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TAC Reviews..."Bond, James Bond"

 

In this section I am going to take a look at the world’s ultimate spy – namely James “007” Bond.

 

I have to say that Roger Moore was my favourite Bond, he had the charm, the charisma but also the skills that proved why he was the legendary super-spy. Plus he also benefitted from having some of the best written movies and pushed the boundaries of what Bond could do when he went into space in Moonraker or drove around under the sea in a car-turned-submarine in the Spy Who Loved Me. No one was surprised to see Bond in space and he saved the world from annihilation (mainly from the Russians) time and time again. If Moore had any flaws it was that he played the character for too long, by For Your Eyes Only he was starting to get a bit passed it, and by a View to a Kill he was really too old to convincingly play the character. However, when he was in his prime Roger Moore was, hands down, the best James Bond…Fact.

 

"Bonds, James Bonds"

 

The initial films all had actors playing the character in a similar way, Bond was tongue in cheek, always had a dry quip and was never seemingly out of his depth. Some always argue that Sean Connery was the original and best Bond, others say that Pierce Brosnan suited the swaggering secret agent more convincingly, others enjoy Timothy Dalton’s tougher version that leaned closer to the brutality that would become the staple of Craig’s Bond, but basically everyone has their own opinion on who is the best and why

 

Now after Die Another Day the films were rebooted…???…with Casino Royale and Bond was taken back to his roots. Daniel Craig portrayed the character in a way that more closely resembled the way Bond was written in the books by Ian Flemming.

 

I am initially going to be looking at Daniel Craig’s outing as Bond but may also take a look at some of the other Bond films too. The first review I wrote for this section was Spectre so even though that is the latest film, it was the first I looked at, however I have put them in chronological order rather than the order I reviewed them in.

 

Thus far I have reviewed:

 

Quantum of Solace

Spectre

 

TAC Reviews...Quantum of Solace

 

Released in 2008, and set immediately after the events of Casino Royale James Bond is seething with rage and anger focussed on those responsible for Vesper’s death (spoiler alert). This was the second film to star Daniel Craig as James Bond, with Judi Dench and Jeffrey White also reprising their roles as M and Felix Leiter respectively. Marc Forster takes over directing duties from Martin Campbell who directed Craig’s first outing as Bond in Casino Royale.

 

Quantum of Solace Poster

 

Okay so Bond is still an asshole, his icy heart was thawed by Vesper, and after her death he is determined to use his skills to find and kill those responsible…does it work??

 

Well, in a rare move for a Bond movie this film picks up immediately after the events of the previous one, we don’t see Bond finishing one assignment before being given his next one, we just kick off right back in the action…

 

So after the ending of Casino Royale, in which Bond (Craig) was standing over a henchman, he is now returning to M (Dench) with the captured henchman - Mr White (Jesper Christensen). After being attacked by various other henchmen he arrives with his captive who is interrogated by Bond and M about his organisation, Quantum. However, M’s bodyguard Mitchell is a double-agent and murders several agents in order to ensure Mr White’s escape. Bond follows a lead regarding Mitchell’s contact to Haiti where he encounters Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko) who has a price on her head courtesy of her lover, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric).

 

Bond learns that Greene is helping a Bolivian general named Medrano (Joaquin Cosio), a man who murdered Camille’s family, to overthrow his government in exchange for a seemingly barren piece of desert that appears to be worthless

 

As Bond’s behaviour becomes increasingly reckless his own government and M begin to wonder if he is so blinded by his rage and anger over Vesper’s death that he is prepared to do anything, and kill anyone, in order to satisfy his desire for revenge. Greene becomes the focus of Bond’s obsession as Camille risks everything to get closer to the man that murdered her family.

 

After Casino Royale fans who were concerned about the new look James Bond, a Bond that doesn’t make jokes, doesn’t love anyone, and is ruthlessly efficient at killing, were reassured by the strong performance of Daniel Craig. His portrayal of the character is more in line with how Ian Fleming envisioned the British super-spy in his novels. I have read one of the books You Only Live Twice and Craig is indeed more faithful to that version of the character, and in this film Craig continues to portray Bond as a loose cannon who is almost fanatical about catching the people behind Vesper’s death, unfortunately, despite the premise of Bond seeking revenge the film has very little going for it.

