James Bond

Q is for Q

Yes, that title amuses me. There are very few characters I could think of with names beginning with Q, I suppose I could’ve gone with Quicksilver, but I thought I’d go for the head of Q Branch in MI6.

I didn’t realise how long ago it was that I watched and reviewed all the James Bond films aka my Bondathon but that was in 2015. I still have fond memories of Desmond Llewelyn’s portrayal of Q. I especially liked his dynamic with the various Bond’s but the Timothy Dalton one especially stands out.

While there have been a few different actors as Q and I like the core elements of the character a lot no matter who plays him, my favourite is the newest incarnation. I think it was clever to have a young, nerdy-looking guy as the head of Q Branch and the one inventing and organising all the engineers making these fancy cars, guns and gadgets. It makes him stand out from the previous iterations of the character, and it offers a new dynamic between Q and the other characters – especially Bond.

I love the respect James Bond and Q have for one another, even if they bicker and Bond doesn’t return the equipment in one piece – if he returns it at all. Q is obviously extremely smart but he’s also a little arrogant which can be his downfall. Q is loyal and resourceful and a brilliant hacker. While there’s only small hints of it in Skyfall and Spectre, I do like the nods of his working relationship with both Tanner and Eve Moneypenny. It helps flesh out the world of MI6 outside of James Bond.

REVIEW: Goldfinger by Ian Fleming

After the Secret Service is informed that the Bank of England’s gold is being stolen, 007 James Bond is put on the case to track down the mysterious Auric Goldfinger and find out how he’s been accumulating so much gold. But as Bond delves deeper, he discovers Goldfinger’s dangerous connections and that he has much bigger plans when it comes to gold.

While I have watched the film version of Goldfinger a number of years ago, enough time had past that I didn’t remember much of the plot, and even if I had the book was it’s own unique thing compared to the film adaptation.

After having the physical book on my shelves for years, I listened to the audiobook narrated by Hugh Bonneville who did a great job. Goldfinger is a fast-paced story and Bonneville did a great job at getting inside Bond’s head. The action sequences were exciting but the slower, spy stuff was just as compelling.

I love the character of James Bond in this story. He’s a mess, and an argument could be made for him being depressed when we’re first introduced to him in the opening chapters. He’s sick of his job, the travelling and the killing and he’s so very tired of it all. The thing I loved about Bond is that while he is a good spy, he is human and makes mistakes. Also, when times are tough and he’s in real mortal peril, his inner-monologue is emotional and reflective. James Bond also has a sarcastic sense of humour which I loved and there’s so many times he uses either wit or sheer luck to get by. For instance, at one point he blames a cat for something in the hopes that Goldfinger doesn’t figure him out.

Goldfinger and his trusted bodyguard Odd Job are both intimidating foes in different ways. Goldfinger is very smart while Odd Job is deadly. The language used to describe Odd Job and the other Korean workers Goldfinger employs is definitely racist and can be sometimes uncomfortable to listen to. I guess that’s the sign of the time it was written in.

The same it can be said of the way women are presented. Pussy Galore is a lesbian and the book states this multiple times. However, by the end it’s alluded to that she was only a lesbian because she hadn’t met a real man like James Bond yet. It’s eye-rolling stuff. That being said, while Bond is a self-confessed womaniser, there are moments, especially at the start of the novel, where it does show he can and does respect women. There may be some rather outdated views of them, but on the whole there’s less than one might expect from a James Bond story when all you’ve seen previously are the film adaptations.

I enjoyed Goldfinger far more than I was expecting to, to be honest. It’s a fast-paced thriller and Bond is much more interesting, funny and layered character compared to the almost archetype that’s seen in the various film adaptations. 4/5.

If you’re interested, as a part of my Bondathon three years ago I watched and reviewed the film adaptation of Goldfinger, along with every other Bond film. You can read that review here.

REVIEW: SPECTRE (2015)

spectre elenasquareeyesWhen James Bond’s (Daniel Craig) past comes back to haunt him, he discovers a sinister organisation. Meanwhile in London M (Ralph Fiennes) has battle a political programme to keep the secret service alive.

