Bond in Review: Never Say Never Again Part II

Fatima then sends Lippe to take care of Bond. While in the original movie, Lippe was more or less the mastermind of phase one of SPECTRE’s plan, Lippe here is more of a heavy, played by a guy who pretty much is skilled at this kind of thing: Pat Roach, who fought Indiana Jones three times in the Indiana Jones series (a fourth time was cut)

 

Image result for Count lippe Never Say Never again

Here, after a fight with Connery that destroys a good chunk of the clinic, Bond finally manages to defeat Lippe with his urine sample(!) which blinds him and causes him to back into a wall of syringes, killing him. Not quite as graphic as his demises in the Indiana Jones films, but ‘death by pee joke’ is kind of a weird way to go out.

M of course is kind of pissed (heh) at this, (whereas Bernard Lee’s M actually was kind of proud of the intelligence Bond picked up at Shrublands in the original film-

“If 007 says he saw Derval last night at Shrublands and he was dead,

that’s enough for me to initiate inquiries.”

Although to be fair, this is before the whole nuke-stealing plot unfolds, whereas in Thunderball, it was after.

Which of course, unfolds now, with Jack actually launching the nukes using his false eye to gain clearance, instead of them being stolen via plane like in Thunderball.

 

Image result for Jack never say never again

This replaces dummy warheads with real ones, and launches them, but to land safely on Largo’s yacht, the Flying Saucer, the Disco Volante. We get some fairly cringey blue-screen work here as the missiles fly over beaches and countryside, sort of reminding me of some of the lesser flying effects in the Superman films. (Such as when Superman has to stop two nukes on his own).

A bit of a word on the Flying Saucer, in real life it’s called the Kingdom 5KR, with a few different names.

However, shortly after this film was released, it was sold to a certain billionaire who seems to be in the news a lot lately….

and that’s all I’m going to say about that!

Anyway, in a slightly similar fashion to Fiona taking out Count Lippe in the original film, but a little more twisted, Fatima takes care of Jack by throwing a snake into his car, causing it to crash. She then recovers her poor snake before destroying the rest of Jack’s car.

Blofeld then gives his ultimatum, similar to Thunderball, although this time he’s got a camera inside a silver skull, instead of the usual Octopus images the organization are associated with. He demands oil money this time.

Of course alarmed at this, the secretary tells M to reactivate the 00s (I guess they were sort of ‘inactive’ or something? It’s not really made clear, apart from Bond saying earlier that he had “little use” for the section, and that Bond for some reason was teaching?)

We get a second scene from Moneypenny, as Bond is investigating a matchbox he found on Jack’s bed at Shrublands which features Largo’s flag symbol. Once again, M largely ignores 007’s idea about the eye and Petachi.

We then come back to the FS, where Largo is watching Jack’s sister, Domino (played by future megastar Kim Basinger in an early role), do some aerobics to some very funky music. It’s all so very goofy and so 80’s, even Largo can’t help laughing a bit at it.

 

He then gives her a necklace, which of course will become very important to the plot later (and sort of a critical error on Largo’s part) . He also warns her, that if she ever leaves him, he’ll cut her throat (he also strikes a bad note on the piano nearby when he hears it). The Thunderball Largo has nothing on this guy’s level of utter creepiness, even when he was torturing her at the end of that film. For all the film’s other problems, Largo is an effective villain.

Although we haven’t seen M technically order him to go to the Bahamas or anything, Bond’s going there anyway simply because Largo’s boat is docked there, at the moment, and I guess to incorporate a little bit of the flavor of the original Thunderball, which was set almost entirely at Nassau in the second half of the film.

But before we do that, we’ve got the “Q scene”.  Although this Q is certainly not Desmond Llewylnn’s Major Boothryd, but a guy named Algeron, whose lab, attire, and attitude is certainly less refined then either of his official counterparts (Boothryd and the new Whishaw version).

Image result for Q never say never again

This is clearly defined by his attitude to Bond, the polar opposite of the EON Q’s attitude to Bond’s lifestyle (and somewhat sort of defines Bond movies in general):

 

“Now you’re on this, I hope we’re going to

have some gratuitous sex and violence.”

A bit of a note here, it’s interesting that the gadgets in this film (apart from the motorcycle) in someway anticipate Goldeneye’s. Although it’s a pen weapon it fires rocket projectiles instead of functioning like a grenade like Goldeneyes (Plus it’s a vastly different pen).

Image result for Goldeneye pen

There’s also a laser watch, which also of course would be used in Goldeneye .

There’s even the gag of Bond mistaking something ordinary for one of Q’s gadgets-in this case it’s an inhaler for Q’s sinuses, instead of a submarine sandwich.

