Feb 23 2013

Review: The Living Daylights

Welcome to my review of The Living Daylights, the fifteenth part of my challenge to review all of the James Bond films. I’m watching each film in turn and trying to figure out which one is my favourite. For more information, see my introduction here. You can read my review of the previous film, A View To A Kill, here. Spoilers follow.

The Living Daylights
(dir. John Glen, 1987)

The Living Daylights trailerSo, Timothy Dalton, then. He’s not Roger Moore, that’s for sure. Or George Lazenby, or even Sean Connery. He’s a very serious man.

This isn’t a bad thing. After the reign of Moore as James Bond—especially For Your Eyes Only and A View To A Kill—seeing Dalton play Bond as a straight assassin is very refreshing. Quips aside, it’s easy to believe that Dalton’s 007 would happily murderise any bad guys who got in his way: he is an angry, vengeful Bond.

The Living Daylights opens with a training exercise on the Rock of Gibraltar, which is particularly exciting for me as I used to live there and spotted my old home in the footage. Three Double-0 agents (002, 004 and 007) are engaged on a training exercise that goes horribly wrong when 002 and 004 are assassinated. From there, we go to Bratislava, where Bond is charged with providing covering sniper fire for a defecting Russian officer, General Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé). Despite his darker and edgier makeover, Bond refuses to kill a cellist would-be assassin (Kara Milovy, played by Maryam d’Abo), identifying her as an untrained stooge.

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Feb 20 2013

Review: A View To A Kill

Welcome to my review of A View To A Kill, the fourteenth part of my challenge to review all of the James Bond films. I’m watching each film in turn and trying to figure out which one is my favourite. For more information, see my introduction here. You can read my review of the previous film, Octopussy, here. Spoilers follow.

A View To A Kill
(dir. John Glen, 1985)

A View To A Kill trailerA View To A Kill is a bit of a rubbish title, when you think about it. I mean, it’s not like the film titles in the Bond franchise ever really make a lot of sense—Octopussy and Thunderball spring to mind—but what does A View To A Kill even mean?

I’m not going to mark the film down on the basis of its title, but I mention it simply because the films have a habit of dropping the titles into the script somewhere. In A View To A Kill, the title is shoehorned awkwardly into some vague and irrelevant villainous banter. It doesn’t work.

“Shoehorning” is an appropriate word for A View To A Kill. The film is the inevitable culmination of a series that isn’t entirely sure of why it’s so successful, and so the filmmakers have chucked in literally everything they could think of to make it exciting. Octopussy, as I mentioned in my review, swings between grit and action and bad comedy, which is bad enough, but A View To A Kill just feels makeshift.

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Feb 16 2013

Review: Octopussy

Welcome to my review of Octopussy, the thirteenth part of my challenge to review all of the James Bond films. I’m watching each film in turn and trying to figure out which one is my favourite. For more information, see my introduction here. You can read my review of the previous film, For Your Eyes Only, here. Spoilers follow.

Octopussy
(dir. John Glen, 1983)

Octopussy trailerWhen I first started this challenge, I wrote in my introduction that “I love Daniel Craig as 007 … but I can’t watch Octopussy and mark it down for not having the same gritty semi-realism.” I’d never seen Octopussy, but I had a certain preconception of the Roger Moore-era Bond films, and figured that with a title like Octopussy, I was on fairly safe ground that I wasn’t going to be watching anything realistic.

Well, I was mostly right, it turns out: Octopussy is not realistic. It is, however, relatively gritty in places, at least as far as the Moore films go. In fact, I found myself really enjoying Octopussy… until the filmmakers decided that they really, really needed to be funny.

Sigh.

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Feb 13 2013

Review: For Your Eyes Only

Welcome to my review of For Your Eyes Only, the twelfth part of my challenge to review all of the James Bond films. I’m watching each film in turn and trying to figure out which one is my favourite. For more information, see my introduction here. You can read my trashing review of the previous film, Moonraker, here. Spoilers follow.

