Two weeks of Bondage - Reviews

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  • Agent PurpleAgent Purple Posts: 857MI6 Agent
    I think there's a Bond scale, then a non-Bond scale. I may be going out on a limb here, but I never include Bond films in my all time top films...

    Not because I don't think they're good enough, I just think it's a different league.

    There are Bond films, and then there are other films.

    I think I see what you mean.
    "Hostile takeovers. Shall we?"
    New 2020 ranking (for now DAF and FYEO keep their previous placements)
    1. TLD 2. TND 3. GF 4. TSWLM 5. TWINE 6. OHMSS 7. LtK 8. TMWTGG 9. L&LD 10. YOLT 11. DAD 12. QoS 13. DN 14. GE 15. SF 16. OP 17. MR 18. AVTAK 19. TB 20. FRWL 21. CR 22. FYEO 23. DAF (SP to be included later)
    Bond actors to be re-ranked later
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,000MI6 Agent
    edited December 2020
    SPECTRE
    18/11/15


    Spectre, Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as OO7, opens with a traditional gun barrel sequence. Not seen preluding a Bond movie since the days of Pierce Brosnan, this rather neatly anticipates what is to follow as this new adventure for Britain’s top secret agent seems in part to be a two and a half hour homage to almost all of the 23 movies which came before.

    It’s fun to sit there and pick out the bits you think the writers have pinched from previous films as well as from a few as yet unused novels or short stories. Indeed Purvis and Wade (again), this time aided by Jez Butterworth and John Logan, utilize several of the best and most frequent recurring set pieces from the very start. Mexico City’s Day of the Dead festival is a spectacular annual fiesta which brings to mind the voodoo scenes in Live and Let Die. We’ve seen Bond in this kind of peril during a public jamboree once too often, most recently in Quantum of Solace’s Palio pursuit, at its peak in Thunderball’s Junkanoo chase, but often these share mixed results. Here it’s delivered with some aplomb. There is a much heralded opening tracking shot and a spectacular assassination complete with collapsing building a la Casino Royale. There’s even a neat little visual gag involving a sofa which Craig handles with the finesse of Moore in his prime.

    It’s at this point that the movie feels suspiciously like a retread of something I’ve recently seen – a month ago in fact when I re-watched Skyfall on DVD. A mere few minutes in and I’m almost screaming for the credits, yet exactly as in the previous outing, this PTS is stretched to almost unendurable length and while I agree the helicopter fight is so well directed, edited and choreographed you can barely see the CGI joins, I have to argue that the interminable length of this scene – say nothing of the whole movie – is the real battle for James Bond.

    I cannot fathom what persuaded the director, producers, writers, editors, money men or whoever else is involved in these decisions to burden us with over two and half hours of OO7. When you watch the older, more satisfying Bond films it is surprising how little action there is. You may think you are getting a lot of bangs for your buck, but in fact most of them are not that action orientated. Instead there is a raft of clever and relevant dialogue, which explains the characters motives and the plot. Interspersed with these are periods of tension, suspense and intrigue, but the action sequences themselves, pitched showdowns in volcano craters and oil tankers accepted, tend to be very short, sharp and shockingly violent. This persisted even into Brosnan’s era – think of the two scenes in the Graveyard of Communism or the halo jump. Yet for the second episode running there appears to be an inability on anyone’s part to reign themselves in, to understand that sometimes less can actually demonstrate more.

    The first two thirds of the movie proceed at a brisk pace. Narrative plot holes abound and Bond’s actions fail to make any kind of sense, but cast that aside we have some splendidly photographed landscapes, some nice cinematic portraiture and a bit of cheesy banter between Bond and Q. The action’s reasonable too, if long winded. There’s a particularly dreary snow bound plane / car chase which really ought to have ended on the cutting room floor and Bond spends another chase scene sharing quips and data downloads over his mobile phone with a post-coitus Moneypenny. Well, I guess I never saw that in a sixties Bond! Not sure I want to see it now either.

