Tag Archives: Judi Dench

A bearded James Bond is traded in Die Another Day.

In Defence of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade

A bearded James Bond is traded in Die Another Day.Anyone who’s been following Cult Britannia’s excellent re-appraisals of the James Bond movies in the run-up to Skyfall’s release may have noticed a continued criticism of one element of the recent films, one I’ve never noticed before. Regular screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade “don’t have the writing chops to deliver anything unique, original or interesting” and “have proved time and time again that they need better writers to polish their scripts”.

I feel for James Bond screenwriters. They’re rather like gay Republicans: people either think they don’t exist, or know and unfairly deride them. The biggest impediment for the next Tom Mankiewicz is that there’s a prominently credited writer atop every movie who’s unlikely to be replaced despite being dead for 48 years: Ian Fleming. According to Alan Barnes, Michael Apted asked, when signing on to The World is Not Enough (1999), “Which book is this based on?” My dad asked a similar question about Skyfall. This despite the fact that nearly every screenwriter since Jack Whittingham in 1959 has insisted that the man couldn’t write a screenplay if he tried.

While Fleming’s inexperience as a screenwriter has been overstated (the novels of Dr. No and Moonraker, to name but two, are far more cinematic than the films), it is true he had a slightly different conception of how his hero would work on screen than what we’ve subsequently grown to love. His version of the Thunderball screenplay (extracts are available in Robert Sellers’ fabulous unofficial book The Battle for Bond) has a grim, noir-ish tone, giving Bond no one-liners but instead voice-over narrations in the Philip Marlowe style. Had this Bond reached the screen (possibly played by Richard Burton), would the world-famous catchphrase be “Mondays are hell”, rather than “Bond, James Bond”?

When Purvis and Wade were hired, their reputation rested on Let Him Have It (1991), the harrowing true-life story of Derek Bentley.

It’s a powerful film, principally due to Christopher Eccleston’s moving central performance, but there’s not much ‘Bond’-ian one can tease out of it.

There’s a long road between this first faltering attempt (which ultimately begat Fleming’s 1961 novel Thunderball, two films, and a long and protracted court case) and Purvis and Wade’s 1999 screenplay for The World Is Not Enough, and through it many writers, usually led by series stalwart Richard Maibaum (who wrote a staggering thirteen Bond screenplays) honed and updated Bond for different decades and actors. But for the moment let’s focus on Purvis and Wade. When they were hired, their reputation rested on Let Him Have It (1991), the harrowing true-life story of Derek Bentley. It’s a powerful film, principally due to Christopher Eccleston’s moving central performance, but there’s not much ‘Bond’-ian one can tease out of it, leading me to imagine that it was a bit of a left-field, random brainwave from Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson.

The two previous Brosnan Bond films had been scripted by moderately-known writers—Goldeneye’s duo of Michael France and Jeffrey Caine had some acclaim for his Sylvester Stallone potboiler Cliffhanger (1993) and Dempsey and Makepeace (1986) respectively, while Bruce Feirstein coined that late-80s catchphrase with his book Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche (1982). In the kind of link that makes my brain ripe for future scientific study, I can’t help but note that James Bond makes a quiche in 1985’s A View to a Kill—this was, criminally, not addressed in Goldeneye or Tomorrow Never Dies, his other Bond credit.

But anyway, in 1999 the main focus seemed to be on reverting to Fleming. In an interview (quoted in James Chapman’s Licence to Thrill), Purvis and Wade opined that “some of the core Fleming elements … had been lost … We decided to delve deeper into Bond’s character and to make the new film a little bit Hitchcockian. After all, the screen Bond of the 1960s owed a lot to Hitchcock pictures like Foreign Correspondent and North by Northwest.” They specifically wanted to avoid “blasting at people with a machine gun as 007 did in Tomorrow Never Dies” (in the script, that is, though hopefully they don’t do that kind of thing in reality either). The result pays dividends, though this has rarely been acknowledged then or now.

Sophie Marceau as the insane Elektra King in The World Is Not EnoughA more involved character angle underpins some of Goldeneye (the Bond/Trevelyan betrayal subplot) and, less successfully, Tomorrow Never Dies (Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce) and his wife Paris (Teri Hatcher) have snatches of interesting back-story that never get explained or connect with anything). But The World is Not Enough goes farther than any Bond film in this direction, putting Bond in a hard-boiled world of duplicity and perversion that he seems saddened and bewildered by. He has proper feelings for Elektra King (Sophie Marceau), and she reciprocates in the finest ‘Bond girl’ performance since Diana Rigg. The nominal villain Renard (Robert Carlyle) adds another level to this through his self-loathing and inferiority complex to Bond—he tells ‘M’ that Elektra “is worth fifty of me”.

That both Renard and Bond care for, and are controlled by, Elektra is a fascinating undercurrent that is well explored in the story. Surprisingly, Elektra is the first female Bond villain (yes, I know there was Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) in From Russia With Love, but Bond wasn’t—what’s the best way to put this?—wasn’t that ‘into’ her), and her emotional detachment gives her a spiritual numbness that ties in well with Renard’s literal lack of feeling (thanks to a pesky bullet lodged in his skull).

This personal plot gives resonance to the larger-scale shenanigans—which are rather more plausible than previous 007 capers. Indeed, Elektra’s pipeline seems to have gained in potency in the oil-drenched decade since this film came out (similarly, Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp machinations suddenly makes Tomorrow Never Dies not so far-fetched anymore). Another (unrecognised at the time) innovation is the larger involvement of ‘M’ (Judi Dench), who here has a greater stake in the action and a personal connection with Elektra. Possibly cribbed from Kinglsey Amis’s 1968 Bond novel Colonel Sun, this is the most potent examination yet of the notion (discussed by Amis and Umberto Eco, among others) of ‘M’ as a parental figure for James Bond.

Most critics focus on Denise Richards’ dodgy Dr. Christmas Jones, which is fantastically pointless of them.

Yes, she’s miscast but it’s achingly apparent that the woman Bond actually cares about is that twisted world-conqueror (we’ve all been there).

Most critics focus on Denise Richards’ dodgy Dr. Christmas Jones, which is fantastically pointless of them. Yes, she’s miscast (someone like Kristin Scott Thomas was needed) but even Richards’ valley-girl unsuitability underscores, to me, the grand tragedy at this film’s core. Bond makes no real connection with Christmas; her character is so peripheral to the main emotional beats, it would be like criticising Goldfinger for mis-casting Felix Leiter. It’s achingly apparent, both in the script and in Brosnan’s excellent performance, that the woman he actually cares about is that twisted world-conqueror (we’ve all been there, mate). Has 007’s duty ever over-ridden his personality so movingly?

I could be here all day mentioning everything about this film I loved (side note: has Robbie Coltrane ever been more lovable than as Valentin Demetrivich Zukovsky?). But I simply have to mention this one scene: where Bond pleads with Elektra to abandon her plan, but she refuses, doubting that he would kill her because “you’d miss me”. When Bond shoots her, he kisses her—Brosnan here throws aside his usual charm and plumbs some downright creepy depths—and sighs, “I never miss”. Had the film ended with this masterful moment, rather than the confused submarine antics that follow it, mark my words it would be as universally admired as Goldfinger or On Her Majesty’s Secret Service or Casino Royale. Don’t believe me? Just ask Christopher Nolan, who clearly pilfered this strange triptych for The Dark Knight Rises.

