My Favorite #Bond_age_: Spectre by Nicolas Suszczyk

Like a Kid in a Candy Store of Bond Delights

by Nicolás Suszczyk (@NSuszczyk)

my favorite bond_age_: spectre

There’s a basic premise with the 24th James Bond movie: you either love it or you hate it.

I am, of course, among that former group, among those who believed the fourth Daniel Craig 007 movie was a brilliant James Bond film and refuse to hear all those who speak negatively about the movie.

It all harkens back to a day in November 2015, where I was in a place I can’t reveal, holding the hand of a woman whose identity I can’t also reveal, and the welcome white dots traversed the black screen, leading to the first *proper* Daniel Craig gun barrel sequence.

I think of Spectre as a proper 50th anniversary Bond film, even more so than Skyfall. The return of 007’s most remarkable nemesis, cleverly portrayed by Christoph Waltz; the elegance of that white tuxedo with the red carnation, a thrilling pre-credits sequence and some humorous gags reminiscent of the Roger Moore era. A lightness had return to the Craig era.

I loved everything people hated. But let’s start with the music department. Thomas Newman provided a soundtrack that touched me to the bones, from the sleuthish “Vauxhall Bridge” to the African vibes of “L’Americain” and the romantic piano in “Madeleine”. In many ways it is very similar to Skyfall, And yes, at first I complained about the score. But as soon as I saw how the music aligned with the images on the big screen, my ear was more eager enough to catch the subtleties and enjoy the brilliant ways Newman’s score combined with the beautiful shots by Hoyte Van Hoytema. The pairing of sound and image in shots of the train through the Moroccan desert rank up there with the work of Phil Méheux, Michael Reed and Ted Moore. They’re some of my favorite visuals in the entire series.

I’d also like to consider the ultra-hated “Writing’s on the Wall” by Sam Smith. The lyrics expressed Bond’s inner sanctuary. Images of the naked actor, intertwined with female bodies and octopus tentacles, appear in the main titles by Daniel Kleinman. The melody mixes drama, romance, weakness and strength – making it unique among the series. The use of the instrumental section of the theme as Bond and Madeleine unleash their passion is second to none!

My only issues with the script were the omission of dialogue that could have helped us understand, for example, how Madeleine had become so important to Bond. Between them there were more actions that words, and words were certainly needed. Compare their conversations to Bond and Vesper in Casino Royale, or Bond and Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Each of those films provided better establishment for their respecitve relationships. Still, Léa Seydoux is a great actress and her talents overcome some of these scriptural deficiencies.

Spectre offered an interesting reworking of the shadow organization for the 21st century. Blofeld tried to achieve world domination in a more subtle way, by controlling the intelligence networks. Even though I loved Silva as a character, he lacked ambition beyond killing an old lady in Skyfall. Here, we have Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s plot tied into Bond’s past and lifted from Ian Fleming’s short story Octopussy. Spectre even borrows a lightened version of 007’s torment at the hands of Colonel Sun in Kingsley Amis’ only Bond novel.

The action scenes were also well played. The gags in the Aston Martin DB10 with the failing gadgets. The thrilling helicopter fight over the Day of the Dead parade. The well-choreographed snow plane crash. The fight with Hinx on the train. All of these scenes brought back images of classic 007.

I also loved the last scene. Craig’s Bond deserved, at least once, the classic triumphalist ending, girl in hand. If he retires from the role, that final image would remain justifiable sign-off for his four-film cycle.

All in all, I consider Spectre the best film from the Craig era and perhaps the best since The World is not Enough. Even though I recognize the merits of Casino Royale, I can’t help but be thrilled by every frame of Spectre. I felt like a kid in a candy store of Bond delights.

 

Nicolás Suszczyk was born and lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He became a James Bond fan at eight He studies journalism and runs the 007 fan sites The GoldenEye Dossier and Bond En Argentina

First Bond Movie: GoldenEye on TV, Tomorrow Never Dies on the big screen.
Favourite Bond Actor:
Pierce Brosnan
Favourite Bond Girl:
Eva Green to marry, Famke Janssen for an occasional fling.
How I discovered #Bond_age_:
Discussing Bond with unknown people worldwide.

My Favorite #Bond_age_: Casino Royale (1967) by Matt Finch

Casino Royale (1967): Carnival and Clairvoyance

by Dr. Matt Finch (@DrMattFinch)

casino-royale-1967-02

Royale-les-Eaux, France. A gaunt man enters a pissoir and approaches its other occupant, who lounges nonchalantly against the urinal’s wall.

 

Mr. Bond?

Yes.

I’m Lieutenant Mathis of the Special Police. These are my credentials.

They appear to be in order.

Come with me.