 

During Quantum Bond manages to get photos of the people who seem to be much higher up in the pecking order than Greene, however, instead of going after them he makes it his business to harass Greene. These people are said to be a hugely powerful organisation that the British Government know nothing about (apparently they are Spectre or a sub-division of Spectre or the lower management of Spectre…I dunno…Spectre made a lot of shit up on the fly and tried to link it to this film). I don’t get why Bond goes after Greene, surely the ones who are controlling him are the ones responsible for Vesper’s death so why does Bond focus on this lower-end henchman??

 

As a villain Mathieu Amalric portrayal of Dominic Greene is not scary, charismatic, charming…fun, interesting, threatening…beautifully over-the-top or kept as a sinister figure in the background, he just sucks balls. Plus literally the first time he opens his mouth I immediately decided that he was a twat. Camille approaches him and he tells her that them sleeping together was probably a mistake, but she hasn’t mentioned it and considering the sexual tension between them is non-existence, it seems that Greene might simply be trying to boast to his various henchmen that he has slept with the beautiful Camille. What was the point of mentioning it?? Zap Brannigan in Futurama is more subtle “Kiff, I have made it with a woman…inform the men” that is a direct quote and that is more downplayed than the moment when Amalric just casually drops in the fact that he got some strange from a beautiful woman. Perhaps this was simply meant to demonstrate to the audience that Camille is prepared to do anything, including using her own body, to get an opportunity to murder her parents’ killer. Still, it could have been removed and the film would have been no different, it seemed to just be a ‘just so you know’ moment for the audience.

 

Plus a villain needs to be able to go toe to toe with the hero, be that intellectually, physically, or both, and Bond villains over the years have come in many shapes and sizes. What they all had in common was the fact that they could give Bond a run for his money (yes even Nik Nak managed to cause Bond some problems). Greene lacks the screen presence, the ruthless intellect, and everything else that have made previous Bond villains so much fun to watch.

 

Why Bond focuses on Greene specifically is a mystery especially considering if the Quantum ordered Vesper’s death then surely going after those in charge would make more sense than hanging around chasing a middle management type.

 

The beautiful Olga Kurylenko is on hand to give Bond what help she can and also serves as the damsel in distress needing on occasion to be rescued. Gemma Arterton also appears as MI6 agent Strawberry Fields who is bedded by Bond and then is quickly dispatched in a manner that tips its hat to Goldfinger. All he needed to do was upgrade her hotel room to a suite and she couldn’t wait to part her legs for him.

 

Let me pose a question…how likely is it that Bond is going to die of an sexually transmitted disease??

 

Think about it, because if you watch the movies some of his seductions of the woman are so fast they have probably been round the tracks more times than a greyhound, all he does is get in Mayday’s bed and he bangs her so if that is all someone has to do, how many times has she been nailed in her lifetime?? Do any of us think that Bond practices safe sex?? Does Q Branch issue him with contraceptives??....sorry I have wandered from the point a tad.

 

Getting back on topic…it has to be said that the chase sequences are all impressive and as before Craig’s Bond gets into numerous scrapes before ruthlessly executing anyone who gets in his way. Unfortunately, there is just not a good enough story for the special effects sequences to slot into. The final sequence in which a building explodes piece by piece will leave the audience to wonder how a building so poorly designed was ever given planning permission. Seriously it is shockingly badly designed, one spark and the entire place catches on fire which ultimately leads to the building blowing up, planning permission?? What’s that?? Safety checks?? Never heard of them, let’s just build a hotel and design it so the whole structure explodes if a fire breaks out…stupendous

 

Daniel Craig is still good as the ruthless Bond, I like the direction he has taken the character, but in all honesty I do miss the tongue-in-cheek Bond played by Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan.

 

However, Quantum of Solace is just not very good, it is dull and whilst it has something to do with getting revenge and Greene’s plan to withhold water from someone or other, it is difficult to know exactly what is happening between the action sequences and fight scenes. I wasn’t engaged, I didn’t care about what was happening, and if I can’t get invested in the story then I won’t enjoy the film. Bond is not supposed to a brain teaser but it is supposed to be entertaining and for me, this film wasn’t, so my Thumb is Down, sorry Bond but you need to do better to impress me next time.

