James Bond

Quantum of Solace

Last night we went to see Bond 22 - Quantum of Solace. I'll hide any spoilers behind the 'break'. If your memory of 'Casino Royale' is a little vague, it's not critical but you'd benefit from watching it just before heading to the cinema...

... as this film picks up moments from where Casino Royale finished.

We learn, very early, that there is a big shadowy organisation - with people everywhere. Bond goes off hunting for them (and in the process goes a little 'rogue', but with 'M' turning a bit of a blind eye whilst making all the moves to bring him back).

The organisation has a plan to control the water supplies of Bolivia. In the process they seem happy to double cross the CIA - which is a bit odd. Whilst controlling the water supply of a country is a 'nice little earner', it is quite a long term payback - and you can't afford to have the CIA unhappy with you!

Also, for such a shadowy and all pervasive organisation, it seemed a little.... small.

That's not too big a problem though, as this does leave scope for Bond 23.

Though I did enjoy the film, I think it got a bit messy in the middle with the environmental rally, the big underground dams of water and so on - it seemed like there were several drafts and when an edit was made the older version wasn't completely excised.

That didn't stop it being great fun, and I really like that Bond films are becoming more 'interdependent' - that one film leads into the next.

The film was a great ride, and I'm really enjoying the new direction with Daniel Craig - Bond should not be all about gadgetry. They tried to go in this direction with Tim Dalton, but at the time it was too big a change after Roger Moore - and they reverted to gadgetry with Pierce Brosnan (invisible cars? puh-lease!)

There was one area which, if allowed to go unchecked, could lead back to gadgetry and unbelievable situations - that is that the hotel in the desert had hydrogen piped through all it's walls. A fuel cell installation would use wires and have the fuel cells in one area of the building. As soon as this was mentioned I thought 'that's blowing up' - and then one chap said 'sounds a bit unstable'. Yep. Definitely.

Some may object to the rather unneccessary touch sensitive tabletop, but these already exist.

What I'd like to see in Bond 23 is the 'Big Reveal' of this organisation (SPECTRE? Can't be SMERSH!) and the grand scheme they have for the world (of which Bolivia was just a small part).

Goldfinger

Last night, we went to see the restored 'Goldfinger' at the Cinema (an Odeon). There is talk of releasing 'Thunderball' and 'From Russia with Love' on the big screen too. The retouching was done very well, the film looked sharp and crisp - thankfully they resisted the urge to tamper.

Goldfinger is the quintessential Bond theme, I can't even recall the name of the Casino Royale theme, let alone hum the tune (the last one that felt 'Bondy' to me was 'Goldeneye' - and the last ones I really remember were 'View to a Kill' and 'The Living Daylights'. For me, a Bond Theme should scream 'Bond' even when not attached to the film, there is an honourable exception for 'We have all the Time in the World'). I'd love it if they got someone like Shirley (or even Bassey herself) to do Bond 22.

From the start, the film is sublime. Oddjob, Pussy Galore, Auric Goldfinger - wonderful stuff. There is the superlative exchange 'Do you expect me to talk....?' 'No, Mister Bond, I expect you to die'.

As the TimesOnline points out, I'd forgotten that this is one of those Bond Films where events take control of Bond, and he goes from disaster to disaster, for instance the day is saved when one of the main villains has a change of heart after Bond forces himself on her, and rings the CIA (though why they don't intervene before the nuclear bomb goes anywhere near the repository is beyond me - Goldfinger isn't suicidal) - and he almost detonates the bomb by ripping wires out instead of hitting the 'off' switch which Leiter finds so readily.

I loved seeing Goldfinger on the big screen, I do hope that the other films get the same treatment.

I've only just found out that it was for one day only, if I'd have known that I would have posted yesterday - my apologies. This is part of a film season from the UK film council.

For one night only, some of Britain's best films will come to the big screen, as you've never seen them before. Digitally remastered in Hi-Definition and returning to cinemas for the first time since their release, these films are a rare and unmissable visual treat.

Every Tuesday evening – from 31 July to 11 September – 136 cinemas across the UK will be showing seven British classics, kicking off with the action-packed 007 classic "Goldfinger" and ending with the popular buddy comedy "Withnail & I".

Please see below for the full list of films and their screening dates:

  • Goldfinger – 31 July
  • Brief Encounter – 7 August
  • Billy Liar – 14 August
  • Henry V – 21 August
  • The Wicker Man – 28 August
  • The Dam Busters – 4 September
  • Withnail and I – 11 September

Casino Royale

On Wednesday we finally got to see 'Casino Royale' (thank you, 'Orange') This film lived up to the hype. Before we went in, we ranked the Bonds as follows:

  • Connery
  • Dalton
  • Brosnan (perhaps controversial to put Dalton ahead. Brosnan was a more natural Bond, but the films were getting way too silly - and I liked the 'edge' of Dalton)
  • Moore
  • Lazenby (he had bad luck in being the first change of Bond, and in getting OHMSS which was the one where Bond gets married... this script would have worked well with an established Bond, not with a new one)

When we came out, we were debating whether Craig should go above or below Connery. Seriously, he was a damned good, Bond.

