@chrisno1 Thanks for the reminder about the BFI screening of Dr No. Much to my surprise, I just managed to book a seat for it. The Q&A with MGW and Barbara Broccoli which follows has sold out, but it'll be an occasion anyway - and for me a case of 'from the ridiculous to the sublime' after my experience at that Vue screening of CR06 last night (see #120)!
I managed to a get along to a showing of this - the only one I’ve managed to see in the cinema for the 60th Anniversary…I wanted to see more but Saturday’s aren’t a particular good day for me to go ☹️
Yes it was Cinema Day and the screening was nearly full, and apart from some git behind me playing with his reclining chair for a couple of minutes, the screening went without a hitch…
This film still stands up today, and the time fairly sped past - I only knew it was a long film because I have ‘old man bladder’ now and can’t go longer than 90 mins without needing the toilet 🙈🤣
Really enjoyed watching this on the ‘big screen’ again 👏🏻
Saw Casino today at Vue and noticed it was the cut version, oddly. Did anyone else pick up on this?
Which scene(s) were cut in the version you saw?
"The scent and smoke and sweat of a Vue Cinema are nauseating at 8.00pm in the evening." Well, not really... the air conditioning was fine tonight! Of course, patrons' personal hygeine is their own affair...
CR06 is the first and best of Daniel Craig's five films as Bond. In truth, it's among the top two or three *films* in the entire series. But that's not quite the same as saying it's among the top two or three *Bond* films: what makes a great Bond film is a slightly different question.
Director Martin Campbell, who successfully launched Brosnan as Bond in GE, returns to sell CR06 as a full-scale re-boot, the series' boldest move since Saltzman and Broccoli re-cast OO7 for the first time. For me, Eva Green steals the show. She plays Fleming's Vesper with more than a touch of retro glamour, while appealing to modern audiences by exploring the character's complexities and insecurities. Her skewering assessment of Craig's Bond; her entrance to the casino in that stunning evening dress; her scene in the shower, traumatised by the lethal violence she's witnessed; the pathos of her plight, caught between her love of Bond and the terror of Mr White's shady organisation; her haunting moment of death... it's all excellent.
Mads Mikkelsen is riveting as LeChiffre, miles apart from either Peter Lorre or Orson Welles. Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Jesper Christensen, Isaach Bankole, Simon Abkarian and Caterina Murino contribute impressively to the ensemble cast, while Judi Dench offers a measure of continuity as the new old M. Hats off, too, to Sebastian Foucan and Claudio Santamaria, actors who bring touches of character to single-sequence bad guys with no lines, whose roles could so easily have been conceived merely in terms of action and stunt work. Card-table cameos by Diane Hartford (TB) and Tsai Chin (YOLT) seem a little pointless; both are passive and silent in this, denied the spark they showed when younger, during incidental brushes with Connery's Bond. On the other hand, Christina Cole as the Ocean Club Receptionist is warmly conspiratorial with Bond, an attractive hospitality worker in the tradition of the "very sweet"/suite chambermaid of GF and the last before QOS goes to a very dark place with Oona Chaplin.
I always feel like punching the air when Wright's Leiter introduces himself to Craig's Bond and puts him back in the game... but it's sad to remember (as we now do) that, eventually, this same, likeable Leiter will be killed off, thanks to NTTD's self-indulgent iconoclasm. Even the new Bond will have an appointment with death. SP and NTTD hang like a pall over several aspects of Craig's earlier Bond films. To give another example: who'd ever have thought that Jesper Christensen's Mr White, a sinister figure pulling the strings from the shadows, would turn out to be an employee of SPECTRE, via an ubiquitous network called Quantum, destined to give up his criminal career over ethical disagreements with his boss, Blofeld, and to become the late grandfather of Bond's child! Sorry, what?!
CR06's rich cinematography, palette and elegant production design are real strengths. David Arnold composes his most mature score for a Bond film, wonderfully Barryesque, while the earthy rock sound of his collaboration with Chris Cornell hits a punchy note for the new OO7.
It's great to see again a more or less authentic cinematic adaptation of Fleming, with all its quirky twists and turns. CR06's unusual shape as a Bond film is broadly based on the structure of Fleming's novel, which, notably, continues the story of Bond and Vesper for some considerable time after the death of Le Chiffre, the villain. Casual fans of Bond in the cinema might have found this structure odd, while Fleming fans would have appreciated the film's fidelity to the novel in this regard.
CR06's action sequences are superbly choreographed and edited. The parkour and Miami Airport chases are both outstanding, related to the plot but diverting us from it, rather like song-and-dance numbers in musicals. It's as if CR06's action affords us spectacular 'breaks' from the ins and outs of the Fleming-based story (though in the case of the parkour chase, it follows hot on the heels of the main titles sequence, itself a set piece, before the story has really got going). Bond's fight with Obanna and the tumbling car crash are also amazing. The climactic shoot-out amidst the collapsing building in Venice doesn't quite match the spectacle of some of those earlier highlights; it's eclipsed by the overriding dramatic focus on Vesper's fate.
CR06's structural unorthodoxies are clear from the beginning. We get the first PTS since TMWTGG not reliant for its impact on massive showcase stunts, or vehicular or aerial action. Instead, the PTS concentrates intently on establishing the new Bond as a tough, ruthless character. The traditional gunbarrel sequence is deconstructed, repositioned and repurposed. Unlikely though it may seem, CR06's gunbarrel 'surprise' corresponds with the climaxes of the PTS of TMWTGG: the sudden reveal of a 'mannequin' Roger Moore in classic firing pose, and the long shot of Christopher Lee springing into 'the gunbarrel position', blasting away at the mannequin's fingers. Lee is an embodiment of Bond's dark side, there, appropriating 007's style to his own persona. ("Cuckoo!" as Christoph Walz might later have later put it; or as Brosnan might have added when complaining of being "kicked to the gutter!")