The opening sequence in Mexico was amazing. It really starts SPECTRE with a bang and it’s a highlight of the film. The continuous tracking shots of Bond as he moves from the crowded streets to the rooftops are brilliant and then the helicopter stunts are tense and jaw-dropping. It’s one of the best opening’s to a Bond film and then follows Sam Smith’s theme song which plays incredibly well with the title sequence.

SPECTRE has a lot more humour than the previous Craig-Bond films and it does well in balancing the humour and the tension. The action-scenes are still pretty great but t’s the hand-to-hand fights that are the most impressive. When Bond faces off against Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista) it’s a sight to behold and I loved Hinx, he’s huge and deadly but also smart, definitely a worthy adversary for Bond.

The guy puling all the strings is Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz). He commands the screen whenever he appears and he has great chemistry with Bond. Part of me wishes there was more of him in SPECTRE because he was a joy to watch on screen but then I think it was great having this omnipresent character in the shadows, just out of reach and taunting Bond.

Team MI6 were great in SPECTRE. M has his own story and it’s great to see him in a political battle with Denbigh (Andrew Scott). I continue to love Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), Q (Ben Whishaw) and Tanner (Rory Kinnear) and their relationship with both Bond and M, SPECTRE makes Q and Moneypenny seem more like their own characters even though their primary purpose it to help M and Bond.

The main problem I had with SPECTRE is that there’s so many references to previous Bond films. I probably wouldn’t have noticed anything if I hadn’t had my Bondathon this year but watching SPECTRE I couldn’t help but be reminded of various Bond films. Elements from Dr. No, From Russia with Love, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Licence to Kill are all featured in SPECTRE to various extents. In some ways it could be a nice homage but really I found it quite distracting and SPECTRE didn’t really end up feeling like it’s own film.

SPECTRE is a lot of fun and is action-packed but the continuous references to previous Bond films is quite jarring and the ending wasn’t quite what you’d expect for Bond. 3/5.

My Bondathon is Complete! My thoughts on the James Bond films

I have completed my Bondathon! All the Bond films from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig have been watched and reviewed so now it’s time to have a look at which films are my favourites, who’s my favourite Bond and which Bond song is my favourite. You can check out all my James Bond reviews here in the Bondathon tag.

Favourite Bond Film(s) – I’m going to cheat and break it down into my favourite film featuring each Bond actor.

GoldfingerSean Connery – Goldfinger (1964)
Goldfinger is the definitive Bond film and the template of all Bond films to later follow. It’s got great action, great gadgets and a great Bond girl in Pussy Galore. It also has a clever yet simple plot and an iconic villain in Oddjob.

George Lazenby – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)On-Her-Majestys-Secret-Service-1969-movie-George-Lazenby-Diana-Rigg
OK so George Lazenby only had one outing as Bond but On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is such a great film it deserves a mention. It has Tracey, one of the best Bond girls, and some great action scenes in the snow. It’s also one of the more grown-up and touching Bond films. (more…)

REVIEW: Skyfall (2012)

skyfall-poster_510x756When a hard drive with the identity’s of undercover MI6 agents is stolen M’s (Judi Dench) past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack James Bond (Daniel Craig) must hunt down the mysterious and deadly Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), no matter the cost.

Skyfall is a good-looking film. Standout moments include the static shot of Bond and Patrice (Ola Rapace) fighting in Shanghai. They are silhouettes with blue lights behind them and not only does it look really cool, you can actually see and follow the fight much more easily than when fights are shot with a lot of close ups and quick cuts.

New characters are introduced in Skyfall – or rather old characters with new faces. Q (Ben Whishaw) is much younger than the previous incarnation and allows for interesting commentary for the new age of espionage. Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) is definitely a twenty-first century version of the character and is awesome. (more…)

REVIEW: Quantum of Solace (2008)

quantum_of_solace_ver4_xlgJames Bond (Daniel Craig) is on the hunt for revenge as he tries to stop the mysterious organisation Quantum from eliminating a countries most valuable resource.