Finally, we’re capped off with Bond telling him he’s going to the bahamas, to which Q responds “Lucky bloody you!”

 

 

 

Bond in Review: Goldfinger Part II

Bond and Jill canoodle a bit, but Bond goes to get some cold champagne, taking the oppurtunity to surprisingly diss the Beatles at the same time.

“My dear girl, there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs”

I wonder what Paul McCartney, who would later record the theme to Live and Let Die, might’ve thought of that line 🙂

Here we have Oddjob make his first appearance, as a karate-chopping hand which knocks Bond out, and an ominous shadow, as well as a chilling motif.

 

When Bond comes to, he’s horrified to discover Jill covered entirely in gold paint-and dead, in one of the most iconic shots in the series (and one that’s partially covered by a strategically placed pillow in the shot). Bond is actually quite shaken by this; and calls Felix (Felix assumes Dink is the victim-nope, although Dink did get some golden paint in the opening titles as I stated). Despite the horror of the scene, I found it kind of funny how he describes her, like he’s saying his “Bond, James Bond” catchphrase: “Master…Jill Masterson…and she’s covered in paint. Gold paint.”

Bond’s recalled to London, and he’s quite upset still. Usually Bond kind of either forgets about the dead Bond girls rather quickly it seems (except for Tracy and Vesper, something that haunts him several films down the line). He’s not terribly torn up about Plenty O’Toole or Corrine for instance in later films (and he doesn’t really care much for the ‘bad’ ones either, like Fiona Vulpe; although Elektra kind of upset him a bit). He almost seems on the verge of a personal vendetta, but M tells him to keep in line, and treat his assignment coldly and professionally, which he didn’t exactly do in Miami by stealing Goldfinger’s girlfriend instead of simply observing him.

 

Bond’s assignment-after the customary flirting with Moneypenny-switches to now investigating Goldfinger on suspicion of Gold smuggling, (they can’t quite get him for Jill’s murder-he not only fled Miami to go to Europe but it seems Bond could’ve been arrested for that if not for “The grace of God and Your friend Leiter”.”)

Meeting with M again the bank of England, Bond gets a bit of a lecture on gold-although he gives a short lesson of his own on “rather…disappointing Brandy” prompting a scolding from M. Bond’s given some old Nazi gold to tempt Goldfinger, in an attempt to meet him socially-for a game of golf.

 

But before that, Bond heads down to Q’s lab, where we see the very first real “gadget” scene, as we watch various gadgets being tested, and the beginning of the friendly banter between 007 and his quartermaster, as well as Bond messing around with some of the gadgets. Although it’s not as crazy as some of the later lab scenes, such as those seen in the Moore (spiked umbrellas!), Dalton (Ghetto blasters!) and Brosnan films (bagpipes), we do get to see a few background gadgets such as a lightweight bulletproof vest. For Bond, he gets a set of tracking devices-and most notably, the Aston Martin DB5.

 

This is of course THE car that would inspire later Bond cars with “optional extras”-including several future Aston Martins such as the Volante, the DB10, The Vanquish/”Vanish” etc.

It of course has revolving number plates, A radar map on the dashboard, controls on the arm rest which control wheel tire slashers, smoke and oil in the back along with a bulletproof shield, and front headlight machine guns (That we’ll see again in SKYFALL). And of course, the ejector seat which Bond thinks is a joke….but Q, offended, states the immortal line: “I never joke about my work, 007!”. Although it’s only really used once again in the series-in “Die Another Day” by his successor, John Cleese; “Now pay attention, 007” is used far more often.

 

I never joke about my work, 007 - Desmond Llewellyn as Q in Goldfinger

Bond’s next port of call is a golf course, where Bond and Goldfinger meet in the flesh, with Bond offering to play against him for the gold (Bond’ real goal however is to put a tracking device in Goldfinger’s car to tail him to his factory). Here, we’re also introduced to Oddjob again, as his henchman-and Caddy.

Bond and his caddy soon realize that Goldfinger is once again cheating, by having Oddjob plant false golf balls on the field to make it look like he’s winning. Although short on non-sports action, it’s not a boring scene and there’s a lot of wit on it, and it demonstrates Goldfinger’s not only a serial cheater but Bond’s cleverness and intelligence.

Reportedly Sean liked doing this so much he took up golfing and became a major player of the sport, as he stated in his memoirs:

I never had a hankering to play golf, despite growing up in Scotland just down the road from Bruntsfield Links, which is one of the oldest golf courses in the world. It wasn’t until I was taught enough golf to look as though I could outwit the accomplished golfer Gert Frobe in Goldfinger that I got the bug. I began to take lessons on a course near Pinewood film studios and was immediately hooked on the game. Soon it would nearly take over my life.

