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 rather bleak socio-economic realities 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 D:Ream's 'Things Can Only Get Better' as a campaign song.)
An exuberant David Arnold is on board for TND's musical score (though not for the main title track), 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 classic Bond movie, I'd point to Arnold's cheeky 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!
Techno musical act Moby was part of what made Bond seem cool again, promoting TND for younger people by releasing a dance version of 'The James Bond Theme'. This played at least a couple of times on 'Top Of The Pops', once with sexy 'house' dancers working their stuff to it in the studio.
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 had a wonderful time making a pantomime villain of another bad guy from pop culture, 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 memorable.
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 real-world Hong Kong handover was in the background to the movie's popcorn plot involving British/ Chinese relations, although it's not mentioned 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 historical research on Hong Kong: Britain's colonial past, the interests of the People's Republic of China, private commerce and organised crime. Despite Benson's laudable efforts, 'Zero Minus Ten' is a rather flat Bond text, compared with the cinematic splash of TND.
TND, to my mind, remains, to date, the last of the conventional 'Lewis Gilbert formula' Bond films. TWINE and DAD were to ride on the coat tails of TND's sheer joy in being a traditional Bond movie, but both had other stuff on their agendas - thematically and tonally - so they're not quite the same giddy experience.
I'm sure that Cubby Broccoli, to whose memory TND is lovingly dedicated, would have approved of the film.
I have always failed to understand the general lack of love for Tomorrow Never Dies among the Bond fan sites. While it does have its supporters - thank you @Shady Tree for that super review above - there seems to be a very off-handed attitude to the film which addresses the minor issues - such as Jonathon Pryce's cartoony kung-fun kicks or the silliness of the sea drill - but ignores everything which is good about it. I should probably drop into the Pros and Cons thread to give a full analysis. For what it's worth, in short, for me Tomorrow Never Dies is the best of the Brosnan Bonds. It fairly zips along with energy and vigour and never forgets to entertain us with stunts and fights and a fair dollop of international intrigue. The plot still has legs and feels more prescient that anything we saw in YOLT, DAF, TSWLM, MR or AVTAK, even that of Brosnan's debut GE. From the off the action is brilliantly edited and accompanied by a fantastic score from David Arnold which cleverly nods in the direction of John Barry without being obvious [NTTD take note]. Arnold even drops in Eric Sera's industrial drums during Bond's investigation of the Carver printing press.
There is an awful lot to admire here. In the performance stakes, Brosnan is brilliant, just mature enough for us to believe he's a spy, boyish enough to be a romantic lead. He equips himself well in the action stakes too and looks fantastic whether in slacks and shirt, a tuxedo or a diving suit. Michelle Yeoh makes a competent and charming co-conspirator, although I feel her role needs expanding a little; similarly the important subplot regarding General Chang's coup isn't expanded on very much and this seems central to her role in the story. I like Jonathon Pryce in the main too; his breed of insanity not immediately obvious, although he is an infuriating egotist. Teri Hatcher seems to be better every time I watch the film; I notice different aspects of her performance with each showing, how she comes to a gradual realisation that she is merely a trophy woman - both to Carver and to Bond - she knows she is doomed and there's a fatalistic approach to her dealings with Bond that he doesn't notice - very Fleming this I thought. Brosnan almost does a Lazenby when he finds her corpse, but luckily his tears are stunted by Vincent Schiavelli's splendid Dr Kaufman. Judi Dench is cracking as a tough, no-nonsense M and Samantha Bond cheeky as Moneypenny. The expanded MI6 / Foreign Office / Admiralty banter works better here than it ever did in the Moore / Dalton days and taking M out of her office works really well; the briefing in the car is excellent.
Action wise I'll just be short and sweet. There's not a single bad sequence until the last fifteen minutes. Top of them all is the motorcycle chase in Vietnam, which is pleasing for its sense of fun as well as danger, but also for its stunning aerial photography. It's probably fair to say the PTS has two climaxes, which seems a lot in five minutes, and the two-man assault on the Stealth Boat seems about a hundred men short. I always wished to have the SBS board the boat once it is discovered on radar in the same manner the US Space Agency launch an attack on Drax's space station in MR. The principle is exactly the same. The missile battery simply isn't very interesting and leaves Bond and Wai Lin shooting and punching everyone like demented Arnold Schwarzeneggers.
