James Bond in Review:On Her Majesty’s Secret Service part III

We next go see Tracy attend her father’s birthday, to the tune of “We have all the time in the world” but a bit lighter. Of course, Bond is there, and Tracy is immediately wise to her father being up to something.

She puts an ultimatum to father: Give him the information about Blofeld, or never see her again-Draco reveals that Blofeld might have a lawyer in Sweden, but Tracy is still upset that she was used as a pawn. Bond apologizes, and the two seem to reconcile and we get a nice montage set to the lyrical version of Louis Armstrong’s “We have all the time in the world”, with the two horse-riding, walking through a fancy garden, running on the beach etc. It’s a little sappy but pretty effective at the same time. It ends with them looking at each other happily in the car with Draco in-between, who seems a bit uncomfortable, and even a bit worried the two are in love. Hey, it was your idea!

We next get a nice, tense scene where Bond breaks into the lawyer’s office to crack his safe and copy some documents about the Blofeld connection (He also enjoys some nice newspapers and magazines while doing so). We’re shown scenes of the lawyer nearly returning to amp up the tension a bit.

The safe cracker is one of the few gadgets in the film, along with the reprises ones in the opening (and I suppose Q’s lint) and Bond’s office, as well as Blofeld’s later deadly makeup kit. Bond then chucks the gadget into a barrel operated by crane from Draco’s construction crew, where Campbell-played by British actor Bernard Horsfall, known for many guest roles in Doctor Who-among others-collects it nearby.

It’s not quite made clear if Campbell is one of  Draco’s men or a fellow secret service guy, although it’s made clear in the novel that he’s the latter (Although Bond is “on leave”). Then again, sometimes MI6 would go over M’s head to help James if he’s in a pickle (As we see in License to Kill and Spectre).

We see Bond visit M at his mansion, something we haven’t seen at the film yet, looking over his butterfly collection (M butterfly? Sorry, bad pun) with Bond showing off that he knows a bit about the study of butterflys as well, in addition to alcohol, weapons and women (Although he doesn’t know much about diamonds as we learn in the next film).

He manages to convince M to let him back on Operation Bedlam, and we learns that Blofeld-using the alias de Bleucham (Which is french for Blofeld)-wants to become a count and has asked the college of arms to look into it. Bond takes the opportunity to learn about his own past as well, including his family crest.

 

Orbis non suffict-AKA The World Is Not Enough….hey, that sounds like a good title….

Bond meets with-and intends to impersonate-Sir Hilary Bray, played by George Baker here (Baker would return to Bond to play a different character in “The Spy Who Loved Me”, but is otherwise perhaps best known as the troubled Emperor Tiberius in the I, Claidius series. )  so that he can get close to Blofeld, find out what he’s up to, and finally capture him (He’s given a hint by Bond that “Bleauchamp” has no earlobes). Funny thing is, Bond’s impersonation includes his *voice* as well, which means for pretty much the next 45 minutes, Bond sounds exactly like him with a few exceptions. In a sense, George Baker “plays” James Bond!

And so the deception begins, with Bond wearing a hat, glasses and trenchcoat. Not exactly the most convincing disguise (The hat’s somewhat similar to the one’s he worn before, even)….and Bond set off to Switzerland.

 

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Bond In Review: Dr.No Part I

Here we are again, with the very first Bond film (although one based on one of the middle novels). Dr.No. “No” although the first film, isn’t exactly a trend-setter for the series as much as it’s sequels-the film is largely limited to one location (Jamacia, although there’s a short bit in London), there’s really no gadgets unless you count a gun and a geiger counter, no song with the movie’s title in it….but there’s still plenty set here: The classic catchphrase, “Bond, James Bond” (and the vodka martini line is in here, sort of), Bond’s quips and women, the interesting villain with a secret lair, and of course, the gunbarrel and theme song.

There’s a few differences though. Contrary to popular belief, the man here is not Sean Connery but stuntman Bob Simmons-Connery wouldn’t record his own gunbarrel until Thunderball. There’s also no Bond theme leading up to the shot, just a sort of radio-like and then telescoping sound effect, but when the shot hits, the classic theme starts.

So technically Simmons is the first on-screen film James Bond (Barry Nelson played the role in a TV adaptation of Casino Royale in the 50’s).

Instead of going to a pre-title sequence like the others, this goes straight to the opening sequence and theme. The gunbarrel becomes several circles that kind of dance around the screen, then becoming a group of various dancers set to a sort of Caribbean-style music.

Finally, we have in silhouette, the “Three Blind mice”-pretty much the first Bond henchmen, hitmen who work for Dr.No who pose as blind panhandlers to throw people off.