As far as Die Another Day goes, I know I’m fighting swimming against some tidal waves of received wisdom. I’ll admit it has problems, but that it should regularly finish last in polls, instead of Moonraker or Quantum of Solace, just shows the power of singular annoying memories. Take out the invisible car, Madonna, and director Lee Tamahori’s leaden camera trickery, and you have a decent ‘back-to-basics’ Bond. The Cuban scenes hearken back to Dr. No’s location-filmed authenticity. Bond operating without official sanction always has great dramatic mileage, and Toby Stephens and Rosamund Pike make excellent villains (although Halle Berry’s Jinx is hopelessly cardboard-y—maybe it’s fair to say Purvis and Wade aren’t so great at writing the ‘good girl’ parts?). Even the Iceland sequences, though hampered by some CGI stunts (does anyone actually like CGI, for the record? We’re always told how great it is but all everyone does is complain about it), take Bond to some interesting new environments. And it’s not all high-tech: Bond’s duel with Gustav Graves, in the wood-panelled plushness of Blades (‘M’s club in Moonraker, you know) makes an agreeable contrast.

Daniel Craig as James Bond in SkyfallSo yes, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade achieved great things with Casino Royale and Skyfall later on, but that was all built on foundations they had laid with little celebration. Contrary to my estimable colleague Barnaby Eaton-Jones’s opinion, there is much that is original, unique and interesting in their writing, and I think the Bond world would be a poorer place without them.

Throughout Purvis and Wade’s scripts, I’m continually impressed by their attempts to push Bond, physically and psychologically. When he’s not stung with scorpions or having ‘one last screw’ in antique torture devices, he’s betrayed and given up. Worse, his reputation counts against him: “You’d think he was some kind of hero,” Michael Madsen sarcastically declares in Die Another Day. Maybe it doesn’t come off every time, but compared to the smug ossification of Bond of Christopher Wood’s late-1970s scripts (The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker), one can’t help but admire the attempt.

They understand one important thing: that for modern myths to escape self-parody, they need to be roughed up. Their Bond is “a flesh and blood man” first and a superhero second, and it’s about time they got their credit for helping make him so.

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Skyfall: Box Office Smash!

After just 40 days in cinemas, Skyfall‘s box office return has been recorded as making an immense £94.3 million in the UK, making this not only one of the best movies in the series but also the most successful – indeed, it is the most successful film in British box office history.

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Although a nice surprise, commentators and fans of the film have been hopeful of these figures; Skyfall had the second biggest opening weekend on record, taking £20.1 million and putting it only second to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

You are probably aware that Skyfall has received favourable reviews. The film is doing well internationally – it has just retaken the number one slot in the US – and it has even been tipped for an Oscar nomination. While Sam Mendes, Javier Bardem and Dame Judy Dench all have experience of this, the idea of a Bond movie winning an Academy Award remains as unlikely as seeing a former Bond singing ABBA songs with Meryl Streep.

But I digress; well done to everyone involved with Skyfall for making it not just a massive hit but also a damned good movie.

Quantum of Solace: Olyga Kurylenko and Daniel Craig as Camille Montes and James Bond

Bond at 50: Quantum of Solace

Daniel Craig returns as Bond in Quantum of SolaceWe continue our mission to review every James Bond film ever released…

When Quantum Of Solace was first released, myself and a friend (Ron Brunwin) were writing a 007 stage spoof which would premiere not long afterwards. We wanted a few topical and up-to-date gags about the film to include at the end of the play. So, we went to watch it, with my wife. The three of us. Ron and I with notepad and pens. My wife with the opinion that Casino Royale was a damned fine movie and not just because Daniel Craig looked fit in his swimming trunks.

My wife fell asleep halfway through.

So, what’s so bad about the sequel to Casino Royale, when the introduction of Daniel Craig seemed to silence all the naysayers and critics who had scoffed at his casting and at the decision to reboot the franchise?

“When you can’t tell your friends from your enemies, it’s time to go.”
Well, it seems that the Writer’s Strike, which affected Hollywood around the time the movie was about to go into production, meant that the film began without a finished script in place. That’s the official line in interviews nowadays about its failure to engage and satisfy an audience hungry for more 007. How true that is, is up for debate. A multi-million pound film going into production without a fully-formed script, when the locations and actors and sets have all been approved beforehand, seems a tad unlikely. Especially as the producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, are very hands-on and don’t seem to mind how much of a gap there is between movies as long as the movie is right.

Again, I’m sure some of the blame falls on the main writers, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. They have proved time and time again that they need better writers to polish their scripts. As the old saying goes, you can polish a turd to shine like a diamond but it’s still a turd.

Judi Dench reprises M in Quantum of SolaceHowever, a lot of the blame falls on Marc Foster, who directs the movie as if it’s an unofficial entry into the Jason Bourne universe (as portrayed by Matt Damon). Bond, in this movie, is nothing more than a man out of to get revenge and that means Daniel Craig eschews dialogue for lots of blank, emotionless looks into the middle-distance, as well as dumping a dying friend in a rubbish bin. I’m sure all of this was supposed to convey inner torment, emotional upheaval, and rugged lonesome mystery but it just makes Daniel Craig look like (a) he wishes he had told his Agent to turn down a sequel, (b) he is seriously constipated and very angry about it, and (c) that his desire to be compared to Steve McQueen lacks the necessary warmth, charm and screen presence to even be a shadow of the cinematic icon.

The best thing going for the film is the continued adherence to a deliberately retro look and feel, like it is an expensive homage to the early Sean Connery era of Bond. This was there in Casino Royale, it’s amplified in Quantum of Solace, and – just from watching the gorgeous trailer for October 2012’s release – it looks like it’s quadrupled in Skyfall, which one hopes will honour the 50th anniversary better than Die Another Day ‘honoured’ the 40th anniversary. Quantum of Solace has Dennis Gassner to thank for the stylish look and he does an amazing job of creating the world in which Bond goes about his personal mission of retribution for the death of Vesper Lynd (his love from the previous film). It also seems to share a lot of elements with Licence To Kill, in fact; which had Timothy Dalton as Bond, ‘doing’ Fleming’s Bond long before Daniel Craig had been championed as such.

Quantum Of Solace starts off with a frantic car chase, which has all the shaky camera-work and fast-paced cutting of the Bourne films. It’s muddled and lacks any real excitement.
Quantum Of Solace starts off with a frantic car chase, which has all the shaky camera-work and fast-paced cutting of the Bourne films. It’s muddled and lacks any real excitement. The fact that Bond isn’t hit by at least one of the machine gun bullets is nothing short of a miracle and he ends the chase by picking up his own machine gun and killing the chasing car’s driver with one short burst. I’m not suggesting that Bond should be based in reality but Casino Royale had tried to go for a more serious tone and this car chase is beyond silly.