The theme song is rubbish. Stamper is a non-entity of a thuggish henchman. Desmond Llewelyn looked old in GE. He's seriously ancient here. IMO John Cleese should have been brought in for Brosnan's debut and our dear old Q pensioned off. Sorry, Desmond, RIP. No need [again] for Wade and the Americans to feature. Bond fumbling about with Cecile Thomsen's Danish linguist is an embarrassment. And, yes, that climax on the Stealth Boat leaves a lot to be desired, although thankfully it doesn't last very long, so it's just about forgivable.
Tomorrow Never Dies had a troubled production history, chiefly because they had to rewrite the script at the eleventh hour - and quite rightly too - setting it during the Hong Kong handover would date the film as soon as it was released - but you don't notice this up on the screen. When I watched this movie in debut week 1997, I was enthused by the sudden return to the sense of exotic adventure, the slice of dangerous sex, the palpable threat, the excellent stunts. I felt Broccoli and Wilson had done a fair job with GE, but they really upped their game here and delivered the sort of rock n rolling fun and games I hadn't seen in a cinema Bond film since Moonraker. Like GE, TND at one time sat in my top five. It's still a respectable number six.
Just to assure anyone concerned that we're keeping this thread on-topic, I have to say that there's one niggling respect in which I favour screenings at Vue over those at Odeon cinemas. Both work into the preliminaries a voice artist enjoining the audience to stop their conversations, turn off their phones and enjoy the big-screen experience, but whereas the Vue guy gives the message in a straightforward way, shortly before the feature, the Odeon guy adopts the totally annoying voice of a smug hipster with an estuary accent, coming back repeatedly, ticking off notional people in the middle row for carrying on with their conversations, exclaiming, "Oooh, I love the trailers!" and bragging that the trailers have all been chosen especially for this presentation "ach'lly." As far as I'm concerned, the MGM logo, the United Artists logo and the gunbarrel can't come soon enough. If you ask me, it's the smug hipster who needs to cop the bullet from Bond, ach'lly! The Prince Charles Cinema's routine use of a negative role model to get across the same message is far wittier - a clip from Scorsese's 'Cape Fear' of Robert DeNiro as Max Cady behaving anti-socially in a cinema - though I haven't been back to the PC since the pandemic.
@chrisno1 You and I are certainly in agreement in our overall praise of the Brosnan films so far. On your list of things which could have been better about TND, I agree that a Special Services assault on the stealth ship in support of Bond and Wai Lin would have enhanced the climactic action, bringing it closer still to the Lewis Gilbert films.
But I disagree with you about Llewelyn. For me, his one scene in TND is a delight. It gets me smiling from ear to ear. This is the last time we see him *purely* giving a briefing - with wonderful by-play with Brosnan, though we have to wait till we're in the Chinese People's External Security Force (un)/safe house in Vietnam before we enjoy some traditional Q's-workshop-style tomfoolery. Llewelyn's next and last appearance as Q, in TWINE, is movingly tinged by the sadness of his retirement and complicated by the handover to Cleese: so TND gives us his last unencumbered scene in classic mode, beautifully pitched and played!
Yes, Judi Dench is superb in this. I love her crestfallen look in the PTS for the moment when she thinks Bond has perished in the missile strike - just before the fighter jet he's piloting roars free of the inferno. It's actually the same look she gives in the PTS of SF when Eve, having 'taken the shot', reports "Agent down." While the latter film basks in the melancholy of the situation, TND immediately follows M's defeated look with a fanfare of resurgent triumphalism, celebrating OO7's indomitability. I also love M's dramatic entrance to the room, shot from a low angle, fanned by a kerfuffle of aids on either side; the strident choreography of that is repeated in CR06 when the re-booted Judi Dench enters in the aftermath of Bond blowing up an embassy in Madagascar.
I like both songs, 'Tomorrow Never Dies' and 'Surrender' - the fan in me appreciating Arnold's return to Barry-esque bombast for 'Surrender', and the great ways in which he uses that song for themes in the film. I can see why 'Tomorrow Never Dies' is better for the main titles, though, given that its lyrics trade on the safe ground (for Bond) of deadly romance; the link to the Bond/ Paris affair is neat. By contrast, the punning in the lyrics of 'Surrender' is focussed on news media - "Trust me, I'll deliver", "The news is that I am in control" etc. - and, while on-topic for the film in hand, that feels a little too particular, or off-centre, for a Bond song generally. 'Tomorrow Never Dies' stood to have more mainstream appeal.
