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Quantum of Solace (2008)
Not as good as Casino Royale, but better than most say
Daniel Craig's second Bond movie "Quantum of Solace" (2008) takes its title from one of Ian Fleming's short stories. The film is directed by Marc Forster, director of "Monster's Ball" and "Finding Neverland", and is his first Bond movie.
The film continues where "Casino Royale" ended. Bond is pursuing the mysterious organization called Quantum, responsible for the death of Vesper Lynd. The tracks lead him to Haiti where he meets Dominic Greene, environmentalist and Quantum agent. He also meets Greene's girlfriend Camille, whom Greene tries to get killed. The two begin working together to find out what Greene is planning with a Bolivian general. At the same time M begins to believe that Bond is acting more out of revenge than duty and cannot be trusted anymore.
This is certainly a unique Bond film as it is a direct sequel to a previous film, requiring therefore viewer to have seen or at least know about it. Most Bond films would only on rare occasions refer to any previous adventure. The film continues the same style as "Casino Royale", updating Bond's character to the 21st century but still keeping him very much human than superhero. The story is well constructed, being one of the more intelligent Bond films, and there's of course plenty of action. While action is good I have to admit I dislike the fast, Michael Bay style, editing during the fight and chase scenes.
Daniel Craig really pushes the limits here, keeping the audience guessing till the end is Bond out for revenge or acting on duty. Bond appears ruthless and cold, yet also wounded and hurt. It's great to watch and I do wonder if Craig has reached his end now or can he make the character go further in the future. Olga Kurylenko gives great support as Camille, woman who is also pursuing her own revenge, and Mathieu Amalric is suitably slimy as the villain Greene. Jeffrey Wright and Giancarlo Giannini also return to reprise their roles from "Casino Royale".
"Quantum of Solace" is not as good at its predecessor, but it's a damn fine Bond film and ties up the plot perfectly. I am really looking forward the next Bond movie planned for 2012, to see how this rebooted franchise will continue, will Quantum become a re-imagined SPECTRE and how much further can Craig take Bond.
Casino Royale (2006)
I know it's been said, but this reboot is awesome
It seems a bit silly to review this film as I'm sure everything has already been said about it. "Casino Royale" (2006) is either 21st film in the official Bond movie series, or first one in a new rebooted series. It is based on the first Ian Fleming book, which hadn't been filmed in official series before, though there had been a little known live TV film made in the 1950's and a forgettable spoof made in the 60's.
The movie starts with a chilling black and white intro where British Secret Service agent James Bond earns his 00 license by killing an agent who had been selling information and his contact. We then see how Bond literally blows up an operation of catching a bomb maker, much to M's displeasure. Bond does however also get a lead of plan to destroy an airplane and stops it. This becomes highly inconvenient to Le Chiffre, a banker of world's terrorists. In order to replace the money he lost he intends to win it back by playing cards in Casino Royale. Bond and Vesper Lynd, agent of HM Treasury, are sent to make sure he doesn't win.
The film is directed by Martin Campbell, the same man who updated Bond into a post cold war world in form of Pierce Brosnan in "GoldenEye". That was already a great Bond movie, but "Casino Royale" goes even beyond that. Campbell and the writers reboot the franchise perfectly, updating the 1950's secret agent to the 21st century. The modernization also doesn't really change the story so much. While the movie takes its time before getting to the point where Fleming's book begins, once there it follows the book surprisingly faithfully. The action in the movie is breathtaking. It's back to more realistic stunts than in previous movie, but so intense it puts you on the edge of your seat.
Bond is played for the first time by Daniel Craig. When he was announced as new Bond many people were initially against him, as he didn't look right to the part. True, but many people, I among them, were also against Heath Ledger playing Joker in "The Dark Knight". Lesson of the story: we really should just wait to see the movie before making judgments. Craig is fantastic in the part, really portraying Bond as a blunt instrument who is both proud and conflicted of his work. This is the truest performance of Fleming's Bond since Timothy Dalton and most impressive one since, dare I say it, Sean Connery.