The shadowy organisation behind the villain in Casino Royale, and creating a through line of a plot device in Quantum Of Solace, are a very pale imitation of SPECTRE (from the Connery era). Their objectives and motives seem muddled and small-fry, even though they are supposed to be the most amazing ‘undercover’ operation. It seems they like buying up oil fields in order to control the world’s economy. After the disappointment of this film, the producers appear to have put Quantum to bed in order to allow Skyfall to have a decent villain for Bond to battle. That seems to be a real problem with Quantum Of Solace, in that the central villain of the piece – Dominic Greene (as played by Mathieu Amalric) – is somewhat of a wet lettuce.

There is a speed and pace to the movie, though, with many chase scenes that are all adrenaline-filled and – all in all – everything rattles along at an amazing speed. But, it’s such a muddy story that it’s difficult to know how Bond ever gets anywhere (especially as he just kills everyone he comes across, rather than questioning them). Daniel Craig, whilst not the best actor in the world (he pouts more than Pierce Brosnan, which I didn’t think it was possible to do, and delivers lines too quickly and too off-hand), brings a brute physicality to the role, as well as his desire to be a silent statuesque loner, which showcases his considerable ability to be running, jumping and standing still as 007. He still doesn’t convince when he tries to be suave but as a thuggish assassin he more than does his job (though he does appear to be basing his portrayal on the T-1000, played by Robert Partrick in Terminator 2: Judgement Day).

For the first time since David Hedison (who portrayed his version nearly 20 years apart), Felix Leiter is played by the same actor – Jeffrey Wright – and it will be interesting to see if this is continued in Skyfall. He has more to do in this film than previously and is turning into quite an interesting version of the character.

Gemma Arterton is gorgeous as Strawberry Fields in Quantum of SolaceThe Bond girls are a trio of strong portrayals in a movie where not many characters stand-out. Firstly, there’s Dame Judi Dench (she’s allowed to be a Bond girl, right?) as M. She’s consistently fantastic with whatever dialogue and whatever situation she’s put in, as you would expect, but – for someone who appears so impish and jolly in real life – she’s incredibly good at playing the hard-nosed, barb-spouting, sarcastic ball-breaker. Secondly, there’s Olyga Kurylenko as Bolivian secret agent Camille Montes, who is on her own personal mission of revenge too. Her and 007 spar well together and seem to be the flipside of each other’s characters. It’s rather annoying that, when she gets her revenge, she then reverts to a ‘damsel in distress’ and needs to be rescued by Bond; due to her childhood trauma returning to haunt her.

Finally, there’s the inexperienced ‘agent’ Strawberry Fields (though her first name isn’t uttered in the movie), who turns out to just be a Filing Clerk from Head Office who obviously grabs the opportunity to see what a real MI6 agent gets up to on his day off. She’s played with an air of gung-ho English, jolly-hockey-sticks type characterisation by Gemma Arterton. The roles is refreshingly upbeat in a very downbeat movie (even though she meets a sticky end) and obviously stands out because of this, though the ease with which she falls for the ‘charms’ of 007 and hops into bed with him, is somewhat of a rushed storyline. As much as Daniel Craig has the body that men aspire to and that women expire over, he’s not the sort of character you expect women to fall in love with the instance they meet him (unlike a few of the Bonds before him).

Quantum of Solace: Olyga Kurylenko and Daniel Craig as Camille Montes and James Bond

Mention must go to Jack White and Alicia Keys for a Bond theme in the vein of Paul McCartney’s Live And Let Die. I’m not suggesting they sound anything like each other, aside from the title, but Another Way To Die gives a good bombastic rock edge to proceedings and turns out to be rather a good Bond theme. David Arnold returns for soundtrack duties, once again, and turns out a perfect blend of the modern and the retro – he’s a very steady pair of hands to place a music score in and all of his previous Bond scores have enhanced scenes without being intrusive

Quantum Of Solace isn’t a bad movie, by any stretch of the imagination. It has story, pace, action, energy and a central character who is affected by the death of a loved one (which many people can empathise with, even though they don’t go round on a killing spree in order to find someone to blame!). The trouble is, even with the shortest run-time of any Bond movie, it’s not as absorbing as it wants to be. In all honesty, Quantum Of Solace just doesn’t know what it wants to be and tries to be too clever in the process. It’s a little incoherent to follow and it’s blatantly obvious that there is a cracking movie just tucked inside it somewhere. However, the cracking movie may well have escaped and become Skyfall. We shall see…

Daniel Craig as 007

Bond at 50: Casino Royale

Daniel Craig as 007

We continue our mission to review every James Bond film ever released!

There’s no denying that Die Another Day was a huge box office success. Unfortunately though it pretty much played out as an over the top in joke, kind of like the Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back of the Bond franchise. But without the jokes! You can see why Pierce Brosnan was keen to scale it right back to basics for his next outing. Then Quentin Tarantino publically stated his desire to write and direct a version of Casino Royale starring Brosnan as Bond. It’s easy to see why EON wouldn’t want a Tarantino Bond film, mainly because it would be a Tarantino film first and a Bond film second.

You really do have to feel for Brosnan, he was a good Bond and he was left to go out on a whimper instead of the high he deserved. It would’ve been an interesting take on the story to have had a Bond nearing the end of his career, who has become so complacent in his ability to do the job and the ego that goes with it that he makes the mistakes he does. Imagine an older Bond delivering the last line of the novel and then the credits rolling. It would have made a great final moment in the Bond series before rebooting the franchise with the version of Casino Royale that we have.

“Well, I understand double-0s have a very short life expectancy… so your mistake will be short lived!”
The casting of a new Bond is always a big deal and there was a lot of speculation as to who would succeed Brosnan. Brosnan was a hugely popular actor in the role and anybody who followed him was inevitably going to get a rough ride. The smart money was on Clive Owen, who like Brosnan would’ve been a popular choice and probably would’ve worked well in the role. I personally was hoping Jason Isaacs may have been given a shot at the part but alas, to the best of my knowledge, he was never even a contender (although he did go on to read the audio book of Thunderball and made a great Bond in that). The surprise choice for most people however was Daniel Craig.

It’s incredibly popular now to say that you were behind the casting of Craig all along, but the truth is that a huge amount of the population seemed to be against the casting (mostly fuelled by The Sun newspaper – and if you’re reading that you have bigger issues to deal with). Personally I liked the idea of casting Craig as Bond, I’d seen a couple of films prior to his casting that made me think he would be a good future Bond (Layer Cake and –oddly – Enduring Love since you ask) and as a Timothy Dalton fan and I could see that sort of quality in the kind of Bond Craig would bring to the screen.

Daniel Craig's storming James Bond debut in Casino RoyaleIf I had a problem with Casino Royale when it was announced, it was that it was going to be a reboot. While I wasn’t completely closed off to the idea, it wasn’t exactly filling me with joy. Where would that leave the films that went before in the continuity? Would they set out to remake the earlier Bond films in keeping with this new approach? How does Judi Dench as M work in this new continuity? How can you make a Bond film without either Q or Moneypenny? Do I really want to see how Bond got his Aston Martin DB5 (Q branch giving it to him in Goldfinger was explanation enough)? Do I really want to see a pre-Bond Bond?

