James Bond Day.
Why, do you ask?
Well, the date marks the anniversary of the release of the first EON produced James Bond film, ‘Dr.No’, in 1962. First noted in 2012 when the series celebrated it’s 50th anniversary when the 23rd movie, ‘Skyfall’, made it into cinemas, the date has been a regular celebration of all things 007.
As the series continues with the 25th entry, ‘No Time To Die’, due to be released in April 2020 and taking the franchise into it’s 58th year, I’ve put together a bumper pack of reviews spanning the series.
One review, for one actor, for my personal favourite of their 007 performance. Doesn’t REALLY count with one-hit wonder George Lazenby, but I’ve got to play fair.
Grab a vodka martini (shaken, not stirred) and click the links below to reveal my thoughts on how each actor, from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, measured up as they helped re-define popular culture, equality and action cinema.
Dr. No (1962), Sir Sean Connery
When British Intelligence Station Chief John Strangways (Timothy Moxon) is killed in Jamaica, MI6 agent James Bond (Sean Connery) is dispatched by his boss, M (Bernard Lee), to investigate his sudden disappearance, as he was working with the CIA to investigate space shuttle radio jamming launched from Cape Canaveral before radio contact was lost.
Landing in Jamaica, Bond soon finds that his arrival has caught the interest of a number of characters, including a photographer and a faux chauffeur driver who tries to attack Bond but is easily subdued. Investigating Strangways’ home, Bond sees a picture of him with a fisherman, Quarrel (John Kitzmiller), who he tracks down. After a hostile introducing, it soon is clear that Quarrel is a local helping CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jack Lord) who makes himself known to Bond.
Pooling their knowledge of the situation, Stangways was investigating the area to find out where the mysterious radio signals have been coming from. Finding the source coming from the small island of Crab Key, Quarrel takes Bond to the island to investigate. He is warned by Quarrel of the owner of the island, the mysterious and powerful Dr.No (Joseph Wiseman), and he also meets the beautiful Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress) on the island beach, who becomes caught up in Bond’s exploration of Crab Key as he battles Dr.No’s forces to find out just who and what is behind the attempted sabotage of the US space programme…
Not only is this a fascinating look at the film that reinvigorated the love for spy thrillers, but it also is a wonderful analysis of how a film with only a $1m budget managed to triumph expectations and pave the way for 24 more films over 58 years. The foundations for the James Bond saga lie with ‘Dr.No’, and everything you see and hear is a wonderful work in progress of a system that would charm film audiences of all sexes and ages, with a few rough edges here and there, but that adds to the overall charm of a very important British film, and also a 007 film, often forgotten in the shadow of 1963s mighty ‘Goldfinger’.
While the pace rockets along brilliantly in the opening acts, really hitting home the espionage thriller genre as Bond investigates shady characters and dangerous locations, it only becomes a little slow towards the end, but only because there is a great deal of focus on talking and thinking rather than doing. It’s not a bad thing however, as we don’t meet our villain, the wonderfully simple and chilling Dr.No, played with memorable menace by the late Joseph Wiseman, until 1hr 24mins into a 1hr 50min film. We feel his presence throughout the film with spooky shadows and hearing just his voice – less is more, and it works here as a faceless mastermind. He doesn’t need truckloads of machine gun toting mercenaries to make his plan or his character more dangerous. He just needs a select few allies who are as cold, dangerous and crafty as he and that is enough to maintain the threat without blasting guns and blowing up everything. Take note Hollywood. Less CAN be more.
Sean Connery may not be everyone’s favourite 007, that is obvious, but there’s no denying his introduction as James Bond established the character for the 50+ year run. Cool, suave and dangerous. Uttering the immortal line “Bond, James Bond” in a smoky casino, cigarette hanging from his lips, dressed in a smart tuxedo in a luxury casino, THIS image was the stuff of fantasy for men and women. It’s clear why men wanted to follow this dashing, smart and tough super-spy in his global adventures where he battled bad-guys, drove nice cars and bedded gorgeous women, and also why women wanted to see him looking suave and sophisticated, oozing sex appeal in being a man who knew what he wanted and how to get it. You accept everything about Connery’s Bond – form his charm, to his wry sense of humour and his cold-blooded judgement as a professional killer. There was no hero like him on screen before, and there hasn’t been since.