Their target is Strangways, an MI6 agent in Kingston, Jamacia, and the reason for the mission. He’s set to contact London after playing bridge at a country club, but is shot by the men.

When Strangeway leaves, the facial expression of Professor Dent as he watches Strangways leave makes it quite clear who is behind the hit.

 

 

They also kill his secretary (Played by the woman who owned actually owned the house her scene takes place in, Dolores Keator) and remove all files on the mysterious Dr.No

 

Back in London they figure out something’s wrong, and soon we’re introduced to James Bond. But first, we see the woman he’s playing against: Sylvia Trench. A game she’s losing. Apart from Moneypenny, Vesper Lynd (sort of) and Judi Dench’s M, Trench is one of the few female characters to appear in more than one film, although there were plans to include Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow Never Dies) and Halle Berry (Die Another Day) in other films that didn’t pan out. Trench makes a short appearance in the next film, From Russia With Love. There’s almost a missed opportunity with Tommorow Never Dies here; perhaps they could’ve had Hatcher’s character-an ex of Bond’s-to be Sylvia Trench instead of a new character? One wonders how Bond breaks it off with some of the girls, especially ones he seemed to be fairly close to (Although some of course, like Tracy and Vesper, are killed off) instead of just casually. Makes me wonder what’s going to happen to SPECTRE’s Madeline Swann in the next film, too….

Anyway, Bond asks her name, and we get this classic exchange:

Bond: I admire your courage, miss?

Sylvia: Trench. Sylvia Trench….I admire your luck, Mr…?

Bond: Bond. James Bond.

Right there, he’s pretty much got it right away. Even though the book Bond is a bit different (Far less humorous, for one), he definitely has got the cool, somewhat detached look down here. Although Casino Royale of course wasn’t the first film, it does seem right to introduce Bond in a Casino as a sort of compensation for that (This scene btw wasn’t in the book-The Jamaica assignment was intended for an ‘easy’ mission for Bond-M figures Strangeways just ran away from his secretary-recovering from injuries in “From Russia With Love”, and not really up to smoking and gambling just yet)

Bond gets a summons, and after flirting a bit more with Sylvia and giving her his number, we’re introduced to Moneypenny-not a major character in the books, but she becomes a major part of the film universe….and of course, their constant playful flirtation is brought up right away. Connery and Maxwell have excellent chemistry here.

 

M then briefs Bond on Strangway’s disappearance, in that Strangways was investigating missiles and rockets that have been directed off-course by powerful radio waves near Jamacia (presumably at Cape Canavral). We see some of his sternness with Bond here, as he tells Bond that he needs a new gun instead of his old beretta, which jammed on him on his last mission and as a result he was injured and sent to a hospital for months-which, in the novels, was in “From Russia With Love” where Bond’s gun jammed and therefore he wasn’t successful in fighting off Rosa Klebb’s deadly poison shoes. However, since FRWL is the sequel to this, taking place after (That’s made quite clear, as the events of this film are referenced many times) that mission continuity wise is something else entirely.

As he’s given his new Walther PPK-his trademark gun-we’re also introduced (sort of) to Q. Except he’s not the one we’re familiar (Desmond Llewlynn) with, but is the same character, Major Boothryd. (This is made clear in “The Spy Who Loved Me” when Anya addresses Q by his real name and rank.). The actor-Peter Burton-is more stern than Desmond by a bit, but not nearly as fun and likable as the later actor.

He leaves the Beretta-somewhat sadly-with Moneypenny, and then heads to his flat, one of the few instances in the series where we actually see Bond’s home (although it looks somewhat different in Live and Let Die). Turns out Sylvia decided to show up after all, although Bond nearly shoots her as he’s doing a bit of golf. in his living room (her favorite sport, something also mentioned earlier on in the Casino scene, and also in From Russia With Love).

The two share a quick fling, making her officially Bond’s first on-screen “conquest”.

 

Next: We’re introduced to Quarrel and Felix Leiter, who at first appear to be enemies, but become important allies, and Bond’s investigation into Strangway’s appearance begins. However, there’s a few people out there that want to see him vanish as well.

 

 

 

 

Bond In Review: Skyfall Part IV

Bond takes M to Scotland-specifically, to the highlands, and his ancestral home, Skyfall manor. There’s some fantastic shots here of the Scottish mountains in Glencoe (Although most of the manor action itself was shot near England). The mountains are a part of Bond’s past as well, in a sense; his parents were killed in a climbing accident. Although where is never stated in the movies (but the death is alluded to a few times), the books have it happen in Chamonix, France. Nevertheless, the death is brought up, as well as Bond being an orphan, something also mentioned in “Casino Royale”-

M: Is this where you grew up?