 

It’s probably the strangest opening scene in the history of Bond movies. And this odd meeting leads into a uniquely picaresque adventure, one in which Ursula Andress kills James Bond twenty minutes before the film ends, a sexually insecure Woody Allen will attempt to avert a nuclear explosion using Alka Seltzer, and 007’s usual final-battle alliance of US Marines, submarine crews, or friendly ninjas will be augmented by cowboys and Indians, sheepdogs and seals… and Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Welcome to 1967’s Casino Royale.

 

 

You know, Skyfall wasn’t the first Bond movie in which our hero’s ancestral home goes up in flames. Right at the start of Casino Royale, an alliance of world powers attacks the mansion of our hero, James Bond, an ageing World War I veteran. (Perpetually 35-ish no more.) Only such drastic invasion of privacy can motivate Britain’s happily retired super-spy to take on one last mission. David Niven plays this reluctant Cold Warrior as a gallant Edwardian gent, “Sir James Bond 007.” The mainstream Bond usually sleeps with women in the employ of his enemies; his bedfellows then die for their troubles. Faced with the same situation, Niven politely declines the advances of SMERSH’s Deborah Kerr, causing her to, of course, reform and trade espionage for a nunnery.

Niven’s Bond harkens back to the roots of Fleming’s character in wartime and prewar imperial Britain. Nostalgia for British strength and leadership is writ large in this fussy, fatherly Bond; Niven lends the role his aura as the star of movies such as In Which We Serve and A Matter of Life and Death. Dismayed by contemporary “joke shop spies,’ he defeats SMERSH drones with nothing more than a shotgun and a pair of suspenders before heading back to base and declaring that all British agents will henceforth be known as James Bond 007, “to confuse the enemy.”

It’s an onscreen gesture that addresses Bond movies as a real-world media phenomenon. As Robert von Dassanowsky comments in his essay on Casino Royale, “By the release of Goldfinger, everyone wanted to be Bond; now everyone was.”

Among the numerous Bonds we find Terence Cooper’s “Coop,” the British Secret Service’s most sexually desirable agent, as selected by Miss Moneypenny. We see his Bond in a line-up of rival candidates – subjected to, and evaluated by, the female gaze, years before Daniel Craig swaggered forth from the surf. (And Niven’s renaming directive affects Moneypenny too, meaning that 1967’s Casino Royale also gives us a moment where 007 goes to bed with 007, completing the narcissistic circle implicit in every Bond film).

 

casino royale 2006 mirror

 

There’s also Woody Allen as a villainous, neurotic Bond living in the shadow of his famous uncle; Daliah Lavi as “The Detainer,” a female counterpart to Cooper; an unseen 007 who has “gone into television”; and Joanna Pettet playing Niven’s daughter by Mata Hari. (Her mother, Niven tells us, was “a great little dancer, terrible spy… whereas young Mata is a terrible dancer, might be a great little spy”).

If that wasn’t enough, we also have Dr. No‘s original Bond girl reinvented as another 007: Ursula Andress plays Vesper Lynd as a ruthless femme fatale who successfully murders one of our heroes and yet somehow manages to find herself literally on the side of the angels at the film’s end.

The spy killed by Andress is one of my favourite Bonds, Peter Sellers as baccarat expert Evelyn Tremble. This hapless nerd is recruited to become 007 and defeat Orson Welles’ villain at the card table, but he finds that being a studly superspy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When a temptress drugs his glass of champagne, he uses an antidote pill which fails to work; his bulletproof vest is “a little tight around the poison capsule compartment,” and although he can shoot the cork off a champagne bottle from across the room, he needs his thick, black-framed National Health Service glasses to do so.

Peter Sellers Ursula Andress Casino Royale

The Evelyn Tremble suplot serves as a commentary on the boys’-own dream of being Bond, as a competent but ordinary man fails to fill the shoes of an impossible übermensch.

When Andress seduces and recruits him, Sellers’ Bond shows the uncomfortable, feigned nonchalance of a man dating out of his depth, and floundering. (—Martini? asks Vesper. —What about them? replies Tremble). Just as Moneypenny evaluates the male agents for sex appeal, once again it is a woman who subjects Bond to her gaze: Andress of the famous bikini is now fully clothed, photographing Bond in a series of increasingly ludicrous costumes as she gets the measure of him.

 

VESPER: Stand still!

                [holds a light meter to EVELYN’s face]

                I’m going to give you a five hundred at f2.

 

EVELYN:     That’s the nicest thing that anyone’s ever said to me.

 

Sellers’ character tries to show off with press-ups and clowns around to hide his own discomfort; Andress takes the lead and he can barely manage to follow. At least he has the chance to dress as Napoleon, Adolf Hitler, and Toulouse Lautrec during his love scene, which is more consideration than anyone in a proper EON release ever got.