 

Bond’s cleverness causes Goldfinger to lose the game, and he’s not amused. He says that they both know about each other from Miami; and he wants 007 to back off-by having Oddjob demonstrate his steel-rimmed hat throwing skills.

 

Which decapitates one of the club’s statues (But it’s no skin off Goldfinger’s back as he owns this club anyway).

 

…and in case that wasn’t clear, Oddjob also smashes the decoy golf ball Bond returns to him.

 

Oddjob’s pretty much creates the archetype of a “strong but silent”, and almost indestructible Bond henchman, something that would later inspire Jaws and Hinx in particular.

Next: “Do you expect me to talk?” “No mr. Bond! I expect you to die!”

 

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: SPECTRE Part II

 

Bond quickly escapes from the SPECTRE meeting, but Hinx is in hot pursuit. The car chase is pretty good, although it’s a bit heavy on the comedy-Most of the car’s gadgets haven’t been loaded yet, Bond has to deal with getting stuck behind a slow driver, and he’s trying to get in touch with Moneypenny to figure out the identity of the “Pale king”, as well as why Hans Oberhauser-the man he recognized at the meeting-is still alive.

 

 

 

Turns out the “Pale King” is Bond’s old nemesis Mr. White, who vanished after “Quantum of Solace”.

Bond’s finally able to get one gadget working-the “Backfire” flamethrower, which is able to temporarily blind Hinx enough for Bond to make a quick getaway with an ejection device, complete with a parachute. Bond casually swaggers away, and Hinx is momentarily satisfied that he’s killed Bond. On the other hand, there’s now a DB10 in the Tiber.

 

Something that hasn’t escaped the notice of M and Tanner, who are busy dealing with Max’s plan to push the “Nine eyes” program. Bond, in the meantime, tracks down Mr. White, in a chilling atmospheric scene that was pretty much used for SPECTRE’s first teaser trailer.

 

It also kind of reminds me of Bond’s look in the Heineken commercial from around “Skyfall’s” release a bit (although he’s got a much better jacket in that).

Mr. White isn’t exactly looking that great these days-he’s dying from cancer, from radiation implanted in his cellphone because he disagreed with Oberhauser over SPECTRE’s evil nature, saying his new plan could affect “Women and children”. Funny, this is the same guy who in CASINO ROYALE seemed to condone such acts; and it’s a bit of a circle in a square peg kind of thing, which unfortunately also goes for a lot of the film’s attempts to ‘connect the dots’ of the Craig Bonds, especially later in regards to Oberhauser. There’s even a bit of almost friendship between the two, which is a bit awkward considering it was White who pretty much got Vesper killed in Casino Royale.

 

White wants Bond to protect his daughter, and then he takes his own life with Bond’s gun after telling him where to find her, as well as making a cryptic reference to something else: L’American.

Meanwhile, Mallory talks to Max, and like his predecessor, defends the right of personal intelligence against surveillance.

 

Yes, you have information. You can find out all about a man, track him down, keep an eye on him. But you have to look him in the eye. All the tech you have can’t help you with that. A license to kill also means a license NOT to kill.

Max counters though that he recorded Moneypenny and 007’s conversation, and therefore M can’t take keep an eye on his own agents. There’s no love lost between these two.

 

Bond’s next port of call is the clinic where White’s daughter-Madeline Swann-works. The mountaintop clinic is somewhat similar from an outside visual standpoint to Piz Gloria, Blofeld’s HQ in On Her majesty’s Secret Service.

 

Bond and Madeline have a bit of an interview, sort of a ‘sizing up’ as well. We get a callback to Bond’s parents again (Which Skyfall elaborated on) and a “Shaken not stirred” from Craig (I think it might in fact be his first one, he says “Shake it over rice” & we see someone ask him about it in Casino Royale, and a woman shook a drink but I think this is the actual first line). Of course, they don’t have any, instead some kind of green drink that Bond would rather put in the toilet.