The characters aren’t outrageous and trying hard to be something memorable; if anything they are muted and simple, but it’s the way they are presented and delivered to the audience that is most memorable and made shockwaves. The beautiful Ursula Andress showing the beauty of the female body in a white bikini, stepping from the waves looking tough, sexy and in control. The chilling Joseph Wiseman, running a dangerous terror organisation intent on destroying the free world with lots of deadly resources. The slick Jack Lord representing the cool, calm and collected nature of the American CIA battling evil, and doing it in no less than audiences expected with his ‘Hawaii 5-0’ screen swagger. The hard-nosed Bernard Lee who is the father figure to 007 and is the backbone to all of the adventures we are sent on. So many simple foundations laid for defining characters in a fantastical, exciting and dangerous world – the beautiful girl, the dangerous villain, the cool ally, the tough boss.
And let’s not forget the action. While on a very underwhelming budget, the action here is well presented and brutal in delivery. Short, sharp fist-fights that you really hear and feel along with a smattering of dangerous shoot-outs and exciting car chases. It’s the stuff of fantasy never seen before, and what young boy or old men doesn’t want to be part of this world where the lead saves the world in such an exciting, effortless and thrilling way?
It’s such an important film that launched the British craze for the spy film and introduced the world to Britain’s greatest spy himself.
There’s so much to love about this debut for 007 form the surreal opening titles, the over-use of that iconic James Bond theme (still sounds cool and exciting 54 years on) whenever Bond does something remotely dangerous or macho, and the dry one-liners after killing a bad guy or slapping a woman. It’s totally 60s, but cutting edge for the era and is fascinating to watch over and over to see where it all began decades ago and to see that, at heart, the theme of ‘Dr.No’ hasn’t really been changed too much over the series.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), George Lazenby
After numerous run-ins with a mysterious woman in Portugal, James Bond (George Lazenby) finds out she is Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg), Tracy for short, daughter of European crime syndicate leader Marc-Ange Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti). Tracy and Bond form a prickly understanding, and Draco tries to persuade Bond to marry his daughter as he is a real man’s man.
Bond refuses until Draco promises to point him in the direction of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas), leader of SPECTRE. Bond and Tracy being a whirlwind romance whilst investigating Draco’s leads, and finds Blofeld is trying to claim the title ‘Comte Balthazar de Bleuchamp’ from the London College of Arms.
Posing as genealogist Sir Hilary Bray, Bond infiltrates Blofeld’s Swiss hideaway, Piz Gloria, and learns of a more sinister plan that SPECTRE have for world domination. Juggling his desire to bring down Blofeld and his growing love for Tracy, Bond soon finds it’s not just his life in danger, but Tracy’s also…
The James Bond franchise is a wonderful thing. It’s survived through 5 decades, over 6 leading actors and ever changing global politics. Everyone has a favourite, everyone has a least favourite. That’s the wonderful thing; the diversity of fans and how they like different things. I love ‘A View To A Kill’, lots of people despise it. I champion ‘Licence To Kill’ as the greatest ever Bond film, many people disagree. I despise ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ and George Lazenby as James Bond, many people love them – they are wrong, but I’ll let them think what they like.
OK, I jest! Of course people love the film, and many love George, and in parts I can see why. It’s a solid, grounded James Bond story that channels the Ian Fleming novel strongly. No extravagant gadgets, nothing too far-fetched and laying foundations for what could have been a very different story arc to what we know now. But for me I don’t buy George Lazenby as 007, and if you can’t invest in 007, you can’t invest in the film.