The new Bond's look is itself a break with tradition. Craig's angular, Anglo-Saxon features are as strikingly different to the Bondian norm as the blonde factor, especially in the PTS when captured in grainy, black and white close-up. Yet Craig's Bond's first job, assassinating Malcolm Sinclair's bent Dryden, recalls Connery's cold execution of Anthony Dawson's Professor Dent in DN, as if to reassure hardcore fans that this re-booted iteration of Bond remains connected to the series' roots - its deepest and darkest roots, at that. "Bent"/ Dent, anyone?
The fits and starts of CR06's extended poker game are also an unusual structural feature. Casino scenes in Bond films had conventionally always been self-contained and concise. Campbell's GE was typical of a number of films in the series, in that it plumbed for baccarat, a la Fleming, as a stylish context for witty interactions between key characters. Here, poker substitutes baccarat, presumably because poker is easier to dramatise at length. Maybe it's just me and my Xenia fixation: despite the high tension and plush look of the card game in CR06, I find the glossily 90s casino scene in GE, which obviously tributes DN, more pleasing as Bondian fantasy.
Towards the end of CR06, the writers choose to drop in the stark, misogynstic line with which Fleming finished his novel: "the bitch is dead." But in 2006 there was no way that this was going to be the cinematic Bond's *concluding* line, even given Craig's gritty incarnation of Bond - it's too offensive - so a lot of verbal waffle surrounds it during M's debriefing, dissipating its nastiness. In place of Fleming's ending we get a memorable coda, with Bond now apparently fully formed, maiming Mr White and announcing his name in time-honoured fashion, the beginnings of a wry smile playing on his lips. The excitement of this scene's open-endedness would be retrospectively tarnished when the inferior QOS came along and picked up on it directly. Before CR06 materialised, we might have anticipated a more conventional Bond in Craig's second performance as OO7; that's what Arnold's faithful arrangement of the Bond theme for the end titles seems to promise, DN-style bongos and all. But of course that wasn't what we'd get: the Bond of QOS would regress to dispassionate brutality, the events of CR06 having a protracted influence on him. Yes, he'd be somewhat humanised by Camille and the protective attitude towards her which he adopts - but only a little.
I admire CR06, and I rate it highly, but only if it's taken as a standalone movie, unencumbered by preoccupation with all the baggage retrospectively dumped on it by the films which followed. (Only SF leaves it alone.) Equally, I would have been fascinated to see the 'period' version of 'Casino Royale' that Quentin Tarantino wanted to make with Pierce Brosnan. If only *that* was showing in Screen 9! Of course, Tarantino would have been all over the infamous line, "the bitch is dead now." Inevitably, he would have played around with mise-en-scene, dialogue and violence, in self-consciously stylised ways, pleasing his cinephile fans if not Bond traditionalists as such. ("Albert R. Broccoli's Eon Productions present... Pierce Brosnan as James Bond 007... in Ian Fleming's 'Casino Royale'... A Film By Quentin Tarantino".) Then again, with Tarantino on board, the Weinstein Company might have ended up with some influence or involvement too. So it's doubtless for the better that Eon never agreed to it. As it is, Martin Campbell managed for a second time to impress as a Bond auteur, without needing to wear it on his sleeve.
I'm pretty certain that the film I saw tonight was uncut, carrying its 12A rating.
Excellent piece of work @Shady Tree 😃😃
It was the original 12A version despite being advertised as a 15. Aka reduced stairwell fight (most notable as the shot of the guy hitting the floor is gone), plus I believe the bathroom fight at the beginning was altered.
Wonderful review @Shady Tree
Glad you got to enjoy again on your second attempt. As someone who is ultra hypersensitive about the slightest distraction of a sweet being unwrapped, food being munched, phone checking, talking. I really felt your pain there. During our viewing of LTK a father and daughter close to us, although relatively quiet, proceeded to get through a meal of hot dogs, nachos, pop corn and slushies.
Interesting….the version I saw was uncut 🙂
A week of national disorientation and mourning is as good as any in which to go to the cinema to see QOS, I suppose.
Like all Bond films to this point, QOS is now dated insofar as it belongs to the second Elizabethan era - a term being liberally bandied about right now. QOS is one of many Bond films which makes a little something of that, even if only as a line in the title track. It's quite a thought that, post-Craig, no new contemporary Bond in our life times is going to be... ahem... "another blinger with a slick trigger finger for Her Majesty."
I can't make a Vue screening this evening but will post some further thoughts once I've seen QOS either tomorrow at an Odeon or on Monday at a Vue.
Well, I enjoyed QoS on big screen tonight, about 20 others in screen, mixed ages. Always thought it was much better that people seemed to rate it.
I'm glad you enjoyed QOS, @IceQ
I caught it this afternoon at an Odeon.
For a few years I kept watching QOS over and again to try to 'find' and appreciate what I suspected was really a good film concealing itself under my first and repeated sense of it as a disappointment. These days, if the jury's still out, a statute of limitations makes the trial seem obsolete anyway, at least to me...
Suffice to say there's lots about QOS that I like, but there are serious flaws too, flattening its impact. What I'd add is that viewing it on the big screen helps it out considerably.