Q stops by as well, saying that Bond is following a false lead with Oberhauser, as he’s quite dead and is also imperiling all their jobs by going, more or less, rogue (although less so than in “License to Kill” and “Quantum of Solace”) however, his tone changes when he runs a check on Sciarra’s ring, which somehow has DNA from all of the villains from the past films, as well as Oberhauser and White. It’s kind of unclear how Silva, who had a personal vendetta with M, was somehow part of this (Apparently the connection is revealed more in deleted scenes). Also, it’s a bit unclear how Quantum fits into everything; subsidiary? Alternate name? In real life Quantum was intended to be the name of a Spectre-like organization if they never got the rights back. But when they got Spectre back, it kind of gets swept under the rug. Also I find it funny that although Patrice-Silva’s henchman-gets a ‘tentacle’ but Greene’s Elvis is once again left out. LOL! Also, although Greene is eventually name-checked by Oberhauser, for some reason Q skips mentioning him, instead saying “Quantum” instead.

 

As Q figures that out (and tries to evade SPECTRE agents sent to apprehend him in a cable car), Swann is quickly captured by Hinx, and Bond gets a plane from the clinic to pursue him, in one of the film’s most entertaining action sequences.

Hinx’s got a bit of an interesting weapon here, the double-barreled Prismatic dueler, which is in fact a real weapon, although to my knowledge this is the first time it’s been used in a film. Like Jaws, although Hinx is mainly a physical presence, he’s not above using firearms for the more long-range tasks (and he doesn’t have a steel-rimmed hat either).

File:Spectre 205.jpg

Although I can’t get the exact frame, Bond does a salute from the plane to Hinx, which seems to be a bit of a reverse nod to Caterina Munro/Naomi’s similar gesture in “The Spy Who Loved Me”.

 

It’s quite a harrowing chase, with quite a cool visual at the end, with Bond’s plane smashing through a lumber barn.

Hinx is down, but not out (He seems nearly as indestructible as Jaws!), but Bond is able to persuade Swann to come under his protection. The two rendezvous with Q at a local hotel, just as an inciddent is underway in South Africa (Justifying Max’s “Nine eyes”). Q tells Bond he now believes him, and that Oberhauser is connected to all his old enemies, but it’s Madeline Swann who tells them the name of the organization:

 

“SPECTRE. It’s name is SPECTRE.”

 

 

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-Die Another Day

As the world entered the 21st century, Bond films were in danger of becoming irrelevant again; as new, somewhat more sophisticated spy dramas were starting to emerge with more elaborate action sequences than the typical Bond film such as Tom Cruises’s Mission Impossible series, and Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne series and non-spy action movies such as the Matrix had set a new standard for kinetic action sequences. In addition, the James Bond tropes were parodied in the Austin Powers films.

With “The World Is Not Enough” a box office success but a critical dud, people were wondering if Bond was still relevant. Eventually, he would be-in 2006’s Casino Royale-but before that happened, there was one more Brosnan Bond to go-and a film that pretty much is the end of the series’s 40-year, if somewhat loose-continuity.

“Die Another Day” attempts to be kind of high-tech and hip, with then relative newcomer Halle Berry (Fresh off her oscar for “Monster’s Ball”) but it doesn’t quite work, especially with Pierce Brosnan now nearly into his 50s and other missteps. I’ll get into those a bit later.

Die Another Day pretty much tries to change things up pretty much right away. Although the music is perhaps the most traditional of Brosnan’s gunbarrels (Which mostly started mid-Bond theme) and of course uses the same stock footage of Brosnan posing from Goldeneye, there’s one very noticeable change. Bond actually shoots a CGI bullet directly into the chamber of the other gun!

We then open with Bond sneaking into North Korea via stealthy surfing with some Asian agents to capture and impersonate a guy trying to use diamonds to buy weapons from a corrupt North Korean, Col.Moon. Bond booby-traps the Diamonds with C4, hoping to take out the Colonel.

Unfortunately, Bond’s cover is blown by a mole who sends Moon’s henchman Zao his real identify before he successfully completes his mission, and leads to a pretty decent hovercraft fight between himself and Moon, which apparently ends with Moon’s death-but Bond in the hands of North Korean forces, including Moon’s father.

This leads to Bond spending a year and two months(!) in prison, continuously being tortured. Then the controversial Madonna song kicks in with several images of ice, fire, and electricity themed women, similar in some ways to the opening of “View to a Kill” (but with the imagery far more relevant here).

The music-like a lot of Madonna’s work around this time, has sort of a more electronic/dance/techno feel than a real Bond theme. It doesn’t really seem to reference Bond himself here, just the title. It’s got some strange lyrics too (“Sigmund Frued….Analyze this!Analyze this! Analyze this, this this etc.”) It’s worth noting though that the visuals continue to show Bond’s imprisonment and torture through it all, the first time in a Bond film where the story unfolds during the opening credits.

