Film Review: No Time To Die (2021)

Spoiler-free territory as Daniel Craig steps into 007’s shoes for the last time in the lengthy and long-delayed No Time To Die

“You know, history isn’t kind to men who play God”

If anything has characterised Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond, then it has been a marked inconsistency in the quality of those films. The heights of Casino Royale were followed by the disappointments of Quantum of Solace, the game-changing Skyfall chased by an underwhelming Spectre. So the hope was certainly that No Time To Die, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga
would follow the pattern of soaring to a high peak to round off this era.

And whilst it certainly climbs somewhat out of the valley, it is by no means an all-time classic Bond movie, despite the raft of rave reviews. It could safely be an hour shorter, it has one of those villains whose plan you’re never really quite sure about and much as I like Léa Seydoux, her Madeleine Swann being the Bond woman who gets to have a second film is a real heard-scratcher as the chemistry with Craig just isn’t there. Continue reading “Film Review: No Time To Die (2021)”

Film Review: Spectre (2015)

After the emotional triumph of Skyfall, the lethargic pacing of Spectre can’t help but feel a letdown

“Why, given every other possible option, does a man choose the life of a paid assassin?”

After the rip-roaring success of Skyfall, it seems little surprise that director Sam Mendes and lead scribe John Logan would return for the next instalment of the Bond series. But Spectre ends up as part of the yoyo-ing trend of Daniel Craig’s tenure which had previously seen the excellence of Casino Royale followed up by the not-excellence of Quantum of Solace. Delving deep back in Bond folklore, its overlong running time and stultifying pace sadly makes it a bit of a challenge.

This time round, surveillance networks are the villain as Bond investigates global conglomerate Spectre and their nefarious plans under Blofeld, whilst M and co do battle with the enemy within in the form of Andrew Scott’s smarmy C. Despite his class, Ralph Fiennes is a much less impactful M than Dame Judi but Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris and Rory Kinnear are all settling well into their MI6 roles, popping in and out as needed. Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld is vividly effective but the problem lies in an ineffectual plot that doesn’t grip anywhere near as much as Skyfall did. Continue reading “Film Review: Spectre (2015)”

Film Review: Skyfall (2012)

As much an M movie as a Bond flick, Skyfall benefits from putting Dame Judi Dench front and centre to make this one of the best Bond films of recent times

“Well, I suppose I see a different world than you do and the truth is that what I see frightens me”

One of the best aspects of Bond in the Daniel Craig era has been the introduction of actual consequences for people. We’re not dealing with total realism to be sure, but rather a thoughtfulness that is too rarely seen in the action genre. Written by John Logan and directed by Sam Mendes, Skyfall is a masterful entry in the Bond canon, playing out the complex relationship between Bond and Judi Dench’s steely M right through to its devastating end. 

Delving into both of their pasts and hauling them up to account, the notion of personal vengeance as all-encompassing motive is far more effective than the fate of the Bolivian water supply. And Javier Bardem’s Silva is one of the most genuinely chilling villains for that very reason, his cyberterrorist truly compelling in his psychopathy – that climactic scene in the chapel is simply stunning on all levels.

It’s not perfect: the queer-baiting, sorely underusing Helen McCrory in just one scene, and all the business on the tube is ridiculous (it’s rush hour in the station but the train that crashes is somehow empty? And you can’t slide down the escalators like they do, there’s things in the way. And yes, I know it is a film, hehe). But I’m picking at small things cos I can – the new Q is introduced perfectly (all credit to Ben Whishaw) and ultimately, it’s just a great film, never mind a great Bond film. Continue reading “Film Review: Skyfall (2012)”

Film Review: Quantum of Solace (2008)

There’s not much solace to be found in Quantum of Solace, something of a disappointment following the revolutionary Casino Royale

“Bond, if you could avoid killing every possible lead, it would be deeply appreciated”

After Casino Royale did so much properly reboot the Bond franchise with the arrival of Daniel Craig, it is hard not to feel a little disappointed with its follow-up Quantum of Solace, which is almost a direct sequel, following through on some key plot points as it does. We catch up with Bond deep in the throes of grief and betrayal after the Vesper Lynd of it all, as he winds up in the middle of a plot to steal the water in Bolivia.

Marc Foster’s direction pushes the gritty realism of Craig’s special agent but in the midst of breathlessly edited action sequences, there’s really very little comprehensible story-telling going on which ends making the film rather dull. Mathieu Amalric’s Greene is sadly a washout of a villain but we do see the move to pushing Judi Dench’s M to the fore which allows her and Craig to flesh out the one true relationship that matters now, and which will pay off brilliantly next time around. Continue reading “Film Review: Quantum of Solace (2008)”

Film Review: Casino Royale (2006)

Eva Green! Daniel Craig in his trunks! Casino Royale has something for everyone, not least a brilliant reboot of the Bond franchise

“MI6 looks for maladjusted young men, who give little thought to sacrificing others in order to protect Queen and country”

The Bond franchise turned to director Martin Campbell to launch Pierce Brosnan’s turn in the hot seat in Goldeneye so there’s some logic in them asking him back to introduce Daniel Craig as 007 in 2006’s Casino Royale. But I don’t think anyone was expecting this successful and comprehensive (a reboot.