Much has been written about how QOS leans too heavily towards Jason Bourne, losing a sense of James Bond; how the flashily rapid editing strategy compromises key action sequences; and how the strike by the Writers' Guild of America compounded problems with the plot and screenplay to a damaging degree: so I'm not going to rehash all of that now.
Nor am I going to harp on about the various 'off notes' which create a downer for audiences wanting a traditional experience of Bond (other than to mention that we don't expect OO7 to be dropping Special Branch officers from the rooves of high buildings, even if he doesn't know who they are at the time; we don't expect random women to be shot as collateral damage in Bondian action amidst the crowds at Siena's Palio Horse Race, in glimpsed coverage lasting only a fraction of a second; and we don't expect disturbing scenes of frustrated villains attempting to rape waitresses in hotel rooms).
Back in 2007, one might have complained to Marc Forster and Eon: look, if you do feel the need to 'deconstruct' Bond and expose dark aspects of the tropes of the genre, go ahead and knock yourselves out... but please ensure first that the movie in which you attempt that is made well enough to provide a satisfying experience overall.
As I said, there's a lot about QOS that I do enjoy. Olga Kurylenko plays the beautiful Camille in a sympathetic way, hinting at both vulnerability and vengeful strength. Mathieu Amalric's Greene is superbly sleazy, like a nastier Milton Krest promoted to the status of primary villain. He shares with LeChiffre the double indignity of being both bettered by Bond and (so we're told) finally killed off by Quantum, his own people. Amalric is a real asset: Greene himself may be relatively 'low rent' but this shouldn't detract from the fine quality of the actor's performance.
The Quantum conference at the opera, disrupted by Bond, is cleverer as a set-up than, say, the SPECTRE board meeting in SP. Also neat is the revelation that water is the precious commodity Quantum aims to monopolise in Bolivia, making a change from the more conventional (in Bond) diamonds or gold or oil.
Gemma Arterton's Miss Fields brings an understated humour and sexiness to proceedings. Her fate, both shocking and beguiling, represents a twist - "misdirection" - compared with the significance of Jill Masterson's death in GF: Goldfinger was all about gold whereas Greene isn't really about oil. The audience isn't misdirected, however, as Bond points this out immediately (not the bit about Goldfinger). By ordering Fields killed in the way that she is, Greene both 'has his oil and drinks it.' But who's performed this odd job? Elvis? The other hench dude?
Joaquin Cosio's General Medrano adds weight as a sadistic bully, Greene's gull. Fernando Guillen Cuervo's Colonel of Police, Carlos, is a type like Colonel Feydor of TLD but more insidious - Mathis' blood is on his hands - and his single gold tooth seems somehow more effective as a villainous accoutrement than Goldie's complete mouthful in TWINE.
Simon Kassianides' Yusef is reserved for the coda, the direct link back to Vesper. Like Nick Nack at the end of TMWTGG, Yusef's ultimately spared by Bond, it seems; a surprise, given the trail of death and destruction Bond has left behind him throughout QOS. I'd have thought it would have been a case of: "Oh, James, you didn't!" / "Yes, I damn well did!"
The tensions between Jeffrey Wright's Leiter and David Harbour's snarky Beam are well played. Also, Bond's friendship with Leiter is nicely cemented in their brief scene together. On the other hand, Bond throwing ally Mathis's body into a dumpster feels all wrong.
Judi Dench's M, whose bipolar attitude towards Bond has never been more extreme, is supported by newcomer Rory Kinnear as Tanner, a step up from Tobias Menzies' Villiers of CR06.
On the production side, Roberto Schaefer's cinematography makes the most of the film's locations, the desert being a key emblem; while Dennis Gassner's designs reflect a chill in the movie.
Composer David Arnold provides important damage limitation to any shortcomings QOS may have as a Bond film or a sequel: he includes moodily Barryesque and retro-sounding 'spy' themes; some strategic recall of his music for CR06, and contemporary action scoring which keeps up with the furious pace of the editing.
This was Arnold's last work on the series to date; I miss him a lot. He's denied having pitched for QOS his Shirley Bassey song, 'No Good About Goodbye' - a lovely piece which would have worked as the titles theme for an alternative, more conventional conception of this movie, but which, to be fair, wouldn't have been a better match than Jack White's number for the film Forster actually made.
Yeah, well, what happened to Villiers in CR? A key Fleming character, not many of them left, and he's jettisoned at once. Seems like his role was to be the gormless pillock one gets in a debut, like the forgettable berk we got near the beginning of Dr No, dispatched to locate Bond at his casino like a scene off a Talking Pictures TV movie, until the film decides to up a gear. He's never seen again, and not missed.
Yes, and I just hope that the Special Branch officer dropped from the roof by Bond in QOS and shot by Greene's goon wasn't Ronnie Vallance!
I saw SF at my local Vue this evening, enjoying the experience but slightly annoyed by a guy rustling a huge bag of sweets for the first 40 minutes.
In its day SF was a great success, of course, and understandably so. Sam Mendes' methods of storytelling are more conventional and accessible than are Forster's in QOS. There's some returning sense of fun, too, and, occasionally, a rousing evocation of 'British values' (as in M's quotation of Tennyson). On top of Bond's Aston Martin DB5, which had already enjoyed an outing in CR06, two mainstays from the series' past are impressively reinstated and reimagined, Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw). In particular, Ms Harris graces the film with a charismatic performance; it's a pity that her Moneypenny has a diminished role in Craig's two subsequent Bond films.
