Wow that's both a long review [I'll catch up with it soon, watching the football ATM] and a complete bummer regarding that showing of LTK. I can't stand Paris, Texas, so good luck with that. You can read my review of the TV showing here https://www.ajb007.co.uk/discussion/comment/1047536#Comment_1047536
This week I enjoyed GE in its 12A rating at the cinema, the first time I've seen it on the big screen since a couple of viewings during its initial release.
I like the dark tone of much of GE and the 'industrial' stylings of the score (though the Cuban sequences could have used livelier music).
The opening bungee jump works okay as a standalone stunt, though Bond's dive at the climax of the PTS, to enter and pilot the plummeting plane, feels like a bit of a cheat, obviously just a 'special effect'. The titles sequence ups the ante, classier under its new management than any of the 80s Bond titles and strikingly riffing on the movie's core themes.
Pierce Brosnan impresses with a convincing blend of elements of both Connery's and Moore's OO7 personae; he immediately looks like 'a keeper'. The process of establishing Brosnan as the new Bond involves, as much as the action sequences, a series of wittily written, well performed dialogue scenes which occupy much of the first part of the film - with Onatopp, Moneypenny, M, Q, Wade, Zukovsky, Trevelyan and Natalya. The first scene with Zukovsky is genuinely funny. And alongside Dalton, Brosnan may be the smiliest of the Bonds, despite his edgy quality; witness his beaming expression in his closing moments at the end.
My only issue with the new Bond is that, in fighting soldiers - and shooting them with automatic weapons - he looks, at key moments, more like an SAS combatant than a spy licensed to kill. Tellingly, when Trevelyan, outing himself as the villain, reminisces about how he and Bond used to fight together against dictators and hostile regimes, the terminology he uses suggests a history of ops against state actors - rather than independent criminal organisations (like his own!), the kind of villainy with which Bond audiences would be more familiar, given the SPECTRE dominated spyscape of the genre.
When Bond machine-guns troops at close range inside the Russian ministry in order to effect an escape - after Ourumov has assassinated Mishkin - this lethal violence feels rather 'off' for the genre because, at that point, the troops Bond's gunning down aren't the true enemy. They're armed servicemen in Yeltsin's Russian Federation (though Yeltsin is never named), unwittingly commanded by a traitor - Ourumov. (Defence Minister Mishkin and Bond are just at the point of warming to each other when Ourumov makes his move: the potential new Gogol-type is brutally taken out.)
As an interesting inconsistency in the film's presentational code of violence, it seems that as soon as Bond is rolling through the streets in his tank, the sequence goes out of its way to show that various troops and police officers in the vehicles which are crashing, or being crushed, survive to flee the wreckages - as if we were suddenly back in a lighthearted Guy Hamilton Bond movie. (By the way, I'd have dearly loved it had Eric Serra's intentions not been overruled and his 'A Pleasant Drive In St Petersburg' had been used to accompany the tank chase. That shelved piece, on the soundtrack album, is Serra's 'industrial' take on Bond music at its most exciting.)
Famke Janssen sizzles in all her scenes and Izabella Scorupco holds up well as a modern heroine with retro appeal. Xenia's scene with Bond in the casino is classy, a perfectly handled recall of the iconic casino scene of DN but with a seductive new dynamic.
Xenia's sexual excitement at killing takes to the limit the femme fatale perversity of a Fatima Blush or the psychpathy of a Zorin. The brutal slaying of defenceless 'civvie' technicians at Severnaya is raw in the context of a Bond film, though moderated by the subtle comedy of Ourumov's sidelong look of bemusement at Xenia's orgasmic pleasure. Martin Campbell returns a number of times to shots of the victims' bloodied bodies as Natalya's plight at the facility plays out. Their deaths are counterpointed by the screams of both male and female technicians caught up, towards the end, in the conflagration at the Janus HQ in Cuba (screams which in themselves are perhaps a kind of ramping up of the mix of male and female cries of panic heard during the destruction of Doctor No's base on Crab Key in DN).