James Bond:Mm.

M: How old were you when they died?

James Bond: You know the answer to that. You know the whole story.

M: Orphans always make the best recruits.

Bond’s Scottish ancestry was written fairly late into the books, and mainly because Ian Fleming had become fond of the actor who had played Bond: A Scotsman by the name of Sean Connery.

Bond arrives at the manor where he’s greeted by the groundskeeper Willie Kincade. Some fans feel that the role was actually meant for Connery, but there’s a few problems with the that theory-Connery has pretty much been retired since 2003’s flop The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Although he did come out of retirement to do voices for two productions, 1) Reprising Bond one more time for the “From Russia With Love” video game,

But then he did this oddity the same year “Skyfall” came out….

But either way, he was pretty much done with live acting.

Albert Finney-who was famous for his role as Scrooge, Tom Jones, Annie’s “Daddy Warbucks” and others-is more than adequate. He, Bond and James ‘arm’ the house, setting up with traps. Some draw comparisons to the Home Alone films-in which a kid, left in his house alone, must defend his house from burglars-but this is kind of a thin comparison really (and those traps are mainly comic relief anyway, while many of these are lethal.) Meanwhile, Mallory, Q and Tanner discreetly plant ‘breadcrumbs’ to lure Silva to Skyfall.

Then it’s time for the final confrontation-a more stripped down one, where there’s really no big enemy fortresses, just Skyfall manor. Although the first wave of Silva’s men are taken out by the traps and the group of three, Silva’s not among them, and he makes a big announcement: A big helicopter blasting out an animals song: “Boom Boom” (a lyric Silva seems fond of, as he was playing an old french tone with a similar lyric: “Boum”). M also gets shot, but she keeps that from Bond.

Silva’s attack is certainly more damaging-pretty much leaving Skyfall in flames while Bond, M and Kincade try to escape to a nearby church. Bond’s Aston Martin is also destroyed, an act which prompts Bond to take out Silva’s helicopter in return. Touche’.

Silva’s still on the trail though. Bond nearly gets drowned again-and sealed!-in a nearby ice lake, but this time he’s got the gun and is able to shoot his way out after getting rid of Silva’s man.

Silva and M finally face off in a final show off, where he urges her to finish them both off. However, Bond throws a knife into his back, the first time he’s really killed the film’s main villain in the Craig films (Although there are a few instances where he didn’t in the earlier films-Blofeld was never really killed off until “For Your Eyes Only” after he appeared in three other Bond films, in “From Russia With Love” and “Thunderball” he was actually saved by the girl, and “Goldfinger” was in part due to his own stupidity)

However, he’s far too late to save M, although she remarks that she’s one thing she did right. And so Judi Dench’s M says goodbye to the Bond films (apart from a small cameo in SPECTRE). Technically, Bond has failed in his mission to protect M, although he at least has gotten rid of Silva.

Back in London, we get a great shot as Bond looks over his city. Skyfall is probably the most London-centric of the Bond films, although “For Your Eyes Only” “The World Is Not Enough” “Die Another Day” and the upcoming “Spectre” also featured London action and locations-it was not to this extent.

He’s given something left behind by M-her union jack bulldog paperweight and he finally learns Eve’s full name-Eve Moneypenny-and she’s standing down from field work to take a desk job as Mallory’s secretary….

and Mallory of course, is now the new M, with the office closely resembling that used by Bernard Lee and Robert Brown in the earlier films. The painting is symbolic-while the earlier painting in the museum symbolized an old ship being towed away, this one shows a ship ready for action-and certainly Bond is.

M So, 007… Lots to be done. Are you ready to get back to work?

James Bond: With pleasure, M. With pleasure.

Cue theme and Gunbarrel. Although it’s still not at the beginning of the film (although there’s a similar shot as I stated at the beginning of the review) the Gunbarrel is not quite as rushed looking here, and Bond’s pose here is a bit more “Connery style” than before.

Although I seriously doubt Bond will ever wear that hat again.

Overall, “Skyfall” is a return to form for the series after the dissiapointing Quantum of Solace. it also is one of the best shot Bond films along with “Spy Who Loved Me” in my opinion, and maintains the same balance of drama and action that made Casino Royale great. It does bring back some of the tropes-Moneypenny and Q-but makes them much fresher, and it still breaks with tradition a bit, by not really having a major Bond girl-Eve never gets into a romantic relationship with Bond (Of course, since she’s moneypenny and their platonic, flirty relationship is one of the most unbreakable Bond things) and Severine doesn’t really do that much anyway. In fact, in a way M is sort of the Bond girl this time, as she’s pretty much the focus of the film apart from Bond himself…and it’s a nice send-off for her.