Bond is finally released-initially it’s believed for his execution, but instead it turns out to be a prisoner exchange-for Zao. It’s here we’re also introduced to American NSA agent Falco (Michael Madsen) who doesn’t exactly have a high opinion of Bond (If the Jinx spin-off materialized, or if Brosnan did more Bond films, he reportedly would’ve been in more films)

However, he’s not exactly welcomed back with open arms by MI6-as M believes he’s been leaking secrets, which Bond insists is the work of a mole. Stripped of his licence to kill by M, Bond once again goes rogue (by faking cardiac arrest, and using the defibrillators as weapons!).

In one of the film’s more hilarious scenes, he walks into a Hong Kong hotel and demands his ‘usual suite’ despite not exactly in the best clothes and sporting 14 months worth of beard.

Getting cleaned up and back to his usual standards, he starts to hunt for Zao, following a lead to Cuba. Here Bond meets with sleeper agent Raoul (A bond ally who in appearance and his role, is somewhat similar to Kerim Bey and Columbo from the earlier films, but with considerably less screen time), who gives him some clues as to Zao’s whereabouts-An offshore clinic where questionable plastic surgeries are performed.

At a hotel nearby, he meets Jinx, who debuts in a similar fashion to Honey Ryder’s debut in Dr.No-one of the film’s many callbacks to Bond’s past (This was not only the 20th Bond film, but also the 40th anniversary film as well). After some somewhat embarrassing innuendo, even by Bond standards, and a night spent together, they both separately head to the clinic-but it appears they both the same goal in mind-the capture of Zao.

It seems Zao is undergoing surgery to change his appearance into a British man, as Jinx discovers, while Bond himself confronts Zao. Unfortunately, Zao-only halfway through his surgery-escapes, and Jinx pretty much destroys the clinic, leaving Bond a bit perplexed as to her intentions-but Bond is able to gain a valuable clue-diamonds in Zao’s possession, which belong to the Graves corporation in Iceland-although Bond is quick to notice that the diamonds are very similar to African conflict diamonds.

Bond returns to London to investigate Graves, which leads to the intro of both Graves (Toby Stephens) and his publicist, Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike, in an early role for her). Here we go to the Blades club, where we also meet instructor Verity-Madonna, in a cameo role. She isn’t there long, but of course there’s some goofy innuendo.  Strangely, Madonna doesn’t use the British accent she sometimes uses in interviews, although she’s in a scene that’s set in London, England.

As for Graves, I think he’s actually a fairly decent bad guy, and plays off of Brosnan well. He comes across as a bit petulant and whiny, but I think that’s part of what was intended for the character to be (and a bit of a facade as we find out later). Toby Stephens by the way, is the son of British actress Maggie Smith, of Harry Potter, Downton Abbey and Clash of the Titans fame.

The sword fight scene that follows is actually a pretty decent action scene, and pretty intense and easy to follow, unlike the action scenes in it’s predecessor film, The World Is Not Enough.

Bond being back in London naturally grabs M’s attention, who is also investigating Graves; and finally lets Bond back on his job since he’s “become useful again”.

We then get a sequence with Bond readying his weapon inside MI6, but it turns out that it’s been infiltrated by armed men, Moneypenny is dead, and M is being held hostage! However, it all turns to be a ruse, a VR simulation being used to set up the Q scene. Unfortunately, it’s not the only piece of unbelievable technology we see here.

While the glass-breaking ring and the callbacks to older gadgets (The Thunderball Jetpack, Rosa Klebb’s poison knife shoes and the Octopussy crocodile sub) are pretty cool, we’re then introduced to the Aston Martin Vanquish/”Vanish” which has a nearly flawless cloaking device, making it effectively invisible! Also in this-Cleese’s only full Q scene-we get not one, but two references to Cleese’s Monty Python days-first by Bond mentioning a “flesh wound” (a reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail), and second, Cleese’s legs visibly distort when walking behind the Vanquish, a visual nod to his “Ministry of Silly Walks” sketch.

Bond then heads to Grave’s ice palace and diamond mine in Iceland, at a party to demonstrate a new device called “Icarus”, and also catches up with Jinx again.Here we learn a few things about Graves, that he’s a thrill seeker, an insomniac, and is actually Col.Moon (Although Bond doesn’t fully realize it until later). His diamond mine is in fact, fake-the diamonds he is ‘mining’, as Bond suspected, are in fact just branded African conflict diamonds. He unveils Icarus, a satellite that can focus sunlight-he states for agricultural purposes, but actually his real intent is to use it to destroy the mines among Korea’s demilitarized zones so North Korea can invade South Korea. It’s yet another callback, this time to the Diamond Satellite in Diamonds Are Forever (although unlike that particular satellite and the presence of diamonds in the plot, Icarus doesn’t actually seem to use Diamonds as it’s focus; although the conflict diamonds are probably used to fund it)

  

After a botched attempt at infiltration, Bond spends a night with Frost, who is actually an MI6 agent. However, he makes a bit of an error here, by letting her have his Walther gun for a few seconds….