Craig is fantastic in the role, leading a lot of haters to either change their tune or shut up completely. Craig is a serious Bond, much like Dalton was before him and it’s not surprising that people have now gone back and re-evaluated Dalton on the back of Craig’s take on Bond.
To be fair, it didn’t start well for me. Where was the gun barrel walk? The last film that left that out was Never Say Never Again and look how that turned out! But then we’re presented with a black and white pre-credits sequence that pulls you straight in and makes you forget that the gun barrel wasn’t at the top of the film (it does come at the end of the pre-titles sequence, minus the walk). Despite not featuring any major stunt work, this is an incredibly thrilling pre-credits sequence, showing two very different kills for Bond. Yes the fight is frantic and dirty and exciting, but the real thrills come in Bonds dialogue with Dryden.

Craig is fantastic in the role, leading a lot of haters to either change their tune or shut up completely. Craig is a serious Bond, much like Dalton was before him and it’s not surprising that people have now gone back and re-evaluated Dalton on the back of Craig’s take on Bond. Like Dalton he is very much a Bond in the Fleming mould, and with the exception of the blonde hair and slightly too built up body, he fits more into the image I had of Bond when reading the books. A kind of pit-bull of a man who, whilst good looking, isn’t the most handsome man in the room but exudes a charisma that makes up for it. This is a Bond who isn’t always likeable, there are in fact times where he is a downright asshole!

Eva Green makes for a stunning Bond girl in both looks and performance. Vesper is one of the best female characters that Fleming created. Like your first real girlfriend; you can’t help but fall completely in love with her, before eventually hating her for betraying you and breaking your heart. Green portrays this flawlessly; giving a performance that stays with you long after the film has ended. In some ways it’s a shame that Craig is so good, as he largely took all of the spotlight away from Green. But then that is the curse of being exceptionally good in a Bond film when you’re not playing James Bond.

Eva Green and Daniel Craig as Vesper Lynd and James Bond in Casino RoyaleThere is a genuine chemistry between Craig and Green that comes across on screen. The banter between the two of them when they first meet on the train is played perfectly. You can almost forgive the dialogue shoe-horned in to promote Omega watches because the scene is played so well. Where they both really shine is in the shower scene after she has witnessed Bond take a life. You really feel the effect of the kill on her and Bonds need to wash it away having seen what it has done to her. Vespers final scene is haunting and one of the hardest and most heartbreaking in the entire series.

Le Chiffre is not your traditional sort of Bond villain, which is an odd statement to make when you consider he is the original Bond villain. Instead of your usual megalomaniac or quasi-Bond, Le Chiffre is simply the middle man in a bigger scheme, an accountant for the terrorists of the world who is trying to dig himself out of a hole before the people he owes money to put him in one. Mads Mikkelsen is superb in the role, playing the perfect balance between big man bravado and control freak watching his perfect plans spiralling out of control. The character could’ve easily been portrayed with a snivelling and slightly comedic edge, but Mikkelsen gives him a sinister desperation that both makes him scary and oddly sympathetic. You can see why he’s been cast as Hannibal Lector.

Mads Mikkelsen is superb as Le Chiffre, playing the perfect balance between big man bravado and control freak watching his perfect plans spiralling out of control. Mikkelsen gives him a sinister desperation that both makes him scary and oddly sympathetic.

You can see why he’s been cast as Hannibal Lector.

Judi Dench is great as M, channelling Bernard Lee as the tough and grumpy matriarch of the film. She plays M with more frustration than before, an M that is both being put upon by the people she answers to (or doesn’t in the case of the cabinet) and an agent she believes has been promoted before he is ready. An agent that she knows has the potential to be great, if he could just keep his ego and hotheadedness in check. You can see why Dench was brought back for the reboot when everybody else has been dropped and how appealing it must be to return to a character but from a slightly sideways angle to how it was played before. And let’s be fair, when your casting is this perfect, why would you even try to change it?

Felix Leiter makes his long overdue return to the franchise and Jeffrey Wright is an interesting choice to play the part (you couldn’t get more different from the description from the novel if you tried). He brings a fresh quality to the role that has been lacking in some of the previous incarnations. Wright is one of the best (and sadly underexposed) actors working in film today and he adds weight to a part that is usually left to jobbing TV actors to fill. EON also seem to have finally realised the importance in consistency in their casting by bringing Wright back in Quantum Of Solace (taking away David Hedison’s title of being the only actor to play the part twice). Hopefully they’ll hang on to Wright like they have hung on to Dench and bring him back as Leiter for more films after Skyfall.

When rebooting the franchise. There only seems to be one person in EON’s phonebook and again Martin Campbell returned to give Bond back to the world. Following the success of his rebooting of the franchise with Goldeneye (whether you think it’s good or bad, there is no denying that it succeeded in achieving what it set out to do). Campbell has some great work on his CV, most notably the Edge Of Darkness TV series and The Mask Of Zorro, but it’s not a stretch to say that he does his best work on Bond. Casino Royale is easily his best film to date, featuring some truly stunning looking shots and set pieces. This is probably the sharpest and richest looking film in the series to date; a Bond for the blu-ray generation if you will.

Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino RoyaleDavid Arnold’s score is one of his best, especially when the traditional sounding rendition of the Bond theme kicks in for the closing credits. As with Die Another Day (and indeed his Shaken And Stirred album) Arnold successfully marries traditional sounding Barry themes with contemporary sound. It’s fair to say that Chris Cornell’s You Know My Name split opinion. Personally I really like it (it’s certainly Cornell’s best since Audioslave) and it fits in well with the themes and style of the film. If nothing else, it’s a huge step up from Madonna’s previous entry and the Jack White/Alicia Keys theme that followed.

There are problems with the film. As a Bond fan the lack of Q and Moneypenny is an issue. I understand what they were trying to do, but there is a way to have both characters and have them in keeping with the tone of the film. In fact there are two characters that could easily have been Moneypenny and Q (M’s assistant and the tech who puts the tracker in Bonds arm). Admittedly these parts are only small, but they seem to be trying so hard not to have Moneypenny and Q in the film that you can’t help but spot where they would’ve fitted in.

You can’t escape the fact that there is something missing by not having the scene between Bond and Moneypenny in M’s outer office, before he heads on down to Q branch to get his equipment for the mission ahead. But then this is serious Bond and there is no room for inter-office flirting or annoying an old man in the serious world.
It could just be that filling the shoes of Desmond Llewelyn (sorry John, you tried, but it didn’t work out) and Samantha Bond (arguably the best of the three Moneypenny’s to date) was just too daunting a task to take on when introducing a new Bond as well. You can’t escape the fact that there is something missing by not having the scene between Bond and Moneypenny in M’s outer office, before he heads on down to Q branch to get his equipment for the mission ahead. But then this is serious Bond and there is no room for inter-office flirting or annoying an old man in the serious world.

You could argue that the biggest problem with this film is also one of the best things it has going for it. This just isn’t really a Bond film. Sure it’s a film with James Bond in it, but it lacks all of the elements that makes a Bond film a Bond film. It isn’t even the James Bond we know and love because this is the story of a man becoming that character (something we’re led to believe he has done by the end of the film, only to see he is still becoming Bond in Quantum Of Solace to).

The other big problem is that another superspy with the initials J.B. had stepped into the void in Bonds absence. For years Bond led and others followed (I’m looking at you in particular xXx), but the Bourne films became so influential in the wilderness years, in which Bond strolled through development hell in search of himself, that it was very much Jason Bourne’s world now and it was a title he had both earned and deserved. EON had no choice but to copy and incorporate the elements that had made Bourne so popular into their reboot. Credit has to go to EON and Campbell for giving their Bourne elements a distinct James Bond style, but there is no escaping the fact that this (and Quantum even more so) is Bond ReBourne!