 

Peter Sellers as Hitler in Casino Royale 1967

 

Inducted into the secret service, Sellers does slightly better with Jacqueline Bisset’s SMERSH floozy, but she still gets the better of him in the end. It’s only really in his drug-addled dreams, where the women are merely figments of his imagination, that “Evelyn Tremble” achieves true Bond-ian swagger.

Echoing Ian Fleming’s text, Sellers’ Bond later faces torture at the hands of Orson Welles’ Le Chiffre. (He is tied to a chair with no seat before enduring a psychedelic assault, a reminder that this parodic Casino Royale is more faithful to its origins than one might credit.) Poor old Evelyn Tremble thought he might be able to impersonate James Bond. Instead he’s driven out of his mind, then shot to death by the woman he was trying to rescue. (And you thought Daniel Craig felt betrayed by Eva Green.)

Here, 007 dies by the hand of the original Bond girl, in both senses: Ursula Andress of Dr. No playing Vesper Lynd from Fleming’s first novel. It’s small consolation for Tremble that, as the film’s closest thing to an Everyman, his ghost gets to condemn Woody Allen’s Bond to hell in the closing credits. Those credits include Mike Redway’s song, “Have No Fear, Bond Is Here,” which rounds off the movie’s closing whirl of soap-bubbles, deadly gunfire, and broad comedy:

 

The formula is safe with old 007 

He’s got a red-head in his arms 

Though he’s a lover, 

When you are in trouble 

Have no fear, look who’s here: 

James Bond! 

They’ve got us on the run 

With guns 

And knives

We’re fighting for our lives 

Have no fear, Bond is here

He’s gonna save the world at Casino Royale

 

The jaunty tune seems doubly ridiculous, as Bond and his namesakes have been killed in a nuclear explosion. (It’s hard to tell whether the blast saves the world from Woody Allen’s villain or if it represents a kind of implied apocalypse in the style of Kiss Me Deadly.) As far as subversion of the Bond persona goes, it’s as if Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale concluded with What’s So Funny About Peace, Love, and Understanding instead of the Monty Norman theme.

 

Casino Royale (2006) ending Remixed from James Patrick on Vimeo.

 

The 1967 Casino Royale takes a lot of flak for incoherence and apparent self-indulgence. And don’t get me wrong – this is a very silly, very self-indulgent film made by people burned by the real-life business of Bond.

 

BOND: (searching for Vesper) You haven’t by any chance seen a young lady in a green dress?

CONCIERGE: Would that be a lady with a black bag over her head being manhandled by two unsavoury gentlemen?

BOND: Could very well be.

CONCIERGE: She went that way, sir.

 

You have to be in touch with your inner eight-year-old to appreciate the movie’s mix of flying saucers, Dr. Caligari-meets-the-Keystone-Cops, go-go booted gladiator women, and French cops with Scottish accents. But Casino Royale is jester and carnival: a season of masquerade and festivity. It is the unreasonable, indulgent, frustrating quality of filmmaking that allows chaos to provide a serious and highly prescient commentary on the ludicrous and increasingly self-referential pageant that the Bond series would become. The movie is a true burlesque that goes where no “official” Bond film ever could – and you should rightfully christen it your new favourite Bond.

 

 

My Favorite #Bond_age_: The World Is Not Enough by Steve Sandberg

I Know How to Hurt: The World is Not Enough and James Bond’s Shaky Ethics

by Steve Sandberg

The World Is Not Enough art

In discussions of the James Bond franchise, The World is Not Enough is rarely even acknowledged, and when it is, the talk isn’t usually positive. Treated as more forgettable than an outright disaster, Pierce Brosnan’s third outing as 007, in which his attempts to protect an oil heiress from a deranged anarchist are thwarted by the devious damsel herself, just doesn’t get much respect. I’ve had a rough relationship with TWiNE. I even despised it for a long time, but I’ve come to not only love it, but also believe it’s the most fascinating Bond film of the Brosnan era. I wouldn’t argue too stubbornly with anyone who doesn’t like the movie (as the flaws remain glaring) and few things are more subjective than the quality of individual Bond movies, but I will fiercely defend this film from any Bond fan who deems it an unimportant part of the series.

I believe the popular opinion of Brosnan is that he was a great Bond stuck in mostly mediocre movies. I can’t agree with that perspective, but I can certainly understand it. His embodiment of 007 is his own, but there’s something of an amalgamation of all previous versions of the character in it; he has Connery’s suaveness, Dalton’s harsher edges, Moore’s gift for making the most of bad puns. And like the way his performance somewhat encompassed all that came before, his movies were similar in how they spanned the franchise’s entire spectrum of quality. In just four films, Brosnan’s work reached masterful heights, embarrassing lows, and everything in between. That’s a badge of inconsistency to be worn with pride. In The World is Not Enough, his career hit all of these levels in one single movie.