The PTS is terrific; the Joker-inflected Silva (Javier Bardem) is an amusing villain, apparently standalone (Mr White's organisation earning a much needed rest); Patrice (Ola Rapace) is an athletic action-sequence adversary, in a similar vein to Mollaka and Carlos of CR06, if slightly less memorable; Ralph Fiennes wears well his role as a dry, emerging M, both 'winged' and waiting in the wings; and Adele's theme song is a surefire winner. (Sadly, the song's midway instrumental bridge, rich in Barryesque 'Bond chords', is missing from the main titles version.)
The final act of SF is unusual for a Bond film. Personally, I happen to be the kind of fan who prefers an exploding volcano in Japan to a Highlands house-under-seige, an army of ninjas to Albert Finney, and a snog in a dinghy to a sentimental death scene... but each to their own.
Importantly, 2012 was the cinematic Bond's 50th anniversary, an occasion implicitly acknowledged in the film's fan-pleasing coda. This was also the year in which Craig had performed as Bond with Queen Elizabeth II for the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games, in a skit by Danny Boyle which boosted all three brands: the monarchy, the Olympics and OO7. (Of the three, it was OO7, post-QOS, which really needed that pick-me-up.) A sense of reverence for another 'national treasure' permeates SF: Dame Judi Dench is promoted to principal 'Bond girl'; her M exits the series in a story which in some respects mirrors her trajectory in TWINE, and her death anticipates NTTD's iconoclastic tragedy, but with Shakespearean overtones. It seems oddly apt to be watching on this particular weekend the Bond film which marks the fictional passing of the series' own matriarch. Somewhere in a parallel universe Samantha Bond's Moneypenny will be shedding a tear.
The main idea about Craig's Bond in SF is that he comes back to his job, jaded, amidst concerns that he's 'past it'. It's only after his close shave with Eve that he seems fully to find his feet again. For the writers to play that 'past-it?' card was perhaps rather premature, given that Craig would go on to do two further films in the same continuity; he'd carry around, more or less, a residue sense of obsolescence through SP (when Bond retires) and NTTD (when Bond expires). By contrast, the tried and trusted looser-continuity Bond of 1962-2002 had, between films, been able to shift merrily from one style or tone - or age - to another, within reason; and without there ever having seemed to be much hanging on that.
Events of a later year in the same decade, 2017, seem to tarnish a crucial aspect of SF now. This was the year in which the #metoo movement went viral, in the wake of revelations about Harvey Weinstein and the culture of sexual exploitation in Hollywood, in the media, in politics and beyond. Back in 2012, long-standing fans of Bond, like me, may have appreciated the generic significance of the scene in which Bond slips uninvited into Severine's shower: Bond's no longer abstinent, as he was in QOS; he's more like his old self; the scene recalls TB, Connery's steamy clinch with Pat Fearing and his interruption of Fiona's bath; and it also echoes Moore's intrusion on the showering Andrea in TMWTGG. Yet Severine is a neurotic victim who's been sex-trafficked from a young age. For all her glamour, Berenice Marlohe plays the character as such, nervily brittle. Bond doesn't seem particularly bothered with gaining Severine's consent in the shower - an observation not escaping SF's critics at the time. And when Silva kills her, soon afterwards, I've always found disturbing Bond's apparent indifference to her death, seemingly shared by the film itself. On the other hand, the consent of Eve Moneypenny isn't in doubt; the orgasmic fireworks illuminating the night sky of Macau after her "room service" signify that she and Bond have enjoyed mutual intimacy, and it was she who instigated that.
Post-2017, knowledge of Weinstein adds a filter to our viewings of SF, making Severine's shower scene look all the more creepy and unsavoury. In our season of 60th anniversary Bond screenings, it's therefore ironic that some selections of trailers preceding SF are likely to include 'She Said', a film adaptation of Jodi Kantor's and Megan Twohey's book about their journalistic investigation of Weinstein. (Vue didn't run that trailer this evening, but the Odeon included it last week ahead of their QOS screening.) I read 'She Said' during the summer, in conjunction with Ronan Farrow's 'Catch and Kill' - which covers the Weinstein investigation from a different angle. I got hold of these books after @Napoleon Plural had referenced Farrow on Weinstein in an epic review of OP and Bond's "adolescent antics" in the thread on the 'Last Bond film you watched' (#1061). I agree that the issue seemed pertinent. OO7 a sex pest? No worries: next up, he will meet his 'forever girlfriend'...
An interesting review which doesn't exactly praise SF nor directly criticise it. CraigBond has deminishing returns for me, so as a middle film of five, its the middle success of five. It was extremely popular in 2012, but I had reservations then and still do now.. It's an indulgent piece of work which as @Shady Tree suggests, really needs a proper romance and a few deadly ninjas to spark it into life. For all the explosions in Scotland, the long climax is a dreadful bore which even the writers acknowledge with Silva's line "All this running and shooting and fighting: it's exhausting."
Thanks, @chrisno1 Yes, I do zone out of the Highlands Skyfall scenes a bit, as well: they're rather roomy and a tad 'luvvie'. Maybe I found them more involving when I first saw the film, as then I wasn't sure exactly what was going to happen. These days I divert myself by mentally casting Connery as Kincade.
That said, the location shots are stunning as Bond and M approach Skyfall in the DB5. It's an iconic moment, channelling GF, when Bond, having stopped the car, stands in a long shot, legs apart, to admire the landscape, lost in his memories. This is the GF DB5, too, with the same Q Branch modifications, as if representing a temporary, dreamlike merging of continuities on the occasion of the 50th anniversary.