Eva Green plays Vesper Lynd, the first Bond girl from the books. Honestly, I like her portrayal more than how Fleming wrote the character. She is witty and sharp but also more than eye candy and gets through Bond's defenses, which makes her on pair with Diana Rigg for the title of best Bond girl. Mads Mikkelsen plays Le Chiffre, the villain of the movie. Not the most memorable Bond villain but Mikkelsen's cold attitude is appropriately creepy, and reminds me of many early Bond villains from Connery era. Good support is provided by Giancarlo Giannini as Rene Mathis and Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter, as well as Judi Dench continuing as M. Not sure why she wasn't replaced but I'm not complaining either, because she's awesome in the part.
The long story short, "Casino Royale" does what it sets out to do: reboots Bond franchise, brings the character back to his roots without out-dating him and is an awesome movie at the same time. This is a full points Bond film.
Die Another Day (2002)
Absolutely crazy but fun to watch
"Die Another Day" (2002) is the fourth and final James Bond movie featuring Pierce Brosnan. It is so far the only Bond movie directed by Lee Tamahori. It's not directly based on any of Ian Fleming's works, though it seems to take some inspiration from the "Moonraker" book.
James Bond is on a mission in North-Korea where he meets and seemingly kills a violent Colonel Moon. Bond is captured by Moon's father and tortured in imprisonment for 14 months. He is finally traded to a terrorist Zao. Bond is convinced that Zao knows who betrayed him in North-Korea and follows Zao to Cuba, despite M's objections. Bond becomes suspicious of a diamond emperor Gustav Graves. He also meets Jinx, NSA agent on the trail of Graves and Zao.
This is the movie that everyone complains about and I can understand why. It's absolutely crazy and over-the-top. The movie starts out pretty seriously, but when Bond goes to Iceland it moves to silliness quickly with invisible cars, fights in a room filled with lasers and the return of the satellite of doom from "Diamonds Are Forever". The movie does borderline absolute silliness, but after the extremely boring "The World is Not Enough" this is a pretty welcome change. One thing I found myself enjoying was the many references the movie made to previous Bond films. A careful viewer may notice references to "Dr. No", "From Russia with Love", "Goldfinger", "Thunderball", "Diamonds Are Forever", "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "Octopussy" at least. There may be more that I failed to see.
I have to admit this to Brosnan, it's amazing how serious he can be in the role when there's so much craziness going around him. While his last two Bond movies are not nearly as good as the first two, he managed to go through all four movies with dignity. I have a bit of mixed feelings about Halle Berry who plays Jinx though. She is fun, and nice to watch but her character remains somewhat distant and is therefore hard to like. She reminds me of Jill St. John from "Diamonds Are Forever" in this sense. Rosamund Pike suffers the same problem. Toby Stephen is a good actor but he only annoys me here. The problem is that Will Yun Lee played Colonel Moon as a really intimidating bastard in the intro, and I was hoping Stephen would do the same. At least Rick Yune's diamond face Zao is cool to look at.
"Die Another Day" is a real crazy ride. Plot is all over the place, realism is nowhere to be found and there's an invisible car! But it is a very entertaining crazy ride, I must admit. It's not as stupid as "Moonraker" and not as boring as "The World is Not Enough". It's close to "Diamonds Are Forever": silly but fun to watch.
The World Is Not Enough (1999)
Boring low point of Brosnan Bond era
Like the previous three Bond movies, "The World is Not Enough" (1999) doesn't take its title from any of the Ian Fleming novels or short stories. However, if you have seen "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" you know that the title is actually Bond family motto. The film is directed by Michael Apted, his only Bond movie so far.
M's personal friend, oil tycoon Sir Robert King, is assassinated in the Secret Service headquarters. M takes this rather personally and makes it top priority to find people responsible. James Bond becomes convinced that the assassination was planned by terrorist Renard, who years earlier had kidnapped King's daughter Elektra, and is now back for revenge. M sends Bond to protect Elektra, as she might be the next victim.