His portrayal as Bond comes across as petulant, spoilt and plain wooden. The way producers had this Bond spend most of the time revolting against MI6 when he doesn’t get his own way is off-putting to me; it’s not “gritty” or character building, it’s just weak. Connery’s Bond would have taken it on the chin but ultimately kept going with a charming, steel grit. Lazenby sulks around, slams doors and pouts when things don’t go his way.
Add to the fact the man can’t act, with his dialogue coming over mostly monosyllabic and no conviction in what he’s putting across except for the final few seconds of the film. I always try to engage with his Bond, but I never can, and for me that ruins the film. I’m just grateful his agent made him quit the role so we managed to secure Roger Moore as Connery’s successor.
And the film in general is quite muddled.
The story is simple, but the “master plan” is very daft. The locations are sparse, but still look good and used to great effect. However, the horrendous editing for the most part of the film is worse than shaky-cam half the time. Fast edits, embarrassingly sped-up fight sequences…why is there so much of this? And continuity is sloppy – in the pre-title sequence, Bond and a villain fight on a beach, and the next cut they are waist high in water, and in the next cut they are on a beach again. It comes over like a strange spin-off Bond – it’s nowhere near as polished as the Connery films. The sped-up footage is the worst for me, and it’s just embarrassing to watch and takes away all the realism of the pretty heavy-handed fight sequences that could have been so much better. Even the final fight sequence is bordering comical with these sped-up shots and edits.
Co-stars Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas do what they are paid to do, neither really striking anything as special for me; Rigg has a lot of welcome spunk as Tracy and not as weak as other Bond girls, and I think she could have shone in another film if her role as Mrs James Bond was lengthened. Savalas, replacing the menacing Donald Pleasance as Blofeld does what Savalas does best – look cool. He’s not menacing or anything, he’s just…there. All the new and old faces do a good job around Lazenby – he just lets them down sharing scenes with them.
We’ve got a great soundtrack by John Barry and all the usual Bond staples are there…sort of. Many are in-jokes and nods to the Connery era in a desperate attempt to remind us this is still James Bond, just with a different face. It’s this obvious attempt to gloss over Lazenby as a new actor that makes me feel the studio was unconfident in having him as 007. If they felt the need to reference so much history, why hire him at all? Granted, Roger Moore at least had ‘The Saint’ under his belt, but he made the role his own with no nods and winks to the Connery era – we had to believe in him and have faith. Unfortunately, Lazenby doesn’t even get top billing in the credits before the title – he’s just placed in there with the others, so the whole affair to me doesn’t come across as very confident.
You get the picture. This would have been so much better as a Connery vehicle with so many important factors to the Bond canon taking place, but instead it comes across like it’s an ‘alternate universe’ or ‘spin-off’ Bond film. If Blofeld only recognises Bond due to something he said, rather than staring him in the face for days, then it’s hard to imagine it’s the same Bond and Blofeld who clashed in ‘You Only Live Twice’.
Anyway – some people love it, some people hate it. I hate it, and probably always will. Still, one out of the current 24 isn’t bad.
A View To A Kill (1985), Sir Roger Moore
After MI6 agent James Bond (Roger Moore) acquires a microchip from dead agent 003 in Siberia that was taken from a secret research plant, MI6 link the chip to Zorin Industries, run by wealthy tycoon Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) who clearly has links with the KGB.
With the help of fellow agent Godfrey Tibbet (Patrick Macnee), Bond goes undercover to investigate Zorin and his bodyguard, the alluring May Day (Grace Jones) at their private stud farm in France. There, Bond discovers a wealth of microchips Zorin is hording, but doesn’t know why. Once his cover is blown, Bond narrowly escapes with his life and traces Zorin to San Francisco.
There he meets Stacy Sutton (Tanya Roberts), a girl with links to Zorin whom he saw at the stud farm, and Bond unravels a plot to destroy Silicon Valley, ending the US dominance of the microchip market and paving the way for Zorin and his partners to corner the market for themselves. With the fate of thousands hanging in the balance and the safety of the free world, Bond must convince Stacy to help him track down Zorin and stop him before Silicon Valley is lost forever…
A great, if somehow under-rated, addition to the Bond series and a fitting farewell to one of the most loved, most passionate and iconic 007 actors of all, Sir Roger Moore.