The climactic conflict which follows, with its Freudian dimensions, seems to occupy some dusky, liminal space. And like the death of M, the symbolic destruction of the DB5, with Skyfall itself, can be read retrospectively as anticipation of the denouement of NTTD: a majestic memento mori.
Glad you enjoyed Catch and Kill, Shady - it's a great thriller read so I recommend it to everyone. Don't concern yourselves if you think, 'Me Too' - I know about that/not interested - that's like not wanting to watch The Day of the Jackal because you don't care about the French separatist movement, that's not the angle almost. It's about how somebody can evade justice and put the screws on anyone who attempts to remedy that. Kudos if I recall to Craig's wife Rachel Weisz for encouraging the story to come out and I'm bemused as to why Farrow's book wasn't the one optioned for a film.
But Weinstein or not, I hated that scene in the shower first time round and pretty much everything about Skyfall, I daresay my original scathing review is archived somewhere.
I imagine NBC would go ape if Farrow's book was adapted as a film, no holds barred. To completely misquote Bond in QOS, "It looks as if some of the wrong people kept their jobs." On the other hand, Kantor and Twohey had a more straightforward relationship with their employers in terms of support for their investigative journalism.
Thank you for another insightful review @Shady Tree
I recently promoted SF to my top 5. It has always been hovering and certainly top 10. I just thoroughly enjoy it, every time I watch it. So much I love about the film.
2012 was a great year to be British. The Queen's Diamond Jubilee, The London Olympics (successful performances, successful hosting), Andy Murray winning Wimbledon and to top it all, a patriotic belter of a Bond film, generally very much enjoyed the world over.
@The Red Kind Thank you. Yes, I agree with you about the national mood in the UK in 2012, even though, beneath the gloss, the ramifications of the Crash of 2008 were affecting many and 'austerity' was an economic mantra. In some ways Ben Whishaw's first scene, in the National Gallery, posits him as an 'austerity' Q, rowing back on gadgets, while the lyrics of Adele's song - all about standing tall while the sky falls - speak at one level to getting through hard times (economic or otherwise). (Next to Desmond Llewelyn, my favourite Q is actually NSNA's Alec McCowen, a likeable fellow who, in the 80s, rants about "cutbacks" in a brilliantly played scene.)
To my mind, SP (2015) is the film in Craig's tenure as Bond which sees his 'arc' go seriously awry. Having watched the film again at a Vue cinema this evening, I'm confirmed in that opinion - but there's no denying either that it's a slick and stylish entry in the series.
A re-booted Bond? Boom! A brand new Leiter? Easy! A reinvented Q? Ping! A new-look Moneypenny? Done! So what's next?
It's BLO-feld! And he's helming a SPECTRE whose membership, we're told, had included, all along, the principal villains of the last three movies. So that relegates Quantum to a smokescreen of guff and pisses over Craig's previous stories (in a way which perhaps matches the urine-colured filter used for SP's scenes in Morocco)! Even the late, independently motivated Silva is retconned as a SPECTRE man. Oof!
All that time and implausibility just to provide Blofeld with one mock-villainous moment... a gloating claim to having had the ultimate hand in the deaths of the women who have meant the most to Craig's Bond, Vesper Lynd and Dame Judi's M. Cuckoo!
Not to worry that we've had no sight of any re-booted Octopus rings till SP. And not to mention that Mr White, of all people, has become a kind of conscientious objector, a martyr to his own penitence. Any villain fathering a smart, beautiful daughter can't be completely bad, right? Logan, Purvis and Wade, the authors of all our pain, must have been a pretty nerdy collection of minds to dream up a story like this.
But that's only half of it, old man. It turns out that Blofeld and Bond are foster brothers, their 'issues' rooted in boyhood turmoil on top of what we'd already learned about the orphaned Master James in SF. Meow!
But wait... is the real problem here Kronsteen's plot, or Klebb's choice of personnel? I could possibly take all of SP's nonsense in my stride, were it not for the fact that I don't really believe in the core relationships which are meant to be anchoring everything.
Let's be frank: there's no real chemistry between Craig's Bond and the latest love of his life, Lea Seydoux's Madeleine. Even Brosnan and Jinx had more of a dynamic going on! For that matter, so did Craig and Naomie Harris' Eve - in Macau - though that one was more by implication.
Don't get me wrong: Lea Seydoux does look great, particularly in her first scene when presenting as the cool psychiatrist at the Hofner Clinic, again when entering the dining car of the train in her sexy evening dress, and once more when wearing the chic number left out for her in her room at the crater base by Blofeld's hospitality team. But like her beau, Madeleine herself is predominantly a cold fish. Sam Mendes invests precious screen time in trying to make the romance ignite but, compared with Eva Green's Vesper or, indeed, Eve, Madeleine lacks the fire it would take to melt this Bond's emotional defences convincingly. In London, her sudden decision to call it all off seems to come from nowhere, not that Craig looks too bothered (the story needs them separated so that she can be kidnapped again); her further change of mind, at the end of the film, is equally so-so. Let me emphasise that I'm not being any more critical of Lea Seydoux's acting here than I am of Daniel Craig's. Though to give Craig his due, he relaxes into some of the more conventional fare of this movie, particularly during its first half, and isn't quite as deadpan as in his previous outings.
Another main difficulty is that Christoph Waltz fails to meet expectations as Bond's arch-nemesis. Superb in Tarantino's 'Inglourious Basterds' as the charmingly mannered but ruthlessly evil Hans Landa, Waltz has a go at inhabiting the part of Blofeld in similar style. His problem is that he doesn't have the same quality of material to work with here. At times he seems to lack inspiration in the role and, ultimately, his performance flags.