Next, we dwelve into SPECTRE. The organization was a constant thorn in the side for Bond in the 60s and early 70s, but then-along with it’s leader, Bond arch-enemy Ernest Stravro Blofeld-it vanished entirely, with the films focusing more on the drug trade, cold war spy games, and madmen who wanted to build cities under water or the sea. This was due to a complicated rights issue involving Thunderball, the novel in which SPECTRE first appeared (Although it made it’s film debut with Bond in Dr.No) that also affected the films, leading to THUNDERBALL being adapted twice. However, around the time SKYFALL was released, these rights were settled, and SPECTRE could now return to Bond-and would do so in a way that would connect all of Craig’s films. However, this is with decidely mixed results, as we’ll see later…

Bond in review: Skyfall part III

Now, we meet the main villain of the film: Raoul Silva, played by Javier Bardem. He’s sort of a  Bond villain who’s of the more insane variety, less a cool customer like Le Chiffre, but hardly the pedantic Dominic Greene either.  For various reasons, he’s been compared to Batman’s Joker, in particular the Heath Ledger version, but seems to have a more personal problem with M, rather than the Joker’s anarchist vision. He also views MI6 as outdated, a major theme in the Craig films. He’s also extremely computer savvy.

 

The personal vendetta with M has also been compared with “The World Is Not Enough”, but even then it wasn’t quite as personal-Elektra was more interested in personal greed, and Renard was pretty much her willing puppet. M’s capture was pretty much just collateral.

He reveals that M let Bond go on his mission without getting good test scores, trying to convince him that he was much of a pawn in “Mommy’s” games as he was (more on that a bit later)-but challenges Bond to a marksmanship challenge in the ruined village-with Severine and a shot glass at the target.

Bond of course is unwilling to shoot Solange, and appears to have the same shakiness from earlier. Silva finishes the job, killing her, unfortunately leaving Craig’s Bonds with another dead Bond girl (“Spectre” would sort of make up for this by having both Bond girls live).

 

But it’s merely a bluff, as Bond is easily able to then take out Silva’s men and capture Silva with the help of some timely MI6 helicopters he summoned using his radio moments before.

Back in London, we’re given Silva’s backstory-he was a former MI6 agent Tiago Rodriguez who had hacked the Chinese against orders, and was given over during the 1997 transition of power. We also learn that he took cyanide, but it didn’t work properly, leaving him disfigured-most of his teeth and part of his mandible are fake, and when he pops it out, revealing the damage, it’s a pretty chilling effect.

Q and Bond attempt to get into Silva’s laptop, but it includes a virus which unfortunately ‘hacks’ MI6, allowing Silva’s prison to be unlocked, at the precise time M is testifying to the ministry. Silva escapes, and apparently intended to be captured all along. This is one of the more far-fetched parts of the movie, and probably the one that draws the most comparisons to “Dark Knight”-another movie where the villain intended to be captured so he could mess up things from the inside. The following chase, in which Bond pursues Silva through London’s “underground” (subway) is very good, and has some nifty comic moments as Bond and Q try to capture Silva, and Bond ‘catches’ a train.

 

We then get what is probably one of Judi Dench’s finest moments in the series, as she testifies before the ministry (Led by Helen McCrory, who played Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter films)

 

Chairman, Ministers, today I’ve repeatedly heard how irrelevant my department has become. “Why do we need agents, the 00 section? Isn’t it all rather quaint?” Well, I suppose I see a different world than you do and the truth is that what I see frightens me. I’m frightened because our enemies are no longer known to us. They do not exist on a map. They’re not nations, they’re individuals. And look around you. Who do you fear? Can you see a face, a uniform, a flag? No! Our world is not more transparent now, it’s more opaque! It’s in the shadows. That’s where we must do battle. So before you declare us irrelevant, ask yourselves, how safe do you feel? Just one more thing to say, my late husband was a great lover of poetry, and, em, I suppose some of it sunk in, despite my best intentions. And here today, I remember this, I think, from Tennyson: “We are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are. One equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will. To strive, to seek, to find, and *not* to yield.”

 

Of course, this is interrupted by Silva, but Bond arrives in the nick of time. We see Mallory in action as well, giving Fiennes a bit of an action scene (Which he’ll also get in the next film, Spectre).