    Eventually, via Rome and Monica Bellucci’s bed, via Austria and Mr. White’s hell hole of a hideaway, via some Swiss clinic, via a dingy dodgy hotel in Tangiers, we end up on a train heading for the deepest darkest deserts of Morocco. Bond has found a reluctant ally in Mr. White’s daughter, the fetching Madeleine Swann, played by the astonishingly gorgeous Lea Seydoux. Their romance seems unlikely, but all women fall for Bond on trains and make no mistake so does this one. It follows a vicious fight with an almost mute heavy called Hinx. This bruising encounter destroys half the train. Luckily most of the carriages seem to be empty, so the two lovers have their pick of rooms to make rather animalistic intentions of lust. Earlier Swann attempts to psychoanalyze our Bond, but he’s having none of it, or is he? That twinkle in Craig’s eye is back; the same one he wore so effectively in his debut. If I’m honest, I’ve never warmed to old DC, but he’s very good in this one. Like Connery in Thunderball (also a fourth film) he now seems to inhabit Bond, rather than act him. He’s as relaxed in a dinner jacket as he is punching seven bells out of Hinx or downing vodka in a rundown hotel or sitting static and silent in his London flat. Pity they couldn’t uncramp him from those Tom Ford suits he constantly bulks out.

    What he can’t control is the wayward narratives. Jesper Christiansen’s Mr. White refers to Bond as “a kite, caught in a hurricane” and you do get the feeling our James is rather lost in this one. The train eventually dumps our lovely looking pair at a meteorite crater now housed for Spectre’s secret world wide data zapping thingumajig. I thought the sadly departed Silva had already achieved this feat in Japan in Skyfall, but apparently, despite all of Craig’s recent enemies all being disparate elements of Spectre, they had to rebuild it all over again. This, much like Hashima Island , is a startling setting, and, manned by many more minions this time around, the stage appears to be set for a big showdown the like we haven’t witnessed in a Bond film since those astronaut marines took on Drax’s laser toting regiments. Except there’s a problem: Bond is all alone. Disowned by MI6 (again?) he’s gone rogue, a bit like Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt in the recent Mission Impossible movie, but without the natty camerawork and the toothy grin.

    So rather than having Bond simply be given orders to eradicate Sciarra in Mexico, the writers, director and producers have concocted an intertwining tale which involves all the past three films, their villains and heroines and even informs us that the head of Spectre, the wonderfully named Ernst Stavro Blofeld – great name that, must be one of Ian Fleming’s – is the sort of step brother of our man Bond. As played by Christoph Waltz he’s creepy and thoroughly believable, but he lacks all the menace of Silva. Even an update of Donald Pleasance’s facial scar can’t make him more than a strangely anodyne figure. He doesn’t even wear socks. That Bond escapes is no surprise, neither is it that Blofeld wasn’t even killed and nor was his on line surveillance project thwarted, because Bond must to return to London and endure another twenty five minutes of running and shooting and exploding stuff to help Q crack Spectre’s secret digital codes and shut down the system. Yes. It’s actually Q who saves the day, not Bond. A bespectacled man with glasses and a laptop has more power in his fingertips than Bond does in his Sig Sauer.

    I sound like I’m jesting. I’m actually rather upset. I need to back track. Early on in the movie we learn Bond has been following up an ‘order from the grave’ delivered by the previous M in a DVD playback; we learn he has some childhood memories of a man called Franz Oberhauser; we learn MI6 & MI5 are uniting under a new department head called C – for ####, obviously – this officious, soapy little man even has to grow badly trimmed stubble to look older than twenty five. So obviously up to no good. So couldn’t care less. Q, Tanner, Moneypenny and M all get to play at spy games in a secondary plot of dire and dull circumstances which need not have been utilized, slows the movie down and constantly removes the focus of the story from wherever Bond is to London or wherever Q is. Gallingly at the point we ought to have a great battle scene, a fight with the bad guy and a rescue of a damsel in distress, all we get is a half-startling reveal of a villain, a half-baked torture scene and an unlikely all-encompassing explosion.

    They’ve dressed the movie really well, with top notch actors, a returning classy director in Sam Mendes and some great production design, costumes and effects. Thomas Newman’s music score is too reminiscent of Skyfall, but I like the theme tune from Sam Smith. Hoyte van Hoytema deserves a particular mention for his photography which is at times magnificently beautiful. Generally, like most Bond films, it’s an enjoyable ride which tries not to take itself too seriously; there is plenty of evidence of slapstick and wit, not always successful, but always welcome, and plenty of tough stuff, long winded or not.

