnan in Tomorrow Never Dies, so I started to wonder who else counts as both a Bond and a Trek alumni?  The below isn’t intended to be a definitive list, but these were the ones that immediately sprang to mind. Feel free to add any I’ve missed in the comments!

**Warning there are a few spoilers for Bond and Trek here**

Of course, Yeoh might have been the main Bond girl in Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997, but she wasn’t the only one because starring as the doomed Paris Carver was Terri Hatcher, best known for Lois and Clark and Desperate Housewives but, earlier in her career, someone who popped up in the dreadful second season Next Gen episode The Outrageous Okona.

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As most everyone knows Paris Carver comes to a sticky end courtesy of Dr “I could shoot you from Stuttgart” Kaufman, a wonderful turn from talented character actor Vincent Schiavelli (also seen in Ghost, The X-Files and a ton of other stuff). Before he was a villainous doctor with a side-line in celebrity overdoses, however, he was an automated salesman in the The Arsenal of Freedom, a season one episode of TNG.

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Of course, neither Yeoh or Hatcher were the first Bond girls to have done Trek, because Goldeneye’s thigh-squeezingly good henchwoman Xenia Onatopp, Famke Janssen, also did Next Gen, playing an alien who romances Jean Luc Picard in what was only the former model’s second acting role; season five’s Perfect Mate.

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Clockwise from top left: With Connery, hunting Scaramanga, in prosthetics and finally showing up in the holosuite!

When it comes to who’s done the most Bond and Trek, the clear winner must be Marc Lawrence, renowned character actor who played a lot of Mafia gangster roles. He starred in both Diamonds are Forever and The Man with the Golden Gun on the Bond side of things, and in Trek he featured in the Next Generation 3rd season episode The Vengeance Factor, plus the hugely enjoyable DS9 7th season  episode Badda Bing Badda Ba as, you guessed it, a gangster!

 

 

The award for ‘ouch that’s a coincidence’ goes to another renowned character actor, Anthony Zerbe. He starred in Star Trek Insurrection in 1998 as Admiral Dougherty who comes to a sticky end courtesy of a face stretching machine, which is interesting given that almost a decade earlier in Licence to Kill he played Milton Krest who was killed in a decompression tank, a process that saw his face stretching yet again! Talk about typecasting!

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John Rhys-Davies (best known for the Lord of the Rings and Indiana Jones franchises) played charming Russian General Pushkin who, despite being KGB was an ally of 007 in 1987’s The Living Daylights. Flash forward ten years and he had a recurring role in Star Trek Voyager as a holographic recreation of Leonardo da Vinci.

 

Of course, not all Russian generals Bond encounters are so friendly. In 1983’s Octopussy General Orlov, played by the irascible Steven Berkoff, wanted to start World War Three. He went on to appear in the Deep Space Nine 5th season episode Business as Usual as a duplicitous arms dealer.orl

Like I said this isn’t supposed to be a definitive list, and I’ll be amazed if there weren’t others, but what’s clear is that Michelle Yeoh isn’t remotely the first person to cross the aisle between these two venerable franchises.

Of course we’ve never had a Bond himself do Trek, but you never know, if Daniel Craig hangs up his PPK and Tom Hardy gets the job this could change!

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Trigger Mortis

Posted: August 10, 2016 in Book reviews, James Bond
Tags: ,

By Anthony Horowitz

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It’s 1957, the dawn of the space race and just a few weeks after the events of Goldfinger. James Bond has returned to London with Pussy Galore in tow. He isn’t sure about their burgeoning relationship, and so when M assigns him a new mission Bond is grateful to get some space. He’s to take part in a motor race at the infamous Nürburgring track in Germany. MI6 fear SMERSH have plans to assassinate a famous British racing driver and it’s up to Bond to stop them. First he’ll need some coaching from a lady racing driver in handling the Maserati 250, and in preparing for the Nürburgring track which isn’t forgiving of novices.

Before Bond can get to Germany events with Pussy will reach a head, but even after he takes part in the race this will prove only the start of the adventure. Whilst observing the Russian team he will see a notable SMERSH general in conversation with a Korean businessman named Jai Seung Sin, whose name has been Americanised to Jason Sin. In investigating Jason Sin Bond will be led to America, to a rocket base and eventually to a diabolical scheme that threatens to cause huge destruction in New York. He’ll also meet a young woman named Jeopardy Lane, and he’ll discover just how cold, ruthless and evil Jason Sin is.

 

And so Anthony Horowitz, author of the Alex Rider young adult spy thrillers, as well as the man behind Foyle’s War on ITV, becomes the latest novelist to take on the mantle of Fleming. Horowitz’s novel might be the most Fleming like not to have been authored by Fleming, in part because a few hundred lines of text, and certain story elements came courtesy of an aborted TV show Fleming himself had been working on. Horowitz explains at the end roughly where Fleming’s prose kicks in, suffice to say that it’s nigh on impossible to see the join, which is testament to Horowitz’s aping of Fleming.

This is also a novel that feels more like Fleming due to its setting. This is, apparently, the first Bond novel to sit in the 1950s since Kingsley Amis wrote Colonel Sun. This also allows Horowitz to follow on immediately after a Fleming novel, and to bring back an iconic Bond girl, although to be honest this doesn’t really go anywhere, and one can’t help feeling that the involvement of Pussy was just for publicity’s sake, and perhaps even to add to some padding—but I’ll get on to the plot later.

Firstly as I’ve said Horowitz’s take on Fleming is top drawer. Horowitz writes a story that feels like Fleming, without having to rely on the mimicking of all too familiar tropes, ala Sebastian Faulks’ effort. The period setting negates any of the technical issues that plagued Jeffery Deaver’s present day take on the character (where Bond had an app for everything), and Horowitz’s 007 feels more at home in 1950s’ Germany and America than William Boyd’s did in 1970s’ Africa. In some ways Horowitz’s prose is a little too close to Fleming, in particular in how he writes the female and non-white characters; Horowitz walks a fine line but just about manages to write like Fleming without quite falling foul of mid twentieth century casual racism and sexism.