My first instinct is to discuss the biggest complaint everyone has with TWiNE: Dr. Christmas Jones. I get it, Denise Richards is not a believable atomic physicist, and I wouldn’t trust her to defuse a nuclear bomb any more than I’d trust Bond not to make awful jokes about her inexplicable name. Despite that, I think she’s a lot of fun in the role, giving Bond guff about his Russian cover and attempting to chit-chat about his sex life, which is obviously ludicrously impressive. Many viewers find her insufferable, and that’s cool. She’s not that big of a component of the movie, anyway. TWiNE is all about Elektra King.

Where Dr. Christmas Jones is an average, disposable Bond girl, Elektra King is anything but. The oil heiress central to the film’s plot is not only the Bond franchise’s sole main female villain, as James David Patrick points out in his #Bond_age_ essay “The Tragedy of The World is Not Enough,” but also one of the most interesting, fully-developed female characters of the whole series. King is a tragic villain who subverts expectations, disguising herself as a damsel in distress while manipulating both Bond and her anarchist lover Renard as a means of coping with her bungled rescue years earlier.

Electra and Renard’s relationship supplies TWiNE‘s central theme: the idea of living without fear of death, or its consequences. Renard, with a bullet lodged in his brain, could die at any moment. I don’t know how medically accurate this scenario is, but it makes for a great bad guy. He feels no pain, and does not dread his imminent demise. By acknowledging his own certain death, he becomes more powerful. His philosophy rubs off on Electra, who was kidnapped, traumatized, and changed forever by Renard at a young age. She repeats his mantra (or is he repeating hers?) “There’s no point in living if you can’t feel alive.” This freedom from the nagging burden of mortality allows Electra and Renard to pursue their goals quite effectively, but all their acknowledgment and philosophizing can’t change the inevitable. Their plans are just as doomed as their Stockholm-y relationship, and the only thing the two villains achieve for their grand efforts is the death they refused to fear.

All this Fearless-ness makes me think about our hero, and how he views his life. Does James Bond fear death? For all TWiNE does in attempts to physically humanize him – a shoulder injury sustained early in the film becomes an easily exploitable weakness – he’s still very much an immortal character. 007 never has to be afraid of not returning for another film, and since mortality isn’t an issue, his morality becomes that much more important. If James Bond never dies, how can he live with himself and the many not-so-heroic things he has done?

Bond’s trademark attitudes weren’t always appreciated in the Brosnan era, most notably by Judi Dench’s M, who famously refers to him as “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur” in Brosnan’s first 007 adventure. Despite these self-aware criticisms, Bond’s old ways didn’t change much in the ’90s. In TWiNE, released on the cusp of a new millennium he’s up to his usual antics right away, but he’s immediately greeted with visible disgust from the first object of his innuendo. Later, he dons a pair of X-ray specs and scopes out all the nearby ladies’ undergarments, a scene that might have been cheeky fun in Moore’s era, but here feels unjustifiably creepy. The audience is forced to see Bond as more despicable than usual, and this is only the beginning.

The film’s action finale is between Bond and Renard in a submarine, but the real climax takes place just before, in Elektra King’s bedroom. Her death is delivered by 007 himself, as he shoots and kills her, an unarmed woman, in cold blood, when simply knocking her out or otherwise subduing her would have done just fine. It’s pretty harsh. The look of horror on M’s face as she witnesses this says enough. James Bond finally, unquestionably, went too far.

Bond certainly takes full advantage of his license to kill throughout the movie, gunning down quite a few unarmed thugs who don’t seem to require such force, but this murder is the one that feels truly excessive. Why go so far? Elektra’s betrayal probably hurt his tiny emotional center, but she wasn’t one of the rare Bond girls that he actually loved (though when 007 tells her “You meant nothing to me,” I don’t entirely believe him). Could his rage derive from the idea that a woman finally, truly got the upper hand over him? If that’s the case, his vengeance is swift and unsettling, a confirmation that his patented misogyny can’t be labeled harmless. He clearly isn’t happy about killing Elektra, maybe he even regrets it afterward, but he did it, and now he has to live with it.

I think the murder of Elektra King is a huge moment in the 007 canon. It will never be alluded to in future films like the deaths of Vesper Lynd or Tracy di Vicenzo have been, but it’s a pivotal moment for the character of James Bond, and, perhaps more importantly, the context in which he’s viewed. James Bond usually exists firmly in a world of good guys and bad guys, but The World is Not Enough shows him at his most ethically uneasy, building on decades of questionable attitudes and actions, challenging fans who hold him as an ideal. Whether or not that was an intentional choice, it makes the movie a lot more complex and important than it ever gets credit for.