Jinx’s attempt is a bit more successful, but she ends up being captured, and now we have a Goldfinger reference (although the laser is headed toward her head rather than…umm…lower as was the case with Goldfinger and Bond). There’s also some pretty poor dialogue here, in particular a “Yo momma” joke from Jinx….

Bond sucessfully infiltrates a second time (using two previous gadgets-Goldeneye’s laser watch and the Thunderball rebreather) and finds Jinx, but gets interrupted by the henchman Mr. Kil, and then one laser becomes several. After defeating Mr. Kil thanks to a timely laser from Jinx and freeing her, Bond then confronts Moon/Graves, and of course say the title line.

“So you live to die another day…Colonel.”

Unfortunately for Bond, Graves reveals the mole who botched his earlier mission in the first place-it was Frost all along-and now he’s got no ammo. But he does have the ring, and makes an escape attempt using one of Graves’s extreme sports vehicle, a sort of rocket-sled thing-while also trying to evade Icarus’s concentrated sun beam melting the glacier he’s on.

Unfortunately this also leads to one of the goofiest, fakest looking Bond scenes of all time, with Bond improvising a surfboard from the remains of the sled….yep. While the surfing that opened the film was kind of cool, this is just awful, right up there with Roger Moore in the opening of View To A kill. At least that was done with more practical effects and stuntmen, while this just looks fake, with a clearly CG Bond on CG water and ice.

Thankfully, it’s quickly followed by a pretty awesome car chase between the Aston Martin and Zao’s Jaquar. The car is in fact not invisible for most of the chase, and what’s also interesting is that both cars are armed with gadgets. While villains such as Scaramanga have had gadgets before, this is really the first time Bond and the bad guy have been kind of evenly matched-although Bond finally getting the invisibility back at the end of the chase is a bit of a cheat.

Rescuing Jinx again, Bond and Jinx go to Korea where they sneak aboard Grave’s plane in an attempt to disable Icarus and take out Graves and Frost. Meanwhile, we’re also treated to some Tomorrow Never Dies stock footage, as a missile launch identical to the one from that beginning of the film tries to take out Icarus another way to no avail. It’s one of the rare instances where they use stock footage apart from the gunbarrel and title sequences, but it’s still a bit glaring especially since it was only used two films ago.

There’s an attempt at pathos as Graves is reunited with his father, who is disgusted by what has happened to his son and what he intends to do. However, it’s a bit hard to take the scene seriously, especially with Graves’s goofy exosuit.

While Jinx has a pretty good decent fight with Miranda, Bond takes on Graves, who dies pretty much Goldfinger-style by being sucked out a plane (although then he dies Incredibles style by being sucked into a jet engine)-which in turns shuts down Icarus  (although as was the case with the Diamond Satellite in DAF, it’s still stuck up there in space, just turned off).

The film then kind of ends with Moneypenny using the VR glasses in kind of a goofy joke scene, and then more bad innuendo as Bond and Jinx relax with the Diamonds….

Die Another Day has some strengths. It’s got some fantastic action sequences and the first half of the film before Bond goes to Iceland isn’t too bad, and even plays with the Bond formula a bit. However, it’s kind of then overwhelmed by too many obvious references to past Bond films, really cringe-worthy dialogue, and an overload of CG where past Bond films relied on more practical effects and stunts, even for their more outrageous sequences.

It brings an end to the original Bond movie continuity pretty much, as the Craig films-while still paying homage to the past (Most notably with the Aston Martin cars and of course the theme) would pretty much reinvent the mythology with new takes on Bond’s backstory, how he became who he was, and his supporting cast, whereas up to this point although the actors changed, such changes were not really aknowledged in the films (Apart from “This Never happened to the other fella” in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but that’s debatable).

Brosnan I felt was a good Bond, but unfortunately at times was let down by the material. I think perhaps the producers got a bit overconfident and went too far once “Goldeneye” was a success, and sort of went back to the excesses of the Roger Moore era, and this kind of hurt Brosnan. Even though “Die Another Day” was a financial success, the critical reviews were savage, and many agreed it was time for a change to the series.