The plot, once we get there, is interesting, even if it does feel a little by the numbers, and it’s aided by Jason Sin who’s a nasty piece of work. Still the problem is how long it takes to get there. The first section of the book which involves Bond training to be a racing driver, whilst also resolving the Pussy Galore storyline, feels largely extraneous, and Horowitz loses points for replaying an iconic murder technique so blatantly.  Once the race at Nürburgring is out of the way the book picks up pace, and it’s nice to see Bond playing detective as he follows Sin’s trail. Jeopardy Lane is far from just being a damsel in distress, and saves Bond’s bacon several times, yet she still never quite manages to stand out from the Bond girl crowd, and her name seems a little too on the nose, much like the book’s pulpish title, one can’t help thinking Fleming might have come up with something a little better.

It’s a good book though, with a slightly too familiar plot outweighed by Horowitz’s way with prose, his portrayal of Bond as someone not quite as bad as the villains, and for subjecting Bond to something I don’t think we’ve ever seen before which, given it’s a fear of my own, worked a little too well.

Not perfect but for my money the best of the four most recent Bond entries. Given they’ve yet to reuse an author I wonder who we’ll get next?

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And so here we are, the final part of my review of Bond pre-title sequence. Parts one and two are still available.

Four men have been Bond; Connery, Lazenby, Moore and Dalton, but now it’s time for two more men to take up the mantle, but how will there pre-title sequences measure up?

We shall see…

And once again, at the risk of staring the bleeding obvious, these reviews will include spoilers!

 

Goldeneye (1995)

Duration approx. 9:29

Relevance to the film: Plenty, it introduces us to Colonel Ourumov and the duplicitous 006.

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You know, James, I think Winter might be coming.

A man dressed in black combat gear runs along the top of a very high dam. He reaches the midway point and clips one end of a coil of rope to the wall, the other he attaches to his ankle. He stands on the edge of the wall, pauses a moment, then takes a swan dive off the dam.

He bungee jumps down some distance. When he reaches the end of his tether he draws a grappling gun and, before he can be hauled back up again, he fires a piton into the roof of a building below and reels himself in. The caption indicates this is a chemical weapons facility inside the Soviet Union.

He uses a laser to cut a way in, so far all we see is his steely gaze. Inside the building we focus on a bathroom. One man leaves whilst another sits in a cubicle and begins to read the paper. The man in black is in the crawlspace above and silently lifts the ventilation shaft cover. Down below the man on the toilet suddenly senses something, he peers round his newspaper and finds a man hanging upside down in front of him. “Sorry,” says Bond. “I forgot to knock,” and then punches the hapless Russian out.

Silenced pistol in hand Bond exits the bathroom and makes his way to a storage room. Inside he is suddenly accosted by a shadowy man with a gun speaking Russian. Bond assures the man he is alone, and the man steps out of the shadow. Suddenly it appears he’s as English as 007, and we quickly learn he is in fact 006.

The two double O agents work their way through the facility. Along the way 006 shoots a scientist. Finally they break into a large area full of huge chemical tanks and pile upon pile of smaller containers for the chemical weapons to be transferred into. Bond suggests it’s too easy, and when 006 tries to relock the door alarms sound proving 007 correct.

The two men split up to plant explosives against the tanks. A couple of guards break in and 006 coldly despatches them, now he and Bond each have a Kalashnikov. Further troops arrive, led by Colonel Ourumov. They force their way inside and a gun battle ensues. When a second door is blown open Bond calls out to 006, but gets no response. When he looks out he finds his comrade on his knees, surrounded by armed Russians, with Ourumov holding a gun to his head. The Colonel demands Bond comes out. 007 complies but not before resetting the timers for 3 minutes instead of six. As he goes to surrender himself Ourumov shoots 006.

Bond dashes back into cover. Grabbing a wheeled metal cage full of smaller tanks he uses it as cover to get across the loading bay. Ourumov orders his men not to shoot, lest they pierce the gas canisters. One man is nervous enough to loose a burst of gunfire at Bond however, and the Russian blithely shoots him.

When Bond can go no further Ourumov thinks he’s trapped, but Bond has a plan, he starts the conveyer belt running and dives onto it, shooting the bolts holding rack upon rack of empty barrels in place above. He’s on his way out while the Russians find themselves under a metallic avalanche!

The conveyer drops Bond outside. There’s a clifftop runway and a light aircraft is preparing to take-off. With more armed guards coming, and with armed motorcycles in pursuit, Bond races after the plane. He gets in and struggles with the pilot, causing both of them to fall out. The pilot is hit by one of the pursing motorbikes, and its rider is thrown off.

Grabbing up the bike Bond races after the pilotless plane.  Ourumov and his men are outside now. They watch in disbelief as the plane careens off the runway and starts dropping towards the bottom of the mountain range, but rather than stopping Bond drives off the cliff edge as well! He dives down and gets into the plane, gaining control before it crashes, and as he flies over the Soviet facility it explodes as his charges go off.

 

And so, after the longest gap between Bond films, 007 is back with yet another new face and, it would seem, a new attitude. There was a lot of talk, prior to Goldeneye, as to whether James Bond had had his day; could he compete against the modern brand of high octane action films such as True Lies. Goldeneye would prove that Bond was very much still in the game, in fact even the pre-title sequence proves that there’s nothing Arnie and co could do that 007 couldn’t match. This was also the first Bond film since the end of the Cold War, which again had led some to wonder whether Bond could go on.

Replete with action aplenty, pithy comments and amazing stunts, this is a truly great opening section that lays much of the groundwork for the film that follows, and also gives up perhaps one of the better insights we’ll get into how a new actor will play Bond.

It’s clear from the off that Brosnan will tread a line between the two men who preceded him, marrying the grit of Dalton with the flippancy of Moore. Whether you think he’s a better Bond than either of them (and I don’t, though I like him a lot) you can’t deny that he knows how to make an entrance.

The dam bungee jump is ostentatious to say the least (I like to imagine 006 just wandered in dressed as a milkman or something) but our first proper glimpse of the new Bond sees him upside down, and he gets to make a pithy comment before any action commences.