 

Using fire extinquishers as a cover, Bond is able to rescue M, and takes her to his Aston Martin DB5. It isn’t quite clear if this is the same car as seen at the Beach club in Casino Royale-a car he won from Le Chiffre’s man Dimitrios-but for some reason, despite being Bond’s personal car it posesses the “Goldfinger” gadgets-the ejector seat, machine gun headlights-despite this being a sort of alternate take on Bond. It’s mainly just nostalgia though I suppose, and like Dench’s M herself is sort of a continuity thing that’s best left ignored rather than obsessed over.

Bond’s plan is to get an advantage on Silva, having him come to them, but to be prepared. To that end, he heads ‘back in time’-to his old home, Skyfall in Scotland….

 

 

 

 

Bond in Review: Skyfall Part II

Bond then goes into a battery of physical and psychological tests, but it’s obvious, as Mallory says, that he’s “missed a step”-he’s out of breath, his hands shake and he misses the targeting on the shooting range, he’s a bit evasive on questions. However, he’s able to extract the bullet fragment from his shoulder (The one that Patrice shot, not the other one) and use it to track the hard-drive stealing henchman down. M clears him, not because he passed any test, but perhaps because she has a little too much faith in him.

Before Bond sets off in his new mission, he meets the new Q at a museum. Here, we get an interesting parallel as they look at an old painting about Bond perhaps being irrelevant in the new age, a theme that not only is repeated in this film many times, but carries over to Spectre as well.

Q: It always makes me feel a little melancholy. Grand old war ship, being ignominiously hauled away to scrap… The inevitability of time, don’t you think? What do you see?

James Bond: A bloody big ship.

Here, we have Q reinterpreted as kind of a whizkid, instead of the wise old inventor of the original films who didn’t always have time for Bond’s jokes and escapades. He provides Bond with some simple gadgets-a signature gun (similar in technology to the License to Kill gun, but a simple pistol instead of the complicated camera/rifle in that film) and a radio tracker similar to the device used in Goldfinger.

Bond finds Patrice in Shanghai, and following him, the two get into an interesting, well-shot fight where the two are silhouetted against a display showing jellyfish. Unfortunately, the fight ends with Patrice falling to his death, but Bond has two clues-a woman in the next building, who helped Patrice set up a kill, and a gambling chip, which brings him to Macau. At least Bond actually gets to fight a henchman (Twice!) this time, after the absolute failure of “Elvis” in the last film.

Here Bond starts to get rid of the beard scruff, becoming a bit more like his old self. Eve stops by to help out, but actually rebuffs his advances a bit, although there’s still a lot of magnetism and chemistry here.

Back in the tux, Bond then goes to the interesting “Floating dragon” casino, where he meets Severine. Bond entering the Casino via boat is one of the best shots of the film in my opinion, showing Bond starting to really return to his prime. Great visuals and location, too.

Although employed by Silva, she’s desperate to escape him, by having Bond kill him. This is also the scene where Bond of course gets his vodka martini, and says his name catchphrase (Which was totally absent from Quantum of Solace).

We then get a fun scene where Bond gets into a fight with some henchmen in a Komodo dragon pit.  Bond’s escape here-jumping on the head of the dragons-is a nod of sorts to “Live and Let Die”, in which Bond escaped a similar situation, but with Alligators in Louisiana. Unlike “Die Another Day”, the CG for the Komodos here isn’t too bad (perhaps because they’re mostly in a dark area-a good way to hide FX flaws-as opposed to the daylight of that film’s CGI surfing).

Bond then sneaks onboard Severine’s ship, with a brief romantic interlude…but now it’s time to meet the villains.

Meanwhile, back at MI6, things aren’t too rosy as the hard drive’s details begin to leak (On youtube no less!), compromising several undercover agents and getting them killed, and getting M and Mallory in more trouble with the ministry of defense. M however continues to defend her gut feeling:

You don’t get this, do you? Whoever’s behind this, whoever’s doing this, he knows us! He’s one of us! He comes from the same place as Bond, a place you say doesn’t exist: the shadows!

Next: Enter Silva.

Bond in Review: Skyfall Part One

2012 was the 50th anniversary of Dr.No, and despite doubts for a time after “Quantum of Solace” (mainly due to company issues and not really reflecting the quality and box office of the movie itself, despite it’s mixed reception), a new Bond film was due to arrive as a celebration, like Die Another Day ten years prior. That film would be “Skyfall”.

Like Casino and to a lesser extent Quantum, Skyfall is a film that continues to build Bond’s world closer to the one we’re familiar with from the earlier films. This film in particular introduces Moneypenny, Q, and to a lesser extent a male M-but they’re also very different from their predecessors.