Bond In Review: License to Kill

Although he wasn’t the first choice for the role (which was Pierce Brosnan) in 1987, Timothy Dalton’s The Living Daylights was mostly a critically and financial success. Unfortunately, it’s follow-up-more tailored toward Dalton’s tougher, more dangerous Bond that TLD was-did not match the success of it’s predecessor, and due in part to it’s low box office (It’s still the lowest-grossing Bond film), and a number of other factors such as legal issues and trouble getting a planned third film off the ground, the next Bond was delayed until 1995.

 

 

Right off the bat in the film we’re introduced to a more intimidating villain than The Living Daylights, in Drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) and his sadistic henchman Dario. Although he’s clearly violent and ruthless, Sanchez also has a weird sort of reptilian charm-he prizes loyalty and trusts almost too easily-something that Bond also exploits to bring him down. Also, like Bond’s arch-nemesis Blofeld, he has a pet-in this case an Iguana-constantly around his shoulder. Bond’s first encounter with him is when Sanchez runs out of his sanctuary country of Ithmus to retrieve his girlfriend Lupe, who is trying to escape him-leaving him vulnerable to the DEA.

Bond’s old CIA buddy Felix Leiter (Played for the second time by “Live and Let Die’s” David Hedison)-now with the DEA-is on his way to wed his fiancee Della when he’s informed of this, and best man James Bond tags along, helping to capture Sanchez-which he succeeds at, with a bit of ‘fishing’ his getaway plane.

 

Fortunately for Bond, but unfortunately for Felix and Della, Bond isn’t spotted capturing Sanchez, but Sanchez witnesses Felix and his wedding, and also has a mole that he’s bribed within the DEA, allowing him to quickly escape.

The opening credits are okay, but not really anything particularly special. Glady’s Knight’s tune is pretty good, although the first part seems to borrow a bit too much of Goldfinger. Interestingly, the Asian woman seen in most of the credits-Diana Lee Hsu-has a small role in the film as a Hong Kong Narcotics agent.

 

 

Bond attends the wedding as best man, and gets a present from the Newlyweds-a Lighter, funny enough, with a pretty large flame. However, as soon as Bond leaves (with a small reference to Bond’s own ill-fated wedding to the murdered Tracey Bond in OHMSS), Felix unfortunately has to live in his own version of his friend’s worst day ever, as Sanchez’s goons kill Della and feed Felix partially to a shark, leaving him in critical condition. When informed of Sanchez’s escape, Bond rushes back to his friend’s place but is too late. In many ways, this is one of the darkest, most disturbing scenes in all of the Bond films. Although many of Bond’s friends and female characters have been killed in the films, this seems somewhat more graphic and traumatic, especially since Felix has appeared in several films (although usually with different actors)

 

 

Frustrated that the DEA is unable to find Sanchez again, Bond-along with another friend-Sharkey, a local fisherman-take matters into their own hands, investigating first where Felix was wounded, with Bond killing the DEA mole. Unfortunately, another lead-Milton Wavecrest, an alcoholic, lewd henchman of Sanchez who runs a cover-escapes.

After this, the DEA brings in M, who is mad that his agent has taken the law into his own hands, with an interesting use of Hemingway house (complete with cats, perhaps a subtle nod to Bond villain Blofeld along with Sanchez’s Iquana). It’s at this point where his Licence is semi-revoked, but he’s able to escape before surrendering his Walther PPK. This is actually the last scene between Bond and the Robert Brown M in the series as well.

Bond’s next port of call is Krest’s ship the Wavekrest (unfortunately Sharkey is killed by Krest’s men, furthering Bond’s desire for revenge) where he encounters Lupe, but is also able to escape with Sanchez’s drug money, allowing him enough funds to get to Isthmus and continue his revenge. It’s a fun action sequence too, with Bond doing some underwater fighting ala Thunderball, water-skiing and dropping guys out of small planes.

Along the way he comes to the aid of one of Felix’s DEA agents Pam Bouvier, who agrees to help him after a somewhat goofy bar fight sequence with Dario (Benecio Del Toro). She’s certainly more of a ‘tough’ Bond girl, something that Dalton’s first adventure didn’t have really, and especially not Roger Moore’s final one. Then again, Lupe’s played as kind of week and overly smitten, although like Kara she’s kind of more of a victim too.

In Ithmus, we get the semi-regular Bond casino scene which wasn’t in The Living Daylights, that Bond is using in part to get Sanchez’s attention so he can make a tactical recon of his office-so he can of course, take him out as part of his revenge. Bond introduces himself to Sanchez as a sort of ‘problem solver’ who could come in handy, but he’s really only got eyes for his heavily-armored window.

Although he’s not well-armed for this, Q comes to the rescue, on “holiday”, giving him what he needs to take out Sanchez. On a side note, Q actually has more screen-time in this one, aiding Bond and Pam in their mission throughout the film.