A bearded James Bond is traded in Die Another Day.

Bond at 50: Die Another Day

Pierce Brosnan's final outing as James Bond in Die Another DayWe continue our mission to review every James Bond film ever released as we make our way towards the release of Skyfall in October…

There’s a line uttered, in extreme exasperation, by Steve Coogan as his most famous creation Alan Partridge, when the character spends an entire episode of I’m Alan Partridge trying to watch his collection of James Bond films. When he finally sits down to watch The Spy Who Loved Me, and finds the video has been taped over, he has to recreate the beginning of the film by mime, mouth and music alone. When someone tries to correct his vision, he shouts: “No! Stop getting Bond WRONG!!”

It applies here.

The 40th anniversary of the 007 franchise is a landmark in cinema history, falling – as it did – in the year of the release of the last film of the Pierce Brosnan era. Unfortunately, Die Another Day is a landmark in the Nuclear Power Plant sense. It’s stands out for all the wrong reasons and is somewhat of an eyesore. The title alone is terrible. After this mess of a movie, Brosnan was expecting to do a gritty version of Casino Royale, which Quentin Tarantino had thrown his hat towards the hatstand and said he’d be happy to direct. Brosnan wanted a back-to-basics Bond, stripped of all the blockbuster needs of the franchise. Sadly, he was never granted that right and he was unceremoniously dismissed as if the blame for the failure of Die Another Day fell on his shoulders. This is, of course, untrue.

“Well, the fun is about to come to a dead end.”
It starts very promisingly, with the infliltration of a North Korean army base in the pre-title sequence. It’s gritty, violent, explosive and sets up the rest of the movie brilliantly. Bond kills the rogue Colonel Tan-Sun Moon (who is trading illegal diamonds for weapons), the beloved son of a General, and is subsequently thrown in a cell and brutally tortured. Sadly, even though Brosnan wanted the torture to be shown and the effects to be visible (both physically and mentally), everything gets shoehorned into the opening titles and, although we see it happening, the appallingly insipid main song by Madonna just ruins any chance of taking it seriously. When the hair extensions and false beard are added to Pierce Brosnan (and a few rips to his clothing), to show he’s spent 14 months in the cell, all sense of reality flies out of the window. The worst offender is the unnecessary adding of a CGI bullet in the iconic gunbarrel sequence. Bearing in mind the gunbarrel appears to be that of a sniper a good way away from 007, the fact that our superspy turns and shoots (cue red blood) his would-be assassin showcases his good instincts and ability to hit a target. Bond now turns, shoots and his bullet travels exactly down the tiny gunbarrel of our would-be assassin, which is genuinely miraculous and, frankly, ridiculous.

A bearded James Bond is traded.So, bearded Bond is traded for Zao, who was Colonel Moon’s assistant, and so begins the story of revenge. Bond claims he’s been set-up and sets about finding out why, ditching his beard and gaining a bouffant in the process (Brosnan’s hair appears to get taller with every movie). The story gets more ludicrous with the introduction of a process of people having their faces altered via DNA restructering and doing without sleep and ice palaces and solar-powered satellites and invisible cars and CGI surfing and Madonna as a Fencing Instructor and Halle Berry as a credible assassin… and… and… well… Basil Fawlty masquerading as a gadgets expert. Nothing holds up properly, especially the main twist that our sneering, English, smarmy bastard of a villain – Sir Gustav Graves – turns out to be not the man you think he is. If you’ll forgive my indulgence, myself and Ron Brunwin once wrote a full-length stage spoof of the entire James Bond movie canon (squashed into 100 minutes, to celebrate the centenary of Ian Fleming) and this was our version of the exchange between Graves and Bond during their initial meeting in a fencing club, in a heated bit of rapier-blocking…


(BROSNAN/BOND appears in white outfit and sword and approaches Fencing instructor MADONNA, complete with ice-cream cone ‘cups’ in her ‘Vogue’ phase)

BROSNAN/BOND: Excuse me, the name’s Bond. James Bond. I’m here for the lesson. (They cross swords teasingly. She scores a touch) Touche!

MADONNA: Do you have much experience in fencing?

BROSNAN/BOND: No. It’s my first time. I’m…

MADONNA: Like a virgin.

BROSNAN/BOND: Like a virgin?

MADONNA: Touche-ed for the very first time! I see you handle your weapon well.

BROSNAN/BOND: I see your acting hasn’t improved any.

MADONNA: I see you’re looking a little old for the part.

BROSNAN/BOND: I see you’ve not looked in the mirror recently.

MADONNA: Allow me to introduce you to Mr Gustav Graves.



BROSNAN/BOND: Bond. James Bond.

GUSTAV GRAVES: Have we met before?

BROSNAN/BOND: Oh, I think I’d remember.

GUSTAV GRAVES: Of course you would. My mistake.

BROSNAN/BOND: But, then again, you do remind me of a Korean Colonel who plunged to his apparent death 14 months ago.

GUSTAV GRAVES: Not me. I’m white. And English.

BROSNAN/BOND: Of course not. That would be ridiculous!

GUSTAV GRAVES: Wouldn’t it!

BROSNAN/BOND: 14 months is a very short space of time in which to become white and English!

GUSTAV GRAVES: And build a phoney Icelandic diamond mine.

BROSNAN/BOND: And be knighted by the Queen.

GUSTAV GRAVES: And develop an advanced space programme that utilizes the power of the sun.

BROSNAN/BOND: And build an elaborate Ice Palace.

Toby Stephens as the debonair Gustav Graves

GUSTAV GRAVES: And an immaculate high-profile reputation throughout the world as a reputable and charismatic businessman.

MADONNA: With a keen aptitude for competitive fencing.

GUSTAV GRAVES: It’s unlikely.

BROSNAN/BOND: It’s preposterous.

GUSTAV GRAVES: Tell me, Mr Bond – Are you a gambling man?

BROSNAN/BOND: If the stakes are right.

GUSTAV GRAVES: Care to place a bet, Madge?

MADONNA: I bet this movie makes Moonraker look like Citizen Kane!(GRAVES and BROSNAN/BOND adopt their dueling stances)


(A comedy sword fight ensues… cries of ‘Touche’, ‘Threeche’, ‘Fourche’… before BROSNAN/BOND scores the winning hit)

BROSNAN/BOND: Victory is mine. (He goes to hand SWORD to MADONNA) I believe that concludes my lesson today…

GUSTAV GRAVES: No! Colonel Sun-Moon always triumphs! Have at you! (GRAVES lunges, BOND parries)

BROSNAN/BOND: Did you just call yourself Colonel Sun-Moon?


BROSNAN/BOND: Yes, you did.

GUSTAV GRAVES: Alright. We’ll call it a draw.

Sorry about that.