The usual traits are here with fun characters, great action sequences and a fantastic soundtrack. Compensating Moore’s age at 57 during filming, he’s no spring chicken now but the stunt team make up with some great sequences like the Eiffel Tower chase via parachute and car, through to the San Francisco street chase and city hall fire right up to the Golden Gate Bridge fight to the death between Bond and the villan, Max Zorin.
There’s a nice, steady pace here with a lot more investigative work carried out by Bond, making a refreshing change of pace from the usual action-packed adventure and also letting Moore do that bit more at his age rather than heavy stunt work. It flows well and is always entertaining, thanks to the actors on screen and the tongue-in-cheek approach to the action but also a great deal of violence and darker moments, usually unheard of for a Roger Moore outing.
Tanya Roberts does suffer from helpless-Bond-girl-itus by her powerful lungs, screaming in most scenes as she faces danger, and this detracts from when she’s not opening her mouth as she is not too bad. The Amazonian stature of Grace Jones lends another memorable female villain of the series, and even if MI6 is populated by OAPs at this time, the cast still know how to deliver good guys and bad guys as required.
This is saved even more by Christopher Walken as Max Zorin who gives a wonderful performance, bordering on smooth charmer and dangerous psychotic, clearly enjoying his time as a Bond villain, from his little laughs of self-amusement that come across so naturally, to his ruthless evil streak. It’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role, even more so the late David Bowie who turned it down due to feeling action movies were not his bag. Also, look for tough man Dolph Lundgren in his first screen role as a KGB agent confronting Zorin and May Day with General Gogoll at the racetracks.
With one the greatest theme tunes of the series by Duran Duran, Bond still packs the punches as Roger Moore bows out with a fun and memorable entry. Like many of the Moore films, this just fits me like a pair of comfy slippers – it has the tongue in cheek humour, the thrills, the danger, the action and the immortal charm of the late, great Sir Roger Moore.
Licence To Kill (1989), Timothy Dalton
After British Secret Service agent James Bond (Timothy Dalton) and CIA operative Felix Leiter (David Hedison) capture and imprison South American drug baron Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi), the two celebrate at the wedding of Felix and fiancé Della (Priscilla Barnes). However, drug money proves too tempting for some corrupt officials; Sanchez is helped in escaping custody and he takes revenge on Felix and his wife.
When 007 learns of the situation, he makes it his personal mission to find and take down Sanchez. Starting in the Florida Keys, Bond traces all those involved with Sanchez and his operations to come across CIA agent Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell), an ally of Felix also working to take down Sanchez but for far more dangerous reasons than just blind vengeance.
With MI6 officials out to detain him, 007 has few allies he can trust as he starts to work his way into the heart of Sanchez’s operation and bring him down from the inside. With nobody to turn to for help, it’s down to Bond and a handful of allies to stop Sanchez and his drug empire before it is too late.
A truly excellent and refreshingly different 007 adventure, sadly seen as a let-down for many by a “too realistic” storyline and competing with the 1989 summer blockbusters. It’s also sad that the fantastic Timothy Dalton bows out after just 2 films. But he does so in explosive fashion as James Bond seeks revenge with him operating outside of Her Majesty’s Service and going rogue. And as this was the first ever James Bond film I saw, it’s already a default 5 stars for opening my eyes to the 007 universe and roping me in with everything I’ve come to love about the films.
This is the best of the two Dalton pictures and a real dose of grown up action for the Bond series which never lets down and boasts some of the most exciting and jaw dropping stuntwork and action sequences in a 007 film, like the water-ski escape from the Florida Keys to the finale set around a breath-taking tanker truck chase down a winding mountain road. There is also a real sense of spy drama to this – lots of infiltration of the criminal underworld, deception and manipulation, and working with allies to get the job done in a very brutal and Fleming-esque way.