Ideally I'd have wanted to stay in my seat at the Vue cinema to hear out the whole of 'Surrender' over the end titles and catch the customary 'James Bond Will Return' assurance. But we're now at a point in the season where the films' end titles are longer; the handful of other punters had already left and the guy who does the cleaning was wanting to crack on. It was time to leave.
Interestingly, the audience for TND where I was included kids with parents - maybe MCU fans there for Michelle Yeoh after her part last year in the really rather good 'Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Gold Rings'.
I enjoy these positive reviews in a 'let's try on different heads' kind of way. The film gets plenty of love on Bond Twitter, as does License to Kill. There were moans about the cuts - Dr Kaufman's death seems to come due to electric shock from Bond's phone, omitting the 'I am just a professional doing a job!' line and head shot. I understand Paris' dropped outfit and stockings and suspending were cut too... The film does have a pleasing generic but cut above blockbuster look about it, enjoyable in contrast to Craig's usually rather opulent, full on movie cinematography. The scenes around Hamburg have a swish energy about them, it's all a bit BMW in the styling but there are some nice set-ups in it. I preferred TWINE at the time and probably still do but various scenes stand out more in TND.
At the Vue screening that I saw, none of those cuts were in place; it was the full movie as I'd remembered it, I'm glad to say!
It sounds like a TV edit
It's a classic James Bond scene. Very Fleming.
Yes, I mean the Saturday evening ITV screening. Perhaps they were cut lest the film instead be scheduled for early afternoon viewing as also is occurring. It's annoying that ITV are tying them in with the cinema releases, unsporting.
Yes. Exceptionally so.
M: "Moneypenny, take this release: 'Elliot Carver is missing, presumed drowned, while on a cruise aboard his luxury yacht in the South China Sea. At present, the local authorities believe the media mogul committed suicide.'"
On the back of watching TND at Vue last week, I've now read John Preston's 'Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell' (Viking, 2021). I'd recommend this book as a fascinating study of Maxwell, the infamous media baron whose desire to be in the news as an influential broker on the world stage was as much a part of his story as his crooked, disastrous mismanagement of the financial difficulties which beset his publishing and news media businesses and which probably explain his death at sea in November 1991.
Aside from the obvious allusion to Maxwell's death in M's lines in TND, Carver's acronym for The Carver Media Group Network (CMGN) slyly incorporates Maxwell's acronym for Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN); Carver's flagship paper 'Tomorrow' counterpoints the title of mid-market tabloid, 'Today' - for which there was a bidding war between Maxwell and Rupert Murdoch in 1987 (Murdoch won); Henry Gupta's surveillance of the exchange between Paris and Bond may allude to how the Head of Security at Maxwell Communications, John Pole, was ordered by Maxwell to bug the offices of key employees - Maxwell notably kept tabs on his PA, Andrea Martin, with whom he had a jealous infatuation; Carver's snappy dismissal of his PR assistant (Daphne Deckers) may recall how, in May 1990, Maxwell shouted at Martin (also a blonde in her twenties), telling her she was fired; Maxwell was a notorious bully, a trait echoed by Carver ("What do I pay you for?").
John Preston quotes Maxwell's daughter Christine who, after visiting her father in June 1991, concluded, "he had meglomania at that stage; it was a real disease. Nothing was ever enough anymore, and at the same time he couldn't stop" (pp. 212-213). Surely Carver's meglomaniacal rhetoric, amusingly taken off air by Bond, reflects the assertions of Maxwell Communications, for example in their corporate video of 1990: "The world stands on the brink of a new era - an era of greater tolerance and internationalism. Already the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama has declared that history as we knew it has ceased to exist. ... Market forces are winning over military force. ... Robert Maxwell, a statesman as much as a businessman, [has] committed his life to providing greater openness ... " (p. 166).
Interestingly, Maxwell liked to while away spare hours watching old Bond films. Preston mentions this at least three times during his book. When facing his reckoning, the depressed mogul apparently even watched Bond videos during his last fateful voyage on the 'Lady Ghislaine' (p. 234).
The 'Bond villain' who, as a Bond fan, was one of us - ? Preston conjectures that Maxwell "would almost certainly have [been] delighted" by his fictional reincarnation as Carver (p. 274).