For me, Bond's conflict with Blofeld is actually less engaging than the antipathy he and M share with Andrew Scott's Max Denbigh, a pleasingly odious secondary antagonist, dripping hostility.
For any kids in the house, Dave Bautista's Mr Hinx, a traditional Bondian henchman, would probably have been eclipsed by Drax The Destroyer, Bautista's alien lunkhead in the previous year's 'Guardians Of The Galaxy'. (Rest assured there were no games of bridge involved in that, or rockets aimed at London!) Two years on from SP, the Replicant that Bautista played at the beginning of 'Blade Runner 2049' was likewise a bruiser, but with added pathos: in that respect, he/it was also arguably more of note than horrible Hinx.
SP's opening on Mexico City's Day Of The Dead is impressive. I love the scale and swagger of the festivities. It's portentous, too, when one thinks ahead to the denouement of NTTD. But I have to say that the helicopter sequence in the PTS fails to better the one in FYEO (the crowds below are CGI) and then, for me, Sam Smith's falsetto singing over the titles hits the wrong note.
Monica Bellucci's scenes as Sciarra's widow are all too brief, nevertheless adding stylish melancholy amidst the dark opulence of SP's Italian segments.
Yes, the fan in me thrills to see the first full board meeting of SPECTRE since TB (not counting NSNA), albeit one compromised by Blofeld's silly reaction to the trespassing "James".
Next up, the high-speed nocturnal car chase through the streets of Rome lacks a sense of jeopardy. Bond is as much focussed on his call to Moneypenny as on the pursuing Hinx. The ejector seat raises a smile, and the incidental joke about OO9's taste in music may be a tip of the hat to the running gag in Dean Martin's Matt Helm movies about Helm's disdain for Sinatra.
In Austria there's a pleasing touch of OHMSS to scenes in and around the Hofner Clinic. Bond's ally on the spot, Q, graces the Austrian scenes as if following in the footsteps of OHMSS's Campbell (tracking Bond; menaced by a cable car heavy). We're reminded, also, of Desmond Llewelyn's various excursions in the field.
On to Morocco, to Tangier and Blofeld's lair in the desert. I'm not sure whether it's a deliberate allusion, but when Blofeld reveals to Bond that, "It was all me, James. It's always been me," those lines and Waltz's reading of them echo the sinister exchange between Grady and Jack Torrance in Kubrick's 'The Shining': "I'm sorry to differ with you, sir, but you are the caretaker. You've always been the caretaker." And I couldn't help noticing this evening that earlier, in the PTS, Estrella's room number at the Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico is 327, flipping the numerals 237, the number of the infamously haunted room at The Overlook Hotel.
By the time we get to the film's finale in London, the MI6 regulars are working together in a flat team structure, without official sanction. There's a reason for this - they need to move covertly against the traitor Denbigh. There's also a kind of modernity to that less hierarchical way of operating; it's like the teamwork in SF between Craig, Dame Judi and Kincade, arming themselves against a siege when nonsensically 'off the grid'. Does it undermine M's status when he/she mixes it with the troops, so to speak? Not really. By complicating Mallory's position in SP, Mendes and the writers were looking to grant Ralph Fiennes more to do as an actor than simply to hand Bond assignments: it's the same favour they'd afforded Dame Judi.
Naomie Harris, on the other hand, had a more limited role in SP than the one she'd enjoyed in SF. That, it seems to me, was a wasted opportunity. I actually think it's Ms Harris who should have become, somehow, the principal 'Bond girl' of the Craig arc: she could have carried that off brilliantly.
SP is flawed, yes. It sags in places, especially during the interminable L'Americain sequence. Sadly, the reboot of Blofeld and SPECTRE is botched by retconning fanwank. That said, Mendes offers plenty of spectacle, fun and action along the way, in a distinctive nu/old-Bondian vein.
The mountain chase with the light aircraft and Land Rovers is an impressive highlight, as is the nose-breaking punch-up aboard the train, one of the fiercest fights in the series. Also terrific is the long shot when Bond and Madeleine stand in the foreground of the huge, domino-effect explosions which destroy Blofeld's crater base.
This and more: I've previously posted on SP's ocular theme, slyly layered into the film and adding a meaningful subtext: https://www.ajb007.co.uk/discussion/comment/970489#Comment_970489
At the end of the movie, it looks as if Craig's Bond really is resigning his license to kill. He drives off with Madeleine in the DB5. Yet it's niggling that he's left Blofeld alive, having decided to stay his hand, as apparently he did with Yousef in QOS's coda: a sign of changing priorities. Belmarsh awaits Blofeld. So all's well, right?
Even if Craig's Bond, constrained by his own continuity, wasn't yet aware of the importance of making sure of his arch-enemy, we as an audience had known, at least since 1969, that Blofeld is able to pull off surprise encores which devastate plans for a blissful future...
Remembering Tracy's fate, we may have worried for Madeleine a little in 2015, as SP's end credits rolled. But time itself rolled on, too. During the long hiatus before the next film opened, in 2021, a lot was to change in the real world. The imaginary Bond's present faded into our past, disappearing into the background as fictional trivia, the least of anyone's concerns...