 

Steve Sandberg (@steevenberg) is a part-time student of film and composition hailing from exotic northern Illinois. He’s slightly obsessed with goofy action and horror movies, and occasionally takes time to blog film reviews at MovieMarathoning.blogspot.com.

 

First Bond film: GoldenEye (and its video game counterpart) turned me into a Bond fan for life.

Favorite Bond: Since GoldenEye, Brosnan has come to represent all that is 007 to me. Connery is great, too, and I’ll always wish that Dalton had gotten one more shot.

Favorite Bond Girl: Elektra King is unforgettable, her deviousness founded in tragedy is unique, and her being so beautiful I wouldn’t think twice about hijacking a nuclear sub if she asked me to is a big factor. I’m also a big fan of Camilla Montes’ fierce determination and Kara Milovy’s mad cello skills.

How I Discovered #Bond_age_: Most likely a shout-out from @bobfreelander’s Twitter feed made me immediately curious, and I became a fan pretty fast.

 

My Favorite #Bond_age_: Casino Royale by Gregory Sahadachny

An amazing FRWL-inspired retro poster for Casino Royale by Jeff Chapman.

The Sex Panther Prowls Again: Dalton, Craig and the Promise of a Serious Bond in Casino Royale

by Gregory Sahadachny (@MisterGreggles)

Sitting in a theater, there was a great sense of excitement in me. A new Bond. I had heard that this outing would be a “serious” take on the suave secret agent/action hero we all grew up on; that this installment would set the series apart from the silly, over-the-top, pun-heavy detours of the previous keeper of the flame. Bond has become a work of folklore, of socially disseminated tales and shared cross-culture memory the world over, especially in the West. And, for me, he is a hero just like Batman or Superman. Was I ready for this “serious” take though? Was I going to get the necessities? The shaken-not-stirred martini? The “Bond. James Bond.”? The gadgets? Or was this going to break from formula? What about the one-liners? Was I going to even recognize the Bond I grew up with? That was at least a part of my excitement, sitting there in the theater that night. Then, the lights went down. The opening was memorable. Parachuting in to Felix Leiter’s wedding? The awesome cherry-on-top to a noticeably Hollywood-influenced action scene. (It was like a damn episode of Miami Vice.) But this dark-haired, heavy-browed thug with piercing eyes? I wasn’t so sure about him. This was the summer of 1989. And my Bond was Timothy Dalton.

I never saw The Living Daylights before my dad took me to Licence to Kill, so this was the first new Bond for me that I hadn’t already seen on VHS. James Bond was a character he and I bonded over, like many fathers and sons. I had gone to the school of Connery; my dad’s favorite. I had graduated first in my class from Moore; even taken a semester of Lazenby, which, at the time, I didn’t think much of, little more than a mandatory requirement. Now, in my adult life, I appreciate Lazenby and Dalton for the great interpretations of Bond they brought to the screen, as well as the excellence of their entries. But, yeah, Dalton was a new “serious” Bond. And having mainly accepted Moore in all of his tongue-in-cheek charm, I wasn’t too sure about him. 133 minutes later, I had changed my mind. Licence to Kill was harsh, sweaty, violent, and lacking a lot of the sophistication of Roger Moore’s read on Bond. By all accounts, Dalton was tapping into how Ian Fleming’s writing painted the MI6 operative; a more conflicted, timeless representation of male gravitas. The best analogy is to think, how would you react if you grew up on Adam West’s Batman, then Hollywood plopped a deep, brooding Michael Keaton in your lap? (I joke, but the parallels between Batman and Bond on screen are many. *editors note: see #Bond_age_ essay on Octopussy*) Anyway, I was ready for the Dalton series. A series that never came.

Bear with me. I would not spend two paragraphs talking about my hesitant, then full-on love affair with Timothy Dalton if I did not have a point. Who would have guessed that, in 2006, we would be in the same boat?

The history of Bond, Dalton & Pierce Brosnan is a fascinating game of musical chairs. But, Brosnan is not to blame for what the series had become by 2002’s Die Another Day. It was a joke. Not the Old Man joke of A View to a Kill, but one of “what has this series become?” It was a sex pun, wrapped up in hacky plotting. Brosnan did his best with what he had. Arguably, the last of his two entries undid all the greatness of the first two. Serious? Brooding? None of them were really, but at least the first two were made by competent action directors. Goldeneye’s director, Martin Campbell, especially, knew how to make a Bond movie exciting again. Vying to keep the series a competitive spectacle, Bond’s writers and producers, however, lost their way. And, Bond fans were underwhelmed too.