Skyfall opens with a sort of ‘pseudo-gunbarrel’ with Bond standing in a hallway (like Quantum of Solace, the actual gunbarrel is at the end of the movie). Turns out he’s in Istanbul (A place also visited in From Russia With Love), and somebody has just stolen a hard drive containing information about undercover agents, severely wounding a fellow agent in the process. Here we see some tension between Bond and M over radio, as Bond wants to help the man out, but M is more concerned about the mission to recover the hard drive.

Outside, he meets fellow agent Eve (Naomi Harris) and they get into a chase with the villains; and right away, things are better than in Quantum of Solace; the action is easy to follow and exciting, the film has some much better cinematography (The work of legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins), and there’s actually a bit of humor between the two agents.

This soon turns into a motorcycle chase that’s just as impressive and has some neat stuntwork, as Bond goes after the henchman Patrice.

And then a stunning fight on a train, in which Bond uses a excavator to open up part of the train to pursue Patrice (and then rolls ups his cuffs, in a similar joke to how Brosnan always straightened his tie). He also gets shot in the shoulder, which will become an important plot point later on.

Finally, they’re fighting *on* the train. While Bond’s had many, many fights in a train (and will have yet another in 2015’s Spectre), he’s really only fought on a train once before, in Octopussy, but this is far more kinetic and exciting than that.

Knowing what’s at stake, M makes a judgement call, for Moneypenny to take a shot at Patrice. However, due to the two fighting, and the train moving, she doesn’t have a clear line of sight…

and ends up hitting Bond instead, who falls to the lake below. Oops.

Back in London, there’s a literal “skyfall” of rain as M learns that Bond is down. There’s a lot of symbolism in this Bond; and I think it balances the line between an action film and a dramatic one far better than “Quantum” did.

Bond is washed away, and then we enter the title sequence, with Adele’s tune capturing a more traditional Bond sound, complete with Bond theme incorporated into the song. The theme of this one is pretty much death (Tombstones, blood, skulls) and the Skyfall house itself. The usual girls and guns also appear. The villain of the film-Silva-also makes an appearance as a shadow of Bond (“Shadows” also being a sort of theme of the movie) and also there’s a quick and alarming shot of him being tortured. It also features Chinese dragons, a nod to the middle of the film’s setting.

The film opens with Bond presumably dead,  and M writing his obituary. This in itself shares some similarities with both the novel and film versions of You Only Live Twice. In the original novel, Bond is presumed dead after his final confrontation with Blofeld leaves him amnesiac and missing; in the film version, the death is simply a fake out, a cover so Bond can operate more independently.

Of course in both cases Bond is still alive, having somehow recovered from the gunshot, fall and nearly drowning. However, he’s not exactly in the best of shape. Like in “Die Another Day” he’s out of action, and sporting a beard. However, while he was a prisoner in the earlier film, here he’s sort of ‘enjoying death’ with hard drinking and womanizing, as well as some risk-taking by taking a shot while a scorpion climbs on his hand (Scorpions were involved in “Die Another Day”‘s torture as well; but here Bond’s trying *not* to get stung). He’s also grown a scruffy beard and seems to have given up the fancy clothes, pretty much reverting to his early Casino Royale self.He’s kind of upset that M let Eve ‘take the shot’ and just wants to retire.

However, back in London, things aren’t going great for M. She’s pretty much being fired for botching the mission, and helping her pick her replacement is Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes). However on the way back, she receives a chilling message on her laptop, and the MI6 building’s center explodes! Granted, this also happened in “The World Is Not Enough” although not quite as violently, and this film does have a few similarities to that, but I’ll get into that later.

Turns out the gas mains were ignited by a computer hack. Bond, seeing it thanks to a cameo from Wolf Blitzer on CNN (Sort of bringing to mind the Goldeneye qoute “We prefer not to get our bad news from CNN” ) decides to return to MI6.

Sneaking into M’s apartment (Something he did before in “Casino Royale”), he wants to get back on the job. Craig’s scruffy, bloodshot look here is interesting, and he’s able to sell the sort of scruffy, unkempt look better than Brosnan did in Die Another Day.

Next, Bond tries to get back into the swing of things, and we meet the new Q….

Bond in Review: Quantum of Solace

This one’s going to be a bit shorter in scope-because that’s pretty much what Quantum Of Solace is-shorter (by about 45 minutes more than “Casino”) and limited in scope, which kind of stinks since Craig’s era had such a strong opening film.