 

Unfortunately, Bond’s attempt is thwarted when something unexpected happens-he spots Pam with Sanchez’s henchman Heller, and then Hong Kong narcotics attack and capture Bond. He’s unwittingly stumbled into their operation to catch Sanchez.

 

Unexpectedly, Bond is rescued by Sanchez, and starts to unexpectedly gain the villain’s trust, convincing him that the window attack was in fact carried out by mercenaries (in fact, the now-dead Hong Kong team). Also, it turns out that at least one of Sanchez’s lieutenants-Hiller-wants immunity, hence Pam meeting with him. Bond starts to use this opportunity to literally kill two birds with one stone. Using the drug money and both Pam, Q, and Lupe’s helps, he frames Krest, a scene that’s probably one of the most violent and disturbing villain deaths in the whole series. Without actually posting the gory aftermath here, it’s pretty much explosive decompression for Krest.

 

The final battle takes place at a “temple” which is actually a cover for Sanchez’s drug labs, and has a phony new-age operation running out of it that’s actually turning a sizable side profit. Sanchez’s henchman Professor Butcher is played by no less than Vegas entertainer Wayne Newton, who adds some fun to the movie without being too annoying.

 

Unfortunately for Bond his attempt to get close enough to Sanchez to take him out is spoiled by Dario, who recognizes Bond from the bar earlier and blows his ruse in a tense scene. However, Bond is able to use a distraction to destroy Sanchez’s labs, throwing his organization into disarray. Nevertheless, he tries to kill Bond with a cocaine shredder.

However, it soon turns out to be Dario’s death instead, as he’s probably too high off the fumes and seems to mistake Pam in a white suit for an angel (He believes he killed her in the earlier bar fight), causing Dario to wind up in the shredder instead, in another particularly violent villain death.

Finally we get the epic tanker chase scene, which has some cool stunts such as the truck flip Bond uses to avoid one of the stinger missiles:

and later, a wheelie.

There’s also a lot of pyrotechnics around in these, as each of the tankers are eventually destroyed. Definitely one of the most spectacular chases in the series, and this time, with no real gadgets, just good old fashioned stuntwork.

Bond finally is able to avenge his friends with the help of their lighter, igniting a gasoline-soaked Sanchez, who realizes too late the reason Bond came after him in the first place.

At the party afterwards, we learn that Felix has thankfully regained consciousness (although he is unfortunately still widowed), and that M seems to be willing to let Bond back into the secret service after all (Which of course happens, as the Brosnan films make clear. Still I can picture a bit of a tense scene there, if it existed!). He also chooses between the more shallow Lupe and Pam, eventually ending up with Pam at film’s end, to the tune of Patti Labelle’s If You Asked Me to which became an eventual big hit, even if the film it came from was disappointing box office wise.

License tends to get a lot of grief-many people feel it’s kind of not Bondish enough, but in fact it does borrow fairly heavily from Fleming’s novels, in particular Live and Let Die (Felix’s maiming, and Sharkey is pretty much another version of Quarrel) and Sanchez’s drug operation is similar to Both LALD and Man with The Golden Gun, especially with Bond earning the villain’s trust in order to get close enough to take him out. The film is somewhat more violent than other Bonds, in particular the fate of the Leiters and the villain’s deaths by compression, shredded to death and immolation (Most of the other villains seemed to mostly just get shot, captured, or thrown from a great height).

Nevertheless the film isn’t totally dark and depressing. Q brings some levity, and although he isn’t quite as good with the humor as his predecessors, Dalton does get some amusing moments, such as his double-take when Pam redoes her hairstyle and dress. (He also tends to oggle her a few times). Davi and Del Toro are pretty effective, sinister villains, and as I stated Davi’s got some good charm as well. There are also many fantastic stunts.  The plot is relatively simple compared to the espionage heavy Living Daylights, as well.

Michael Kamen’s score is a bit different in some ways from the John Barry work, with it’s spanish guitar giving flavor to the film’s mostly central American setting-and returning that element to the Bond theme as well, where it belongs.

However, despite it’s strengths, many were unimpressed, and 1989 was already a crowded summer already, with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Batman, Ghostbusters II, Honey I Shrunk the Kids and several other films as direct competiton. Plus the 80’s were already fairly heavy with revenge flicks, and people probably didn’t want to see a Bond film just for that. Bond would remain in limbo until 1995, with Dalton giving up the role in the interim. So Dalton’s run unfortunately came to an early end…but the series would return, and Dalton’s tough, true-to-the-books Bond would later become more accepted, when Daniel Craig came onboard…