Nice reading of the film
Usual good review🍸️
I think it's fair to say @Shady Tree that SP is probably the Craig film which has the most unrealised potential. For the sixties' purists, it really does build towards a spectacular climax in the North Africa desert, but it fails to deliver on the promise. The SP meeting and Blofeld's introduction is spoilt - as you say - by the "cuckoo" rubbish. The introduction of Hinx is exploitation garbage. Blofeld and Bond's relationship is poorly conceived or rather it ought not to have been conceived at all. The business of Craig enacting M's orders from the grave is silly, undermining Mallory's impact and authority as the new M. Monica Bellucci is wasted. So too, after a fashion, is Lea Seydoux. Yes, the yawn inducing stuff in the hotel is the usual pathetic attempt by Purvis and Wade to demonstrate their understanding of human emotions and relationships. The "climatic" sequence in London is just dire. Shoehorning Spectre over Quantum is a big, big mistake. It has a lot going for it visually and I like Spectre's plot, although it plays out remarkably like Silva's, just on a bigger scale, but the attention to Bond's developing emotional instincts is just plain daft and doesn't sit well with what we've already learnt about Craig-Bond or with the action we are witnessing on screen. The action itself is underwhelming and usually extremely implausible. I liked it when it came out. Now, I just shake my head at the silliness of it all. Very little tension.
Wanting to see out this anniversary season where I'd started it, I decided to go to my local Vue this evening and watch NTTD rather than head off to the BFI to catch TLD as introduced by Maryam d'Abo and Art Malik. I had my BFI experience yesterday evening, enjoying an anniversary screening of DN preceded by a few words on stage by Michael G Wilson. It was also great to meet @chrisno1 in person at that event, for a quick pint of ale beforehand! As for MGW, he was looking his age and was rather halting in his speech, but it was lovely that he'd agreed to grace DN with his intro.
At my local Vue, this evening's screening of NTTD was the best attended of the season, perhaps unsurprisingly given that the film was released only last year. (I'm disregarding the disastrous 'Cinema Day' melee which spoiled CR06 for me at the same venue a month ago).
For my taste, NTTD is too long and it becomes overly ponderous and elegaic. It's nevertheless highly entertaining - and it's certainly an interesting one. The plot is nonsensically far-fetched but, I suppose, it's involving enough on a moment by moment basis.
Charlie Higson, comedian and Young Bond author, is on record as making criticisms of the film which, it's fair to say, echo the sentiments of many fans. Rather laddishly, Higson argues that NTTD moves Bond too far away from the series' traditional values: "They put in all the boring stuff you don't want. The start of the film is great - he's in a really flash car, having a car chase around Matera. But he's got his girlfriend with him and they're having a row. What kind of fantasy is that? Find the ejector seat button, get rid of her and have an adventure." To be fair, it isn't entirely without precedent for Bond to have a boyfriend/ girlfriend-type row in his car. I recollect TLD and the squabble between Dalton's Bond and Kara when he's driving her away from the KGB in Bratislava and she's insisting that they stop off first to pick up her cello. Sure, that's supposed to be a sweet, funny scene, whereas in NTTD Bond has been duped by Blofeld into suspecting a profound betrayal by the woman for whom he's given up everything - a blow triggering existential shock. Albeit in different decades and different moods, both examples illustrate broader moves to present Bond in more 'human' relationships.
Higson is emphatic in his complaint that NTTD goes wrong by depicting Bond as personally vulnerable, someone with relationships and problems which seem in one sense too "ordinary": "Bond is [supposed to be] a fantasy. He's got no wife, no kids, you rarely see him at home, he lives in hotels, eats in restaurants, sleeps with as many women as he wants and gets to kill people. It's the best job in the world. You never see him mowing his lawn, washing his car or asking his bank manager for a loan. He's one guy on a mission." It would be misleading to argue that NTTD's spectacular success at the box office discredits Higson's case that the personally engaged Bond embodied by Craig *isn't* the kind we want to see. NTTD's phenomenal success reflected huge, pent-up demand after Covid, an appetite to enjoy in the cinema the latest, long postponed instalment in a film series associated with memories of happier, pre-pandemic times.
Bond fans of most dispositions agree that a highlight of NTTD is the film's Cuban sequence, the part of the film pairing Craig with Paloma (Ana de Armas). This delivers thrills, spills and the kind of tremendous fun associated with Bond films of old. At the end of the sequence, Bond praises Paloma: "You were excellent!" She replies, "So were you!" Bond is saying goodbye to her, of course; expressing appreciation of her kooky 'tood and kickass contribution to the action. Yet in the context of the film as a whole, these lines have wider meaning. They suggest that this lighter style of action, however "excellent", has had its day; what lies ahead is high stakes drama, mostly sombre and serious in tone. The lines are also part of the film's compliment to Craig himself, and to Bond as he's played him: he's had an "excellent" run but he'll soon be in the series' past tense; gone; faded out like the figure in the opening gunbarrel.
If Paloma provides the fun it's Madeleine (Lea Seydoux) who destroys the cliches. Madeleine is metaphorically the only cinematic 'Bond girl' to have a womb. She's given birth. She's a mother, the mother of Bond's child. Also, we see her in flashback as a child herself (Coline Defaud), intrepid enough to confound Safin (Rami Malek) yet damaged by that experience forever. Billie Eilish's vocal persona serves to mediate between the younger and older Madeleine, as if conferring on Madeleine's character a wistful, emo interiority.
True, some 'Bond girls' of the past were fleshed out in interesting ways, but the formal limitations of Bond as a genre had always, ultimately, constrained their development. Many were primarily sex objects, bearers of the male gaze. Typically, any Bond girl who promised, or threatened, to break free from bondage to the conventions of the genre was killed off in consequence. Tracy and Vesper 'had' to die to keep the series' formula intact; their deaths were a formal 'necessity' to prevent Bond's departure from Her Late Majesty's Secret Service.
