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As excitement mounts for Bond 24 I have to ask the question is Quantum of Solace the Perfect Bond film?

After The original announcement that Sam Mendes would not return for the Skyfall follow-up (it appears he will direct Bond 24 and 25, Daniel Craig’s final two films in the franchise) I suggested that it was an impossible film to follow and that the next film should go in a different direction.  Rather than going bigger and better the next film should be a 90 minute action film, a stopgap before the next big storyline. But the more I look at it the more I think this has already been done.  Quantum of Solace isn’t an action film, but it is none stop, one set piece neatly leads into another with little exposition  or explanation.  It is also the shortest of all the Bond films and over half an hour shorter than Daniel Craig’s other two films.Quantum of Solace

After some initial positive reviews (Empire magazine gave it a glowing four star review) it has become the whipping boy of the franchise, unfairly denigrated for lack of coherence and fun.  While it is true that it is darker than we have come to expect from Bond (I seem to remember calling it The Bond Ultimatum in homage to the Bourne films to which it owes a debt) this is a true reflection of the character from Ian Fleming’s source novels.  Having read all the Fleming (and some of the other) Bond novels I often forget that  many of the fans of the films have not read them and have a different image of the character.  While Fleming’s Bond looked a little like Pierce Brosnan, his character is closer to Daniel Craig and Timothy Dalton.  Fleming’s books aren’t John le Carré spy thrillers, they are pulp fiction in the vein of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler with the main character of a private detective substituted from for a spy.  This has been lost over time.Quantum bond and m

Quantum of Solace is slick and stylish but very European and rather than Hollywood.  Directed by Marc Forster and shot by Roberto Schaefer it is possibly the best looking Bond film ever made, Sam Mendes/Roger Deakins’ Skyfall is the only other real contender for that honour.  Despite popular opinion the plot is simple and coherent.  In Quantum, the film also introduces a new criminal organisation, a SMERSH or SPECTRE for the twenty-first century.  Bond needs a co-star to play off, here he has two “Bond Girls” Olga Kurylenko is perfectly cast as Camille but Gemma Arterton doesn’t really work as Agent Fields, not that she is given much to work with the character.  She was clearly ever going to be a secondary supporting character.QOS Plane

The only real valid criticism of the film is that it is the only Bond film that doesn’t work as a standalone film, It depends on Casino Royale to give context and to explain bonds motivation.  But then the whole Bond experience has been enhanced by cumulative  knowledge for years.  If you have avoided the film or didn’t like it first time around, now is the time to watch/re-watch it.

Quantum of Solace isn’t the best Bond film but it may well be a perfect Bond film! 

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Shortly after posting an article about a future James Bond I downloaded the latest episode of Film Don’t Hurt where Kai and Dylan talk about the Bond franchise. The thing I took away from the episode, other than a good laugh at Kai and Dylan’s lamentable knowledge of the subject, was the question “who is the American Bond?” The simple answer I don’t think there is one. Here are the possible contenders:

The Contenders:

Derek Flint: Appearing in two films; Our Man Flint (1966) and In Like Flint (1967) played by James Coburn. Flint was as much a parody of Bond as an attempt to make an American version of him. According to the audio commentary on the DVD (according to the trivia page on IMDB), Fox wanted to do another Flint movie but James Coburn turned them down. A clip from the second movie appears in the opening credits to The Fall Guy TV show (1981–1986).Derek Flint

Jason Bourne: First appearing in a TV movie, The Bourne Identity (1988) Played by Richard Chamberlain, Bourne is one of the few real contenders to be an American Bond. Loosely based on the Robert Ludlum novels of the same name and starring Matt Damon: The Bourne Identity (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) helped reinvent the genre and had a real influence on the rebooted Bond series. The Bourne Legacy (2012) tried to continue the series beyond Bourne introducing the character Aaron Cross played by Jeremy Renner, it didn’t really work. Its hard to say if the franchise has a future. Bourne’s story has been told, I would be happy if they leave the character alone.Film Title: The Bourne Ultimatum

Jack Ryan: The first screen incarnation of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan was played by Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October (1990). He made two further appearances in quick succession in Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994) played by Harrison Ford in both. A decade later the character was rebooted in The Sum of All Fears (2002) Played by Ben Affleck. Later this year Chris Pine will take over the part in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2013). What does this prove? The character can be played by many actors just like Bond or they have never got it quite right since the first movie? With Kenneth Branagh directing and Branagh and Kevin Costner in the supporting cast tit looks like a series attempt to reboot the series.jack ryan