 

 

4/10 - The film is below average and whilst Daniel Craig is still good but he lacks a good villain to go up against. I am waiting for his Quintessential Bond Moment, however, I am hopeful his Bond will be given a better story when he returns for Skyfall

 

TAC Reviews...Spectre

 

Released in 2015 Spectre is the twenty-forth film in the James Bond franchise and features Daniel Craig reprising the titular role of James “007” Bond with Ben Wishaw, Naomie Harris and Ralph Feinnes returning as Q, Moneypenny and M respectively, joining them is Christoph Waltz as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the Head of Spectre.

 

Spectre Poster

 

There is an article in the What’s on my Mind section of this website in which I talk about the quintessential Bond moment, and that in my opinion Daniel Craig was yet to have his. I wondered if he would get that defining moment in Spectre so the question remains of whether he does or not…naturally we will get to that but the review should you choose to read it is below…hang on that is the wrong spy franchise…

 

We start off in Mexico City during the Festival of the Dead (or something like that) with Bond poised on a rooftop opposite a building about to assassinate three men, he is armed with a sub-machine gun (I would have used a sniper rifle myself but whatever). During the assassination Bond kills two of the men but accidently hits some explosives which detonate and blow up the majority of the building. One of the men escapes and runs with Bond in pursuit…the man gets into a helicopter but Bond leaps on board and after a battle both the pilot and the man in white end up dead with Bond flying into the opening credits.

 

Back in London it turns out that Bond was not authorised to be in Mexico and has seemingly gone rogue from MI6, naturally M is not happy, especially considering that the double-o programme is about to be retired in favour of a new surveillance programme called Nine Eyes that is set to become the eyes and ears of the world. M is clashing with Max Denbigh, codenamed C (played by Andrew Scott), who is trying to get Nine Eyes off the ground. Bond is suspended indefinitely and later approaches Moneypenny to help him with his mission, it turns out the previous M (Judi Dench) sent Bond a video after her death which instructed him to kill the man in white then attend his funeral.

 

Despite being suspended and being injected with “Smart Blood” to monitor his every movement as well as his location, Bond ropes Q into helping him disappear so he can attend the funeral in Rome.

 

After killing the assassins set to eliminate the man in white’s wife, Bond takes a ring that has an octopus like symbol on it, and attends a meeting being presided over by a man kept in shadow. The man turns to Bond, blowing his cover and forcing him to flee with a muscle bound henchman Mr Hinx (Dave Bautista) setting off after him as the man in shadow disappears.

 

As Bond struggles to uncover the identity of the man in shadow he learns that everything that has been happening in his life (from Casino Royale) has all been controlled by an organisation plugged into the world, an organisation called…dan…dan…dahhhhh…Spectre headed by none other than Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

 

It actually took me a surprising amount of time to get round to watching this film, I missed it when it was out in the cinema, and after that I kind of lost interest in it for a bit. Still the other day it came to my attention so I figured it was time that I sat down and cast my eyes over it, so what do we think??

 

Honestly I was not impressed…at the end of Skyfall it seemed that we were returning to the classic structure that made James Bond great, and yet we immediately open up with Bond going rogue and killing some guy in Mexico City. I think that in the first sequence it is obvious what is wrong with the film, as a secret agent, Daniel Craig’s Bond just sucks. So he is poised on a rooftop preparing to assassinate some bloke because M sent him a message to kill him…fine but he doesn’t slip in, kill the targets and then slip out again, you know like a secret agent, he blows up half a block bringing his activities to everyone’s attention, has a fight on a helicopter spiralling out of control above a huge crowd, and then not surprisingly M twigs that he was in Mexico.

 

Stealth…every heard of it Craig’s Bond???

 

Plus when he is having the fight on the helicopter, for no reason he attacks the pilot too…er…James why not leave the pilot to, you know, fly the helicopter instead of attacking him too and risking sending it plunging down onto the crowd full of innocent people below.