Anyway, let’s get serious. Why are Neal Purvis and Robert Wade STILL scripting Bond films?! After this debacle, with dreadful ‘jokes’, dialogue, plotting and failing to give any of their characters credibility (they change with whatever the scene requires), they should have been locked in a North Korean cell for 14 months and tortured. The fact they’ve written the two awful Johnny English moves, starring Rowan Atkinson as an inept spy (in which both films actually appear to be just another of their Bond films with hardly any more humour), should have alerted producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli to the danger in having them back again.

Zao has expensive acne in Die Another Day

They’ve had their scripts ‘polished’ on subsequent films, by Oscar-winning and more intelligent writers; which is proof they don’t have the writing chops to deliver anything unique, original or interesting. They add the ‘flesh wound’ line in the scene with John Cleese’s only appearance as head of Q branch (ask any Monty Python fan about the genesis of this line) like sniggering students of the craft who think they’re much more clever than the audience watching.

I fear for Skyfall!

Acting-wise, everyone either seems to be coasting or over-the-top with only two people giving seemingly naturalistic performances; Rosamund Pike as Miranda Frost has had a post-Bond career that has been a lot more interesting than most and Rick Yune as Zao shows that models who turn to acting can, on this rare occasion, actually act. Toby Stephens, as Gustav Graves, is playing a sort of flip-side to Bond. He’s a good actor and, in an alternate universe, would have made a rather good ‘60s James Bond, but his performance is too arch and over-acted to generate much more than irritation whenever he appears on screen. Miss Moneypenny (my personal favourite version, played by Samantha Bond) finally gets to share a screen kiss with Bond, even if it is in a Virtual Reality simulation. Judi Dench, Michael Madsen and John Cleese seem somehow uncomfortable in the roles as M, Falco and Q respectively – maybe sniffing the smell coming from the script.

Halle Berry as Die Another Day's JinxI’d like to gloss over Halle Berry as American agent Jinx. For all the talk of a spin-off movie for this character, she can’t deliver one line convincingly or look credible in the physical aspects of the role (aside from an ability to fill out a bikini). And we’re left with our lead actor; Pierce Brosnan in his last movie as 007. He gives a performance of two halves. In the first half of the film, he’s on cracking form as James Bond. When the film starts to get ludicrous, and action set-pieces seem to be squeezed in for the sake of it, he appears to start sleep-walking. It’s not the exit he deserved. As much as I’m not a great fan, due to his ability to layer a certain smugness over his version of Bond, he kept the series alive and got bigger and better box office with each film. So, he deserves credit for a role that he obviously genuinely loved and craved to play.

Production-wise, director Lee Tamahori and editor Christian Wagner chop and change the film so much that there’s no coherent style and don’t seem to work together well as a team. The production design is the stand-out, by Peter Lamont, who’s work veers from the perfectly realistic in Cuba to the Ken Adams-style glory of the ice palace in Iceland. David Arnold brings a solid score to the film, with his usual blend of modern to retro, and you wonder whether he was sat in the edit suite wondering how he was going to score something so ludicrously over-the-top!

So, as a 40th anniversary celebration, in 2002, Die Another Day tries too hard to ape the other films in the series – either by reference, visuals or plot points. By bringing in too many elements and with the weight of expectation pressing too hard on its shoulders, Die Another Day delivers the best box office of the series until Bond is Bourne Again (spelling intended!) for the Casino Royale reboot with Daniel Craig. Unfortunately, Die Another Day also delivers a lot less in terms of actual movie-making than many of the previous 007 films. Whilst it’s not the worst in the series to date, it’s hanging on by CGI fingernails to avoid the bottom spot.

Robert Carlyle as Renard in The World Is Not Enough

Bond at 50: The World Is Not Enough

Robert Carlyle as Renard in The World Is Not EnoughWe continue our mission to review every James Bond film ever released as we make our way towards the release of Skyfall in October…

Before we start, here’s a little quiz for you. A Bond brain teaser. Can you spot the deliberate mistake in this piece of dialogue?

JAMES BOND: What do I need to diffuse a nuclear bomb?


Yep, it’s a one tough that. Whilst you’re pondering that conundrum, I’m going to make a wager with you. I bet you a weekend in the Azerbaijani oil-field of your choice that you have never, ever heard anyone utter the following words:

“You know, as a Bond fan, I have to say that The World Is Not Enough is the finest film in the series”

If you have then you should probably stop hanging around with Denise Richards, because let’s face it The World Is Not Enough is nobody’s favourite Bond film. It’s not that it’s bad – it certainly isn’t and it has some good very good elements – it’s just, well, a bit average, a bit B-, a bit Basingstoke. It’s a bit anonymous.

“I’m giving you the opportunity to walk out with your life.”
It doesn’t help that, like all of Pierce Brosnan’s films except GoldenEye, it has a pretty meaningless statement for a title. Yes, it’s the Bond family motto, but just like Tomorrow Never Dies or Tomorrow Is The Day Before Yesterday or Next Tuesday Is Three Days Before My Mum’s Birthday or whatever it’s called, the title bears no relation to the story. It’s no surprise that a lot of people, including me, get the Brosnan films mixed up.

Directed by Michael Apted, the plot is actually quite grown up. A British oil tycoon, Sir Robert King (David Calder), is murdered by a terrorist, Renard (Robert Carlyle). Renard had previously kidnapped King’s beautiful daughter, Elektra (Sophie Marceau) but she managed to escape. Fearing that she is the next target, Bond is assigned to protect her. He does his duty of course and gets her into bed. He then makes his way to a nuclear bomb silo in sunny Kazakhstan where he meets the delightfully named Dr Christmas Jones (Denise Richards). He also bumps into Renard who’s helping himself to the hardware. A few explosions later and the baddie makes off with a warhead and is all set to destroy King’s oil pipeline…

Sophie Marceau as the insane Elektra King in The World Is Not EnoughBut. There’s a twist. And it’s a damned good one too. You see Elektra is not the Bond girl at all, she’s actually the villain. Whilst being kidnapped by Renard, some reverse Stockholm syndrome went down (known as Lima Syndrome, thanks Wikipedia), with him falling in love with her. Angry at her father for not paying her ransom and with some serious only-child issues, she decides to kill her dad and blow up Istanbul. As you do.  Oh and she kidnaps M (Judi Dench) to boot.

Now that’s pretty inspired. This officially makes her the first female main villain in the series (don’t give me Rosa Klebb, she was taking orders from Blofeld and the plan was Kronsteen’s). It’s all helped by the fact that Sophie Marceau is really very good. She can actually act, she looks fantastic and she’s believable. She’s the best thing in the film.

So, of course Renard isn’t the villain, he’s actually the henchman. He gets a great build up: we learn that owing to a bullet in his head he can no longer feel pain. This means he can push himself harder than any man. When we meet him, however, he’s a bit disappointing. What we get is a slight man with a lazy eye, looking like an ex-member of Kraftwerk. He has that undernourished vegan-with-a-nut-allergy-and-moral-objection-to-pea-protein look and doesn’t actually push himself very hard at all. Sure he holds onto a warm pebble for a while but this isn’t Oddjob here, folks. Still, he’s not all bad. Like Marceau, Robert Carlyle is a proper actor and we get a henchman who actually has a motive for actions.