Ethan Hunt: Concentrating on the action side of the genre, Based on a 60’s TV show and spawning four movies to date: Mission: Impossible (1996), Mission: Impossible II (2000), Mission: Impossible III (2006) and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) with a fifth on the way. The only problem, does Ethan Hunt have life beyond Tom Cruise? William Brandt played by Jeremy Renner has been suggested as a future replacement for Hunt. Hopefully this will work out better for him than Aaron Cross.Ethan Hunt

xXx: The first xXx Xander Cage appeared in xXx (2002) played by Vin Diesel. A movie that openly mocked Bond with the death of a dinner jacket wearing Bond like agent. Xander Cage was to be the secret agent of the new millennium. The character was quickly killed of and replaced with the next xXx Darius Stone played by Ice Cube in xXx: State of the Union (2005). This is more Bond like isn’t it? Well no. the films may be fun, but they are rubbish. Vin Diesel is rumoured to be reprising the role in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage some time in the next few years.Xander Cage

Jack Bauer: do we have to look to TV for an American Bond? Jack Bauer played by Kiefer Sutherland appeared in the TV show 24 between 2001 and 2010 and is set for a new show next year. How much of the appeal of the show is the format, how much is the character and how much the actor? I’m not sure the character will ever be rebooted or continue without Sutherland.Jack Bauer

The One Hit Wonders:

Mallory Kane: Haywire (2011) was a love it or hate it movie, I love it. Steven Soderbergh wrote the character for former cage fighter Gina Carano. I don’t expect there to be any more Mallory Kane movies and wouldn’t want there to be without Soderbergh . Reboot or recasting opertuinies are limited as Gina Carano really is irreplaceable.Mallory Kane

Harry Tasker: Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle True Lies (1994) was a remake of 1991 French film La Totale! It works largely because of its blend of action and comedy working in both genres. A sequel or a TV spin-off has often been suggested but never got off the ground. A TV spin-off with Eliza Dushku reprising her role as Dana Tasker could be fun, once commissioned, it would give fox the chance to do what they do best, cancel a promising show prematurely! Cynical, me?Harry Tasker

Remo Williams: Clearly intended as a franchise Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985) starring Fred Ward in the title role didn’t get beyond the first movie.Remo Williams

The Ineligible:

John McClane, Indiana Jones and Harry Callahan are both too far from the spy world and to much associated with one actor to be realistically considered.

Conclusion:

The notable thing about the longevity of the character is how it survived some ropy movies in the 70’s and 80’s and the death of the British film industry. Is the character that strong, or do we just not have anything else to fall back on? Probably a bit of both, we don’t have supper hero’s like Batman, Superman or Spider-Man. So who is the American Bond? There isn’t one. Some characters already have complete story arcs, others are too tied to one actor, and some are just dead in the water. But give them a chance, Bond has been with us on screen for half a centaury and in print for a decade longer than that. Give it another twenty or thirty years and we could be talking about Ryan, Bourne or Hunt in the same sentence as Bond. But maybe we are asking the wrong question, what we should be asking, “who is the British Batman/Superman/Spider-Man?” answer: James Bond.Daniel Craig

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Back in 210 when production of the as yet unnamed 23rd James Bond movie was indefinitely suspended due to MGM’s financial troubles, I speculated about the future of Daniel Craig as the worlds most famous secret agent. Remembering what had happened the last time there was a delay and Timothy Dalton walked away from the role, I feared the worst. I looked at who could replace Craig should he drop out. As it happened there was nothing to worry about. When the film now named Skyfall finally arrived at the back end of 2012 it turned out to be one of the best Bond films ever and my favourite film of the year. It has since been revealed that Craig will appear in two more Bond films, at least one of them reuniting him with Skyfall director Sam Mendes. It is believed that “Bond 24” as it will be know until a title is chosen with be released in November 2015, suggesting Craig’s final outing will be two or three years after that by which time he will be somewhere around 50 about the right time to hang up his Wallther PPK .james bond daniel craig

This leaves a problem with some of my other suggestions for the next bond. If Craig does fulfil his commitment for another two (five in total) Bond films it will be around 2020 before a replacement is needed, by which time some of my other suggestions will be too old. Idris Elba: already in his 40’s Elba will be the wrong side of 50. The long time favourite Clive Owen will be 50 next year so will be way too old, his chance realistically went when Craig was first cast.