 

In this instalment of the series we are also supposed to believe that everything that happened from Casino Royale to now was all Spectre’s doing. Despite the fact that apparently an organisation called Quantum was responsible (as seen in Quantum of Solace) and basically Bond has been targeted by Blofeld for years. The thing is this is the first time that has been said and we are just supposed to take it onboard. So, everything is connected from Casino Royale to this…but he’s an idea, show don’t tell…Sean Connery’s Bond had to deal with a worldwide terrorist organisation so we saw Spectre in Thunderball, they were involved in Diamonds are Forever, with their cat stroking leader Number One, Blofeld hidden the whole time. It wasn’t until You Only Live Twice that we saw him. It was a worthy pay off because you wanted to know who this guy is, and the fact that you have never seen his face means that he could be anyone. Here it was all Spectre and Blofeld was taking a personal interest in destroying Bond’s life…you can’t just tell us Spectre was behind the scenes the whole time and expect us to just believe it. Obviously the filmmakers have tried to shoehorn in this idea that everything is connected and this super-secret organisation is behind it, but the audience are not the government, you can show us this group and the fact that you haven’t clearly shows that they have been trying to decide what made the original films popular and have latched into Spectre as we can’t have other countries as the enemies anymore.

 

In this version Bond gets captured and tortured by the enemy (again), remember when Bond used to get captured but always got out of there before he got actually tortured?? Yeah, Craig’s Bond doesn’t escape before getting tortured, he gets his balls smashed into putty or a needle drilled into his head or something without suffering any ill-effects later on. In this film he gets a small drill, well, drilled into his head. At one point he is told that if the needle is drilled into his neck at the just the right spot it will erase all of his memories…yeah…it doesn’t. His neck is drilled and the girl runs sobbing to his side only for him to still know exactly who she is thus rendering that form of torture (ironically) completely pointless. Why include it or make a big thing about it wiping his memories if it in fact does nothing so Blofeld might as well have hit him with a cushion for all the good it did.

 

Plus the so called twists couldn’t have been telegraphed more obviously if there had been a fifty foot high neon sign above them. In the TV show Sherlock Andrew Scott played Sherlock’s nemesis Moriarty (something he did very well) but the moment I saw him I knew he was going to turn out to be evil…does he?? Yep, and that is not a spoiler because if you didn’t see it coming then you are about as on the ball as an ocean liner in the desert. In addition Nine Eyes has been built by private contractors…oh right…private contractors like, I dunno, SPECTRE!!!!! Later on, guess what, it turns out that Nine Eyes is Spectre and when Nine Eyes goes online it will give the criminal organisation unprecedented access to all the world’s information.

 

I honestly thought that the hotel in Quantum of Solace was the most poorly constructed building in cinema history but it seems that Blofeld hired the same contractor to build his headquarters because all it takes is a couple of well placed bullets and…yep the entire building blows up. For fuck sake, I get that Spectre is a terrorist organisation and their last main headquarters was built in a volcano but that base was only destroyed after that Blofeld set the self-destruct. That base could safely launch a rocket…I think if someone had gotten too close to this place with a match it would have exploded.

 

Right, I’ll just drop this, because whilst this one wasn’t as obviously telegraphed as some of the other “twists” it was relatively easy to see coming…

 

(...Spoiler Ahead...)

 

Still reading…right, in this canon after his parents died the young James Bond was taken in by a man named Hannes Oberhauser who had a son named Franz. Both Hannes and his son seemingly died in an avalanche, as it turns out, Franz felt that his position as son had been supplanted by Bond so killed his own father, faked his own death, took the name Ernst Stavro Blofeld ultimately setting up Spectra and ruining Bond’s life for basically shits and giggles. The reason for Franz to kill his father is so stupid…he felt that his father bonding with an orphan who lost his parents in a climbing accident was usurping him so the logical option was to sit down father to son and discuss…ah sod that…kill him, that’ll sort it out. Fucking hell kid, you need some major therapy, it creates a link between Bond and Blofeld that didn’t need to be there. I don’t see what it adds to the story to have the two as kind-of brothers. In You Only Live Twice Blofeld seemed to respect Bond because he had been responsible for destroying a number of Spectre’s operations but they didn’t try to throw this whole…you two are brothers bullshit at us…thinking about it…I know where they got his idea from. Remember Austin Powers Goldmember??? It turned out that Austin Powers and Dr Evil were roommates as collage and were also brothers…remember how stupid it was then??? The fact that a James Bond film, a James Bond film, has taken an idea from the worst of the Austin Powers films and tried to shove it into our faces is just insulting.