The 00 Agents infiltration of the base is wonderfully done, and Sean Beam compliments Brosnan effortlessly. As a slight aside you have to remember this was a pre-internet age, so I actually didn’t realise Trevelyan was the bad guy until he appears in the statue graveyard. Perhaps I was naïve, but I can’t imagine such a twist working as well today.

The scene inside the factory is tense, especially once 006 has been “shot” and Bond’s method of escape is, of course ludicrous, but believably so.

If there is a problem it’s with the plane sequence, but as I’ve said before I don’t watch Bond films for the accurate portrayal of physics. You do have to wonder at 006’s plan as well, was he always planning on betraying Bond, and if so why not just shoot him the first time he sees him? Or did 006 turn after Ourumov only pretended to shoot him? Who knows? Do questions like this mar my enjoyment? Not really. Few Bond pre-title sequences have married humour and action so well, and this is perhaps the best debut sequence a Bond ever got…but we shall have to see about that. Anyway 10/10 for me.

 

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Duration approx. 8:35

Relevance to the film: We catch our first sight of Henry Gupta and, perhaps more importantly, the missing GPS encoder.

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Just doing his job

There’s a terrorist arms bazaar on the Russian border, but have no fear because it’s being observed. A camera is sweeping the area and transmitting back to MI6 where M is watching, along with her chief of Staff Charles Robinson, British naval Admiral Roebuck and a Russian general.

Robinson catalogues some nasty sounding weapons, before identifying a Japanese terrorist and an American anarchist named Henry Gupta, who seems to have an American GPS encoder. The Russian general is reluctant to commit his troops so Admiral Roebuck orders a naval strike, even though M says her man isn’t finished yet. The HMS Chester launches a cruise missile and Roebuck orders M to get her man out of there. (You’ll never guess who her man is!)

Robinson orders White Knight out but he’s having none of it and all becomes clear when a jeep moves from in front of a plane revealing nuclear torpedoes. Roebuck tries to abort the cruise missile but it’s out of range (which is a trifle worrying given Chester only launched it 30 seconds ago) and so now the worry is that, even if it doesn’t detonate the nukes, it will spread radiation.

Meanwhile back at the arms bazaar a guard is trying to light a fag, someone helpfully gives him a light, then punches him out (mixed signals there). “Filthy habit,” quips Bond before knocking a second guard out and taking his gun.

Bond throws a grenade and by the time it explodes, taking out a pile of oil drums, he’s hanging onto the back of a truck. He leaves another grenade fixed to the truck and jumps off before it can explode. Meanwhile the whole arms bazaar is, well, up in arms. Everyone’s shooting though they’re not sure what at. Bond makes it to the plane and knocks out the co-pilot before taking the front seat. He uses the plane’s cannons and rockets to create more chaos then takes off, narrowly avoiding hitting a second fighter that takes off in pursuit.

Before he can worry about another plane, however, 007 had danger closer at hand, the co-pilot has regained consciousness and tries to throttle him with some wire. As he battles to keep from being choked, Bond has to fly the plane using only his knees, performing some unconventional manoeuvres to avoid enemy missiles.

The second plane has to take some evasive action as well to avoid hitting a mountain and for a moment the pilot has lost sight of Bond, probably because Bond is now underneath him. With no other option 007 manages to hit the ejector seat for the co-pilot and he’s fired into the air, right into the back seat of the plane above. Needless to say this isn’t healthy and the plane explodes.

“Back seat driver,” says Bond (as you would) before checking in with MI6 and asking M where the admiral would like the nukes dropping off.

And so after a big gap between Licence to Kill and Goldeneye the franchise reverts to the more familiar two year spacing and Brosnan returns with a pre-title sequence that ups the action quotient even more, and probably contains more explosions per minute than any other sequence before it!

It’s a fab little action film helped in no small part by a great score from David Arnold that places the 007 theme front and centre. At first Bond is merely an observer, his mission was just to get a camera into place, enabling those back home to make the decisions. In an era before the concept of drone strikes, and with even TV guided missiles not being that widely touted, there’s some intriguing foreshadowing going on here (especially given this could be Afghanistan for all we know).

There’s some lovely interplay between M and Roebuck (made all the sweeter for those who watched Dench and Geoffrey Palmer play lovers for many years in the sitcom As Time Goes By) and it’s clear that the Admiral has little time for spooks. This isn’t about Bond as a blunt instrument, or even as a precision scalpel, this is about the military use of shock and awe, irrespective of the outcome (again strangely prescient).

We don’t even see Bond for several minutes but, as with Goldeneye, Brosnan makes an entrance by punching something then joking about it. His one man army charge into the heart of the bazaar is nicely done, and, to an extent, believable given the chaos he creates. The fighter planes are a nice touch (though even now it annoys me that the filmmakers don’t get their weapons remotely right, and aren’t those nuclear torpedoes just fuel tanks?) and it isn’t the first time Bond’s flown a jet—heck the man flew a space shuttle once don’t forget.

The aerial scenes are nicely done, although the superimposed explosion of the missiles is a bit shoddy, and I suppose an ejector seat punching through the bottom of another plane might cause it to explode. It’s action packed and funny, and as with Goldeneye the slightly longer running time gives Bond a little more room to breathe, allowing Brosnan to be both ruthless and witty, and frankly Roebuck and M’s interchange is worth the price of admission alone. “What’s Bond doing?” “His job!”

I suppose It’s a bit of shame that in just one film M has become so fond of 007, but her (and Colin Salmon’s) involvement only adds to this sequence. Overall it’s very, very good…and yet…watching it this time I couldn’t help noticing just how many explosions there were, and it’s an odd quibble to have, but I do wonder sometimes if Bond shouldn’t quite ever be so action orientated? At the end of the day he’s a spy, an assassin, a finely honed killing machine, but maybe not a one man army. I’m being picky I know, but this does do enough for me to mark this down a smidgen. 9/10

 

The World is Not Enough (1999)

Duration approx. 13:16

Relevance to the film: The murder of Robert King and the attack on MI6 pretty much set up the film, and we also get Bond injuring his shoulder, an injury referenced throughout the film.

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What the hell was Q planning to fish for in this?