We are limited to the gadgets, limited to the one-liners and limited to the grand escapism of super-villains and super-weapons. It’s a real-world threat of taking down a powerful drug baron and his cartel, responsible for endangering the lives of millions without the need for destroying the world itself. It almost has is in a “fish out of water” scenario, seeing the darker side to 007 a his world is torn apart with the mutilation of his best friend at the hands of our brilliant Robert Davi’s Franz Sanchez.
The cast are grounded and come across perfectly in their roles and not one feels out of place. Our Bond girl, Carey Lowell, is tough and resourceful and kicks as much ass as 007 does rather than scream for his help. It’s also nice to see David Hedison return in a crucial role as Felix Leiter, last seen in 1973s ‘Live And Let Die’. We also finally have Desmon Llewelyn as Q in a role that beats the screentime of all his previous ones combined!
It was a strange sight to behold for audiences after the light-hearted fun of the Moore era and so didn’t sit well with casual fans. The rating for audiences here allowed more violence and more bad language, so it’s a very big leap compared to the family friendly Moore films. But times changed, and this was heading in the right direction but, as stated, it can be seen how for casual Bond fans this didn’t have any of the “magic” the previous films did. This was a touch of dark reality- villains who didn’t have comic-book style wounds or scars, or who wanted to live underwater. No, these were villains who were based on very real and dangerous cartels, gangsters and assassins who blended into society but tore it down with drugs, violence and corruption – who would be the right man to stop them? James Bond of course.
But audiences weren’t so keen at that idea. Not when, in the summer of 1989, James Bond, in his 16th adventure, was going up against the likes of ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’, (third of a beloved trilogy and featuring Sir Sean Connery), ‘Batman’ (the first major blockbuster budgeted adaptation on film) and ‘Back To The Future: Part II’. A summer of big hits, fantastical adventures and comedy.
‘Licence To Kill’ is the lowest grossing 007 film when adjusted for inflation. It didn’t hit the target with audiences, even though some did appreciate the efforts, as did critics. It was just too dark and off-tangent in a summer when high-spirited adventure was a winner.
However, leap forward 17 years later and Daniel Craig arrived at the right time to re-invent the darker, Fleming-esque portrayal of Bond that Dalton introduced us to. Dalton set a benchmark the world wasn’t ready for, and only now are people seeing the weight and power he injected into the role. Losing out on a third film due to studio legal issues, one can only dream how he would have continued to give us a really exceptional set of films as 007 in the darker, more gripping and more dangerous world of espionage.
‘Licence To Kill’ is a perfect bridge between one era of Bond into another, but often overlooked. Timothy Dalton gives one of THE best series performances as 007, and it’s still as glamorous, exciting, dangerous and thrilling as ever 30 years on.
GoldenEye (1995), Pierce Brosnan
After a mission to destroy a Soviet chemical facility results in the loss of MI6 agent 006, Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) in 1986, agent 007, James Bond (Pierce Brosnan), manages to complete the mission and escapes.
Nine years later and arriving in Monte Carlo , Bond encounters the alluring Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) who has links to the Janus crime syndicate. Xenia and renegade Russian General Ourumov (Gotfried John), also working for Janus and who also orchestrated the death of 006, steal an EMP resistant helicopter and the arming key to the GoldenEye weapons satellites.
Head of MI6, M (Judi Dench), sends Bond to find the Janus group and retrieve the GoldenEye key before they use the final satellite weapon. Heading to Russia to meet CIA contact Jack Wade (Joe Don Baker), Bond is horrified to learn that the face behind Janus belongs to none other than a man he long thought dead.
Thrown together with the lone survivor of a GoldenEye test blast, computer programmer Natalya Simonova (Isabella Scorupco), Bond must use her knowledge of the weapon and find Janus, and stop them before they can unleash havoc on the world…
The fresh take on the old winning formula of James Bond doesn’t falter one bit with a story that uses more intrigue and thrilling elements as much as the breath-taking stunt work and action packed sequences like car, train and tank chases, exciting shoot-outs and brutal fist-fights. As the audience of modern cinema doesn’t faze easily, James Bond ups the ante with that shade more violence, danger and realism for the new generation of fans with a fine balance of comedy and action.