NTTD inverts a familiar solution to this 'problem' of the Bond girl who jeopardises the formula by aspiring to be or to do more than it can contain. This time, it's she who survives and it's Bond who's erased. She lives; he dies. Mathilde (Lisa Dorah Sonnet) is symbolic of a release from bondage for both of them, mother and father. Cary Joji Fukunaga is clearly adept at handling this sort of material. Yet the idea of hard re-boots means having our wedding/ funeral cake and eating it too. When hard re-boots are on the table (CR06 put them there), the series can afford to end its continuities with completed cycles like this - no holds barred - leaving subsequent Bonds free to hit the ground running.
Following on from my ramblings about faint shades of 'The Shining' in SP (#143), I have to say that Lisa Dorah Sonnet reminds me a little of the young Danny Llyod in Kubrick's classic horror film. Like Llyod's character, Danny Torrance, Mathilde is the progeny of a dysfunctional family. In her case, though, it's not her father who's the threat but an externalised evil, Safin in his Poison Garden. Indeed, the PTS introduces another horror dimension, with the masked Safin channelling Jason Vorhees of the 'Friday The 13th' movies. As for Christoph Waltz, his cameo is straitjacketed by Blofeld's positioning as a Hannibal Lecter figure, a la 'The Silence Of The Lambs'.
Alongside Madeleine, Lashana Lynch's character, Nomi, drew lots of advance publicity for NTTD as a speculative talking point. But how authentic was the significance claimed for Nomi?
Casting a black woman as a new OO7 wasn't primarily an affirmative act of participation in the culture wars on the part of the film-makers. It was more a promotional bid to keep the Bond series relevant at a time when identity politics were clashing with polarising forces on a resurgent political right. Of course, there wasn't anything extraordinary in itself about cinematic representations of strong women of colour. The hype was more about the reassignment to Nomi of the OO7 number, a signifier of phallic power in the long-established 'OO7' graphic and trademark of Bond, the iconic white hero.
The repeated postponement of NTTD's release date raised the stakes, exciting media comment in the immediate run-up to the film's release, about Nomi's status and the possible implications of that for Bond. Reallocating OO7's number was risking triggering reactionary unease amongst a traditionalist minority in Bond's fanbase - or, worse, racist commentary in the margins of social media - but mainstream coverage would, and did, serve to generate wide positive interest in the film.
During the 1970s, another period when Bond seemed at risk of cultural irrelevance, Eon had sought to revitalise the series by integrating with it elements from recent cinematic trends: blaxploitation in LALD, kung fu in TMWTGG, 'Jaws' in TSWLM and 'Star Wars' in MR. In 2018, Marvel Studios had enjoyed enormous commercial success with 'Black Panther', a film exemplifying the MCU's ethos of inclusive representation at its most powerful. When shaping NTTD, Eon would doubtless have taken note of what Marvel was doing as a juggernaut rival in genre cinema.
In Bondian terms, Nomi briefly channels LALD's Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry) - if only by revealing a similar hairstyle when she removes her wig for Bond. In their respective decades Rosie and Nomi have a function in common as figures of intersection between Bond and developments in popular cinema elsewhere. The difference is that Rosie is duplicitous and a victim, caught up in an implicitly racialised c*ck fight, while Nomi survives Bond as his ally, becoming a face of the future in a world where his own arc is terminal. There's no question of Nomi ever having sex with Bond. He's simply not where she lives. To my ear Ms Lynch's vocal performance channels other Bond women too: mostly Miranda Frost, with hints of Eve Moneypenny.
Despite the hype, Nomi remains very much a supporting character in NTTD. It's a promotional red herring that Nomi's the new OO7. NTTD is Craig's movie. It's a Bond film before it's a OO7 film - or rather it's a film about a particular Bond and his demise. Nomi spies on him, goads him, joins him in a mission, hands him back his number, kills a racist sub-villain and takes her place with the MI6 regulars to mourn his - Bond's - passing.
In the end, Nomi's a creation of the same producers who, in SF, put Naomie Harris out in the field, only to pull her back and sit her behind Moneypenny's desk, grounded for the 50th anniversary tribute in the closing moments of that film. Having taken a shot in SF and missed/ hit, Eve completes her tenure in NTTD among the bereft team gathered to commemorate Bond, including Nomi. It's Bond who'll return, of course: certainly re-booted, certainly British, almost certainly male and possibly played by an actor of colour. That remains to be seen.
That's an excellent review of NTTD @Shady Tree and without a hint of malice in it - I could never be so reserved !
Wonderful review, @Shady Tree , intelligent and detailed. Thank you.
nice to see some new angles of analysis @Shady Tree
Thank you, gentlemen.
Having got to the end of this season it's interesting to look back over all of it.
There's no Bond film I don't enjoy watching.
The three I didn't see in the cinema this time, TMWTGG, FYEO and TLD, I watched at home, under cinema conditions, i.e. with no pauses or breaks during the run time. I did that with NSNA too. So in that way I kind of plugged the gaps.
Ironically, the Bond films I got the most buzz out of seeing again on the big screen, the 60s ones, I posted the least about in this thread.
The 70s Bonds still hold a magic for me and the 80s ones carry a lot of nostalgia too.
From the 90s onwards I felt there was a lot to say and it's been fun pitching in.
Here's to the seventieth anniversary... hopefully there'll be a couple more movies to add to the list by then!