 

There is a Bond-girl who naturally gets captured and is put in a building set to explode, timers ticking down before the building blow up, and it is up to Bond to rescue her. In these scenarios why do the bad guys always put the girl in the building?? Do you know what I’d like to see…a film in which the hostage is already dead, the hero runs around trying to find them, maybe following a voice, only to kick that last door in and find the body with a recording nearby so they see their search had been meaningless right before the building blows up in their face. Just once Hollywood. The Dark Knight kind-of did it when the Joker gave Batman the location of Rachel and Harvey Dent then whether mistakenly or on purpose got the locations of the two mixed up resulting in only one being saved. That carried some weight to it but yet again, the hero rescues the girl and gets them out of the building before the explosives go off.

 

The film does have plenty of action but the inconsistent tone irritated me. Daniel Craig becoming a more laidback Bond is more like the classic Bond, but like a vampire and sunlight Craig and tongue-in-cheek they just don’t go together. We get a upgraded Aston Martin which is brilliant and really cool, but during the car chase it turns out the weapons haven’t been loaded with ammunition, wah, wah, wah, a button that is labelled Atmosphere turns on the stereo, and during the chase it gets stuck behind a slow moving car. Come on guys, this is supposed to be a car chase so give is a car chase, instead Bond pushes the car with his own before crashing it into a river. Oh swell, what a great chase, worthy of Bullet

 

The longer I watched it the more I began to realise that this isn’t a Bond film, it doesn’t feel like a Bond film, it feels like a spy thriller that James Bond just happens to be in too. But this is not James Bond on his A-Game. This film felt lazy, and I was sitting there with my critic’s hat on all of the way through and was poking one hole after another in it…a shame because that is not what I wanted to be doing…I wanted to be enjoying a James Bond Film.

 

Some of the ideas are interesting and the double-o programme being mothballed was something that I liked. Back when the first films came out, and secret agents were fighting warlords, maniacs that wanted to the destroy the world, the Russians, plus every other villain that crawled out of the wood work the double-o agents were needed. But these days why use a spy to assassinate someone when you can use an aerial drone that you are controlling from the other side of the world. But then they go a ruin that by saying that having a Licence to Kill is also having a Licence not to Kill, the agent looks the person they are intending to kill in the eye and makes the decision about where to end a life or not. A person operating a drone doesn’t see the look on their victim’s face…now why do you think that line was in the film??...yep, it was so in the finale Bond could look Blofeld in the eye and decide not to kill him. So random henchmen, blokes that spend a film pissing about with oil, guys who cry tears…all of these are fair game but the Head of a major world-wide terrorist organisation that has destroyed everything in Bond’s life that meant something to him…this is the guy Bond chooses to let live…shoot him James for crying out loud…just fucking shoot him…

 

The one bright spark that the film had going for it was Christoph Waltz as Blofeld because it is obvious that he is having a ball with the character. He steals every scene, oozes charm and menace, okay he doesn’t spend much time petting his cat but that I can forgive him for. Every single time he was on screen I loved this film, it was dragging my opinion upwards and to be honest he damn near saved it for me, unfortunately the cop out ending and the generally just weak effort killed this film. Wishaw is still also a highlight as Q, and this time he does get to go out into the world, which is good but the problem is that I just don’t find Daniel Craig’s Bond especially engaging and trying to blend his first more ruthless outings in Casio Royale and Quantum of Solace with this half-assed, kind-of tongue-in-cheek Bond that tries to have gritty realistic moments as well just falls completely flat.

 

If you want to be more true to the books as give a harder Bond then fine, but doing that for a couple of films then changing his character traits plus trying to get us to swallow the idea that “it was Spectre the whole time” just made this film a bit of a jumbled mess. It was not terrible, and the action sequences were entertaining, but those weren’t the sequences that stuck with me after the film ended. The only thing I can clearly remember was that Waltz was immensely entertaining but when he wasn’t on screen I just didn’t care about what was happening. In the end I was not impressed with so much of Spectre and so the film gets a Thumbs Down.

 

 

4/10 – This is a below average outing that leaves me waiting for Daniel Craig’s Quintessential Bond moment, and I feel I am waiting for a moment that will never come. This version of James Bond is not a legendary super-spy, he is a dofus, he is about as subtle as a surgeon with a sledge hammer, and really doesn’t deserve to follow in the shoes of Connery, Moore, Dalton and Brosnan.

 

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