In Bilbao Bond visits a Swiss banker to retrieve money that was paid for a stolen report. 007 has to hand over his gun yet still seems bullish when he demands to know who had stolen the report. The banker says he couldn’t possibly reveal that information and advises that Bond should consider himself fortunate to walk out of there alive. Bond suggests he was about to say the same thing. The banker advises that Bond’s position isn’t strong, he is unarmed and there are several armed guards in the room.

Luckily Bond has some hidden assets, namely a stun grenade built into his gun which he triggers by pressing a button on his glasses. He knocks out several guards and shoots another, then holds the banker at gunpoint, demanding to know who stole the report. Before the banker can give the person up he is killed by a throwing knife, courtesy of his secretary. Bond goes after her but the police are already heading up the stairs. He locks the door and prepares to abseil out of the window, fastening one end of the ties from the blinds to an unconscious guard and the other to himself. Before he can make his escape one of the guards recovers and grabs a gun. He has 007 bang to rights but before he can kill Bond he is shot by a sniper. Bond throws himself out of the window. The guard he’s tied to tries to hold onto a table but the leg comes away in his hand and Bond touches down before walking away unharmed.

And cue…oh no, wait there’s more…

Back at MI6 Bond briefly flirts with Moneypenny before going in to see M, who has her old friend Robert King with her. It was King who’d bought the stolen report, and King’s money that Bond had retrieved. King heads off to reclaim his money, leaving Bond and M to enjoy a drink together. When Bond picks up some ice cubes however he notices a chemical reaction on his fingers and realises that the money is booby-trapped. He goes after King but is too late, King’s lapel pin detonates the money, killing him and blowing a hole in the side of the building.

Bond looks out of the hole and spots a speedboat on the Thames. The occupant has a gun and tries to kill Bond but he spots the laser sight and ducks out of the way just in time. Thwarted the assassin—who also happens to be the secretary from Bilbao—makes her escape.

She’s reckoned without an oh-so convenient Q boat that Bond uses to pursue her. As he chases her down the Thames she uses a heavy machine gun and then a grenade launcher to try and take Bond out, but the little Q boat is too agile and he stays on her tail, at one point smashing the machine gun from the back of the boat. When she makes it under a rapidly descending bridge Bond makes the little boat dive under water in order to make it under the bridge, and when he’s cut off from following her he takes a diversion by using the boat’s jet engines to leave the water and scrape his way along a road, before smashing though a restaurant and back onto the Thames close to the Millennium Dome and just in time to catch up with the assassin.

Bond launches torpedoes and the assassin beaches her boat and leaps from it just before they hit. Commandeering a hot air balloon she rises into the sky, but Bond isn’t about to give up, he leaps from the Q boat and grabs hold of one of the ropes dangling from the basket. The assassin tries to shoot him but when police helicopters show up she knows the game is up. Bond tries to convince her to give up, and says he can protect her. “Not from him,” she says and shoots the balloon’s fuel tanks. Bond falls clear as the balloon explodes. He hits the dome and rolls down it, only stopping himself by slamming painfully into some ropes.

Ok now cue music.

It’s interesting given that the pre-title sequences to Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies were the longest in the series before this point, yet in TWINE (Sorry I’m not going to keep typing that title out) we have a sequence that’s half as long again as either of them!

I’ll be honest, TWINE isn’t a particular favourite film of mine, I had issues with it from the first time I saw it and many of those issues started in the pre-title sequence. But I’ll come on to these later. What’s surprising is that this time I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would. There’s some nice stuff going on here, it’s just a very atypical pre-title sequence because it almost feels like two stuck together with a small framing scene linking them, and so you don’t get that crescendo leading into the titles, or rather you do, but only after another rise and fall before it.

I do wonder if, originally, the sequence wasn’t supposed to end with Bond walking over the bridge in Bilbao? Maybe the producers felt that was a trifle tame. It’s a shame if this was the case as I actually think the Bilbao scenes are nicely handled. There’s some biting dialogue about Swiss bankers, Bond is amusing yet coldly ruthless and we even have him on the verge of dying until rescued by that mysterious sniper. Really I don’t see why it couldn’t end there.

But by adding in the London bits it becomes a very long pre-title sequence, and matters aren’t helped by the fact that we have to get the scenes with Bond, Moneypenny, M and Q which slow things down they’re fine scenes, and it’s always nice to see Brosnan and Samantha Bond bantering, but not in the bloody pre-title sequence!

We then get the chase down the Thames, which is where I have further problems. First off let’s talk about what’s good. The little Q boat is fab, following on from such iconic vehicles as the Acrostar and Little Nellie, and the location shooting is good. For a series about a British secret agent Bond has actually spent little time in the UK, so it’s nice to see him on home turf for a change. The chase does go on a bit though, and do we really need to see him adjusting his tie underwater? It’s just a call-back to a much cooler moment in Goldeneye on the tank really. I’m not sure about the logic of featuring the clamper guys from a fly on the wall documentary series that was on telly at the time—although I guess the fact they’re clampers means it’s fun seeing them drenched even if you don’t know they’re famous clampers—and in addition the bits where Bond leaves the water to drive along the road seems a trifle silly (I know, I know, it’s Bond) especially when he seems able to steer!

Really though my problems come from the logic of the situation. You’re Renard, and you’ve come up with an ingenious (and exceptionally convoluted) plan to kill Robert King, to effectively have King kill himself. Now I can see that if you’ve gone to that much trouble you might want a backup plan, but really; a beautiful woman sitting on an obviously heavily armed boat anchored right next to MI6 headquarters and NO ONE notices? Suspension of disbelief is a prerequisite for being a Bond fan but I’ve always found this ridiculous and exceptionally contrived, especially once you factor in how handy it is that Q has a little boat he was working on nearby.

As a final point there’s Cigar Girl’s suicide. I often find the logic of situations whereby a character kills themselves because they’re so afraid of the villain a trifle counterintuitive. Oh sure I get that a quick death might be preferable to prolonged torture but there’s no indication that Renard would have the ability to retrieve Cigar Girl, and it’s especially ridiculous when we subsequently get to see that Renard, whilst dangerous, is hardly some kind of Machiavellian mastermind so when Bond says he could keep her safe, I actually think there’s a fair chance he could.