TND's writer, Bruce Feirstein, was following in the footsteps of Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz in the sense that they, too, in DAF, partly modelled a villain's persona - in their case, Blofeld's cover as Willard Whyte - on a real-world business magnate: the reclusive Howard Hughes was another noted Bond fan, apparently given to enjoying private screenings of Bond reels sent to him by Cubby Broccoli.
Whoa! Very interesting. At the time, EON (from memory) talked about Rupert Murdoch et al, but not Maxwell.
Thanks :-) According to Preston, Feirstein confirmed he had Maxwell in mind more than Murdoch.
Having raided his employees' pension funds, Maxwell was derided after his death, when all was exposed, as a villain of Bondian proportions... although I guess even that doesn't compare with Carver's attempt to stir up World War 3 for ratings!
Off to see TWINE at my local Vue now...
Perhaps this is just where I live, but it looks like Casino Royale is not showing at a bunch of cinemas on Saturday like the other films. Instead, it is showing on Sunday.
I find this very peculiar as I live in a major city and CR is one of the most popular Bond films. Is this happening for anyone else?
On the Vue Cinemas' programme it was TWINE this evening... so it'll be DAD next week and then CR(06) the week after...
At my local Vue, CR06 is screening on Saturday 3rd September and again on Monday 5th.
I enjoyed TWINE on the big screen this evening. The action-packed PTS and moody, Bondian title song get the film off to a terrific start. Maria Grazia Cucinotta is superb during the Thames boat chase, acting her way impressively through the spectacle. The rest of the film entertains serviceably well, though a minority of sequences are underwhelming. For example, the stuff with Davidov, who just looks like a regular guy, is uninvolving to the point that when Bond shoots him at close range it seems jarringly over-the-top.
Highlights are Arnold's score, rich in Bondian themeology (despite one or two awkward uses of snatches of the Bond theme during action sequences), Sophie Marceau's excellent performance as the damaged, two-faced Elektra, Lindy Hemming's spectacular costumes for Ms Marceau, and strong support by both Denise Richards and Robert Carlyle. The characterisation and performance of Elektra remain the series' most thoughtful take on a femme fatale, exploring this type in more depth than, at the time, we might have expected in a Bond film. As for Denise Richards, she does a much better job in TWINE than she's often given credit for. I see Christmas Jones as a stunning looking composite of Holly Goodhead and Stacey Sutton - and it's hard to imagine, say, Barbara Bach coping with the action sequences shot in the water tanks with the pluck of Ms Richards!
Brosnan is fine, relishing the Bond role, but he's starting to look older now, with a fuller face, losing some of the lean, dangerous appeal which he'd exuded in GE (and in earlier roles). For me, the wittiest line of the film is the one in which Bond reassures Christmas that his relationship with Elektra is "strictly plutonic, now"; it made me laugh in the cinema.
A decision to expand Judi Dench's role gives M more to do, with a personal stake in the story. This works well enough in TWINE. It's not until later in the series that Dame Judi's greater involvement begins to feel samey/ repetitious. Personally I think the chemistry between Dench and Brosnan is better than any she has with Craig.
One false note in TWINE is when M is given a line that would have been better suited to Moneypenny. It's the line about Bond's assignment to shadow Elektra, when M reminds OO7 that shadows remain in front or behind rather than "on top". M gives a slight, knowing smile as if to acknowledge the smuttiness in that, but it feels wrong to me, especially given the context of who Elektra is to M and what she's supposed to have been through. At least Bernard Lee's M was amusingly oblivious, as a character, to the innuendo often written into his lines during his later films ("Tell him to pull out!" etc.) Still, I guess the point is that Judi Dench as M knows what Brosnan as Bond can be like, so she's gently warning him not to 'go there'... in vain, as it turns out.
TWINE instigates a trend for a nostalgic type of fan-pleasing which goes beyond just the normal business of finding inventive ways to work/ rework the familiar conventions of the genre. I'm talking about an approach which will eventually collapse into a sort of 'fan fiction on film'. Here, it manifests itself modestly as the inclusion of a portrait of Bernard Lee as M, in the background to several shots in MI6 scenes, as if Lee was somehow a lingering presence implying, umpire-like, unspoken judgements about the unfolding drama; and, more prominently, a costume for Sophie Marceau in the skiing sequence which obviously replicates one of Diana Rigg's costumes in OHMSS and 'tributes' that film (an effect enhanced by the fact that, in his score for the skiing sequence, Arnold clearly has in his ear Barry's 'Journey To Blofeld's Hideaway'). Even the final gag about Zukovsky, as he decides where to aim his last shot, trades entirely on viewers' prior knowledge of what we learn in GE about Zukovsky's history with Bond. There's a touch of geekiness in all these fannish 'quotations', rather like Lazenby's Bond rifling through the drawer of his office desk for 'souvenirs' of adventures in previous Bond films (although the purpose of that scene in OHMSS is merely to assure audiences that a Bond re-cast for the first time is still the same Bond as before).