For Your Eyes Only
(dir. John Glen, 1981)

For Your Eyes Only - trailerDuring my review of Moonraker, I mooted that the franchise seems to alternate between good and bad in terms of quality. This theory seems to stand more-or-less true for the post-Goldfinger films and doubly so for everything post-On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

This is probably because the James Bond films are nothing if not reactionary. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was a critical failure, so Diamonds Are Forever was a clear attempt to regain the glory days of the Connery films (see my review for more on this). Diamonds Are Forever wasn’t very good, so Live And Let Die changed the formula, replacing Connery with Roger Moore and dropping the world domination for a more localised heroin-smuggling plot. And so on.

Moonraker was a clear reaction to Star Wars, but it is notable that For Your Eyes Only succeeds in almost all the ways that Moonraker failed. For Your Eyes Only loses the overt science fantasy, tones down the overbearing camp humour and strips out the more lunatic edge of the bad guys, giving us a flawed but fun Bond film with a plot not a million miles away from From Russia With Love.

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Feb 9 2013

Review: Moonraker

Welcome to my review of Moonraker, the eleventh part of my challenge to review all of the James Bond films. I’m watching each film in turn and trying to figure out which one is my favourite. For more information, see my introduction here. You can read my review of the previous film, The Spy Who Loved Me, here. Spoilers follow.

Moonraker
(dir. Lewis Gilbert, 1979)

Moonraker trailerI was ready and willing to give Moonraker a break. For years, I’ve been under the impression that the film was rubbish, partly because of Roger Moore and mostly because of the silly sci-fi action at the end. But if this review challenge has taught me anything, it’s that Moore is not an intrinsically bad Bond and that his films are not necessarily awful. As noted in my previous review, The Spy Who Loved Me is a genuinely good film, as is Live And Let Die. Even The Man With The Golden Gun is not terrible, although it is clearly the weakest of the three so far.

Long story short, I came into Moonraker with hope in my heart. This optimism lasted about six minutes.

The eponymous Moonraker shuttle is stolen as it is being transported from the US to the UK. Okay. Bond gets into a fight on a plane. Great. Bond is thrown out of the plane without a parachute, and manages to catch a bad guy and grab their parachute. Actually, as unlikely though it might be, that’s pretty cool.

Then Jaws shows up and, after a brief scuffle, is left to drop onto a circus tent, complete with comedy music and facial expressions.

Shit.

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Feb 6 2013

Review: The Spy Who Loved Me

Welcome to my review of The Spy Who Loved Me, the tenth part of my challenge to review all of the James Bond films. I’m watching each film in turn and trying to figure out which one is my favourite. For more information, see my introduction here. You can read my review of the previous film, The Man With The Golden Gun, here. Spoilers follow.

The Spy Who Loved Me
(dir. Lewis Gilbert, 1977)

The Spy Who Loved Me trailerI’m going to say this now, just in case anyone reading has a weak heart: I think The Spy Who Loved Me is a better film than Goldfinger.

The Spy Who Loved Me is far from perfect. There are definitely some weak points near the end of the film, but to be fair the end of Goldfinger isn’t quite as good as everyone remembers either, apart from the fight with Oddjob. And yes, Goldfinger has the woman painted in gold and the Aston Martin DB5, and is very much the iconic Bond film. On the other hand, The Spy Who Loved Me has Jaws, the ski jump off the side of a mountain that ends with the world’s most patriotic parachute, and the Lotus Esprit that turns into a submarine. It is about as iconic as Bond films get without going into the blatant self-parody and referentialism of the later movies.

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Feb 2 2013

Review: The Man With The Golden Gun

Welcome to my review of The Man With The Golden Gun, the ninth part of my challenge to review all of the James Bond films. I’m watching each film in turn and trying to figure out which one is my favourite. For more information, see my introduction here. You can read my review of the previous film, Live And Let Die, here. Spoilers follow.

The Man With The Golden Gun
(dir. Guy Hamilton, 1974)

The Man With The Golden Gun trailerI was pleasantly surprised by Live And Let Die. After spending years disliking Roger Moore as James Bond, I was relieved to see that many of my fears were unfounded. Yes he was a bit of a camp Bond, yes he was a bit more nudge-nudge-wink-wink than Connery. But the film, flaws and all, was good. I started looking forward to the rest of the Moore films a bit; maybe they weren’t as bad as I remembered!

The Man With The Golden Gun is not as bad as I remembered, but it’s definitely not the best in the series.