Michael Fassbinder (1977): The German born Irish actor has been in hugely varied movie and TV roles. He is very at home in period settings as seen in a lot of his films including Inglourious Basterds and X-Men: First Class making him the perfect choice for a 50’s or 60’s set Bond. He will be in his early 40’s by the time “Bond 26” goes into production, just about the right age.Michael Fassbinder

Henry Cavill (1983): For so long the nearly man, Cavill was the first choice for McG’s Superman but lost out to Brandon Routh when Bryan Singer took over as director. He was the fans favourite to play Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter but lost out to Robert Pattinson. He was author Stephenie Meyer‘s choice to play Edward Cullen in Twilight, again missing out to Pattinson. He narrowly missed out to Daniel Craig to play Bond in Casino Royale. All these casting choices turned out to be right, he was too old to play Diggory and Cullen, too young for Bond and eventually got to play Superman in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel that was better than Superman Returns. He will be about the right age to play Bond in 2020.Henry Cavill

Tom Hiddleston (1981): Having worked mainly in television for a decade I had never heard of Hiddleston until he played Loki in Thor then all of a sudden he was everywhere with War Horse, The Deep Blue Sea and a small but memorable performance as F. Scott Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris. He will always be associated with Loki and this villainous typecasting could help bring the necessary cold edge to Bond. Again he will be about the right age to play the part.Tom Hiddleston

There are lots of other names mentioned who I can’t see as Bond for one reason or another: Tom Hardy (1977) is probably to visceral and brutal and would need to slim down from his Warrior/Bane bulk. Christian Bale (1974) probably brings too much baggage (Batman) and is at the upper end of the age range. I could have seen Guy Pearce (1967) as Bond a couple of years ago but think he will be too old by the time the part becomes free. Jon Hamm (1971) is probably the right age now making him too old when Craig steps down. I also can’t see an American Bond.

Then we come to the leftfield choice: Nicholas Hoult (1989) at 23 he is too young to play Bond now and will still be at the bottom end of the age range in 2020, however it could work. Bond movies have always moved with the times (although often behind the times) without any mention of a reboot until Casino Royale (2006). This is a perfect opportunity to not only reboot the series but to return to Ian Fleming’s eleven key novels (skipping the short story compilations and The Spy Who Loved Me (1962) whose format would need a lot of tweaking):

Nicholas Hoult

  • Casino Royale (1953)
  • Live and Let Die (1954)
  • Moonraker (1955)
  • Diamonds Are Forever (1956)
  • From Russia, with Love (1957)
  • Dr. No (1958)
  • Goldfinger (1959)
  • Thunderball (1961)
  • On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1963)
  • You Only Live Twice (1964)
  • The Man with the Golden Gun (1965)

If they start with a young enough actor and make a film every couple of years we could see an actor grow into age in the part. Possibly taking certain books and playing with the order a little we could have rise, fall and rebirth of bond including a SMERSH trilogy and a Blofeld trilogy. The big question is when to set the stories. Although always assumed to be contemporary at the time they were written Fleming was always as vague about the passage of time as he was about the age of his hero. The two options are either present day or 1950’s. I would go with 1950’s partly for the look of the films but also to help keep the stories close to the source material without the distraction of modern technology.

In truth the next Bond will most likely be someone we have never considered or possibly somebody we have never heard of. Although aware of Daniel Craig before Casino Royale I have never considered him as a potential Bond. Whoever they choose, we have two more Craig outings to look forward to, we can only hope they are as good as Skyfall.

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I have written about possible Bond directors on a couple of occasions, but now Sam Mendes has ruled himself out of “Bond 24” it’s a good time to bring the subject up again. While there are lots of names doing the rounds, there is only one that stands out for me: Kathryn Bigelow. There is however a problem, it isn’t what you may think, it isn’t her sex, its her nationality! Born in San Carlos, California, she is too American. Yes that’s right, no director from the home of cinema has ever helmed a movie from cinemas most iconic franchise. The closest was Irvin Kershner, who made Never Say Never Again, but this was not part of the Bond, EON franchise.Kathryn Bigelow

If the producers can overcome fifty years of history and hire Bigelow they need to insist she brings Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker writer Mark Boal with her. They also need to dispense with the intelligence of Mendes, the grit of Marc Forster and the slick of Martin Campbell and produce a simple, dirty and possibly even dumb action movie. Having celebrated the 50 year milestone with gusto and splendour it would be impossible to top it, it would be foolish to try. I am not suggesting Bond becomes a purely action based franchise, but this is the time to make a one-off 90 minute genre movie.Bond