From today's ecocritical and geopolitical perspectives, a plot involving Western oil dependency on the East, and rival pipelines from East to West, might prompt debate of a kind which TWINE, in its day, doesn't incorporate (although we do get the well played sequence about Elektra's apparent magnanimity in agreeing to adjust plans for her pipeline route, to appease a religious community concerned to protect its sacred sites).
At the risk of sounding fussy, there's something I noticed in this big screen viewing which niggled me a little bit. I happen to be a stickler for ensuring that single inverted commas curl inwards towards a text on both sides of the text. In the titles sequence of TWINE the inverted comma before the character M in "Judi Dench as 'M'" curves away from the text. That seems to me to be slightly sloppy, given that so much care is taken over crafting the complex visual effects in the titles sequence as a whole. A little proof-reading could have put it right!
Wow, so many times I've watched (and enjoyed) this film and I never noticed that..... Nice review, Shady.
Well, I'm glad someone enjoyed it: https://www.ajb007.co.uk/discussion/comment/1048452#Comment_1048452
Just got the Maxwell book review, @Shady Tree - that's interesting stuff. In his Bond book, Sebastian Faulks has a sideswipe at Rupert Murdoch in one paragraph spoken by the villain, it's a bit hamfisted but I think he'd lost interest by that point. Murdoch has more in common with Carver given that they were branching into satellite TV and 24-hr news in particular but it wouldn't be smart to make that case given that Murdoch is alive and has No Time to Die, it seems.
Thanks, Barbel. (I've slightly expanded it now.)
chrisno1: that's some serious flak against TWINE!
Napoleon Plural: yes, I guess that the satellite TV and 24 hr news angles do mean that the Carver character is best seen as combining reference to both Murdoch and Maxwell. Maxwell's posthumous ignominy presumably made him the easier 'source of inspiration' for Feirstein to openly acknowledge.
I'm continuing to attend Vue's Bond season as much as possible, making the most of this rare opportunity to see the Bond films in the cinema again. Certainly a film like DAD, screening this week, is only ever likely to return to cinemas for round number anniversaries, in programmes like this which run through the entire Bond series, warts and all.
I've long since finished with watching Bond on TV channels, where the films are often edited for broadcast. That's as much in the past for me as watching pan-and-scan VHS copies! There are always blurays, of course, or streaming, but the first home of Bond is the cinema; a point laudably reinforced by the producers when they held out during the pandemic for a theatrical release for NTTD.
At my local Vue cinema numbers had picked up for TWINE last week, only to tail off again this evening for Pierce Brosnan's final outing as Bond. I'm guessing Daniel Craig may pull in rather more punters from next week. Still, I enjoyed tonight's viewing of DAD on the big screen.
As a fan I already know what I think of each Bond movie, and what the broad sweep of opinion about it tends to be - or at least the typical parameters of debate in each case - so my approach during this season is to try not to be troubled anew by flaws in particular films. I aim just to sit back for a couple of hours and enjoy each movie for what it was and for what it is. That said, it would be remiss of me not to tackle particular problems with DAD when writing about it.
Sometimes renewing the big screen experience invites a new perspective on a classic movie, or the opportunity to spot details missed in home entertainment viewings. With DAD, I guess my take on it hasn't altered much on the strength of seeing it again. This is the last long review that I'll be putting together this season, so here goes:
M: "While you were away, the world changed."
Bond: "Not for me."
M's line can, of course, be read as an oblique reference to 9/11. In DAD, the film-makers' response to that real-world tragedy was, wisely, otherwise to ignore it. The threat posed by North Korea was a topical concern which DAD did choose to exploit, but essentially the film was gunning for the fantasy/ sci-fi end of the series' spectrum. On the occasion of Bond's fortieth anniversary in the cinema, DAD was preoccupied with negotiating its own form as genre entertainment rather than anything meaningfully gritty or political. The exchange between M and Bond as quoted is also resonant in that it echoes the tagline used in the teaser trailer for GE back in 1995, after a six year hiatus, at the outset of Brosnan's career as OO7: "It's a new world, with new enemies, and new threats, but you can still depend on one man."