Quantum pretty much picks off where Casino Royale left off-Bond has injured and captured Mr. White-but now, there’s people in pursuit, hoping to reclaim the mysterious villain. It’s here we pretty much have the film’s first weakness-the action scenes, which were easy to follow in “Casino Royale”, are more jumbled here, with too much quick-editing, “shaky cam”, shots where it’s hard to make out what’s going on etc. It’s almost like “The World Is Not Enough”‘s action, but somewhat worse.

After the chase, we of course get the opening credits and song. Another “Way to Die” is an OK song-a lot of people didn’t like it’s style (It’s the first duet Bond song as well), but it kind of fits with the rougher Craig and is somewhat similar in tone to You Know My Name. Both Skyfall and Spectre would return to more traditional ballads.

The opening is mainly a lot of desert imagery with Bond contiguously drawing and firing his gun. The girls also return after being absent from “Casino Royale”, mainly emerging from the desert dunes.

Bond arrives in in Italy with White in his trunk, where M and Bond start to grill him about what’s really going on, and the whereabouts of Vesper’s boyfriend. However, it turns out that one of M’s bodyguards is in fact a mole, who almost shoots M, allows White to escape and is then pursued by Bond across the Horse races and Rooftops of Siena, Italy. Once again, the edits are somewhat confusing, especially when it starts to focus back on the Horse race (and also an instant bystander who is either injured or killed by Mitchell).

The whole thing ends in a building under construction, the best part of the scene, and with a nifty shot of Bond ending Mitchell.

The action then comes to London, where we meet the new Tanner (Rory Kinear). Tanner is M’s chief of staff and has a large presence in the novels, but as Q and Moneypenny’s roles were expanded in earlier movies, he only appeared a few times over the course of the film series-In Man With The Golden Gun, For Your Eyes Only, Goldeneye, and The World Is Not Enough. Rory’s Tanner will appear in the remaining Craig films though.

This also sort of functions as a semi-Q scene, as a scientist (Although it’s unknown if this is the same Quartermaster who is presumably killed in the next film and replaced by Ben Whishaw’s “Craigverse” Q) discovers a vital clue. Here we also see a sort of hi-tech touchscreen interface, one that was used in a great deal of the film’s marketing (including the blu-ray menu).

This detective work has a lead in Haiti, where Bond is sent.  It’s worth noting at this point there really isn’t much levity and character to Bond here-Craig’s performance is largely humorous. In Casino Royale, despite brutal action scenes, there were moments of levity and warmness, even earlier on at the Beach club. Here Craig is pretty much frowning most of the movie.

He accidentally botches finding out anything from Slate, who cut his neck on glass and bled out. However, he’s able to locate the woman Slate was sent to kill. Although she quickly realizes that he isn’t who he’s looking for.

Bond still follows her to a dock being used by the film’s villain, Dominic Greene, her “boyfriend”-but in fact she’s only using him. However, he’s on to her schemes, knowing she wants him to get close to General Madranno, who Greene is helping stage a coup in Bolivia (possibly so Greene/Quantum can get a monopoly on oil). Madranno killed Camille’s family.

Dominic Greene’s sort of an odd character. I can see what they were going for-a sort of creepy-looking European bad guy like Le Chiffre. But whereas Le Chiffre came off as mostly cold and cool, Dominic sort of comes off as petulant, nervous, and annoying. Having the worst Bond henchman ever- “Elvis” doesn’t help matters either. Elvis isn’t imposing at all, either in his state, fashion, or stature. The guy, later in the movie, gets injured by tripping down a flight of stairs, doesn’t fight Bond at all and gets vaporized in an explosion later on, that’s pretty much it.

As Camille is captured by Maddrano, Bond interferes by motorcycling onto their boat, saving her but also botching her attempt to get revenge at the same time. Once again, despite the impressive bike stunt that opens it, this isn’t a very well done scene.

From this point forward though, things start to get a little better. Bond follows Greene to a plane, which is going to Austria. On-board, Greene appears to make a deal with the CIA guy in charge of Latin America; accompanying him is Felix Leiter, who is highly skeptical of Greene and denies knowing Bond.

Bond eventually goes to Austria, and we have perhaps the most Bondish scene in the movie as 007 infiltrates the opera in Austria, stealing both a nice suit and an earpiece, which allows him to eavesdrop on those in the audience who are members of Quantum, the mysterious organization Greene and Mr. White are involved with. White’s even at the opera himself.

It’s kind of a neat scene, especially when Bond lets them knows he’s watching and is able to photograph several of them on his cellphone, sending them back to M. Turns out among Quantum’s number are several intelligence and political officials from Britain, something which alarms M and Tanner back at home.