As with Sean Connery and Roger Moore, Brosnan seems to have settled into his role by this, his third movie. He rocks a tux better than all of them and no-one looks as natural sipping a vodka martini. You still get the sense he’s a bit frail though. This is a Bond who bruises easily and was probably excused games at school. Mind you, he does demonstrate a fantastic talent for impersonations – whilst being tortured by Elektra in a neck-breaking chair he does an almost perfect take-off of Marlon Brando in The Godfather. The voice ain’t up to much but that face is uncanny.

Robbie Coltrane makes a final Bond appearance as Valentin Zukovsky in The World Is Not EnoughAs for the rest of the cast, Robbie Coltrane returns as the lovable Russian rogue Valentin Zukovsky  (the role John Rhys-Davies would have had a few years before) and Omid Djalili is there too (doing Alexei Sayle’s role). And someone, somewhere thought it would be a good idea to cast Goldie as a Russian gangster. I can only imagine that it was the same casting director who said: ”A nuclear scientist? Well, call me obvious baby, but I’m thinking Denise Richards”.

Christmas Jones (Denise Richards) looks like Bond’s annoying teenage daughter whom he’s got for the odd weekend as part of a messy custody settlement.

If I were him, I’d have swapped sides and stuck with Elektra.

Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist. I’ll say that again. Denise Richards. As a nuclear scientist. A. Nuclear. Scientist.

Now, I like to see stereotypes being challenged as much as the next Peruvian lesbian and I’ve no doubt that somewhere in the world there is a nuclear scientist who is kookie and pouts a lot and dresses like Lara Croft… but what unites every nuclear scientist, whoever they are, is that they are intelligent. Sprinters are fast, giants are tall and nuclear scientists are clever. That’s just the way it is. And I don’t know what Denise was going for in her portrayal but clever is not one of the things that came over to me. Perhaps it wouldn’t matter if she were fun to watch, or had any chemistry with Bond. But she isn’t and she doesn’t. She looks like Bond’s annoying teenage daughter whom he’s got for the odd weekend as part of a messy custody settlement.

If I were him, I’d have swapped sides and stuck with Elektra.

Besides spouting a bit of exposition (at moments when no-one would, like during the final fight), Dr Christmas Jones’s only role in the film is to provide the final gag: ”I thought Christmas only came once a year”. I confess, I chuckled. Surprisingly for a pretty straight-laced film, the one-liner/innuendo count is very high. Perhaps it should have been reserved for another, lighter production.

Pierce Brosnan and Denise Richards in The World Is Not EnoughThere is some further dodgy humour as John Cleese turns up to spoil Desmond Llewellyn’s farewell scene as Q. Yet another one of those moments of woefully misjudged ‘comedy’ that have blighted so many of the post Connery Bonds.

So, with some good and some bad, this should make for a memorable film. But it just isn’t.

The pre-credit sequence certainly promises a lot. The longest in Bond history, we get treated to a bit of argy-bargy with Patrick Malahide in Bilbao, followed by a cracking powerboat chase along the Thames. It all ends up with a hot-air balloon exploding above the Millennium Dome. Unfortunately the rest of the film fails to get anywhere near that level of excitement.

To be fair, there are some unusual vehicles on show, all of which are put to good use in attacking Bond. We get a couple of helicopters with circular saw attachments and a team of ‘parahawks’. These are a hybrid of a snow-mobile, a paraglider, a helicopter gun-ship and a really big office fan. With a cool black paint-job. A fantastic piece of kit, I’m sure you’ll agree, designed specifically to kill undesirable enemy agents who have decided to go skiing in that exact remote part of Azerbaijan. Which means they probably don’t get used very often.

However, in a film not exactly over-burdened by action, some of the scenes are frankly underwhelming. There are some very ho-hum shoot-outs and Dr Jones’s bomb disposal scene is as silly as it is dull.

The real issue though is that you keep expecting the film to get going, to change gear, to take-off, to break into a rousing Bond-based-singa-alonga chorus and it just never happens. The moment when things look like they are about ignite is just after Renard steals the warhead. Here we go you think. But no. Instead we get a slow scene where Bond accuses Elektra of betrayal and she promptly denies it. It’s totally redundant. It just slows up the narrative and, worse, completely pre-empts and reduces the impact of the film’s twist. That’s not good story telling.

The locations don’t help either. A petro-chemical complex in Azerbaijan and the wastelands of Kazakhstan are hardly the usual glamorous Bond haunts. It’s all so grey, so monochrome. Even the scenes in Bilbao look like they took place on an inclement day in November. They could have saved a bit of cash and filmed it in Rotherham.

Anyway. The end result is a film with a few bits that you enjoy, a few that make you yawn and a few that make you cringe. The rest just sort of passes you by in a pleasant enough but ultimately forgettable way.

At least it’s far, far, far better than Brosnan’s next film, Tomorrow Never Dies

Oh, no, hang on. That’s Die Another Day.

I think.

Is it?

Wait a minute, what was the name of this film again?

Sean Bean and Pierce Brosnan star in GoldenEye

Bond at 50: GoldenEye

The pre-titles sequence in GoldenEye is set in 1986...We continue our mission to review every James Bond film ever released as we make our way towards the release of Skyfall in October…

Licence To Kill marked the end of an era for the James Bond movies. The world changed, both politically and within the world of film. Perhaps worst of all, an entire generation of children grew up without a Bond to call their own. There was an oddly satisfying end to the series that came with Licence To Kill and most long time Bond fans came to accept not only the fact that Bond may not actually return, but also that there may not actually be a place for him to return to.

But, as we know, Bond is not a man to leave a job unfinished (unless he needs to go rogue to avenge a friend etc) and if it’s said that he will return, then James Bond will return. And so after 6 long years we were finally given a new Bond for a new world. As much as I would’ve loved to have seen Timothy Dalton come back to the role, it was the right and smart decision for him to step down and let a new Bond take the reins.

It’s a nice touch that the pre-credits scene for GoldenEye is set 9 years before the main body of the film, placing it in the same year that Pierce Brosnan was originally cast as Bond for The Living Daylights, acknowledging Brosnan’s history with the part. It means that Bond keeps the exact same hairstyle and unshaved look for the best part of a decade, but in his defence he was probably busy with spy stuff.

“Back from the dead. No longer just an anonymous star on the memorial wall at MI6”
Brosnan was too young for the part in 1986 but he was the perfect man for the job of bringing Bond back for a mid-90s world. There is an ease to his performance that he probably wouldn’t have had in the 80’s. It’s easy to see why Brosnan was so quickly embraced by fans. He looks good in the role and seems to embody the best elements of all of the Bonds that came before him (Sean Connery’s toughness, George Lazenby’s sensitivity, Roger Moore’s humour and Timothy Dalton’s edge).

Again Bond is pitted against a mirror version of himself type villain in former 00 Sean Bean (himself a one-time Bond contender). We’ve seen this type of bad guy many times before in the series, but Bean does a fine job in the role and is responsible for some of the best lines in the film, mainly down to his delivery of them than the actual words he is saying. Sure his grand scheme to destroy the world is a little underwhelming compared to the plans of old, but the nuclear age has gone and this is a plan for the digital age.