For me there are three main issues with DAD, at least two of which are often complained about. Above all, we have the ill-judged and poorly executed CGI tsunami surfing sequence, the worst example of a relatively (for Bond) prominent usage of CGI in the film. This sequence flagrantly flies in the face of the Bondian ethos of 'doing it for real'. David Arnold compounds the problem, shoring up the fake tsunami action with a misfiring burst of the Bond theme. And Gustav Graves' ironic line, "Global warming, it's a terrible thing" (his Icarus laser is what has caused the ice mountain to collapse) falls flat, particularly now, twenty years on, when the real consequences of climate change are increasingly felt across the globe. At the climax of the film the destruction of the observation plane is also rendered in a disappointing blaze of poor CGI, together with Bond's escape with Jinx in a tumbling chopper. I suppose it's part of DAD's legacy that Eon learned a lesson from Lee Tamahori's mis-step, having since remained true to Bondian values and used CGI only to augment action which is 'done for real' rather than to replace stunts wholesale. DAD acknowledges its own toying with virtual reality, and perhaps also the world of gaming, in the virtual shoot-out sequence at MI6 and Moneypenny's misuse of VR tech to pleasure herself, yet this knowingness hardly compensates for the film's CGI faux pas.
When Moneypenny's caught fantasising in the office, it's as much embarrassing for the viewer as it is for her and for John Cleese's Q. Across her four Bond movies Samantha Bond established herself as the raciest of the Moneypennys to that point, but the 'ladette' culture of the 90s which had allowed the relatively daring "cunning linguist" pun (in TND) and the cigar joke (in TWINE) to pass off as workplace banter would eventually dilute: this version of the character enjoys (literally) her last gasp in DAD. For the audience, our eventual realisation that Moneypenny is only imagining her steamy clinch with Bond comes as a relief; if Bond had actually been ravishing her over the desk this would have flouted the long-established convention that the pair only ever flirt.
The second main problem - linked, in a way - is an attempt to confirm Cleese as a replacement for the late Desmond Llewelyn in relation to the launch of an invisible car. Loyal audiences will have missed Llewelyn, so the idea of the invisible Aston Martin Vanquish, an essentially ludicrous concept, feels almost distasteful, as if disrespecting Llewelyn's classic DB5 ejector seat briefing of GF by wildly 'jumping the shark'. The strain on our 'willing suspension of disbelief' has already taken its toll by the time we see the Vanquish in action, adaptive camouflage operational, in a sequence which turns out to be not half as naff as we might have feared; what we actually get is an exciting car chase across ice fields, with some snazzy editing, John Woo style ('Mission: Impossible 2' had raised a bar in 2000). As for Cleese, a limitation of his performance is that he essentially turns Q into a toned-down comic composite of Basil Fawlty and the kind of 'man from the ministry' caricatures he used to play in Monty Python: funny, yes; but belonging elsewhere. How far the notion of an invisible car is to blame it's impossible to know, but after DAD it took Eon ten years and three films before they brought back Q: a Q who, in the person of Ben Whishaw, was quick to announce "We don't really go in for that anymore" (and he was speaking only of exploding pens!)
For me, the third main issue with DAD is to do with Brosnan himself. Don't get me wrong. His acting was as precise as ever. But with his noticeably fuller face beginning to line and his grooming styled for the onset of middle age, he almost no longer looked the part of the suave, womanising secret agent which he'd owned in GE. His tackily scripted initial flirtation with Jinx seems plain sleazy, the couple ill-matched; one need only compare that with his sizzling encounters with Xenia Onatopp to see the difference that a few years had made to his image. Given Brosnan's entertaining track record as Bond, the subtleties in his performance and his keenness to carry on ("It's not my time to go", as Madonna might have put it), it gives me no pleasure to say this: MGW and Barbara Broccoli made the right decision to look for a new OO7 after DAD. To be fair, the change in Brosnan's look was an even, gradual shift across his Bond films; it wouldn't be true to say he'd *let* himself go (a charge sometimes brought against Connery in his last Bond film, DAF).