So, some nice stuff but it’s too long, tonally too uneven, and far too illogical for me. 7/10

 

Die Another Day (2002)

Duration approx. 12:23

Relevance to the film: We meet Colonel Moon, the villain of the piece, although he’ll look very different the next time we see him. We meet Zao and witness the explosion that will give him his sparkling personality, and we get hints that there may be a mole within MI6. Finally we see Bond captured and witness the beginning of his torture/captivity.

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Rare footage of the N Korean version of Zoolander

We open on the North Korean shoreline, and three darkened figures are using the surging tidal waters to surf onto the beach (presumably to avoid detection but it seems a ridiculous and convoluted way to infiltrate enemy territory).

After sneaking ashore the three men remove their masks to revel Bond and two Korean agents. Bond is dressed in civilian clothing but his comrades wear the uniform of North Korean soldiers. Moving inland one of the men cuts the power to a beacon, in its place Bond substitutes one of his own. High above a North Korean helicopter carrying a western civilian changes course towards the new beacon. When it lands the man on-board is surprised to find Bond, dressed exactly like him (which must have taken some planning) he takes the man’s briefcase away from him at gunpoint, then takes his sunglasses for good measure (fun fact, Van Buren’s sunnies are in fact Brosnan’s own!)  Once aboard the helicopter Bond opens the briefcase to reveal a cache of diamonds. He plants C4 explosives under the tray of diamonds.

Meanwhile at the headquarters of Colonel Moon, the aforementioned officer is exercising by kicking seven bells out of a punch bag. When he’s done he orders it opened to reveal an unfortunate North Korean, who apparently had been Moon’s anger therapist!

The helicopter lands and Bond is greeted by Moons associate Zao, who surreptitiously takes a photo of Bond. Moon arrives and asks to see the diamonds. Bond asks to see the weapons and a groups of hovercraft arrive, Moon explains that he’s hiding the weapons in the Demilitarised Zone, and that his hovercraft float over the mines there (point of fact apparently this wouldn’t work but, you know, Bond film!). Bond hands over the diamonds.

Zao calls Moon over and advises that Van Buren is actually Bond. Moon feigns friendliness and shows off his new tank-buster rifle to Bond, then uses it to destroy the helicopter and, presumably, kill Bond’s associates. At that moment his father, the General, calls on the radio and advises he’s arriving shortly. Moon orders the hovercraft to return to the DMZ, and orders Bond killed.

007 is shoved to one side but before he can be shot he detonates the C4, creating a diversion that he uses to commandeer one of the hovercraft. He heads after Moon who is on the main craft and a chase ensues that sees Bond take out two smaller hovercraft before finding himself mano a mano with Moon atop the biggest hovercraft. Moon tries to shoot Bond but 007 uses a bullet proof vest to avoid death, then dives out of the way when Moon uses a flamethrower. Finally Bond makes it to the controls and throttles the hovercraft to maximum, the giant fan engine sucks Moon to it and Bond then leaps to safety before the hovercraft, and Moon, go off the edge of a cliff.

Bond survives by hanging onto a bell, when he drops to the ground he can’t resist a “saved by the bell” joke, but the amusement ends soon after when the General and his men turn up, Bond is taken away and we see the beginning of his 14 months of torture…

 

This one posed a bit of a dilemma. I usually cut a pre-title sequence off when the sequence ends and the titles begin, but technically this one kinda carries on through the titles as we see Bond’s incarceration. There may be an argument for it being the longest pre-title sequence in history but really I think it ends when the music starts.

So, after the long winded and all over the place sequence from TWINE we’re back on familiar territory this time (albeit with the twist at the end). Bond’s on a mission infiltrating enemy territory when, as so often happens, things go tits up.

I said in my review of AVTAK that Bond and surfing don’t quite go together, and whilst the sequence here does at least appear to feature real surfing (unlike Brosnan’s CGI surfnotsotastic bit later) it still seems a trifle odd. I think there are certain things that Bond shouldn’t do; roller skate for example, or wear a tracksuit(if you’re my friend Kay) and surfing just doesn’t seem like something Bond would be good out, let’s face it he’s about as far away from the surfer dude as one could imagine.

England substitutes ok for North Korea (I imagine) and the switch with the helicopter is well handled, even if the fact Bond is dressed exactly like Van Buren is actually a little jarring. Moon has a nice introduction, and much as I love Toby Stephens as Graves it is a shame we don’t see more of Will Yun Lee who does a good job here in a short space of time. We see Moon be ruthless, yet also charming and, when he realises his dad’s on the way in, segue into naughty schoolboy mode! Rick Yune is also good as Zao.

Once he’s outed as a British agent there’s a nice scene, just before he’s about to be shot, where 007 scans the vicinity, clearly weighing up his options before he blows the briefcase. The resultant chaos and hovercraft chase are deftly handled and exciting. But…

It feels a little too much like Tomorrow Never Dies lite, and the same concerns I expressed there are magnified a little. Explosions are no substitute for drama, and this is probably more tense when Bond and Moon are just talking, and once it’s down to Bond’s hovercraft and Moon’s the chase gets a little stale as Moon just uses one gun after another (which seems far too similar to cigar girl in the TWINE boat chase).

The eventual fight atop the hovercraft is good though, there’s excellent use of the Bond theme when 007 gets the upper hand, and Brosnan does at least have the decency to look slightly embarrassed when making the saved by the bell joke, which just makes the moment even cooler, and you can’t ignore the originality of having a pre-title sequence where Bond gets captured.

There’s the usual plot holes (how the hell does Moon survive that fall? What was Bond’s extraction plan and who did he expect to get with the bomb given that the plan was clearly to detonate it after he’d departed) but there always are. It has its flaws, and it feels a little repetitious of previous Brosnan sequences, but there’s still enough good stuff here that it just sneaks an 8/10 from me.

 

Casino Royale (2006)

Duration approx. 3:04

Relevance to the film: None, aside from showing that Bond is a brand new 00 agent.

 

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Ere, Mavis, there’s something wrong with the colour on this DVD!