    And there, I said it again. Sadly Spectre is simply too long. It drags in too many places and there are too many conversations between people discussing things which have no relevance to the driving narrative. There’s no need for extraneous explanation in a James Bond film. He’s an agent. He’s an assassin. He tracks people or organizations down and kills or destroys them. The intrigue is how he does it, not why he does it. The producers would do well not to hark back to what they think the franchise and the hero are about, but to why they worked so well in the first place.
  • IcePakIcePak Perth, Western AustraliaPosts: 142MI6 Agent
    Great, interesting reviews, Chris. I really enjoyed reading them all. I might disagree with you on a few points but you back up most of yours with important insights. Well done.
    1. CR 2 OHMSS 3. TSWLM 4. SF 5. TLD 6. GE
    7. FRwL 8. FYEO 9. LtK 10. TMwtGG 11. OP 12. TND
    13. AVtaK 14. GF 15. SP 16. TB 17. TWiNE 18. DN
    19. MR 20. LaLD 21. YOLT 22. QoS 23. DAD 24. DaF
  • Bondage007Bondage007 AustraliaPosts: 371MI6 Agent
    chrisno1 wrote:
    There’s no need for extraneous explanation in a James Bond film. He’s an agent. He’s an assassin. He tracks people or organizations down and kills or destroys them. The intrigue is how he does it, not why he does it.

    Exactly how I feel. Dr No and FRWL showed how it should be done. His mannerisms, actions, habits tell us who he is. None of this psycho-babble. A movie is too short to be peeling back the layers of a character, this would be better suited for a TV series.
    2019 Bondathon...in progress (6) FRWL (7) GE (8) FYEO (9) TND (10) MR (11) GF (12) LALD (13) DAF (14) LTK (15) TMWTGG (16) TB (17) TSWLM (18) DAD (19) AVTAK (20) YOLT (21) QOS (22) SF (23) TWINE (24) SP
  • Matt SMatt S Oh Cult Voodoo ShopPosts: 6,522MI6 Agent
    Bondage007 wrote:
    chrisno1 wrote:
    There’s no need for extraneous explanation in a James Bond film. He’s an agent. He’s an assassin. He tracks people or organizations down and kills or destroys them. The intrigue is how he does it, not why he does it.

    Exactly how I feel. Dr No and FRWL showed how it should be done. His mannerisms, actions, habits tell us who he is. None of this psycho-babble. A movie is too short to be peeling back the layers of a character, this would be better suited for a TV series.

    It can all be there, but it shouldn't be characters telling us about the layers of Bond. Bond should be showing it like Timothy Dalton did.
    Visit my blog, Bond Suits
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 1,000MI6 Agent
    chrisno1 wrote:
    {[] , Nice review, although I'd rate SF much higher than a 6.5 out of 10. ;)

    It's worth explaining how I rate these movies.
    Basically, I watched the first one (way back when) and when writing the review I very carefully considered how enjoyable DR NO was compared to some of my all time favourite movies: Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, A Matter of Life and Death, Once Upon a Time in the West, Raging Bull, Singin in the Rain, The Ipcress File, Get Carter, Apocalypse Now, A Bridge Too Far, El Cid, Doctor Zhivago, etc, etc... you get the idea.
    Questions I considered: How good technically is DR NO compared to these movies? How much more / less do I enjoy it? What makes it better or worse? Is the acting / writing / music up to standard? Am I bored ever?
    My rating of SEVEN was how I rated DR NO against the very best of that output. So if Casablanca is a 10, DR NO for me ranks a 7. This doesn't mean DR NO is a seven compared to Casablanca - its probably a 6 - but I factor in the enjoyment value to how I appreciate and rate Bond films - so it gets an extra mark for being IMO great entertainment. Other less enjoyable examples (OP for instance) did not get an entertainment mark factored in.
    So if DR NO is a 7, every other film is rated against it.
    Therefore if FRWL is a 9 and I prefer GF as a cinematic & entertainment product, it must rank 10. If I prefer QOS less than DAF, then it must be a 5.
    Regards SF. I didn't enjoy it as much as TND, TB or MR, which I gave a 7. It lost an entertainment mark.
    I think its production values were very high and in many ways it is a brave film, hence the half mark (the only one I have given) which moves it above movies like TLD and DAF which gained entertainment marks but only got a 6.
    Of course its all subjective, but quite fun.

    Sorry for resurrecting my own topic, but I was rereading this thread and this particular post of mine is absolute garbage. I have no idea what I was thinking. Given the 23.30 time of the submission I expect I'd been on the sauce a bit too much and was not thinking at all. Worst of all, I rated SF and SP when I offered no ratings on any of my other reviews. I don't even understand where those numbers for Dr No, FRWL, TB, MR, etc came from. So, I have edited out the SF and SP rankings. Half inclined to delete the stupid post above as well. I have genuinely shocked myself.
    i]Thumps head against desk[/i
    "D'oh!"
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