The new M is superb. For her first Bond movie Judi Dench's dialogue with OO7 in her office is uncomplicated by all the baggage-laden business of many of her later scenes in the series. It's pitch perfect here, with just the right amount of tension; Dench and Brosnan interact very well.
One interesting marker of GE's modernity (in the mid 90s) is the online duelling between Natalya and Boris. It's as if the internet has properly arrived. Gone are the days when computers in Bond movies were *only* a sci-fi matter of vast, futuristic panels full of beeping, flashing lights (as in Drax's launch site and space station, for example.) Hacking and spiking are now a thing. Alec Cumming is terrific as Boris, the kind of geeky, techy hench-villain perhaps first glimpsed in a Bond movie in the person of the nervy, bespectacled operator of Kristatos' probing mini-sub. (After Jay Dubyah, and Rowan Atkinson's turn as Small-Fawcett in the 'unofficial' NSNA, the comic style of caricature which Cumming performs here has its precedent in Bond movies.)
Overall, with GE, Bond is seemingly passing an important juncture, entering a new phase for the series...
Thanks for that @Shady Tree
I was one of only 4 punters enjoying Pierce Brosnan's debut. One of them was the same old man whose come to every show I've attended. A true fan I feel. I too have not seen GE in the cinema since it's release in 1995. In fact, it's one of the films I watch the least. I'm not sure why that is because I tremendously enjoyed this fresh and very 1990s look for James Bond. I agree with much of Shady's review, so I won't go into detail. The biggest surprise was how cleverly the writers have weaved all the traditional expected Bond moments and interlaced them with homages to previous movies. There were so many I'll have to watch it again on DVD and write them down [maybe someone has already done this on AJB?] Off the top of my head the opening bungee jump recalls TSWLM, the Monaco car chase is an extended version of Bond and Tracy's first meet, the casino scene cleverly role-reverses Bond meeting Sylvia, the black widow assassin is an updating of Fiona Volpe, Bond seeing an attacker's reflection in a brass bell is from GF, Bond, Tanner and M viewing the wreckage at Sevenaya recalls the MR crash site, etc etc. As I say, I could go on but I'd need a lot more time. The film even references itself by the end as OO6 is killed by falling debris which reminds us how Natalya survived Sevenaya. I enjoyed Brosnan's performance. He nails the role first time out, looks svelte and commanding. I immediately believed he was James Bond. I didn't like Wade. No need for the Americans to be involved at all IMO. I also didn't see the point of the [admittedly good] Robbie Coltrane cameo. This whole scene could have been cut out, I feel. Bond's contact should have all these details. The end fight was good because I felt Bond was battling an equal and I wasn't waiting for the expected gadget or trickster to save his bacon while clearly being outfought by a stronger man; he had to use his own wits. I really enjoyed this movie and I left the cinema feeling quite uplifted. It was a joyous time in 1995: wine, women, good career, Oasis and Blur, and Bond was back and he was brilliant. Goldeneye used to be in my top five. It isn't now, but by golly it's a very impressive film. A massive tick in the YES box.
On the way to Vue in the stifling heat to catch TND. I am hoping for the coolness of an air-conditioned cinema.
'This isn't a personal Twitter account, @chrisno1 It's a post on ajb like any other, and if you can't treat it as such - heatedly and subjectively - I can arrange for @Shady Tree to replace you.'
"Sir.. I am aware of my shortcomings... and I am prepared to continue this assignment in the spirit you suggest... if I knew what it was about!"
Sounds like Pierce describing preproduction on TND...
To borrow a line from the emoting Dalton, "If it has to be done, I'd rather do it..."
:-) :-) :-)
"Give the people what they want..."
Sure, Elliot Carver forgot the first rule of mass media, but the breaking news was that, with TND, Albert R. Broccoli's Eon Productions *didn't* forget. And neither did my local Vue Cinema tonight, providing a genuinely big screen and cool air conditioning throughout!