Night time in Prague and a man arrives at a deserted office building. He takes the lift and heads to his office. When he enters however he notices that his safe is open. A voice from the other side of the room advises that whilst M doesn’t mind him earning some money on the side she’d rather it wasn’t selling secrets.

The man, Dryden the Czech Section Chief, seems unperturbed. He turns and we see the owner of the voice, James Bond, who Dryden doesn’t seem remotely scared of. He sits down, opening his desk drawer to reveal a gun, and advises that if M was that concerned she’d have sent a 00. He’s seen Bond’s file, which shows no kills and it takes…

“Two,” says Bond. Flashback to a brutal fight between Bond and another man in a bathroom.

Back in the present Dryden pulls his gun. He says it’s a pity because he barely got to know Bond. He pulls the trigger and the gun clicks empty. Bond holds up the magazine. “At least I know where you keep your gun,” he advises. Dryden asks how his contact died. “Not well,” says Bond.

We flashback again to the fight in the bathroom which hasn’t got any less brutal as the two men smash through cubicle walls and destroy basins and mirrors with their guns and various body parts. Eventually Bond shoves the other man’s head under water in a basin until he stops struggling. He eventually lets go and stands back, contemplating what he’s just done.

“Made you feel it did he?” says Dryden. “You needn’t worry, the second is…”

Bond shoots him.

“Yes, considerably,” he says nonchalantly.

And we flash back to the bathroom for the final time. Bond picks up his gun, at which point the other man suddenly springs up with his own gun. Bond turns on his heels and shoots, we see him through a gun barrel and then blood drips down the picture. James Bond is now a 00 agent.

Where to start? With the arrival of a new Bond came a new, gritty ethos. No gadgets, no puns, no bad guys with hollowed out volcanos. It was, in hindsight, a risky strategy. For all that Die Another Day had been derided it had done well at the box-office. So it was essential that this film hit the ground running.

And boy does it ever.

Almost everything about this pre-title sequence is at odds with what we’ve seen before. There’s no gun barrel at the start, it’s in black and white, Bond isn’t even a 00 agent yet, and yet for all of this it’s a return to the kind of pre-title sequence we haven’t seen for a while; it’s short, it’s brutal and it’s quite intimate. There’s something altogether 1960s about it.

The choice to film in grainy black and white helps make it evocative, as does the shooting style, lots of skewed angles, it’s like nowt you’ve seen before and yet it is clearly a Bond pre-title sequence. The fight is probably one of the most brutal in the franchise, and showcases Daniel Craig’s animalistic physicality to the fore. The scenes with Dryden are even more personal and highlight how cold blooded Craig’s Bond can be. Killing a man in the heat of a fight is one thing, coolly popping him mid conversation is quite another, note the brief glimpse of a family photo as Dryden falls. This isn’t some moustache twiling villain, this is a man with a wife and children.

Bond’s “Considerably” is, let’s be honest, as amusing as any “Shocking” “Saved by the bell” or “What a helpful chap” but it’s gallows humour perfectly tailored to Craig (how I wish Dalton had been as well served).

And then there’s the piste de resistance, the guy in the bathroom not being dead, and Bond turning and shooting him through the gun barrel with the shift to colour as the blood drips down. Stylish, original, brutal, calculating and darkly amusing. 10/10

 

Quantum of Solace (2008)

Duration approx. 3:30

Relevance to the film: A fair bit. Following straight on from Casino Royale it sees Bond delivering Mr White to his MI6 colleagues.

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Good job there’s no Q in this film. He would not be happy!

On a mountainous road in Italy an Aston Martin is being pursued by two Alfa Romeos full of men with automatic weapons. The Aston is, of course, being driven by Bond. Driving through a tunnel he has his driver’s side door ripped off by an out of control lorry. Coming out of the tunnel he maneuverers between two other lorries. One of the perusing cars deftly follows but the other crashes headfirst into one of the lorries.

With the road ahead blocked by traffic Bond takes a detour. The bad guys follow, as does the Italian police. The road Bond’s taken leads to a quarry. AS the bad guys continue to shoot at the Aston, they are in turn fired upon by the police. Unfortunately the Carabinieri are outgunned, their Land Rover is riddled with bullets and crashes.

The men in the Alfa continue to track 007. Drawing level they shoot up the car some more. Bond struggles to reach his own automatic rifle on the passenger seat, but when they come across a mechanical digger in the middle of the road up ahead, both vehicles swerve round it. By the time they clear the digger Bond’s got his gun, he shoots the driver of the other car and it goes off the cliff.

Bond drives to Siena where garage doors open to reveal a long tunnel. Bond parks up at the end and opens the boot of the Aston, revealing a very groggy looking Mr White. “It’s time to get out,” says Bond.

In Moonraker Drax talked about unloved seasons, and there are some Bond pictures that are unloved films, and QoS will be in a lot of people’s lists. Me, I actually kinda like it, in a raw, unfinished kind of way. The initial script of the film was only just finished before the Hollywood writers’ strike, and as a result only Daniel Craig and director Marc Forster were allowed to make any changes to the script which in part accounts for the film’s rough and ready feel, and this feel is evident from the off.

First a little bit of history in the making. QoS isn’t the first film to not begin with the gun barrel sequence, but it is the first film not to feature it at all before the main credits (as Casino Royale just had it at the end of the pre-title sequence). In QoS it won’t be seen until the end of the film, and we will have to wait until 2015 and Spectre before it returns to its rightful place.

It would be wrong of me to say this is a rubbish sequence, it has its moments but over all its poor. For starters the camera work adheres to the Jason Bourne school of keep it shaky, meaning it’s hard at times to see what’s going on. The sequence has grown on me a little with time, but in the cinema I hated it.

The idea of following on immediately from Casino Royale is a novel one (you can argue Diamonds are Forever did this first, but given we had different Bonds and an indeterminate amount of time between the end of OHMSS and Diamonds it’s not clear just how closely it follows on behind.) but we’re never quite sure why Bond is being chased. Were these armed men down the road from Mr White’s villa? Did he manage to get some kind of alert off before Bond snagged him?

