Continuing my Odyssey of old favourites that always feel new? Bond. Needs his own mini chapter, naturally.
‘Bond. Only Bond’.
It is the series that launched my interest in film and to some extent, renews the passion every now and again. Sentimental treasures. Cultural landmarks. Panto, for grownups.
Shame so many books and videos award a kind of pseudo-erudite comment to the series. Feminist critique of Bond. Really? Oh and those godawful clichés (‘men want to be him; women to be with him’ etc). Endure those minor drawbacks and dissecting what defines one’s personal favourite 007 capers is an exercise in fun and worthwhile cinematic appreciation and cultural reflection.
So here we are. My best of Bond. Feel free to disagree. ‘Easy come, easy go’ 🙂
- From Russia with Love: A beautiful romance, Hitchcock level thriller and a tight, tense, urgent sense of purpose. Balanced by humour and wit. That fight on the train is worth a watch in itself. Lovely girl, too.
- Goldfinger: The definitive villain. A fairy-tale for grownups in the most literal sense. Organic escalation from the spy thriller to the more fantastical caper, without jarring. Standout imagery. Laser! Golden Girl! Pussy!
- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: Lazenby as Bond throws THE best punch. Blofeld (Telly Savalas) at his most menacing and macabre in plans and attempted execution. Visually outstanding. Ground-breaking action. Twists the formula without breaking it. One of the best scores ever.
- Live and Let Die: Yes, it is Blaxploitation meets Bond. But it’s not racist imho in any nasty way. Roger is in good shape here and looks younger than he did in The Persuaders a few years earlier. A cracking score/song. And an undercurrent of the supernatural.
- The Spy who Loved Me: Patriotic popcorn propaganda. Fun! Sheer hokum. But still compelling in its action and somehow sustains its most impossible fantasy ideas. Infectiously energetic, opulent and upbeat.
- The Living Daylights /Licence to Kill: I am cheating here by taking a double bill. Sorry. But the Timothy Dalton films deserve respect. He is a first rate actor of Olivier calibre. I had the privilege of meeting him and the man was very patient and kind and fascinating. Rocks a fisherman’s sweater, too! Indeed, all the team from that era are lovely. John Glen (director) does his best work in these movies and he once came for Dinner with me at Oxford, bringing his beautiful wife, too. Robert Davi is Sinatra meets Bogart and has been a sometime social media correspondent; encouraging my endeavours. Benicio Del Toro proved a most hospitable host to me at a Cannes party (touched his heart at the mention of Barbara ‘La Senorita’ Broccoli; left, quite confused at the mention of Doctor Who). These 2 Bond films are pulp thrillers with great plots and standout stunts (the aircraft fight; the tanker chase). This is a Bond for #metoo, 30 years early. Still a lad of wandering eye, but a gentleman, who embraces tender vulnerabilities and faces reality, without ever being emasculated or losing the fantasy entirely.
- Tomorrow Never Dies: Was it rushed? Sure! Is there a fair bit of miscasting? Totally. Pryce is a substandard Bond baddie (Bob Hoskins, Albert Finney, Tony Hopkins, Sean Connery all mooted). And the girls are upstaged by the Professor at Oxford (Cecilie Thomsen deserves her own movie and yes: so did her genuinely gorgeous bottom). Pierce is at his best here. Understated yet confident. Perfect balance. Great shape, physically and a less is more approach to his emoting and delivery works perfectly. Stunning score from David Arnold and closing song from KD Lang. Pure fantasy of course but not soft; credibly moving from Cold War toward today’s true threat of media as power base to watch and Bond trapped within that new scheme. Memorable, punchy, pacey action. Premium Bond, riding on the wave of a then newly Cool Britannia.
- Casino Royale / Quantum of Solace /SKYFALL : Yes, cheating again. But it is a perfect trilogy. Parts 1 and 2 = becoming Bond. 3 = sustaining / testing/resurrecting that template. I did not like the reboot at first; not because of Craig, who I knew would be amazing but more because I felt it a shame to duck the period piece potential. I was right because, frankly, the definition of villainy in this era has been a problem, as have the small stakes and stretching of rationale to elongate 007’s involvement. Missed opps aside? These are literate, witty, substantial, immersive, satisfying pieces of cinema. You feel every moment of the action sequences and are engaged by the emotional character and pertinence of plot to match. The fantasy formula is still there because the glamour remains intact, just filtered through an up to the minute synergy with the political and cultural zeitgeists. Classic.
JAMES BOND (AND MURPHY) WILL RETURN..