The plot possibilities are endless but a few thoughts on where they should go: stick with the minimal use gadgets, scale back the plot to something simple and personal, keep Moneypenny and M’s role to a minimum. Two possible outlines that would work in the spirit of the character and in line with some of the stories from Ian Flemings novels would involve Bond on his way home from a mission, shown in the obligatory pre credit sequence where he is either, A: distracted by something he sees happening and decides to investigate or B: is called to the aid of a friend who needs Bonds help. A setting for the film is obvious, America. Bond hasn’t spent any significant screen time “stateside” since Licence to Kill in 1989.James Bond Action Movie

I fear none of this will happen, as the filmmakers will fall into the usual trap of trying to make a bigger and bolder movie than what went before. Only time will tell, the one hope, they did listen to me once (in my dreams).

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Yet another Bond/Skyfall post, in my defence as a huge fan I write about James Bond all the time, I‘m not jumping on the bandwagon. In a variation on my recurring Drinks in Movies thread I am going to look at the drinks in Skyfall. There are films that are full of nuanced symbolism and metaphors, in other movies what you see is what you get. I could be cracking open the secrets of the film or reading too much into it you decide. Whatever your thoughts, there are lots of spoilers here so don’t read unless you have seen Skyfall.

As I have mentioned before Bond drinking a vodka martini is a bit of a cliché that is only partly true. In the Ian Fleming novels Bond invents the Vesper in Casino Royale but drinks various different things but favours Scotch Whisky, no great surprise, his farther is from Glen Coe after all. Around the half way point of the movie Silva (Javier Bardem) gives Bond (Daniel Craig) a glass of his favourite Whisky, a Macallan 1962 Fine and Rare Vintage, he describes it as being a 50 year old. Most likely a reference to the 50th anniversary of Bond rather than the drink itself. So what can we read into this? Silva knows everything about Bond, something thay he prides himself on. We also see M (Judi Dench) drinking the same Brand of whisky, something that I am sure hasn’t escaped Silva’s notice. Does it go deeper? Is it also the Writers (Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan) or the director (Sam Mendes) telling us they know there character, they aren’t filmmakers for hire, paid to churn out the next Bond film, they know their character inside out.  Its one of those great little touches that fans will appreciate but many people won’t notice like giving Bond a midnight blue dinner jacket instead of a black one.  

We do see Bond drinking a martini in the Macau casino but we never hear the shaken not stirred line or the Vesper recipe. This is still the Bond we have known for 50 years (longer in the books) and we aren’t going to forget that, but he is moving on. This works in the same way as the exploding pen conversation with Q (Ben Whishaw) being a reminder of the past and a signpost to the future.

There has been a lot of fuss over Bond drinking Heineken, this is unfounded as he is no stranger to beer having drunk it many times in the books and films. As a product placement Heineken has appeared in several films including Craig’s other two outings as Bond. Product placement is certainly nothing new to Bond, in the books he has drunk more champagne than anything favouring Taittinger. In Cassino Royale he remarks that “[1943 Taittinger] is probably the finest champagne in the world” but a long standing placement deal means he has drunk little but Bollinger since Live and Let Die 1973). I wouldn’t read much into beer or the product placement, but it is worth considering when he drinks it. In the scenes where Bond is “dead” he is living away from his spying world as a broken man, an ordinary man and not the supper hero that Bond has become, beer as the great leveller of men, a memento mori.

Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) pours M (Judi Dench) a glass of cognac, Courvoisier VSOP, this is a gesture seen many times in Bond films where M gives Bond a drink. A possible hint towards Mallory being the new M as he does at the end of the film. It actually goes a stage further than that. In GoldenEye Bond (Pierce Brosnan) meets the new M (Judi Dench’s first appearance) for the first time. When she offers him a drink he tells her “Your predecessor kept some cognac in the top drawer of…” she tells him that she prefers bourbon (She actually gives him Jack Daniel’s, a Tennessee Whiskey rather than a bourbon, but a common mistake in England). Later in the movie we see Mallory as M in an office more reminiscent of the one inhabited by previous M’s Robert Brown and Bernard Lee than the modern one Dench uses, the office and the return to Brandy could just be a further reference to Bonds past in his 50th year on screen, but it could also be a suggestion of a return to classic Bond of the 60’s.

As mentioned I am probably reading too much into this, but next time you watch Skyfall take a look and see what you think. And while you are at it look out for the scrabble score mug Q (Ben Wishaw) drinks his Earl Grey in. 