Judi Dench is the first female M in GoldenEyeThe Bond girls follow the traditional format of one to kill and one to keep. On the keep side we have Isabella Scorupco’s Natalya. Despite being one of the better written Bond girls in the series, she is strangely forgettable in the overall canon of Bond girls, although this is probably because she is largely upstaged by Famke Janssen’s Xenia Onatopp. It’s easy to see why Janssen is one of the few actress’ to have a fairly strong post Bond career, relishing every psychotic little nuance of the character, especially when it comes to making a kill – be it suffocating a men with her legs or gunning down a room full of people.

It’s easy to see why Janssen is one of the few actress’ to have a fairly strong post Bond career, relishing every psychotic little nuance of the character, especially when it comes to making a kill – be it suffocating a men with her legs or gunning down a room full of people.
The true stand out Bond girl of this film though is Judi Dench as M. It’s fair to say that there was probably as much pressure on Dench as there was on Brosnan. Not only did she have to fill the chair of Robert Brown and the great Bernard Lee, she is also the first female M. It’s a pressure that doesn’t show and she handles the role with her usual brilliance. Her scenes with Brosnan and Michael Kitchen’s Tanner are expertly played and (particularly the scene in her office with Bond) are real standouts in the film.

As well as M, the rest of the Bond family is back, with Miss Moneypenny finally getting the kind of performance and scenes she deserves. Moneypenny has finally left behind the image of the doe eyed secretary, waiting for Bond to respond to her advances. Lois Maxwell was great in the role, but was very much a Moneypenny for her time but Samantha Bond is given the chance to really make the character something more and she excels in doing so, truly shining in her scenes with Bond. It’s a shame that by the time of Die Another Day, she has largely been returned to the sexually frustrated secretary of old.

Desmond Llewelyn is back as Q and as with the rest of the series he provides the film with a touch of class and wit. Llewelyn clearly relishes his scene with Bond and as good as it was to see him out in the field in Licence, it’s great to see him back in Q branch amongst the chaos of gadgets being tested. You can see why they kept Llewelyn in the role for as long as he was willing to play him as he is one of the staples of the series that – to date – has not been replaceable by another actor.

It’s also good to see The Living Daylights bad guy Joe Don Baker back in the Bond universe, this time working as an ally to Bond instead of an enemy. Clearly being crushed by a statue is just the thing to knock the evil out of you! He is perfectly cast as C.I.A. agent Jack Wade, a character who seems to be a mixture of Felix Leiter and Sheriff J.W. Pepper (minus the offensiveness). He is very much there to provide some comic relief and does it well, if a little overplayed, popping up at the right points in the film.

This film marked the first Bond film to be produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, with poor health forcing Cubby Broccoli to step down to a consultation role. Given that the responsibility was largely theirs to make Bond’s comeback film a success, it is surprising just how underwhelming the script actually is, with the film largely held together by some great performances and expertly handled direction.

Deciding to end their system of using the same director, EON decided to bring in Edge Of Darkness director Martin Campbell. Although not the greatest director in the world, Campbell has an eye for this genre and puts more of a stamp on a Bond film than any of the directors that have gone before. You can see why he is the only director – to date – since Goldeneye that they have brought back, even if his second turn in the director’s chair is the better of his two efforts, but that’s a different review for another time.

It could be that it was more subtly done in past Bond films, but this seems to be the first Bond film in which the product placement is really in your face.

I’m just thankful that as I sit writing this with my Parker Pen, drinking Perrier Water and checking the time on my Omega watch that I have never really been susceptible to product placement.

It could be that it was more subtly done in past Bond films, but this seems to be the first Bond film in which the product placement is really in your face. The worst offender of this is the BMW that we spend a long time focusing on while Q explains all of the gadgets it contains, only for the car to briefly appear later on and with none of the aforementioned gadgets getting used. I’m just thankful that as I sit writing this with my Parker Pen, drinking Perrier Water and checking the time on my Omega watch that I have never really been susceptible to product placement.

Sean Bean and Pierce Brosnan star in GoldenEyeThe biggest thing that lets the film down however, is the score. Naturally John Barry is a tough act to follow, but if you have a basic understanding of how a Bond score should be, you should be able to do a half decent job. Despite offering up some pretty good signature themes (“Run, Jump, Shoot” being the standout) Eric Serra really doesn’t seem to understand what makes a Bond score a Bond score. Aside from the score being incredibly intrusive in places, it plays at times like the score of a 90’s soft core porno.

The opening credits, depicting the end of the cold war, are a nice nod to Maurice Binder‘s work and are probably the most memorable of the more recent Bond films. This is aided by the continuation of the Shirley Bassey type theme of old that had been brought back with Gladys Knight’s Licence To Kill and (although I’m generally not a fan) Tina Turner is the right choice of singer to pull that sort of song off.

But the big question is whether or not, in retrospect, GoldenEye was the great comeback film that the hype at the time had us believing it was. Truth be told it isn’t. There is a lot wrong with the film, not least a strange smugness that the film projects, that seems to make it think that it is better than it actually is. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to be thankful to GoldenEye for. It did its job in giving the world James Bond again and it spawned one of the best computer games of all time, but contrary to popular belief, it isn’t the second coming we deserved. Nor is it for that matter the best of Brosnan’s Bonds; that was waiting just around the corner…

Skyfall logo RE

The Skyfall Trailer!

Look, it’s quite simple. You press play. No talking. Enjoy.

Starring Daniel Craig in his third appearance as Ian Fleming’s James Bond, Skyfall is released 26 October 2012,with IMAX cinemas screening from November.

Also appearing in the Sam Mendes-directed movie are Judi Dench as M, Javier Bardem as enemy Raoul Silva, Ralph Fiennes as Mallory, the great Albert Finney as Kincade, Rory Kinnear returning as Bill Tanner, Bérénice Marlohe as Sévérine, Naomie Harris as Eve, the wonderful Helen McCrory as Clair Dowar, MP and Ben Whishaw as Q, marking that character’s return to the series and his first appearance in the rebooted continuity.

After enjoying that stunning trailer, we frankly cannot wait to see the film. October cannot come fast enough – but what do you think?

Skyfall logo 007 james bond logo 2012 new 23 twenty three

Skyfall Glencoe Shoot Pics

Filming for the twenty third James Bond film, Skyfall, continued on the 9th of February with a location shoot in Glencoe Scotland. Both Daniel Craig and Judi Dench were spotted on location during the shoot.

For the full gallery, head to MI6-hq.com, where you will find lots of pictures of people standing still waiting to make something amazing.

As you can see, there isn’t an *awful* lot happening, but it’s good to see the show back on the road at last!

Daniel Craig as James Bond, 007 in SkyFall

First Photos from Bond 23 Skyfall!

The first official shot from the new James Bond movie Skyfall,  starring Daniel Craig, has been released, featuring the actor in character in a scene set in Shanghai.

Daniel Craig as James Bond, 007 in SkyFall

Produced as ever by EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and Sony Pictures Entertainment, Skyfall is directed by Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes and features Daniel Craig returning for his third film appearance as Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 following Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

Joining Daniel Craig in the movie is a stunning cast that includes Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Bérénice Marlohe, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw and the incomparable Albert Finney, as well as the returning Judi Dench as M.

The screenplay was originally developed by John Logan and stalwarts Neal Purvis & Robert Wade have been brought in to tighten things up.

Skyfall premieres in the UK and Ireland on October 26th and in North America on November 9th.

(Via 007.com)