Pierce Brosnan fills the role of 007 with no trouble and works well with new Bond girl Izabella Scorupco. Blending elements of all former Bond actors before him like the coldness of Connery, the humour of Moore and the danger of Dalton, Brosnan has natural good looks and a very sophisticated aura that makes 007 sexy, cool and likeable more than ever. Sean Bean works wonders as the complex soul Alec Trevelyan, matching Pierce Brosnan in all aspects of brains and brawn – a real spy vs spy battle, and has support from the gorgeous Famke Janssen as the villainous Xenia, one of the most memorable and beautiful Bond girls since Pussy Galore in ‘Goldfinger’.
Judi Dench makes her blistering debut as the new female M and sets her standard very high for the films to come as Bond’s new mother figure, while Samantha Bond is a new, sexy and sophisticated Miss.Moneypenny. Desmond Llewelyn is dependable as ever as the cantankerous Q, providing yet more genius and dangerous gadgets.
It’s new Bond, but still classic Bond. The classic narrative of a villain (with scar) ready to hold the world to ransom can’t be faulted because it presents a new style of threat, using modern technology as the front runner to accommodate the chance in society since the 1980s.
The Cold War is over, but there are plenty of reasons for James Bond to keep thrilling us in the wake of a 6 year absence from an early end to Timothy Daltons run in 1989. Old and new crew come together to take 007 to new heights with classic elements we love laced with a new, modern twist. It’s the film that proved James Bond can still exist in a post-Cold War world and he won a new legion of fans thanks to this return when the world needed the original action hero.
With death-defying stunt work and brilliant choreographed action sequences, a modern take on the memorable James Bond theme and all the martinis, girls and guns we’d come to expect from 007, it’s a new era but one that proved nobody does it better still.
Casino Royale (2006), Daniel Craig
Newly promoted MI6 00-Agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) tackles his first assignment in Madagascar to trace down and apprehend a suspected bomb maker, a gun-for-hire, which upon investigation leads him to the shady character of Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a banker and terrorist financer who orchestrates terrorist attacks after short-selling stock to companies which results in huge profits for him and the organisation he works for.
However, Bond’s reckless and unorthodox methods out in the field cause concern for his boss, M (Judi Dench), and he is constantly monitored and given strict orders to watch how he carries out assignments and to think before acting. He is assigned to attend a high-stakes poker game at the Casino Royale in Montenegro, set up by Le Chiffre to recoup the money he has lost as a matter of urgency.
With the aid of the beautiful and cunning MI6 Treasury agent Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) and resourceful field contact René Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini), Bond must use all his skill with the cards as well as his MI6 training to survive the intense poker game and the mission that will change his life forever…
This film grabs the lazy, self-indulgent and stale run of the latter Pierce Brosnan-era James Bond films, turns it upside down, shakes it violently, pushes it around a little, knees it in the face, throws it down a flight of stairs and kicks it in the head before setting it back down ready to tackle a new era of action/spy film and the new era of James Bond film. ‘Casino Royale’ goes back to the roots of the character created by Ian Fleming in his debut novel and re-energises the franchise for the first time in over 40 years (which is a damn good run before a franchise starts to lose steam!), and re-invents the legend for a whole new generation of old and new fans like nothing seen before. It’s James Bond, but not as we know it.