Bond series had managed to keep a very good quality up for the past two decades. From "For Your Eyes Only" to "Tomorrow Never Dies" there had been only good Bond movies, with couple excellent in between. So it was only a matter of time before quality would drop again. To be fair this movie does have all the right ingredients for a good Bond film: great action, thought through script and good actors, so what is wrong with it then?
It's boring. I have to be honest, I was bored by this film. There's nothing really new here, none of the characters were all that interesting and I just couldn't bring myself to care what was happening and to whom.
Another thing is that minor characters are far more interesting than main ones. Pierce Brosnan still carries the role with the same pride as in two previous ones and I am a bit impressed by that. However there's nothing all that memorable of either Sophie Marceau or Robert Carlyle, who play Elektra and Renard. Both are serious about their job, but neither can live up to the high standards of Bond girls and villains. I'm also confused if Carlyle is trying to imitate Donald Pleasence's creepy unblinking stare from "You Only Live Twice" or if it was just a coincidence. At least neither of them is as badly miscast though as Denise Richards as Dr. Christmas Jones. Denise Richards is eye candy for sure, but her playing nuclear physicist is as convincing as having Pamela Anderson to play brain surgeon.
The highlights of this movie are Judi Dench as M who gets to actually have a larger part this time than typically M has in Bond movies, as well as Robbie Coltrane who reprises his role as Valentin Zukovsky from "GoldenEye", stealing every scene he's in. This is also the last movie to feature Desmond Llewelyn as Q, a role he played in 17 Bond films all together since "From Russia with Love". The filmmakers had Q retire in this film, since Llewelyn was quite old and ill already, and be replaced by strangely forgettable John Cleese. Q's last scene, knowing Llewelyn died soon after the film was made, is strangely touching.
All in all, "The World is Not Enough" has its moments, but it is still below average Bond film that didn't impress me and where supporting cast steals the show from lead players. At least it's not as stupid as "Moonraker".
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Excellent 90's Bond film
"Tomorrow Never Dies" (1997) is so far the only Bond movie directed by Roger Spottiswoode. It is the second film in the series featuring Pierce Brosnan as 007. It is also the first Bond film I saw in cinema as a little boy.
A British navy ship mysteriously sinks at the Chinese waters and a Chinese fighter jet is shot down. When media mogul Elliot Carver reports of these events in his Tomorrow newspaper faster than should have been possible, the British Secret Service becomes suspicious. M sends James Bond to investigate Carver, as Bond used to have an intimate relationship with Carver's current wife Paris. Along the way Bond meets Wai Lin, a Chinese spy also investigating Carver. The two become positive that Carver is trying to instigate World War III simply because it sells papers.
After the "GoldenEye" brought James Bond successfully to post cold war world, it remained to be seen if the series would be able to remain as good. "Tomorrow Never Dies" is once again one of those Bond films that other people love and other hate. Personally, I belong in the former group. There's a lot of good things going for this film. The whole media angle in the plot is not only interesting, but also very believable way for modern day world domination. This movie also has surprising amount of action, with car chases and jumping down from buildings. The ending battle in Carver's ship brings "The Spy Who Loved Me" to mind. Yet the most memorable, and possibly one of my favorite action scenes, is the one where Bond and Lin, handcuffed to each others, ride a motorcycle through the busy streets of Saigon while a helicopter chases them.
Brosnan pulls through the movie with same confidence he had in "GoldenEye" and he doesn't seem old news at all. Jonathan Pryce must have had fun playing Elliot Carver, a villain with an ego so big it would make Auric Goldfinger blush. He's definitely the life of this movie, just watching him being a gleeful evil bastard is a joy. Another great thing is Michelle Yeoh as Wai Lin. There's nothing much to her character, but having Michelle Yeoh kick ass in a movie is never a bad idea. The weak link of the cast is Teri Hatcher as Paris Carver. She's nice to look at but not right person to play sympathetic love roles. Judi Dench and Joe Don Baker return to reprise their roles from previous movie and give good support.
"Tomorrow Never Dies" is not the greatest Bond movie in the series, but it's a real fun to watch and good follow up to the excellent "GoldenEye". After this Brosnan's Bond era sadly started going south.