Quantum of Solace is a direct sequel to Casino Royale (2006) it starts almost moments after Casino Royale ends and has a lot of the same characters and themes running through it. I definitely think you get more from Quantum of Solace if you watch it straight after Casino Royale as they work like one big story.

From interrogating Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) Bond, M (Judi Dench) and Bill Tanner (Rory Kinnear) learn about the far-reaching organisation Quantum and Bond goes on the hunt for answers. His search leads him to industrialist Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) who seems to have many connections with dodgy military figures and with Quantum. When his search begins, Bond meets Camille (Olga Kurylenko) who is also out for revenge and while they may not trust each other to start with, they end up working together. Camille is great, she has a tragic backstory and is determined and resourceful and isn’t impressed by Bond. I love competent Bond girls and Camille is definitely one of the best.

A lot of the relationships between characters are expanded on in Quantum of Solace. You see how M does (generally) trust Bond to do the right thing, even if he does cause chaos, and Felix Leiter (Jeffery Wright) appears again and you see the respect he and James have for each other even though they are technically working on different sides in Quantum of Solace.

The memorable action sequences in Quantum of Solace for me was a boat chase in which Camille shows she doesn’t need saving, and the aerial dogfight (which again Camille is pretty great in) and the finale in the desert. Both Camille and Bond each have their own Bad Guys to face in the finale and the way the sequence is shot means it very tense and dramatic but not overly so.

Quantum of Solace continues to balance the emotional beats with great action, plot and characters and has a great yet understated Bond Girl in Camille. 4/5.

When I first watched Quantum of Solace years ago, I didn’t really get it as it was almost a direct sequel to Casino Royale which I hadn’t watched before – now watching them both in the right order, I enjoyed them a lot more.

REVIEW: Casino Royale (2006)

casino_royale_xlgJames Bond (Daniel Craig) on his first mission as 007 must defeat weapons dealer Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) in a high stakes game of poker, but things aren’t what they seem.

Casino Royale is an action-packed reboot of the James Bond franchise that’s got more emotion than its predecessors. This time around Bond has only recently become a 00 and his mission to take down Chiffre is his first so he is rather impulsive and brash. Also, since Casino Royale in some senses discards the previous films, you see a softer side to Bond as he forms a relationship with Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) and how he becomes colder and more of a womaniser.

While the focus of the film and a lot of the tension comes from the poker game, Casino Royale also has some great action sequences. The opening chase sequence in Madagascar is a great example of how different Casino Royale is to the previous Bond films – it is rough and realistic and more like the Bourne films than previous high-tech Bond films.

(more…)

REVIEW: Die Another Day (2002)

Die Another Day Poster 2James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) investigates diamond mogul Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens) and his connections with a North Korean terrorist named Zao (Rick Yune).

The opening sequence was suspenseful and action-packed and Bond’s actions in those first ten minutes had an effect on the rest of the film. It was also good to see how Bond’s escapades have repercussions for M (Judi Dench) and MI6.

Seeing Q (John Cleese) with all the old gadgets was like a trip down memory lane. There was the shoe with a hidden knife from From Russia With Love (1963) and the jet-pack from Thunderball (1965) and probably a lot more that I missed. It was a nice call-back to previous films in the series.

There’s a sword fight between Bond and Graves which was a lot of fun – Madonna even makes a cameo which was weird. The scenes in Iceland and the ice palace hotel are extravagant and they look great but due to a lot of the stunts they also seem quite ridiculous.

Graves wasn’t that much of an intimidating villain, Zao both looked and acted more threatening and his fights with Bond were a lot better. Jinx Johnson (Halle Berry) is the Bond Girl this time round and she’s an American government agent but is not necessarily working towards the same goal Bond is. She’s quite capable and has her moments to shine but does still need rescuing.

Die Another Day is an interesting film. In many ways it’s like the later Roger Moore Bond films as it goes rather outlandish and over the top. There’s the invisible car and a lot of CGI in the film which makes things go slightly unbelievable.

During my Bondathon, I don’t think I’ve ever commented on how a film was shot because nothing that interesting or noticeable has happened before. In Die Another Day there is frequent slow motion shots, that may or may not suddenly then be at double speed, and there’s sudden quick pans around a character a few times as well. It’s different and often jarring as it’s something incredibly noticeable – I don’t think it added anything to the film.