I’ve reviewed this film since 2006 numerous times on the initial watching and re-visiting, but thankfully after the initial buzz of being “the best Bond ever!”, it was a welcome feeling to have and understandable to think the franchise had been saved from dying out thanks to the focused film-makers on board and the exceptional cast, especially Daniel Craig, who overcame great adversity to tackle the most important role in cinema and his career; the debut of a new James Bond. If anything, he can be compared to the 4th 007 actor Timothy Dalton who harnessed the Fleming-vibe of marking Bond darker and more dangerous in 1987’s ‘The Living Daylights’ and 1989’s ‘Licence To Kill’. But after the wake of the loveable, family friendly Roger Moore, Dalton’s exceptional interpretation just wasn’t what the world wanted from their Bond. How times change…
With sparse CGI work and re-hashed plots, ‘Casino Royale’ takes things down a notch from the chaotic and sloppy ‘Die Another Day’ of 2002 to give us real stunt-work, well-crafted sets and sources out locations and a gritty, darker story that akin to the Cold War-era of espionage Ian Fleming wrote about in the 50s and 60s. This interpretation of 007 is more faithful in that he is more human than we have seen before. He feels, he bleeds, he acts. He makes mistakes and rash decisions, but these are all important to the new take on the character and his development into the secret agent we all know and love. It’s almost a wonderfully fresh prequel to an established character given to us in 1962 via Sean Connery, but at the expense of over-looking the change of actor in the title role, it’s wonderful to see. Craig makes Bond his own; there are no nods to previous portrayals and the amount of emotional and physical stress he puts himself through is remarkable to see in making this James Bond more relevant and real in the 21st century of realistic action films.
The mainstream introduction of Eva Green gives her the screen time and platform she deserves as a good actress capable of equalling her male co-stars in terms of sexuality, dominance and assertiveness. Yes her voice may grate some viewers as it seems it will soon just give up on her, but as a modern day Bond girl she looks the part with sex appeal and that crack of fragility that is crucial to the sub-plot between her and Bond and makes her one of the most memorable and important Bond girls in the current series.
Our other co-stars do a sterling job with their roles, thankfully avoiding the Bond clichés of good and bad, and rather coming across as people simply trying to do their job in a dangerous world where lines are always blurred between the heroes and villains. And while our main villain Le Chiffre, the wonderfully sly Mads Mikkelsen, may not be the egotistical, world dominating psychopath of the golden era of Bond films, but that flamboyance has gone, and it’s refreshing to see a villain dressed in immaculate suits with a subtle but effective physical defect. He’s a villain who could easily hold power in everyday society playing with stocks and shares for his own evil gain. And his bubbling frustration is excellent to see as he goes up against Bond in the Casino Royale poker game which offers a real sense of the Fleming novels come to life with a confrontation depending on hero and villain out-smarting and out-thinking each other without guns, bombs or explosions – it’s all about the power of the mind and who can hold their nerve the most in a well-paced and engrossing middle act.
And what is also good is that we are given room to breathe in the action sequences and globe-trotting as a whole. We actually see the nerve-shredding stunt work and the brutal fight scenes with camera and editing work that doesn’t cause headaches like more recent films tend to do with “shaky cam” and “super-fast editing” that moves so fast you can’t keep up. This is a visual treat to see something made so well that we can actually feel, wince and cheer at and take in the passion and detail put into making it look and feel so real in the exotic locations that deserve their screen time.
But I am going on – all the above mixed with a faithful orchestral soundtrack that blends old and new themes thanks to veteran composer David Arnold delivers a faithful adaptation of ‘Casino Royale’ but mixed up and presented to win back old fans and lure in new to show nobody really does it better at action films like James Bond. The exotic locations, the beautiful girls, the evil villains, the technology, the action and dry humour; it’s all here, just not shovelled on you to meet your expectations. You need to think a little more and follow a carefully laid story as this film treats you like you’re watching Bond for the first time rather than assume you’re just going to love it no matter what.
EON had a very risky chance to take re-introducing James Bond after such a lull in 2002, and while the story is quite intense in parts and it does run 20 minutes longer than it could do due to padding out the character relationships to set up the finale, it still delivers more than you could ever wish for a relevant, exciting and current James Bond film that removes the weaknesses from the past and aimed to go higher, bigger and better than ever before.
Which are YOUR favourite 007 films, and why?
What stands out in the franchise as the highs and lows for you?
Immerse yourself in all things James Bond and remember, nobody does it better.