Awesome start for the 90's Bond era
"GoldenEye" (1995) is the 17th movie in the official Bond movie series. It is directed by Martin Campbell, first of the two Bond films he made, and stars for the first time Pierce Brosnan as 007.
The film opens with James Bond on a mission with his fellow agent Alec Trevelyan, to destroy a Soviet chemical factory. Alec is killed by a ruthless General Ourumov but Bond still manages to complete the mission. Nine years later Bond discovers that Ourumov is working with a criminal syndicate Janus to steal GoldenEye satellite that can be used to cause electromagnetic pulse to destroy any machinery. Bond follows leads to Russia, only to discover not-so-dead Alec Trevelyan as the head of Janus and planning his revenge on England.
This is the first Bond film made in a time when the wall of Berlin and Soviet Union no longer existed, and it raised a question how well the character would work. Well, if there is something director Martin Campbell proved with this film and later with "Casino Royale", it's that he can update a character. Bond is still Bond, the charming spy who is always there for the Queen and the country. Just because world changed doesn't mean he is no longer needed. In a typical Bond movie fashion, the movie has no lack of action. My favorite scene would have to be the one where Bond drives a tank through the streets of St. Petersburg.
Pierce Brosnan's take on the Bond seems to be a mix of Timothy Dalton's serious professionalism and Roger Moore's witty comebacks. While he's not my favorite Bond he does play the part well and never goes too campy with it (even if the movies did go). Isabella Scorupco gives a good support as Natalya Simonova, a programmer who gets thrown into action against her own will. Sean Bean seems to have fun playing Alec, one of the best and most unique Bond villains, as no other villain had ever been Bond's friend. Deliciously wicked Famke Janssen plays Alec's henchwoman Xenia Onatopp, who gets sexually aroused by killing. Both of them completely overshadow Gottfried John as General Ourumov.
In minor parts we have Judi Dench as the first female M in the series, and quite possibly, the best M as well. Samantha Bond takes over the role of Miss Moneypenny and former Bond villain Joe Don Baker plays CIA agent Jack Wade, a wise-ass "been there done that" guy who is clearly replacing Felix Leiter. Robbie Coltrane makes a nice cameo as former KGB agent Valentin Zukovsky and Alan Cumming steals every scene he's in as "the invincible" programmer Boris.
"GoldenEye" is the best Bond film of the 90's and a fantastic start for a new time in Bond movies. It's got great direction, actors, action and story, everything a good Bond film needs. Definitely one of the better ones.
Licence to Kill (1989)
Dark, serious and brutal Bond film
"License to Kill" (1989) is the first Bond movie to not take its title from one of Ian Fleming's books or short stories. It is however influenced by "Live and Let Die" book. It is director John Glen's fifth and last Bond movie. Also last time featuring Timothy Dalton as James Bond, Robert Brown as M and Caroline Bliss as Miss Moneypenny.
The movie starts with Bond and his CIA friend Felix Leiter on their way to Leiter's wedding, when they are suddenly contacted by DEA who have spotted cruel drug lord Franz Sanchez nearby. Bond and Leiter arrest Sanchez and then proceed to the wedding. Sanchez however escapes the very same day and attacks Leiter's house, killing Leiter's bride Della and feeding Leiter's legs to a shark. Bond finds the two and sees red. When M assigns Bond to an irrelevant case, Bond resigns from the Secret Service, and starts his one man's hunt for Sanchez.
"License to Kill" did very badly at the box office. One reason would be bad marketing, the other extremely dark and serious story telling. While Bond movies had become more and more serious throughout the 80's, this film took it furthest. I think this is the film that should have followed "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" showing Bond as an uncompromising vigilante on a mission. There is no humor this time and even gadgets are really downplayed.
Timothy Dalton brings out darkness in Bond, the kind of which was rarely seen in previous films and has again been seen only recently with Daniel Craig. Strangely Dalton's take on the role in this film shows best Bond as both human and killer. He is a man who is hurt and uses his skills to exact revenge in the only way he knows how. This is him as brutal avenger, who can drop people in the shark tanks. Great support is given by both Carey Lowell as CIA agent Pam Bouvier, possibly the toughest Bond girl ever, and Desmond Llewelyn as Q. This is the only film aside of "Octopussy" that shows Q helping 007 in field.