Little reliance in gadgets, gentle humour (no Moore-style punning), a real edge to him - and for once a Bond film without major plot holes and things blowing up that have no right to blow up without a judicial application of explosive (yes, Goldeneye, I'm referring to your blowing up of the Arecibo Radio Telescope)

It also stayed pretty true to the spirit and plot of the book, Vesper Lynd, the general mission and so forth. Yes, details varied (the eventual fate of Vesper is similar, but not identical, and there were some added items during the Casino sequences) - but these were not complete deviations from Fleming. Some pieces of background were changed for obvious reasons to do with the geopolitical state of the world today. The scene with Bond and Le Chiffre towards the end was excellently done, and virtually unchanged from the book in the important respects.

Essentially what was on screen was probably the closest to a Flemingian Bond that has been seen to date, with a few alterations to make the film flow better and we loved it. Wonderful stuff.

The audience did, I think, begin to worry at the end of the film that it was being undercut by sentimentalism (OHMSS number 2?), but they turned that around wonderfully.

So, what next?

Now there are no more major unfilmed Bonds, I'd like to see Eon begin to move through the sequence of books in order, making them with this new grittier ethos in mind, perhaps we might get some character development instead of pressing the reset button for each film? Perhaps when we get to OHMSS it might not come as such a complete shock!

This would make the next film 'Live and Let Die'... although the downside of this policy is that 'Moonraker' would be next. Though, who knows? Replace Moore with Craig and it could work!

There are reports that one of the short stories from 'Octopussy and Live and Let Die' could be used as a basis for the next film - or that the end of Casino Royale is setting things up for a sequel. Plot development between films? That'd be nice!

Casino Royale Trailer

The Casino Royale trailer is out, and has been for a short while.

I have to say that I like the look of this. No invisible cars, no metal satellite dishes blowing up despite there being no flammable objects in sight. From this small clip it looks close to Fleming, something I've wanted for a while. We've never really seen a 'hard bastard' Fleming Bond on screen (Dalton and Connery were probably closest, with Brosnan not far off), for people who are only familiar with the High Tech Bond, this resetting of the genre may prove unsettling. For me? Great - Bond should be about the man, not the Deus ex machina gadget.

For me, it's hard to pick my favourite Bond, they all have something which I liked.

Connery is the quintessential Bond, against which all others are judged. Certainly there are parts of Casino Royale which are set up specifically to invite comparisons to Connery (remember the scene in Dr. No when Bond is seen in a pair of blue trunks, well that's in the film).

I quite liked Lazenby, though he didn't get the best film to start I felt he could've been a good Bond if they'd stuck with him for a bit. Lazenby had three big problems, firstly he was the first Bond who was not Connery, and that handicap is huge, secondly he wore that kilt thing with a frilly shirt... why? Thirdly, Bond showed vulnerability, he got married. The audience wasn't ready for that, it all added up to too much of a change at once.

In my opinion the worst Bond is easy, that's Moore. The one-liners were nice, but became overused, and Bond was played for comic effect. Yes, he lasted for a long time, and there were lots of good bits, but whenever I think of a Roger Moore playing Bond, there's always something that simply seems tacky (I mean, the UK flag on a parachute?)

Tim Dalton: now, lots of people didn't like Tim. I suspect it's that he was the first new Bond after a generation had grown up with Moore. Certainly I had never known another Bond. To me, Roger Moore was Bond (shudder!). Dalton's bond was harder edged - a counterpoint to Moore. Dalton has become eclipsed somewhat by Brosnan, and people seem to have filed him along with Lazenby for memorability.

Pierce Brosnan: A whole new generation have grown up for whom Brosnan is Bond, after all, Dalton hasn't been Bond since the 1980s (I feel old!), so for twentysomethings this will be their first new Bond in practice (although admittedly many of them will have seen earlier Bonds on TV). Brosnan himself was an excellent Bond, he really was - he had almost the right about of 'bastard' in him, but Brosnan's films were spoiled (at least for me) by the overuse of gadgetry - a hangover from the days of Roger Moore.

Bob Holness

Of course, there's also Barry Nelson (the first ever Bond) and Bob Holness, the less said about David Niven's Bond the better...

Interestingly, Connery was the fourth guy to play Bond, after Nelson and Holness, as the first shots of Bond in the gun barrel were originally a guy called Bob Simmons!

Casino Royale is the last unfilmed original Bond story (yes, there was a spoof called Casino Royale, but I'm ignoring that). If this goes well, then I would hope that they look at the rest of the books, in order, with the same ethic.

James Bond Preview - In French

For the curious, france2.fr has a 'behind the scenes' look at the new Bond Film, Casino Royale. (Scroll down for Tournage du nouveau James Bond) It looks pretty good to me - mostly as it's 'Back to Basics' time. There are Dr. No references to signal this, and there don't seem to be any stupid invisible cars. The opening scene in the interview with Daniel Craig standing in the sea is a direct Connery reference.

The Bond Franchise started to use it's gadgets, but it started to over-rely on the gadgets - and the gadgets got sillier and sillier (yes, Roger Moore, I'm looking at you). Until by the time of Brosnan (who was otherwise a good Bond) the gadgets got rather outlandish. I like the source material and so I want Bond to be, as Dame Judi Dench said in one film, a 'mysogynist bastard'! ... and I want Bond to be the star, not the gadgets.

There is a danger that this could make Bond look like some of the pretenders out there, but I'd argue that it makes the pretenders look to be just that - Bond, after all, is Bond.