However, during his escape, Bond runs into another British agent assinged to one of the officials. Bond throws him off the roof and he lands on Domonic’s car; Dominic then has the man shot. Unfortunately, to M and Tanner, this looks like Bond has killed another agent, and Bond is ordered back. However, Bond has no intention of returning, as he’s still trying to track down what Greene’s up to.

Bond instead goes to visit and get the help of Mathis, who Bond thought was the mole in “Casino Royale” and was mistaken, so MI6 compensated him with a nice villa. He and Bond then head to Bolivia.

There’s a nice quiet scene onboard a plane, where it’s revealed that Bond has had trouble sleeping since the events of Royale, with Mathis assuring them that Vesper probably really did love him despite her betrayal.

Upon arriving in Bolivia, Bond is confronted by fellow MI6 agent Fields who wants him to return to London on M’s orders. However, he’s able to win her over with his humor -one of the few times in the film Craig lightens up, and the two decide to head over to a party Greene is holding through his sham environmental company, Greene Planet.

Here he meets Camille again, and they both have a short confrontation with Greene. Bond is also introduced to a Bolivian police captain who apparently is a good friend of Mathis, but who is actually Madranno’s man, and he has Mathis beaten to near-death and Bond is framed for his murder. Further complicating things with M.

There’s a nice but sad scene where Mathis dies in Bond’s arms.

Bond and Camille try to figure out what Greene’s after in Bolivia. After nearly getting killed by jets, the two escape into a cave, where they find a reservoir. It’s not oil that Greene wants, but monopoly on water. Hence why he wants to help Madranno stage a coup. Not exactly the highest stakes in a Bond film.

There’s a bit of an artsy scene with thirsty villagers, which leads to an image often used in the film’s marketing-Bond and Camille walking in the desert.

Returning briefly to the city, Bond is confronted by M, and learns that Fields has been killed by being drowned in oil. M wants him arrested, but Bond is eventually able to convince her to let him follow his lead.

After he evades CIA sent to capture him (thanks to a timely warning by Felix) and also learns from Felix the location of where the deal to give Medranno control of Bolivia will go down-a hotel in the desert.

Here, Bond takes on the corrupt police captain and Greene (who is armed with an axe) while Camille takes her revenge on Madranno, although the fire and explosions nearly send her into shock, as it brings back traumatic memories of her family’s death (in which she suffered some burn scars). As with the other action scenes in the film it’s a bit of a mess, although a bit more coherent than some of the other chases.

After that, Bond leaves Greene in the desert with only motor oil to drink (we find out later he is shot by Quantum-this is the second main villain Craig’s Bond didn’t get to kill). After saying goodbye to Camille (Who he doesn’t have any romance scenes with beyond a kiss) he finally puts his demons to rest by confronting Vesper’s boyfriend, in fact a Quantum Agent-who is trying to put a female Canadian agent in a similar trap to Vesper’s.

This is actually a pretty well done scene that sort of brings an end to Bond’s Vesper arc, although the questions about Quantum still remain (and are answered in SPECTRE). M of course says that she needs Bond back, but he’s pretty much been doing the mission all along anyway, even though it appeared he went rogue for a bit. He leaves Vesper’s love knot in the snow, ending that chapter of his life and giving him a “Quantum of Solace”.

Weirdly, the film then Ends with the Bond gunbarrel, although one where Bond kind of walks way too fast and poses awkwardly (With the Gunbarrel becoming the “Q” in Quantum of Solace). It’s more traditional than Casino’s, but of at least that one was kind of cool and took place close to the beginning of the film!

One thing about this film it that it kind of tries to be a bit too artsy for it’s own good-every new location has some kind of fancy title card. Here we have sort of a Michael Apted/World Is Not Enough situation. Marc Foster is a decent enough director for dramatic and nice-looking works, such as Finding Neverland, Monster’s Ball etc. but like Apted he doesn’t really have the eye for action, and that’s why I think the film suffers that way-and if there’s one thing a Bond film must always get right, it’s action.

He does better with the dramatic scenes, but it seems like he didn’t allow Craig to really emote that much, which is unfortunate as he was able to use all his acting strengths in Casino Royale.

Following Quantum’s release, there was some doubt about the series future due to MGM’s complicated right’s problems, similar in a few ways to the problems after Licence to Kill. Entertainment Weekly even ran a cover story about it.

Although “Skyfall” was delayed, it did eventually come out, with Craig and in time for the series 50th anniversary. Creatively it would also put Craig’s era back on track. But that’s for next time.