It was advantageous, then, that Campbell could be wooed over to save the series again in 2006. Injecting new life into Casino Royale was a blond, blue-eyed, young Brit, somewhere between magazine cover model and serious stage actor. Daniel Craig was not the wrapper the public expected for Bond. He did not exude “dark” or “brooding” or even an exquisite level of charm. The one film the masses might have known him from, 2004’s Layer Cake, had Craig playing a smooth, but naïve drug dealer in the London Guy Ritchie reinvented and Matthew Vaughn vacationed in. Based on all evidence, what the hell were we getting?

Any fears audiences had might have been informed also by the landscape of action cinema in 2006. There was no way a straightforward, Cold War spy thriller was going to work in the 21st century, around 15 years after the break up of the U.S.S.R. Goldeneye was lucky enough to benefit from the residual unrest in Eastern Europe, but what would Bond’s world look like now? Who would be the bad guy? We couldn’t just have some maniacal bad guy trying to rule the world, blow it up, or hold it ransom. Bond’s antagonists were getting more comic with each passing entry anyway; I’m surprised Two-Face wasn’t in there. No, the point is, it had to be real. It had to mix Bourne’s grit with Bond’s strategic sophistication. It had to get down and dirty.

I didn’t know prior to seeing Casino Royale how much of a reboot it was going to be for the franchise. In retrospect, it makes sense; if you want to re-imagine the character, go back to the source. Considering that the only adaptation of Fleming’s original book was a flippant, almost proto-Austin Powers outing, the time had come to make CR respectable, to install it in the canonical universe, and not let it stay in the land of parody or slight influence in name only. What is noticeable to any fan of Timothy Dalton’s interpretation is that Craig is doing the same thing. From the writers’ perspective, to make a prequel of Bond is to return him to thuggishness; an unpolished diamond, an unsophisticated murder tool. Dalton was in the wrong place at the wrong time (ahead of it even). The yuppies and decadence of the 1980s didn’t need this Bond, they didn’t deserve this Bond. But, in a post-9/11 world, influenced by the globetrotting political intrigue of the Bourne series, Craig had free reign to make his 007 a violent, spontaneous anti-hero. Craig plays him less like “the man with a plan” and more like “the man affected by the plan.”

If viewers had any doubt about him, Daniel Craig solidified himself in that first black-and-white sequence of CR. The creation of the gun barrel sequence being incorporated into the narrative, and not just a signifying check off the Bond checklist, proved exhilarating. Fans want to let their imaginations run wild with their favorite characters’ pasts. What prequels almost always get wrong is how they devolve into gap-filling and forget about the excitement of surprise. I don’t want something I know already to be destroyed in my imagination by committing it to the screen, or worse, having two characters talk about it. I want to be surprised by Craig, and I was, in the moment he gets his double-O status and creates one of the most indelible, graphical visuals in all of cinema. At that point, I knew I was in safe hands.

Casino Royale is not a perfect movie. It’s overlong; it’s got one or two endings too many. For all of its grounding in reality, it still can’t help some of the series’ extraordinary flourishes. For one, its big bad, Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre, cries blood. Ridiculous but satisfactorily explained. It holds the viewer’s hand during the card games; I actually laughed out loud in the theater when they cut to Giancarlo Giannini explaining to Eva Green (and the audience) the stakes, who had a better hand, and what Bond needed to win. And, the organization’s conspiracy is murky, especially in the last third of the film. A jump in logic about Giannini’s loyalty is confusing, even throwaway.

But, CR nails the beginning and the ending. Craig nails the attractive, pure sex of a dangerous agent. His comic bickering with Vesper, which transitions into psychoanalysis of each other’s hangups is actually a great example of how to do exposition effectively. The action scenes are well shot with Campbell’s direction. The dialogue is snappy, and several line deliveries are memorable (“Skewered”). The music is excellent, including an open title song from Chris Cornell (Best Male Vocalist, Greg Sahadachny’s Childhood 1994-2000). It also delivers on conventions: a new (old) drink & a new Bond girl, while giving Craig his own world to put a stamp on.

Casino Royale boils down to a showcase for a new Bond. Yes, we’re getting a return to Fleming’s novel, the origin point for a whole franchise. But, the story takes a backseat to Daniel Craig. It’s almost allowing us to view him in a cage before setting him free in the wild. We can see how he relates to M (holdover from Brosnan’s years and a major highlight, Judi Dench), see how he handles the action, see how he looks in a tux, see how he moves (like a goddamn panther on the prowl), see how he unveils the real bad guys, etc. There’s emotional complexity behind Craig’s eyes that we haven’t seen in the series in a long, long time. His journey from thug, to Vesper’s ball of clay to mold, to the hardened, focused, emotionally numb agent is a fertile landscape for virtuoso acting. And, boy oh boy, does Craig deliver.