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A few months ago a friend who had never seen a James Bond movie asked which Bond films she should watch in preparation for Skyfall that she intended to see on its release. I immediately suggested a few of my favourites and advised her to steer clear of some of the ones I don’t like. I was going to post a list of the movies I recommended but I have kind of already covered that in my film by film guide. So here is a slightly different take on the idea. A week of Bond movies with a double feature on Sunday. Not only do the selected films represent some of the best Bond films, but they also show different elements of the character and the way he developed over time. They also feature all the actors to play Bond.

In preparation for this post I actually watched all the films last week*

Monday: From Russia with Love (1963)
Both character and actor were finding their feet in Dr. No. its also worth considering that Bond is presented as an established character at the top of his game, so viewers can step on with any one of the early movies without missing anything. That’s why I am skipping the first film and went to my all time favourite From Russia with Love. With a great story that is faithful to the book and a selection of memorable villains, it’s a great start to the week.

Tuesday: Goldfinger (1964)
While From Russia with Love established Connery in the role, Goldfinger cemented the character in mythology. Great, villain, great henchmen, two memorable Bond girls and the greatest icon of the franchise, the Aston Martin DB5. Again it is faithful to the book.

Wednesday: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Lets begin by saying this is a flawed classic. Once again it is faithful to the book, and it’s a great book but the problem lies with the casting, George Lazenby can‘t act and has no charisma, worst of all he has no chemistry with his co-star Diana Rigg. There is however enough good to forgive the problems.

Thursday: Live and Let Die (1973)
Roger Moore became Bond version 3 and did a pretty good job (sadly it was downhill from there). For a long time Bond has jumped on the coattails of other genres, this is the first overt version of this with a Blaxploitation inspired story. The last Bond film to take the majority of its story from an Ian Fleming novel.

Friday: Licence to Kill (1989)
From the last Bond film to take the majority of its story from an Ian Fleming novel to the first film that doesn’t even take its title from a novel. The film does take a lot of its ideas from unused parts of the original Fleming novels. Timothy Dalton’s Bond is the closest to the character from Fleming’s novels and the idea of a renegade Bond is ahead of his time.

Saturday: GoldenEye (1995)
After a hiatus caused by legal disputes Bond was back in the shape Pierce Brosnan. Playing off against a great villain and two opposing Bond girls (most notably a memorable Famke Janssen) Brosnan found a happy medium between Dalton and Moore. The action is good and the story is suitably updated. Sadly Brosnan didn’t manage to follow it up with each of his movies getting progressively worse.

Sunday: Casino Royale (2006) and Skyfall (2012)
Bond has been reinvented a few times but Casino Royale was the first time it was totally rebooted. Utilising the perfect source material, Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, and Jason Bourne inspired action the film hit all the right notes. If Brosnan found the balance between Dalton and Moore, Daniel Craig found a similar position between Dalton and Connery. And then we come to Skyfall, you can read my full review HERE.

*having already seen it twice in two weeks I didn’t re-watch Skyfall.

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WARNING CONTAINS SKYFALL PLOT SPOILERS

Okay so the title of this article isn’t true but there are certain elements of Skyfall that are similar to an idea I wrote about three and a half years ago. Following Quantum of Solace and given the state the studio was in the direction and future of the franchise was less than certain, it didn’t stop me giving an idea of a film I would like to see. My basic idea revolved around the un-filmed The Spy Who Loved, the 1977 film only used the title. For those who don’t know, Ian Fleming’s novel The Spy Who Loved Me was like no other Bond book in that Bond isn’t in it very much. Instead, concentrating of the female lead Vivian, a young woman who gets caught up in an arson plot.

The three key ideas I had that feature in Skfall (the middle one is vague at best!) that I wrote about are:

  • A pre credit sequence involving Bond chasing killer on a motorbike to retrieve a stolen McGuffin.
  • A wholly new act designed to get Bond to the final act:
  • A Die Hard style conclusion with Bond taking on a group of bad guys in a remote isolated location.

As a huge fan of James Bond who has not always been happy with the direction the film series has taken, it is fantastic to see the filmmakers so in tune with audiences, well with this audience member at least. I believe the success of the film lies in a perfect blend of the original Bond from Ian Fleming’s novels and a new 21st century character shaped by the modern world and cinema of the last 50 years. You can see my original post HERE.  The other novel that was largely discarded in favour of a new story was Moonraker. You can read about my idea for a film based on the original novel HERE.

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