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Tag : James Bond

SPECTRE [2015] Review

Where next after the $1 billion (£650 million) and most successful 007 outing in the franchise’s 50 year run? The Skyfall team are back, but is Bond back too?

It is a resounding ‘yes’. Bond is back, and in more ways than I expected. As director Sam Mendes has stated in press interviews; this is a different beast to Skyfall entirely. Quite rightly too – why try to bottle lightning twice. The Daniel Craig era stripped the franchise back and has been very cautious in reintroducing the gadgets, quips and glamorous locales that the made the series iconic. I really enjoyed how they presented the car gadgets back to the audience again, but in a flawed way (even the car wasn’t supposed to be for 007!). Answering Ralph Fiennes’ M in the closing scene of Skyfall, 007 is indeed back to work in SPECTRE. This is much more of a ‘fun’ Bond movie and during the film I wasn’t actually sure that I liked it. The cold, washed up and alcohol dependant assassin from Skyfall, to me, makes for a much more intriguing Bond. In SPECTRE Bond is at the top of his game shooting his way out of the villain’s lair unscathed whilst wearing impeccable suits. It was a surprise to watch a fun Bond movie again; I was expecting to be pulled back in to the dark at any minute. Daniel Craig is certainly my favourite Bond (even though I grew up with Pierce) and he plays it with both confidence and a vulnerability from Vesper’s sting in Casino Royale. He’s had a decade’s worth of a gritty 007, and has certainly earned to have some fun with SPECTRE. If it is indeed a swan song; it couldn’t be a better one.

SPECTRE’s action is a highlight compared to the previous outing. Nothing can top Casino Royale’s parkour crane chase, and I thought Skyfall’s opening sequence was always over praised. The opening sequence of SPECTRE is set amongst Mexico’s Day Of The Dead parade and contains a breath-stopping single tracking shot (when a camera physically follows a person or an object with no visible cuts) which is perhaps a first for the franchise and always a personal favourite of mine in any film. It’s a thrilling opener and now one of my favourites. Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography is luxuriously grounded, and Lee Smith’s editing is solidly paced too (what else would we expect from Christopher Nolan’s crack team!). The car chase sequence in Rome is operatic and thrilling with the Aston Martin DB10 tearing through the streets. Dave Bautista’s Mr. Hinx is a sinister brute force and easily my favourite henchman of the series.

There are plot holes and some lazy exposition in SPECTRE. Dr. Madeline Swann falls for Bond at the drop of a hat, and Monica Belucci is disappointingly under used. I feel Christophe Waltz’s Oberhauser/Blofeld really should have escaped at the end to add a sense of peril to the “James Bond will return” closing tag. Instead, the fate of this huge character wasn’t touched upon and Bond drove off happily in to the sunset without a care in the world. The villain’s motivation wasn’t crystal clear and the threat wasn’t really felt; Waltz was another under used talent. Sadly, Sam Smith’s theme is also quite underwhelming.

Overall, SPECTRE felt like an indirect love note to all the classic 007 moments, and was exciting to watch. I thought it was a fantastic instalment, and I’m already trying to plan when I can see it a second time. The team have had fun with this outing of Bond and it is certainly conveyed on screen. I wasn’t expecting a return of so many key elements, but they were a pleasant surprise. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Christopher Nolan to finally take the keys for the next outing!

 

UPDATE: After a second viewing, it was just as enjoyable!

Featured image © Sony Pictures

Bond 24 - SPECTRE

Bond 24 Officially Titled ‘SPECTRE’

Following on from a successful and hugely impressive Bond 23, Skyfall, Sam Mendes returns to helm the 24th instalment into the Eon series. Titled SPECTRE, it oozes with nostalgia for long term fans of the series, and intrigue for those fairly fresh to it. SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) is the international terrorist organisation headed up by ultimate Bond super-villain, Ernst Stravro Blofeld. They were first mentioned in the very first Bond film Dr. No in 1962 but we didn’t formally see Blofeld until 1967’s You Only Live Twice. The big mystery surrounds the casting of Christoph Waltz who has been rumoured to have been cast as the evil super-villain. However, ‘officially’ he is billed to play a character called Oberhauser. My thoughts is that this is a diversion tactic, similar to 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness [SPOILER] Benedict Cumberbatch as John Harrison/Khan or Naomie Harris’ reveal as Eve/Miss Moneypenny in Skyfall.