The stunt work is good, and the quarry scenes wonderfully grimy, but Bond triumph is less down to skill than sheer luck and there’s always something a little disappointing when the bad guys fire off hundreds of bullets and can’t kill the good guy, yet all he needs are a few to take them down.

The tracking show of Siena is lovely, and the drive down the tunnel quite evocative, but the whole thing ends with a damp squib. Daniel Craig, like Dalton, can be funny, a different kind of humour to Moore or Brosnan to be sure, but give him good material and he can shine, so it’s disappointing that they could come up with nothing better than “It’s time to get out.”

It’s a limp end to a fairly generic sequence. Maybe I’m being too generous but I give this 6/10

Skyfall (2012)

Duration approx. 12:19

Relevance to the film: Introduces Moneypenny, Patrice and the missing disk drive full of NATO agent details and shows Bond shot and presumed killed.

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Bond was a little annoyed that someone had nabbed his reserved seat

In Istanbul Bond enters an apartment to find the aftermath of a gun battle. At least one man is dead and another MI6 agent is badly wounded. Bond is in contact with MI6 HQ and M asks if the disk is missing. There’s a broken laptop on the table and Bond confirms that its disc drive is missing. He begins rendering medical aid to the downed agent but M insists that he gets after whoever took the disc. Leaving the agent bleeding to death Bond complies.

Out in the street he’s picked up in a Land Rover by another agent, and given it’s hardly a secret anymore I’m going to call her Moneypenny. She advises that whoever took the disc is in an Audi up ahead.

The bad guy, who we’ll eventually learn is Patrice, spots them following and a car chase ensues through the streets of Istanbul. The Land Rover loses both its wing mirrors, and when it pulls up alongside the Audi Bond grabs the wheel and slams the Land Rover into the side of the car, forcing it to crash. Bu this point police motorcyclists are in pursuit.

Patrice emerges from the car firing, and takes down several police officers with his machine pistil before taking a police motorcycle and heading off. Bond jumps on a convenient bike and gives chase. Moneypenny follows in the Land Rover.

When Patrice’s exit is blocked off he takes his bike up a flight of stairs and Bond follows. Eventually they both end up on the roof of the Grand Bazaar—much to Tanner’s amazement back in London. Eventually they get back to ground level. By this point Moneypenny has got ahead of Patrice. As Patrice arrives on a railway bridge he has Moneypenny ahead of him and Bond behind so he dumps he bike and jumps off the bridge onto the roof of a passing train. Whilst Moneypenny tries to shoot him Bond rides his bike into the side of the bridge, catapulting himself onto the train.

Patrice is still armed, and continues to hold Bond off. When 007 runs out of ammo all seems lost, until he notes a mechanical digger being carried on the flatbed. He gets into the cab and turns it round so he can use the scoop as a shield. In the process he knocks off several VW Beetles also being couriered by the train, almost crashing them into Moneypenny who’s driving beside the train.

Bond is hit but presses home his advantage. Patrice has shot through the couplings, and Bond’s part of the train is going to fall away. He uses the scoop to smash through the roof of the passenger carriage up ahead, then clambers across the arm of the digger, using it as a makeshift bridge. He drops into the carriage just as flatbed pulls back, causing the digger to pull away from the train.

Patrice thinks he’s escaped but after the train emerges from a tunnel Bond launches himself at him and the two men struggle atop the moving train.

By this point Moneypenny has run out of road. She has a rifle but no clear shot because Bond and Patrice are too close together. With the train about to enter another tunnel she has time for only one shot, which M insists she takes.

She fires.

Bond is hit and falls from the train and into the surging river below. The train enters the tunnel with Patrice still very much alive atop it. In London M is in shock, she stares out of the window and it starts to rain.

Back in Turkey we watch as Bond’s body is washed downriver…

And Bond “dies” again in a pre-title sequence! To be fair I am minded to let them off this, because it’s a trick they haven’t pulled since the sixties, because this is supposed to be a film celebrating the franchise, and because Bond’s “death” and rebirth is such a central element to the film.

And after two fairly low key and in both cases short sequences we’re back in the territory of a long action packed opener (though still not quite as long as TWINE or DAD). We also come to our second film without the gun barrel featuring anywhere before or during the pre-title sequence. I’m not sure why this decision was made, especially given this was the 50th Anniversary Bond, but the sequence starts well and…well it starts well and just gets better and better.

I watched this one with a little trepidation because, whilst I’ve always liked it, I wondered if it would be too long, too full on and action packed for me watching it for the first time with my critical head on. But if anything that made me enjoy it more.

The idea of Bond being in communication with HQ is something we haven’t seen since Tomorrow Never Dies and this adds a delicious new element to the relationship between Craig’s Bond and Dench’s M. within the space of 12 minutes she orders Bond to leave a fellow agent to die, and then orders Moneypenny to take a shot she knows has as much chance as hitting Bond as hitting Patrice. That both of these orders make logical sense, given what is at stake, does not dent the impact of either and again this is a thread that will run through the film (especially given she also sacrificed Silva for the greater good back in ’97) and I wonder how many other pre-title sequences have resonated so much through the film that followed? OHMSS for sure, but maybe no other.

Daniel Craig is superb, I love his trademark disdain when he chucks his empty PPK away (oi, 007 that’s Government property!) and the fact that he just looks ever so slightly miffed when he takes a hit from a fragment of one of Patrice’s bullets.

Even though they’re not together very long there’s genuine chemistry between him and Naomie Harris as they banter over wing mirrors, and Harris is very good here (so good in fact that I do wonder if she’s wasted as Moneypenny and whether she oughtn’t have been just the Bond girl in this film and that was all, she’d have more impact and she is somewhat wasted in Spectre…but I digress) driving like a demon, blazing away and as dogged in her pursuit as Bond is.

Patrice is a so so villain, he has no lines so we never get any kind of feel for him beyond that he’s a hired killer, I always think it must be a shame for an actor to get that kind of role, but then again you also get to be in a Bond film and if they asked me to be the mute villain in the next pre-title sequence I wouldn’t refuse I can tell you!