Greg Sahadachny is a filmmaker and podcaster from Maryland. He works for an undisclosed international media company, so, in many ways, he’s just like James Bond…minus the guns, gadgets, charm and good-looking tailored clothes. He hosts The Debatable Podcast, available on iTunes and tumblr: http://debatablepodcast.tumblr.com.

First Bond Movie: Dr. No
Favorite Bond: Daniel Craig (could be what’s recent is the wavelength I’m on, but damn if they haven’t gotten Bond right in my eyes now)
Favorite Bond Girl: Xenia Onatopp (danger orgasms!)
How I discovered #Bond_age_: From the grand twitter web of overlap and retweets

My Favorite #Bond_age_: GoldenEye by Becca Andrews

GoldenEye: Propelling Bond into the Future Since 1995

by Becca Andrews (@R_ViewMovies)

goldeneye

 

From 1989 to 1995, the world went six years without a Bond movie. Timothy Dalton hung up the Walther PPK after just two films. Pierce Brosnan was cast as his successor, with Martin Campell directing. GoldenEye proved to be a sure fire hit, rebooting the long running spy franchise and cementing James Bond 007 as the man for the moment (or last three decades) once again.

GoldenEye added a new ingredient to that famous 007 recipe for success. If you feel that things have grown stale, simply wait 4-6 years for the global cultural/political stage to shift slightly, cast a new face in the role of Bond and get Martin Campbell to direct. Your Bond film will be a success!

The biggest question facing the first post-cold-war Bond film was – Is 007 still relevant? The fact that Skyfall became the highest grossing film of 2012 and overtook Thunderball to become most profitable Bond film of the series so far has perhaps proved that yes, Bond is still relevant… perhaps more relevant than ever, thank you very much.

GoldenEye is my favourite Bond film for precisely this reason. Martin Campbell takes all the well-worn elements of the Bond formula and puts a fresh spin of them, resulting in an exciting and memorable chapter in the series. Brosnan’s subsequent films tried but arguably failed to live up to the same standard. If it wasn’t for GoldenEye’s success, the future of the franchise may have been called into question. If it wasn’t for GoldenEye, would we still have Bond?

Every so often, like Doctor Who, 007 gets a new face. Arguably, the only constant is the famous “Bond formula.” To paraphrase three-time 007 director Lewis Gilbert, there’s a “law of Bond,” and fans expect the films to abide. The formula suggests that a successful Bond film must contain certain ingredients. Beautiful women/sex, exotic locales, evil villains and gadgets. And to a great extent, Gilbert speaks the truth. So it might be useful to explain why GoldenEye is my favourite Bond by looking more closely at these crucial elements.

Girls:  Bond has a hat-trick of ladies in GoldenEye, namely Caroline (Serena Gordon),  Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), and Natalya  Simonova (Izabella Scorupco). The immortal Dame Judi Dench famously joins the franchise to portray the new M, reflecting the fact that Stella Rimmington had recently taken over the role in real life.

M famously calls Bond a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the cold war” and to a certain extent, I would be inclined to agree. There are many remnants of the Connery-era Bond left in GoldenEye – but there has been a changing of the guard. And although we see woman in positions of power, a true femme fatale stereotype still rises to the forefront. It’s Xenia who uses sex to kill, further threatening the hierarchy and therefore must be put down, allowing Bond to bed Natalya, the film’s ideal woman.

Exotic locales:  Bond does a fair bit of globe-hopping in GoldenEye, taking us to St. Petersburg (Russia), Monte Carlo (Monaco) and Cuba, although of course many of the interior shots of the Russian scenes were filmed in and around London. Fleming himself was well travelled and during the 1960’s when both package holidays and the Bond films were taking off many cinema-goers were treated to a virtual world tour for the price of their cinema ticket.

Villains: GoldenEye has an interesting villain in Alec Trevelyan (006) played by Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings star Sean Bean. Trevelyan is later revealed as Janus, the film’s main villain with plans to steal the GoldenEye, a satellite-based EMP. As with Janus’ two faced nature, the film has many nods to the past whilst bringing the franchise into the modern era. More memorably, the film’s aforementioned female baddie – the thigh crushing, brilliantly named Xenia Onatopp.  She’s obviously oversexed and harvests pleasure from giving people “a good squeeze.” As with the world of Bond, the more bizarre the better. Skyfall’s Silva has nothing on her!

Cars/gadgets: The Bond films have often been at the forefront of technology but also absurdity (Octopussy’s alligator boat, anyone?). GoldenEye sees 007 driving a weapons-laden BMW Z3 roadster and the iconic Aston Martin DB5. Gadgets include a piton gun, a leather belt with a rappelling cord in the buckle, a pen that’s also a class-4 grenade, and a laser-emitting watch that is also an arming device.