Robert Davi plays Sanchez. He may not be one of the greater than life villains like Goldfinger or Blofeld, but he is certainly the most sadistic. He finds maiming people and letting them live crippled to be more appropriate than just plain killing them. Beautiful Talisa Soto is his abused mistress with a right balance of vulnerability and dignity. Also notice young and then unknown Benicio Del Toro as one of Sanchez's henchmen.
Out of the two Bond films Timothy Dalton was in, "License to Kill" is not quite as good as "The Living Daylights" but it's worth your time, especially if you like to see more serious, no bull-it Bond in action. Considering that it is the last Bond film made when the wall of Berlin and Soviet Union still existed, it is a great end of an era in Bond films.
The Living Daylights (1987)
The best Bond of the 80's
"The Living Daylights" (1987) takes its name from one of Ian Fleming's short stories. The film is directed by John Glen, his fourth Bond movie in a row, and stars Timothy Dalton for the first time as James Bond.
The movie starts with Bond helping a KGB officer General Koskov to defect to west. Koskov informs the British Secret Service that his superior General Pushkin is a madman who wants to kill all the British agents. Koskov is soon seemingly kidnapped and Bond is assigned to assassinate Pushkin. Bond however doesn't trust Koskov and starts investigating his musician girlfriend Kara. It soon turns out Koskov indeed is playing both sides and working with an insane American arms dealer Whitaker to gain full power of KGB.
I'll say it straight, "The Living Daylights" is a damn good Bond movie, one of the very best made. It's the only one that really comes close to "From Russia with Love", being a great blend of intense investigation thriller and brilliant action. The tone of the film is more serious than in previous 80's Bond films but the action still goes all out, with a chase scene over iced lake and one of the most memorable fights Bond has in an airplane.
Timothy Dalton is one of those actors you either love or hate as Bond. Many people at the time were put off by his more serious and less witty take on the part. After seven films of Roger Moore it was a big change. I think Dalton is great. There's so much energy in him yet he never fails to be suave and charming. Just the opening scene is enough to make it clear he is right man for the job.
The rest of the cast is great. Maryam d'Abo may not be the best Bond girl but she gives a great support as Kara, a woman who is in love with Koskov but becomes drawn to Bond. Jeroen Krabbé plays the self-centered Koskov, Joe Don Baker the war crazy Whitaker and Andreas Wisniewski the lethal henchman Necros. Alone none of them would be all that memorable villains, but together they make a pretty impressive team. The film also features Art Malik as Afghan fighter Kamran Shah, Thomas Wheatley as Bond's stern but trusted colleague Saunders and John Rhys-Davies as General Pushkin, role he sadly didn't reprise in later Bond films. First time featuring Caroline Bliss as Miss Moneypenny. All do wonderful job in their roles.
Also notice the short cameo of Walter Gotell, as this is his final Bond film as General Gogol, role he had played in every Bond film since "The Spy Who Loved Me".
"The Living Daylights" is one of the best Bond films made. Filled with excitement and action, great actors and not once seeming too long, it's a full points movie.
A View to a Kill (1985)
Great end for Roger Moore's Bond series
"A View to a Kill" (1985) is director John Glen's third James Bond movie. The title is adapted from Ian Fleming's short story "From a View to a Kill" but has an original plot. It's the last film to star Roger Moore as James Bond. This is also the last Bond movie featuring Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny, role she had played in all the Bond films since "Dr. No".
The British Secret Service discovers that someone has been manufacturing microchips that can withstand electromagnetic pulses to Russians. Bond is sent to investigate Max Zorin, the owner of Zorin Industries that most likely developed the chips. Bond follows Zorin to his estate in France pretending to be interested in horse races. Bond finds that Zorin has developed chips to help him win the races, but is discovered soon after. Zorin also has something far more sinister planned in San Francisco.