In 1997, during the heady days of Britpop, nostalgia for the sixties - and the 'ironic' spaces culturally re-opened in the nineties for 'men behaving badly' - 'what the people wanted' was a film exactly like TND, unapologetically re-packaging the fun of spectacular Bond movies of the past (particularly the Lewis Gilbert ones) in the company of a OO7, Pierce Brosnan, who was successfully established but still feeling fresh and hip. If TSWLM and MR had offered Brit audiences some lighthearted, triumphalist escapism from a rather bleak socio-economic context in the UK of the mid-to-late 70s, TND, in a similar mode to those films, captured something of what was, by the mid 90s, a feeling of optimism. (I remember that Tony Blair won the General Election in 1997 using 'Things Can Only Get Better' as a campaign song.)
An exuberant David Arnold is on board for the musical score, channelling John Barry as well as anyone at the time could have done - and as a fan. For those who think that NTTD was the first Bond film to 'quote' music particular to a previous Bond movie, I'd point to Arnold's reworking in TND's PTS of Barry's fanfare for the opening of the titles arrangement of 'From Russia With Love' - very similar to the variation of it which he, Arnold, had put at the top of his collaboration with Propellorheads on the 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' theme, for his 'calling card' album, 'Shaken and Stirred' (also in 1997). That slight, but joyous, musical callback in TND's PTS, as Brosnan swings effortlessly into action, immediately signals what we're in for: a proper Bond fest!
As Elliot Carver, Jonathan Pryce only just stops short of sending up traditional 'Dr Evil'-style villainy; he gets away with it because he's a highly skilled actor. (By contrast, Pleasence, Jurgens and Lonsdale all played 'straight' their 'Dr Evil' types. When thinking of Carver it's illuminating to remember Steven Moffat's 1999 Red Nose Day charity skit, 'Doctor Who: The Curse Of Fatal Death', in which a completely unfettered Pryce has a wonderful time making a pantomime villain of Dr Who's nemesis, The Master.) On a related note: for some time I've been meaning to read John Preston's 'Fall: The Mysterious Life and Death of Robert Maxwell, Britain's Most Notorious Media Baron' (2021). Watching TND again has whetted my appetite to give this book a go!
Overall, TND gels together pleasingly well. Michelle Yeoh is a great companion for Brosnan, Vincent Schiavelli deserves a special mention for his funny scene as Dr Kaufman (whose implied relationship with Stamper is an interesting one), Ricky Jay offers a different, creepier take on a techy sub-villain to the one we got from GE's Alec Cumming, Geoffrey Palmer is a marvellously lugubrious foil for Judi Dench, Joe Don Baker moves Jack Wade towards Jay Dubyah territory, and costume designer Lindy Hemming helps make Teri Hatcher's part a memorable one.
The much mentioned but little seen General Chang is TND's one bit of unfinished business, a character whose role was perhaps crowded out by all the busy-ness of the rest of the film. Of course, the Hong Kong handover was one real-world event in the background to the movie's popcorn plot involving British/ Chinese relations, although it's not mentioned at all in the film. In his original Bond novel, 'Zero Minus Ten' (1997 again), Raymond Benson makes a lot of the handover, bringing to bear his research on the historical context of Hong Kong: Britain's colonial past, the interests of the People's Republic of China, private commerce and organised crime. Despite all that, 'Zero Minus Ten' is a rather flat Bond text, compared with the cinematic splash which is TND.
TND, to my mind, remains, to date, the last of the conventional 'Gilbert formula' Bonds. Later on, TWINE and DAD rode on the coat tails of TND's sheer joy in being a traditional Bond film, but both had other stuff on their agendas, too - thematically and tonally.
I'm sure that Cubby Broccoli, to whose memory TND is lovingly dedicated, would have approved of the film.