There's more. As much as one may have wanted to root for Brosnan, there was no coming back from the 'set piece' Grizzly Adams beard he sports as a Bond emerging from long captivity. That amusingly subversive gag at the expense of Bond's traditional look inadvertently has the effect of eroding the actor's OO7 credibility. Still, the scene where a bedraggled, shag-haired Bond checks into the fictional Rubyeon Hotel in Hong Kong is funny ('Ruby' and 'eon' marking, with a wink, the series' anniversary).
A minor detail of Brosnan's portrayal of Bond is that he occasionally points or waves his finger for emphasis or rhetorical effect. In DAD, while in Grizzly Adams mode, he extends his arm and points accusingly at M in a pose which seems exaggerated to an odd degree. Here, M's brush with the bewhiskered, bare-chested Bond is a turning point for the worse in Judi Dench's own tenure in the series, too; M's fickle fallings-out with her agent and changeable stances begin to seem hackneyed from here on out. (QOS will reach the nadir in that regard.)
Another common bugbear is Madonna's title track (it's not really a 'song'). Personally, I have no issue with this vibey slice of electroclash. For me, its buzzing synth sounds work well with the narrative themes in the titles sequence, covering Bond's torture in captivity - specifically, the electrical torture - while Michel Colombier's background strings evoke some sense of drama. David Arnold suffuses the film's score as a whole with his original Barry-esque themeology (almost morphing a romantic piece into 'Mountains and Sunsets' at the end). He largely 'confines' the musical scope of Madonna's track to the titles, although, to my ear, the slick and sexy electro groove of 'Die Another Day' is more pleasing than the burbling, farting layers of techno fx which he himself incorporates to some of the over-produced action compositions in his Brosnan films. Taken as a total package (theme track plus visuals/ graphics), I'd rate DAD's titles sequence above a number of others in the series (certainly above OP's and QOS's, and probably over TND's, SP's and NTTD's). As an aside it should be noted that there's little point to Madonna's cameo, as Verity, in the body of the movie, except to dump some uninvolving exposition.
Undoubted issues notwithstanding, I enjoy DAD. It's largely good fun. Toby Stephens is suitably obnoxious as Gustav Graves, his pallid, insincere smile looking for all the world like that of some mendacious Tory front-bencher (not that Graves is one of these). Step forward, Dominic Raab? Grant Shapps, anyone? In terms of a Fleming connection, Graves bears some relation to Sir Hugo Drax from the novel 'Moonraker', a villain who poses as a member of the British Establishment while vengefully planning to cause a catastrophe. Graves' use of a Union Jack parachute to make his entrance is a pleasingly villainous blasphemy against TSWLM's finest moment, while the choice of The Clash's 'London Calling' as a snatch of 'found music' to precede this is sassy, putting to shame AVTAK's 'California Girls' cop-out. Indeed, when Graves, masquerading as a swaggering "adventurer", claims he's modelled himself on Bond, the iteration of OO7 whose dark side he channels is probably, I'd suggest, Roger Moore at an intersection somewhere between Brett Sinclair and LALD/ TMWTGG. Graves' sword fight with Bond is superb, a definite highlight of the film. Rosamund Pike is well cast as sexy ice queen Miranda Frost, and Halle Berry makes an appealing splash as Jinx, Bond's alpha lust/ love interest and Miranda's kickass nemesis. I'm glad that the name Gala Brand, originally mooted for Ms Pike's character, was passed over: this now remains, as it were, a little bit of Fleming left in reserve. Will Yun Lee as Colonel Moon and Rick Yune as Zao exude aggression and menace, while Emilio Echevarria has an engaging role as Bond's ally Raoul. If Vlad (Mikhail Gorevoy) is an eminently forgettable hench-dude, Mr Kil (Lawrence Makoare) makes his mark in a passably entertaining fight amidst deadly lasers. Dr Alvarez (Simon Andreu) is an incidental addition to the movie's tapestry of villainy, the whole concept of his odious gene replacement clinic adding value.