Like "Octopussy", "A View to a Kill" is a highly underrated Bond movie. The things people have problems is that the plot owns a lot to "Goldfinger" and that Roger Moore was too old to play the part. While I admit the plot does have many similarities to "Goldfinger" it still manages to be very 80's instead of 60's and not seem like a complete rip-off. The movie also has a great theme song by Duran Duran and John Barry's best score since "On Her Majesty's Secret Service".
Moore definitely is showing his age here and it was obviously time for him to quit. Yet I have to say he still manages to carry the movie with the same charm as the previous films and his age isn't really that distracting as people complain. What I find amusing is how this is the only movie showing what a great cook Bond can be in a kitchen.
The rest of the cast is an unusual mix of people. Tanya Roberts plays the good girl of the film, Stacey Sutton, and while she's not great she's okay enough to not to ruin the film. This is still the part of her career when she managed to keep her clothes on. The bad girl of the movie, May Day, is played by singer Grace Jones. Definitely an unexpected choice for the role but in all honesty, Jones does really well in the part and is more interesting than Roberts.
The role of the main villain of the movie, Max Zorin, was first offered to such people as David Bowie and Sting. While Bowie would have been interesting to see as Bond villain, I can't complain that they ultimately got Christopher Walken, who had recently won an Oscar for "The Deer Hunter". Walken always makes a good bad guy and out of all the Bond villains Zorin has to be the most psychotic. Just watching him laugh while he shoots people with a machine gun shows how crazy he is.
"A View to a Kill" is not amongst the best Bond films made, but it's definitely above average and a fun movie to watch. There's a lots of action like Bond driving a fire engine through the streets of San Francisco and a climactic battle at the Golden Gate Bridge. This is a fine Bond movie and a proper way for Roger Moore to end his career as 007.
A fun, underrated Bond film
John Glen's second Bond movie "Octopussy" takes its name from one of Ian Fleming's short stories and uses the story as a background setting for the plot. The movie is also influenced by another Fleming short story "Property of a Lady". I'm not sure but I've heard the name Octopussy was originally what Ian Fleming called his pet octopus.
A British secret agent is found killed in East Berlin with a remarkably well made fake of a Faberge egg in his hand. James Bond starts investigating by attending an auction of the real Faberge egg. He becomes suspicious of an exiled Afghan prince Kamal Khan and a mysterious woman known only as Octopussy. Bond follows them to their castle in India where he finds Khan working with a renegade Soviet General Orlov who wants to start World War III. But where does Octopussy sit in all this and what is her interest in Bond?
This is probably the most underrated Bond film. People say it's forgettable or boring. While it is not among the very best I'd still say it's a pretty decent movie and while action may not be as imaginative as in most movies, there're plenty of good characters to make up for it. Another thing this film is often criticized of is its humor. Frankly though aside of an insane scene where Bond escapes Khan's men through jungle, making Tarzan homage, and is later disguised as circus clown, the film is pretty serious and has a very nice flow on it.
At this point Roger Moore would have wanted to quit making more Bond films. His age was showing and he wanted to move on to other things. Producers however managed to make him stay for two more movies. Moore still carried the film through with dignity and his wit never seems forced in this movie, instead it seems to suit just fine.
The mysterious Octopussy is played by Maud Adams, who had played Bond girl previously in "The Man with the Golden Gun" also along with Roger Moore. I prefer her as Octopussy, there's just something intriguing about her. In my review of "For Your Eyes Only" I said that Bond villains always require a good actor who can make even a forgettable villain memorable. Kamal Khan wouldn't really stay in memory if not for Louis Jourdan who always brings charm and class to his roles. Next to him Steven Berkoff as mad General Orlov is really overshadowed.
As an almost added bonus this movie expands Desmond Llewelyn's role as Q from the usual small scenes we see him in to a more acting part, working along with 007. Robert Brown makes his first appearance as M, though it's hard to say if he plays the same M as Bernard Lee did or a completely new one.
"Octopussy" may not be one of Bond classics, but it is not as bad as people claim and a really underrated in my opinion. Definitely a fun movie to enjoy.