Die Another Day may look good and very modern compared to previous films even in Brosnan’s run, but the characters aren’t compelling and are all cardboard cut-outs of the standard Bond tropes. Also the overuse of special effects makes the film feel dated and a cheap copout for some of the great stunts seen before. 2/5.

REVIEW: The World Is Not Enough (1999)

The_World_is_Not_Enough_Theatrical_PosterJames Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is sent to protect Elektra King (Sophie Marceau) an oil heiress who is under threat from her former kidnapper Renard (Robert Carlyle), a terrorist who can’t feel pain and has plans for nuclear weapons.

The World is Not Enough kicks off with a great boat chase along the Thames and it shows London and the Millennium Dome (now known as the O2 Arena) nicely – I wish the woman Bond was chasing (played by Maria Grazia Cucinotta) was in the film more as she seemed pretty cool. There was also a ski chase in The World Is Not Enough and we haven’t had one of those in a while so it was nice to see a Brosnan-era take on it.

In The World Is Not Enough you see M’s (Judi Dench) softer side and she and Bond are more on a level footing. Bond definitely seems to respect her more than in the previous two Pierce Brosnan films. Also M has a chance to show why she is the head of MI6 and how resourceful she can be even when she seems defenceless.

Elektra is smart and compassionate and definitely one of the more interesting and complex Bond Girls. Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards) is the other Bond Girl and she’s quite competent and smart as she’s nuclear physicist who saves Bond a couple of times.

Renard is quite a manic villain. Having him be a man who feels no pain makes him a formidable villain but he is also quite over the top. His relationship with Elektra is creepy and I’m not sure it was always handled that well as it was sometimes not clear who was in control.

Robbie Coltrane is back as Valentin Zukovsky who we last saw in Goldeneye (1995). He is still a great character and is a lot of fun (though is sometimes a little corny) and his relationship with Bond is a joy to watch.

The World Is Not Enough is Desmond Llewelyn’s last appearance as Q and he’ll definitely be missed. It’s kind of incredible how he’s been in the series since the beginning. But with Q retiring that allows the introduction of R (John Cleese) who seems a bit of a bumbling idiot in comparison to Q.

The action scenes are some of the best in Brosnan’s tenure as Bond – the finale in the submarine is great. The characters are quite different and interesting though some of the performances weren’t always that great. Overall The World Is Not Enough is good fun and an easy watch. 3/5.

REVIEW: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

tomorrow_never_dies_ver3_xlgElliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), a media mogul plans to induce war between China and the UK in order to get exclusive media coverage. James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) and Chinese secret agent Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) team up in order to stop him and save both their countries.

There are certainly some memorable action and chase scenes in Tomorrow Never Dies. The sequence in a multi-storey car park with Bond on the back seat of his car, controlling it by remote has been one of my favourites since I first saw the film as a child. Also the sequence where Bond and Wai Lin are handcuffed together and have to ride a motorbike together is well put together and is full of crazy stunts.

Wai Lin is just as smart and resourceful as Bond, though naturally she needs rescuing once or twice. Still she’s a competent agent and has her own scene staling moments.

Elliot Carver is a very over the top villain. The media angle and looking at how far the press will go to get the news first, even manipulating the news to their own ends is quite creepy and today it perhaps even more relevant and scary with today’s focus on phone-hacking and surveillance. But Carver at the head of the operation seems more of a joke, though he can seem threatening, mostly due to his henchmen like Stamper (Götz Otto). Carver also has his own weird ship that can’t be seen on radar and it’s design, both inside and out, is very reminiscent of some of the older Bond films and their eccentric villains seen in the Roger Moore-era films.

Tomorrow Never Dies continues where Goldeneye (1995) left off in setting up M (Judi Dench) as a cool character who often clashes with men in power who don’t always believe that she’s up for the job. The scenes with her and Admiral Roebuck (Geoffrey Palmer) are great.

The action sequences are thrilling and while the power and threat of the media is still incredibly relevant, Elliot Carver is almost a pantomime villain which is rather disappointing. 4/5.