Dench is wonderful, Rory Kinnear is wonderful, the stunt work is—as always— excellent, and the effects for the most part nicely done. Some of the superimposition of Craig atop the bike looks slightly dubious but I am being very picky here. Plot wise you have to wonder what’s going on and why Bond and Moneypenny weren’t on hand to defend the oh so secret disk drive, but again I’m being really picky and any flaws don’t stop me giving this 10/10

 

Spectre (2015)

Duration approx. 12.10

Relevance to the film: By killing Sciarra Bond becomes embroiled in Spectre’s scheme. The events in Mexico City will lead 007 to Rome and beyond.

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You would never guess Live and Let Die was Mendes’ fave Bond film…

In Mexico City it is the Day of the Dead and a huge carnival is taking place through the streets. As we watch a man dressed in white, wearing a skeletal mask, walks towards the camera. Suddenly we notice a man and a women off to one side, she in a dress wearing a half face mask, he wearing a suit marked with bones, his face covered by a skeletal mask (but we know who it is). We follow them as they enter a nearby hotel and take the elevator up to the third floor where they enter a room.

They remove their masks (and it’s Bond!) and kiss. The woman drapes herself on the bed, obviously expecting romance, but 007 has other things on his mind. He’s stripped away his costume and now has a gun slung over his shoulder. He tells her he won’t be long and then steps out onto the ledge.

We follow his progress as he moves from ledge to ledge, rooftop to rooftop, building to building, until he finds himself atop one building facing a certain room. His gun has a directional microphone attached and so he can hear the conversation going on across the street. Two men are discussing a terrorist attack on a stadium scheduled to occur later. One of the men is the man in white, Sciarra, who Bond was so interested in earlier.

Bond is about to shoot him when the other man notices 007. Bond shoots him first, then another armed thug in an adjoining room. By this point Sciarra has ducked out of sight so Bond shoots the briefcase detonating the explosives inside. As part of the opposing building collapses Bond just gets out of the way before it falls onto his rooftop. As the roof gives way he falls to a lower floor but then has to jump again as more rubble falls. Eventually he drops into a convenient sofa and heads outside.

Sciarra has survived and is now on the street. He and Bond spot each other and Sciarra runs, with Bond in pursuit. The Spectre assassin gets on his phone and requests an evac chopper, telling it to meet him in the square.

As the chopper lands amongst the throng celebrating Day of the Dead, Bond takes out another Spectre henchman before charging onto the helicopter where he begins to fight with both Sciarra and the pilot.

As the helicopter rises up Bond and Sciarra almost fall out, and continue to fight whilst hanging onto the side of the chopper. Below the crowds are screaming in panic as the helicopter performs some very unusual and dangerous manoeuvres up above. Eventually Bond rips the ring from Sciarra’s finger and kicks him out to his death. He manages to dispatch the pilot with equal aplomb and then gets control of the helicopter just in time to stop it plunging into the crowd.

As he flies over the city he examines the ring and notes the octopus logo….

And so we come to the final—for now—Bond pre-title sequence, and it is something of a doozy. I’m not sure if anyone has ever calculated how much each pre-title sequence cost to make, but if they ever do I imagine Spectre’s might rank quite highly, although who knows how much the Mexican Government might have provided in grants given this is a hell of a tourist advertisement!

However much it cost and whoever paid for it is immaterial. What matters is that it looks gorgeous. And then there’s that tracking shot, I’m not sure whether it is a single take but even if it’s not it looks fantastic as we spot Bond at the edge of the screen, then follow him and his lady up to their room, then follow him out onto the ledge.

If anything the small screen makes it look even better, because in the cinema it seemed more obvious that Daniel Craig wasn’t really hopping across rooftops above Mexico City, the sequence always looked good, but it might look even better on the TV.

However gorgeous it all looks however, you have to ask yourself if a film should ever shoot its bolt quite so early, because you could argue nothing in the rest of the film looks this good. You also have to take into account Bond’s flagrant disregard for civilians. I don’t know if he’s ever risked so many lives before now. First there’s him blowing up a building (and who knows how many innocents were inside—one only hopes they were outside at the carnival) and don’t tell me he doesn’t know the briefcase is full of explosives because why else shoot it? But then, even after this, he pursues Sciarra onto the helicopter and then proceeds to have a fight in the chopper as it hovers above a crowd—a huge crowd!—of people. Yes you can argue he saved the lives of everyone who would have been in the stadium later, but you can still see why M will be pissed off. Conceivably Bond could have killed hundreds of innocent people here, and I’m not sure you could point to any other sequence where he’s this reckless.

As a final point I should note that for the first, and perhaps only, time in Daniel Craig’s tenure, we get the gun barrel sequence back in its rightful place at the start of the pre title sequence. Thank goodness!

So in conclusion this sequence looks fantastic. The Day of the Dead setting is gorgeous, Bond’s skeletal mask is damn near iconic, and the cinematography is grand. On the downside is Bond’s recklessness and the fact that, in the end, this boils down to a few blokes having a fight in a helicopter and it does feel a little too similar to Skyfall. Add in how grand in scale it all is, which throws the rest of the film slightly out of whack, and I’m going to be, perhaps, unduly harsh and mark this down, but only by a bit. 9/10

 

And so that’s it. All that’s left to do is add in the last set of films to produce my final rankings! (Note I have rejigged this slightly as I think I messed up the original list!) As I said at the beginning, this is just my view, yours might, and probably will, differ, but it’s certainly been fun to watch them all in sequence, and I promise to update my master list once Bond #25 airs 🙂

 

  1. The Spy Who Loved Me
  2. Casino Royale
  3. Goldeneye
  4. Skyfall
  5. Goldfinger
  6. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  7. Tomorrow Never Dies
  8. The Living Daylights
  9. Spectre
  10. The Man with the Golden Gun
  11. Die Another Day
  12. Licence to Kill
  13. Moonraker
  14. The World is Not Enough
  15. You Only Live Twice
  16. Octopussy
  17. For Your Eyes Only
  18. Quantum of Solace
  19. Thunderball
  20. Diamonds are Forever
  21. Dr No
  22. From Russia with Love
  23. A View to a Kill
  24. Live and Let Die