GoldenEye is very much of its time – a 90’s Bond for 90’s sensibilities. Although we’d like to think Bond has progressed since then, the films that followed suggest it may just be a pipe dream – although Skyfall may be the exception. GoldenEye has resounded so strongly with me as a Bond fan because it retains all the classic elements of the Bond films while updating them for a modern audience. It stands the test of time by recalling the past, but also propels Bond into the future.

First Bond Movie: In the cinema: Tomorrow Never Dies. On TV: A View To A Kill.
Favorite Bond Actor: Moore. Daniel Craig comes a very close second.
Favorite Bond Girl: Octopussy, embodying women’s lib despite being a criminal mastermind (plus Maud Adams is the most prolific Bond girl, appearing in 3 – yes, 3 – different films as 3 different characters!)
How I Discovered #Bond_age_: the wonderful world of Twitter.
First #Bond_age_ Live Tweet: I’ve yet to participate due to the pesky time difference.

My Favorite #Bond_age_: GoldenEye by Nicolas Suszczyk

GoldenEye: The First Resurrection

by Nicolás Suszczyk (@NSuszczyk)

GoldenEye artwork

In Skyfall, Daniel Craig’s James Bond says to an overjoyed Silva his hobby is “resurrection”. Of course he resurrected in Skyfall after a not so bright Quantum of Solace and in Casino Royale after the somewhat grotesque Die Another Day. But the first resurrection 007 has ever had was, without a doubt, the 1995 film GoldenEye.

I was seven and a half years old when I saw a graphic ad in Buenos Aires announcing the cable TV premiere of GoldenEye in December 1997 or January 1998. Against a white background, there was a good-looking fellow in a tuxedo holding a silenced Walther PPK handgun, in an image lifted from the film’s teaser poster under the tagline “you know the name, you know the number.”

I didn’t know the name. I didn’t know the number, but that campaign forced me to learn more. I’d also heard once before some people in a toy store playing the famous GoldenEye game on a Nintendo 64 telling me this was the “agent 007 game.” After my dad gave me some Bond backstory, on January 31st 1998 we watched the film on TV. Multiple things happened to little Nicolás Suszczyk there: I went wow when I saw the hero shooting the audience through a gun barrel. My eyes opened wide when the same man bungee-jumped over 700 feet from a dam, and, of course, I fell in love with Famke Janssen, now the only woman over 45 I would think of dating.

GoldenEye ushered in a new generation of Bond fans and introduced the Cold War secret agent to the last leg of the 20th century. It showed Bond can still survive and arise with success in a generation of Internet and cellphones and that he didn’t really need SPECTRE or the Soviet Union to exist. Of course, the film has taken full advantage of the end of the Cold War, and they didn’t hide the fact (some sort of in-joke maybe) that 007 was a “relic of the Cold War” — a notion perhaps only exacerbated by the more than six-year hiatus where everybody thought Bond was dead after the poor box office for 1989’s Licence to Kill.

The remarkable direction of Martin Campbell (who has never disappointed me with any film, inside or outside Bond), the sharp photography of Phil Mehéux, Terry Rawling’s breathtaking editing and of course, the vivid imagination of the late Michael France who choreographed the unforgettable face-off between two double-oh agents. Bruce Feirstein and Jeffrey Caine turned France’s script into the the exquisite final recipe for GoldenEye, made even better with Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean and Judi Dench in the cast. I even like Eric Serra’s score. Of course it has many flaws, but those metallic pings and pops capture the essence of the film, not to mention its time and place. As does the score for the epic tank chase by John Altman and the end title song “The Experience of Love,” which fits the triumphant feeling of the film’s romantic ending.

GoldenEye is the Bond film that has it all: the inclusion of the Internet in a Bond film with a small pinch of a Soviet Union Cold War dread sprinkled about, explosive and breathtaking action scenes, a solid script dealing with Bond’s emotions not only toward women but toward friends, an innocent and lovely girl in Izabella Scorupco, a sadistic sex-bomb in Famke Janssen, a charming but evil rouge agent in Sean Bean and of course, lots of humour with Robbie Coltrane and Alan Cumming.

Want to jump into the Bondwagon? Need a good introductory film to watch? Start with GoldenEye.

Nicolás Suszczyk was born and lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He became a James Bond fan at eight He studies journalism and runs the 007 fan sites The GoldenEye Dossier and Bond En Argentina.

 

First Bond Movie: GoldenEye on TV, Tomorrow Never Dies on the big screen.
Favourite Bond Actor:
Pierce Brosnan
Favourite Bond Girl:
Eva Green to marry, Famke Janssen for an occasional fling.
How I discovered #Bond_age_:
Discussing Bond with unknown people worldwide.

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