By taking Bond back to the beginning – we see him earning his 00 agent status -the chance to see the character being built up layer by layer is irresistibly good, a rare chance to delve beneath the impassive demeanour we usually see. Craig rises to this occasion really rather well, hinting at realms of emotion even whilst developing into a coldly brutal assassin.

And by objectifying him just as much as any of his female counterparts have previously been submitted to, there’s a real nod to the decades of cinematic misogyny in which the franchise has indulged. Stripping away Q and his gadgetry also works well at realigning the focus of a slightly too long but ultimately very good film. Continue reading “Film Review: Casino Royale (2006)”

Film Review: Die Another Day (2001)

Brosnan reaches an ignomious end as Die Another Day buckles under the weight of sponsorship deals, retrospective nods and that invisible car

“So, this is where they keep the old relics, then, eh?”

From opening surfing sequences to invisible cars, Die Another Day really does ask a lot of its audience, not least where Bond himself is concerned. Brosnan is 49 here and against co-leads Halle Berry (35), Toby Stephens (33) and Rosamund Pike (22), you feel it. Throw in an inordinate amount of product placement, random gadgetry and a misguided attempt to go dark in its opening segment, and the struggle is real.

What really hamstrings Lee Tamahori’s film though is the 40th anniversary of it all, the production choosing to acknowledge and explicitly reference the 19 films that went before. This further detracts from establishing any kind of workable, engaging plot or, more significantly, caring a jot about what is happening. My finger was hovering on the fast forward button for a considerable portion of the two hours plus, especially with John Cleese’s Q and his insufferable injokes – I couldn’t possibly recommend rewatching. Continue reading “Film Review: Die Another Day (2001)”

Film Review: The World Is Not Enough (1999)

What a clunker! Garbage’s brilliant theme song deserved so much better than The World Is Not Enough

“What are you doing here in Kazakhstan”

Right from the off, The World Is Not Enough shows us how frustrating it is going to be as it mixes the solid and the silly. The opening speedboat chase which features London so brilliantly and then ridonkulously moves onto land, blowing up MI5 so effectively and then doing nothing with it as a plot device, offering up a beautiful final scene for Desmond Llewelyn’s Q and then introducing John Cleese as new apprentice R… We won’t mention Goldie, nor his X-ray specs that shows women in their underwear but somehow leaves the men fully dressed…

Directed by Michael Apted, the film really suffers from a nonentity of a storyline. There’s good ideas in here – Robert Carlyle’s Renard had real potential as a cold villain with nothing to lose and getting M out in the field is a great way to have more Judi Dench – but nothing memorable is done with them. I’ve just finished watching and I have already forgotten what plot there was, the focus is just on action-based callbacks to previous Bond films whilst never getting anywhere near as good as any of them. A definite disappointment. Continue reading “Film Review: The World Is Not Enough (1999)”

Film Review: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Even if it didn’t follow the big success of Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies would still have disappointed. Bonus point for predicting something of the future though…

“The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success”

Tomorrow Never Dies had the unenviable task of following up the enormous success of the reboot-of-sorts that was Goldeneye, which firmly established Pierce Brosnan as the new Bond and suggested a real place in contemporary cinema for the franchise. And despite a troubled production history due in large part to the rush to capitalise on this and director Roger Spottiswoode not necessarily firing on all cylinders, it ain’t too bad, mainly due to Michelle Yeoh.

Its main antagonist is a Robert Maxwell/Rupert Murdoch-type media mogul, played with relish by Jonathan Pryce who wants…to secure exclusive broadcasting rights in China for 100 years and is willing to start a world war to get them. It’s a strong if ultimately dull concept but Götz Otto gives good classic henchman as his underling Stamper and Brosnan’s gun-toting Bond gets to be more violent than perhaps we’re used to, which is a change if nothing else. Continue reading “Film Review: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)”

Film Review: Goldeneye (1995)

Pierce Brosnan’s debut as Bond goes well in Goldeneye but the real star is Tina Turner’s iconic theme song

“I think you’re a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War…”

Goldeneye heralds a lot of firsts for the James Bond franchise, as well as being Pierce Brosnan’s first appearance in the lead role. The first to use CGI, the first not to use any Ian Fleming story elements, the first in the post-Cold War era too. And coming after a six-year hiatus, director Martin Campbell had a lot on the line to reintroduce the idea of Bond movies as something more than mindless bank holiday rerun territory. Safe to say, I think he achieved that. 

Adopting a more serious tone to address its plot of international terrorist networks and rogue agents, Brosnan’s slightly reserved interpretation works well to reset the playboy nature which preceded (and which is soon to return…) and against Sean Bean’s excellent Trevelyan, has a real tussle with real stakes on his hands. For all the talk of Phoebe Waller-Bridge coming into to retool scripts for No Time To Die, there’s work here that scratches intriguingly at Bond’s psychology, even if only briefly from both M and 006. Continue reading “Film Review: Goldeneye (1995)”