This is not Roger Moore’s fault, funnily enough. He’s actually playing a rougher Bond than he did in Live And Let Die; he has moments where you can see the edge of a man who knows he has a target painted on his back. Even the ladies get to see a Bond more akin to Connery: Andrea Anders (Maud Adams) nearly has her arm broken by 007, while Goodnight (Britt Ekland) is forced to spend a night in a wardrobe while Bond sleeps with Andrea later in the film. Moore in this film doesn’t play a likeable Bond, but an understandable Bond. He plays James Bond the Bastard.

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Jan 30 2013

Review: Live And Let Die

Welcome to my review of Live And Let Die, the eighth part of my challenge to review all of the James Bond films. I’m watching each film in turn and trying to figure out which one is my favourite. For more information, see my introduction here. You can read my review of the previous film, Diamonds Are Forever, hereSpoilers follow.

Live And Let Die
(dir. Guy Hamilton, 1973)

Live And Let Die trailerLet’s take a moment to look at the actors who have portrayed James Bond so far.

Sean Connery is the ideal Bond to many; even Ian Fleming, who famously didn’t like Connery to start with (he wanted someone like David Niven), warmed to Connery enough to write in a Scottish heritage in the books. Connery is dashing, flippant and suave. He is also a killer. It’s in his eyes and his body language and his attitude. Get in his way and he’ll turn off the charm and shoot you.

George Lazenby was—at least in my eyes—a little less of the same. That’s not to run him down at all (remember: his film is currently sitting at the top of my league table), but merely that, while he was a charming assassin, he felt like he was more in control than Connery. He’d say “please” when he was questioning you and backhand you if you refused to cooperate. He came across as a pretty likeable guy, which might be why some people still don’t see him as 007.

Which brings us to Roger Moore: the gentleman spy.

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Jan 26 2013

Review: Diamonds Are Forever

Welcome to my review of Diamonds Are Forever, the seventh part of my challenge to review all of the James Bond films. I’m watching each film in turn and trying to figure out which one is my favourite. For more information, see my introduction here. You can read my review of the previous film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, here. Spoilers follow.

Diamonds Are Forever
(dir. Guy Hamilton, 1971)

Diamonds Are Forever trailerI imagine that following the unfair critical lambasting of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, there was a meeting at EON Productions that talked about getting the 007 franchise back on track. Diamonds Are Forever is an obvious attempt to renew past glories, but unfortunately it misses its targets spectacularly and lands like a floppy, camp blancmange.

Let’s start with the plot. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service left us with the death of James Bond’s new wife, murdered by Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his henchwoman Irma Blunt. The opening to Diamonds Are Forever doesn’t entirely ignore this, starting as it does with horrendously dubbed bad guys being beaten up by Bond as he searches for Blofeld. And then Bond catches up with Blofeld, who is in the process of altering the appearance of a henchman to use as a body double. Bond kills Blofeld and wittily quips, “Welcome to Hell, Blofeld!” Good; that’s the revenge all sorted then. On with the next adventure!

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Jan 23 2013

Review: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

Welcome to my review of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the sixth part of my challenge to review all of the James Bond films. I’m watching each film in turn and trying to figure out which one is my favourite. For more information, see my introduction here. You can read my review of the previous film, You Only Live Twice, here. Spoilers follow.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
(dir. Peter Hunt, 1969)

On Her Majesty's Secret Service trailerWhen you’ve just watched 5 Sean Connery films back-to-back, George Lazenby comes as a bit of a shock to the system. It’s not his performance—that’s completely fine. It’s his looks. It’s his slightly over-large chin, his full head of hair (Connery wore a toupee in every single Bond film he made), the clothes that remind me slightly of old photos of my father (despite the fact that my dad wouldn’t have been seen dead in that ruffled shirt or even the cardigan Bond affects when he’s in disguise as the bookish Sir Hilary Bray).

The change of appearance clearly throws the characters in the film too. Blofeld (this time played by Telly Savalas) doesn’t immediately recognise Bond, which is weird because they came face to face in the previous film. This makes sense in the books (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service comes before You Only Live Twice in the series) and apparently the film makers were going to throw in a line about Bond having plastic surgery as part of his mission, but as it stands this is a bit of a weird oversight in the film.

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