As for DAD's outlandish plot, trouble near the 38th Parallel inevitably brings with it an American interest; George W. Bush's "axis of evil" speech of January 2002 would have been ringing in the characters' fictional ears. Michael Madsen wasn't ideal casting as Falco, an NSA big shot; Madsen had long since been typecast by his iconic role in 'Reservoir Dogs' as a psychopathic blue collar thug. For a story involving American intelligence agencies, Jinx was Inarguably a better proposition than a substantial reprise of Jack Wade would have been, yet it might have been amusing if Wade, missing here (as from TWINE), had been employed in Falco's place, enjoying a security services promotion for a final appearance in the series and acquiring some of that old Brad Whitaker attitude. (Old buddy Felix was presumably unavailable, still convalescing or out fishing with Timothy!) On the North Korean side, Kenneth Tsang's General Moon is a stock character, an 'elder' from a hostile foreign power who has a shred of decency about him and a sense of proportion. The General's demise at the hands of his parricidal son carries some pathos and channels an oedipal cliche worthy of Greek tragedy (thus the reference to Freud in Madonna's lyrics?)
DAD wasn't quite the anniversary celebration of Bond that it aspired to be, but, preceding the CR06 re-boot, it was a mostly enjoyable 'end stop' to the forty year career of the 'loose continuity' OO7 - without seeming to bear any recognition at the time that this would be its principal legacy. James Bond Would Return... to die another day.
Thanks Shady, that's a top review - possibly a better review than the film merits!
The '**** fight' line from Madonna is another one that got cut on the ITV showing which improved the movie all round, I have to say.
Another problem with DAD is too much just doesn't resonate. It anticipated the problems with North Korea but at the time the country just wasn't in the news nor was the demilitarised zone nor the land mines. Neither were conflict diamonds.... so for many a cinema goer it's a lot to take in, a lot of new information. Others may disagree. I like Graves' global warming line - it still holds up today unlike talk of the hole in the ozone layer which just seems to have disappeared, despite Julian Lennon singing about it in his song Saltwater, or Austin Powers mentioning it in his first film.
I was surprised how much I enjoyed the film on telly notwithstanding my lowered expectations - it's still a dog's dinner of course. The Bond Jinx chat up is toe-curling.
Thanks @Shady Tree a great well observed review as always.
For various reasons I can't attend any more Vue-ings so I'll look forward to any more of your reflections.
Re:DAD, is a lot of fun, but it has a crummy script, some daft action sequences, crap CGI and a terrible OTT villain. Plus points are the titles & song, Rosamund Pike and the guy who owns the cigar factory. If it wasn't a Bond film, I'd rate it lower than low.
Disaster! I went to my local Vue this evening, looking forward to seeing CR06 and wondering why my online ticket had cost only half its normal price. When I arrived I found out why. Apparently it's 'Cinema Day'. The whole complex was swarming with large groups of young people and teenagers, taking advantage of the promotion.
I took my seat as usual but soon realised that things weren't going to work out. I didn't stay beyond the parkour sequence.
The kids were rushing around from one screen to the other, yelling and giggling and running up the aisles. For some reason they made a collective decision to re-group noisily in the Bond screening.
There were upwards of thirty conventionally behaved cinemagoers present for CR06, but it got alarming when one of them, an older youth, yelled out, "Shut the f... up!" to the disruptive kids, who retorted in kind. I know I'm on record as saying that action "should be done for real" in Bond movies, but that doesn't extend to the screenings themselves!
Walking out, I was compensated with two guest tickets for another occasion. The cinema manager, barely older than the marauding youths, apologised and said that things weren't normally like this; it's just that it's 'Cinema Day'; he hoped to see me on another visit soon. I resisted the temptation to point out to him the irony of his advice: "Don't go to the cinema on 'Cinema Day!'"
Leaving him to it, I strolled out into a temperate, late summer's evening and enjoyed my walk home, trying to be stoical. I guess even large cinema chains are struggling these days, and need to do such promotions. We should all be worried by the fate of Cineworld. As for the kids, some are still quite feral after the lockdowns, not seeming to have learned the conventions of appropriate cinema behaviour or consideration for others. All the same, the Vue guy and his team might have done a better job of trying to regulate and supervise what was going on. Apart from anything else, CR06 is 12A rated, and I doubt some of the aisle chasers were even that old!
I'm still determined to catch CR06 on the big screen this week, so I'll withhold till then my review of it, already half formulated in my mind....
Gosh that sounds awful and also oddly amusing, at least the way you frame it. I am unable to attend any more Vue screenings, but I am taking in Dr No at the BFI on 30th Sep. Good luck with the remainder of the movies @Shady Tree and I look forward to your reviews.