The official synopsis: “A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.” The Quantum organisation from the previous Daniel Craig instalments felt like another SPECTRE in the making. I feel this was due to the long standing copyright issues between MGM and Kevin McClory, but I hope the two will be linked as to not make Quantum completely redundant. As of writing this, Jesper Christensen is rumoured to return as Mr. White.

Aside from Waltz, Daniel Craig obviously returns as Bond, and is joined by, Ralph Fiennes as M, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw as Q and Rory Kinnear as Tanner. New additions include Monica Bellucci and Lea Seydoux as femme-fatales. Andrew Scott also joins as Denbigh.

Filming locations are set to be London, Mexico City, Rome, Morocco and pleasantly, Austria. I’m hoping it’s a return to the alps in a similar fashion to 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

SPECTRE is set for release on October 23rd 2015.

Skyfall (Shanghai Bar)

Skyfall [2012]

Skyfall, Bond’s 23rd Eon film and 50th anniversary outing, delivers on all levels. This is a Bond film, but not a Bond film, if you get my meaning? It’s still a part of the stripped back feel of the series since Casino Royale but certain key elements, such as the humour, are brought back very carefully. This is a personal Bond film. Without giving too much away, there’s no plot for world domination. Javier Bardem’s sinister villain Silva is out for MI6 blood; and his bullet has M’s name on it.

Craig’s 007 is washed up and injured to the point of being a has-been in the field. We’re all aware of how much dedication and effort Daniel Craig has put into the role, but Skyfall is his best yet. It’s different and more personal side to the iron exterior the character is known for. Sam Mendes does an excellent job of developing Bond as a character on screen. Bardem excels as the film’s villain with a paralleled sadistic unpredictability of The Joker. He’s secured his place next to Blofeld and Goldfinger in the Bond villain elite, rather than the Gustav Graves’. “Bond girls” (is that an archaic Cold War-era term?) Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe provide both enough glamour and bravura to break the stereotypical Bond girl mould, although I felt Marlohe was underused in her short screen time. Other newcomers such as Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw weigh-in a solid performances as the sceptical Government chief and Quartermaster, respectively. Then there’s M; Judi Dench continues to shine, as the humorous parental love-hate fight between Bond and her continue. There’s not a single bad piece of acting or casting in Skyfall, everyone is on top form. [**SPOILERS**] Even though it was sad to see Judi Dench leave the films, it was great to see Ralph Fiennes join as the new M. Plus with the superb return of Moneypenny, it was a fantastic closing scene to the film.

The real star of the film for me is Roger Deakins’ beautiful cinematography. Stark contrasts, glowing skylines and rich sets dominate the screen. The core values of producing Dr. No have been restated here in the aim to make the colours of the exotic locations jump off of the screen. It’s back to the pure escapism of a Bond film for the audience. The film looks as cool as Sean Connery does in Goldfinger, and packs the punch the more harder films like Timothy Dalton’s License To Kill. Aside from the opening sequence the action doesn’t really hit the big highs of Casino Royale, this is a much more scruffier type of action with a lot of close-quarter battles. But in the 143 minute run time this was never an issue, there’s plenty to make up for it. I did spend quite a bit of time after the film thinking of all the very subtle references to the 50 year run of the series. They’re not in-your-face obvious like Die Another Day’s Q-branch archives, but nods such as a 1962 (the year Dr. No was released) bottle of Macallan whiskey and the Komodo Dragon encounter (echoing the alligators from Live And Let Die). Something for the die-hard 007 fans without alienating a new audience. The script, by 007 regulars Robert Wade and Neal Purvis along with John Logan, has its mishaps like any film but is central in it’s motivation. You know exactly what the villain’s aiming for and what is at stake for the good guys.

Overall, Skyfall makes you leave the cinema with the same back-to-business feeling Casino Royale did. Bond is back, and he’s still a top of his game.

My Favourite James Bond Film: Casino Royale

The James Bond films are a part of any boy’s life growing up. For me, I grew up in the Pierce Brosnan era and Goldeneye was the first 007 film I watched. It wasn’t until Tomorrow Never Dies, my first cinema experience of the MI6 agent (which I had to sneak in to, as I was underage at 11!), that I started to realise the cultural importance of Bond. Every screening is full to the brim of every age group, and for those 2 hours it feels like Great Britain is united for an event. I can always remember vividly where I was when I saw each film at the cinema. These aren’t just movies; they’re a British institution.

Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan…..and Craig. Notice anything out of place? Daniel Craig was publicly and unfairly criticised by some as the “blonde Bond”, and I was initially surprised at his casting, but not dismissive before actually seeing a finished article. Sitting in Canterbury Odeon on opening night with some uni friends in November 2006, my expectations were completely shattered and built back up higher than I could have ever imagined. Shivers pulsated down my spinal chord at key moments such as the return of the opening barrel sequence; everything was done perfectly and the whole cinema knew this was an excellent film. Daniel Craig put so much work into psyche of Bond to play it true to Ian Fleming’s character of the novels, whilst simultaneously adding in some contemporary elements of his own. He physically looked like he could kill, and he wasn’t known by every hotel owner wherever he went across the globe (defeating the whole idea of a spy, surely?). Whereas Brosnan had that perfect mix of Connery and Moore, he made this character his own and proved his haters wrong with a glorious smile back at them. It was for this which I find most inspiring about him. There was a hell of a lot of nasty words circulating on a simple Google search, but he gave Bond more depth and swagger than the previous (official) 5 combined. That, is impressive.

Casino Royale is a fantastic film in its own right. Martin Campbell delivered some of the best action of the series (that parkour crane chase still amazes) and a solid story line with deeper look into the character of Bond. He’s a blunt instrument and is not as invincible as you’ve previously seen. With this and Goldeneye under Campbell’s belt that’s not bad going. The colour literally leaps off the screen from every location; be it Monaco, the Caribbean or Italy. The idea driving the film was to reset the franchise, almost like Christopher Nolan did with Batman, and free the filmmakers from the CGI-heavy debacle that Lee Tamahori unfortunately created for Die Another Day. A contemporary, grittier and more vulnerable Bond that can be hurt. Q Branch and the gadgets have been sidelined to focus on character rather than special effects, and I have to say they’re not really missed in this film. The references to the aspects we all know and love about 007 over it’s (then) 44 year run, such as his “affection” for a vodka Martini (“Do I look like I give a damn?”) and his first encounter with Felix Leiter, all help us understand Bond more without detracting from the actual story. People who know the series in and out will get them, while people fresh to it will not feel alienated. It was exciting to try and guess what elements the producers would keep in or adapt.

Bond and Vesper’s turbulent relationship is a highlight of the film. It makes this character who has previously only had 1-film meaningless “flings” with countless women, and given him more depth and purpose. He’s initially a closed book and a cold-hearted assassin, but he lets Vesper in and pays a hefty emotional price. Time for just one more thing before the closing titles; the immortal line, “The name’s Bond…James Bond.” It was almost an overly extroverted-american-patriotic-punch-in-the-air moment in the cinema that sent shivers down my spine. After the 2 hour roller-coaster, it was now time to breath.

Before, it was From Russia With Love, but now Casino Royale stands as my favourite Bond film and Daniel Craig as my favourite incarnation of 007. However, that could all well change with the upcoming release of Skyfall!

What’s yours?

007 Skyfall

Skyfall: Official Trailer

Plot details for the latest 007 outing, Skyfall, have remained a tightly kept secret, with the basic synopsis being, “Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her.” Now the theatrical trailer has been released, without giving too much away before you watch it, it is a break from the norm with all of the classic Bond elements still included. We also get the first look and insight into Javier Bardem’s villain. Coupled with Sam Mendes calling the shots and Roger Deakins’ cinematography, we are in for a thrilling return.  (more…)

007 Skyfall

Skyfall: Teaser Trailer

The teaser for 007’s new outing, Skyfall, is finally here! After being in a slight touch of development hell with the financial restructuring woes of MGM after Quantum of Solace (not as a result of the film, mind you, it made $586m worldwide), it has had that time to polish off a fine-sounding script and brought together a top-notch team. Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road To Perdition) steps behind the camera with his collaborative cinematographer, Roger Deakins. Joining the regulars of Daniel Craig and Judi Dench are Naomie Harris (Miami Vice, Pirates of the Caribbean), Bérénice Marlohe, Ralph Fiennes (Coriolanus) and also Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) on villain duties.

The teaser, as always, is brief but gives an insight into the film’s look. Without giving too much away before you take a look, Roger Deakin’s cinematography of Shanghai looks amazing bathed in the neon of the city’s skyline. It certainly has the key elements of a great Bond film, but it’s slightly frustrating as this trailer (which it sets out to do) just leaves you wanting more. Roll on October 26th.

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