The James Bond franchise is celebrating its 50th birthday this year and with the release of Skyfall I wanted to take a look back at the 22 (23 if you count the rogue Never Say Never Again, 24 if you count the 1967 spoof of Casino Royale) films that have come before it. So sit back, grab your shaken-not-stirred martini and follow me on a trip down Bond memory lane.
Synopsis: James Bond uncovers a nuclear plot when he protects an oil heiress from her former kidnapper, an international terrorist who can’t feel pain.
Stars: Pierce Brosnan, Judi Dench, Sophie Marceau, Denise Richards, Robert Carlyle
Director: Michael Apted
Running Length: 128 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: Like Sean Connery and Roger Moore before him, it would take Brosnan three attempts to get into the true groove of James Bond. Moving easily through two entertaining films (GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies), Brosnan would be given his best material in The World is Not Enough and even with the presence of the worst actress in the history of the series, it’s a film that is a nice return to form for our top British agent.
Director Apted makes a wise choice to open the film with not one but two of the most thrilling chase sequences that Bond has been presented with as he escapes from an assassin’s bullet in Spain and then pursues another assassin through the waterways of London. It’s twenty minutes of spectacular action capped by another strong opening credits courtesy of designer Danny Kleinman and rock group Garbage.
Bond is sent by M to protect the daughter of a recently deceased oil tycoon that M has a complicated history with. Elektra (Marceau) is a headstrong heiress that escaped a kidnapping plot by a terrorist (Carlyle) that may have returned to collect the money he lost out on. It’s not long before Bond has taken extra good care of Elektra all through the night and deeper secrets are revealed that will put Bond, M, Elektra, and the world in whole lot of danger.
Sounds pretty good, right? And it is good up until the point when Bond makes a detour and meets up with Dr. Christmas Jones, a nuclear scientist played by Richards in one of the most ridiculous examples of bad casting you’re likely to see in a Bond movie or any other film. Everything about the actress is wrong from her costuming to her delivery of basic dialogue. The feeling comes across that Richards had never seen a Bond film so isn’t in on any of the jokes happening around her.
Though she threatens to sink the whole movie, even she can’t crash land this ship that stays admirably on course thanks to Apted’s skilled direction and another strong performance by Brosnan. He’s a no fuss no muss kind of actor and that works well when playing the dapper and cooly confident 007. What’s nice about this entry is a beefed up role for Dench that allows the actress to get in on the action and out of her stuffy office. She also gets to deliver a swell face slap to a deserving party.
Marceau does well in the surprisingly complex role of Elektra…a character that comes more mysterious as the film progresses to entertaining results. Though Carlyle’s murderous thug is oblivious to pain courtesy of a lingering bullet in his brain, I wish the script allowed for more ways to exploit this condition when he goes head to head with Bond. I think the film could have dialed back on a few extraneous characters that seem to be there only for bad guys to use them as target practice.
This was the final film of Desmond Llewelyn, the actor who played gadget man Q for nearly four decades. Killed in an auto-accident shortly after the film was released, he nevertheless gets an eerily perfect sendoff as he passes the reins to Q 2.0 Cleese.
The nineteenth Bond film could have easily tipped the scales into gimmicky territory but it wisely comes forth with a well developed story featuring characters that don’t feel like familiar retreads of other films. It’s more than enough to entertain Bond purists and new fans alike.