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Posts Tagged ‘Judi Dench’

I have mentioned in a previous article that Daniel Craig’s James Bond has the biggest story arc of all the incarnations of the character.  This is clear to see, but it can also be observed in his co-stars.  There is a convention in Bond movies of two “Bond Girls”.  The secondary of them often appears first in the movie but is ultimately a disposable character.  Her normal role is to provide some cheap thrills for both Bond and the audience, move the plot forward and is then disposed of, sometimes terminally.  A look at these characters tells us a lot about how Bonds character develops across Craig’s four films. 

WARNING PLOT SPOILERS FOR ALL FOUR MOVIES 

The first such character that Craig’s Bond encounters is Solange (Caterina Murino) in Casino Royale (2006).  The wife of Alex Dimitrios (Simon Abkarian), who is in the employ of the films main villain Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), Bond sleeps with her to get what he wants then leaves her to clearly knowing that his actions could have fatal consequences for her, ultimately they do! Bond’s cold detachment happens before his heart is thawed but ultimately broken by Vesper Lynd (Eva Green).Solange Caterina Murino

Quantum of Solace (2008) is a direct sequel to Casino Royale, but most importantly post Vesper.  Bond has allready met the movies primary character Camille (Olga Kurylenko) before the appearance of Agent Fields (her first name is revealed in the credits if you are interested) (Gemma Arterton).  After putting herself in the firing line of Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), she is abandoned by Bond who leaves with Camille to follow a lead.  Her death is clearly an homage Goldfinger.  Bond leaves a none field agent in danger without even thinking about it but does feel the need to avenge her, sending Green to a certain death when he may have been better questioning him.  This is a reckless broken Bond who is yet to find the humanity he must find before he can think about any idea of redemption.strawberry fields Gemma Arterton

Skyfall (2012), is a slightly different proposition, there is no primarily Bond Girl, the slot is instead filled by M (Judi Dench) and to a lesser extent Eve (Naomie Harris) who is later revealed as Moneypenny.  The secondary part is taken by Severine (Bérénice Marlohe).  Her death at the hands of Silva (Javier Bardem) is followed by a quip from Bond that has led to a lot of speculation.  Was this the cold pre Vesper Bond, or a tactic to distract Silva?  I have always believed the latter but understand other point of view.Severine Bérénice Marlohe

This finally brings us up to date with Spectre (2015).  Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci).  In the pre-credit sequence we see Bond killing Marco Sciarra (Alessandro Cremona).  It is later revealed to be an unsanctioned hit, acting on orders from beyond the grave for the previous M (Judi Dench).  At the funeral he meets Lucia Sciarra who in true Bond fashion she falls into his arms (and into bed) before revelling vital information to further the investigation. After he has what he wants, instead of leaving her to die Bond calls in a favour from Felix Leiter of the CIA (who we haven’t seen since Quantum of Solace) to protect her.  The character is has a lot of similarities to Solange in Casino Royale, Bond’s more human and humane treatment is surely testament to the development of him as a person over the four movies.  Is Bond in love with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) at the end of the movie? was Bond capable of love in Quantum of Solace and Skyfall?Sciarra Monica Bellucci

On a side note, A lot was made of an older woman in the part, the first to be older than Bond (Monica Bellucci is four years older than Craig, Bérénice Marlohe eleven years younger, Gemma Arterton eighteen years younger and Caterina Murino nine years younger) this was followed by great disappointed that she isn’t given a lot to do.  While this is true, it is better to have an actress like Bellucci lending a certain class to the part than a typical twenty-something as used in other movies. For example, Bellucci was considered for the par of Paris Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), a part that ultimately went to Teri Hatcher.  Both Hatcher and Bellucci are eleven years younger than then Bond, Pierce Brosnan. 

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We are a few hours away from the BAFTA awards, in advance of that here are a few thoughts on who I think will and should win:
Best Filmbafta awards
Zero Dark Thirty is the best film and should win, I would also be happy to see Argo win but actually think it will go to: Les MisérablesZero Dark Thirty
Alexander Korda Award for Outstanding British Film of the Year
Skyfall is by far the best film in the category and is unlucky not to be in the best film category. It stands a good chance of winning but if Les Misérables doesn’t get best film, it will be in with a chance too.skyfall
Best Actor
Hugh Jackman and Ben Affleck were both great and in any other year would be worthy winners, but there is really only one contender this year: Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln (2012)Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln
Best Actress
A really strong category, I think it will go to Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty.Zero Dark Thirty Best Supporting Actor
I would be happy to see any of the nominees win this one, but think Tommy Lee Jones edges it for Lincoln.Tommy Lee Jones Lincoln
Best Supporting Actress
The shoe in for the equivalent Oscar is Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables, she stands a good chance here too, the only competitor could be Judi Dench for Skyfall.Judi Dench Skyfall
David Lean Award for Achievement in Direction
I would chose Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty with Ben Affleck for Argo as a close second. However, I have a feeling Michael Haneke for Amour may sneak it.Michael Haneke Amour
Best Screenplay (Original)
Only one choice here, Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola for the magical Moonrise KingdomMoonrise Kingdom
Best Screenplay (Adapted)
Another strong category, I would go for David Magee for Life of Pi and think it should win, as much for the complexity of adapting the screenplay as for the final result.Life Of Pi
Best Cinematography
It easy to forget that cinematography is about hw well shot and lit and film is not how pretty the finished result is. With this in mind it has to be a straight fight between Janusz Kaminski for Lincoln and Roger Deakins for Skyfall. My vote goes to Deakins.Roger Deakins Skyfall
Best Editing
To clarify for the people who nominated Django Unchained, this catergry is for the best editing, not the movie most in need of editing. Again I think it’s a straight fight between Skyfall (Stuart Baird) and Zero Dark Thirty (Dylan Tichenor, Billy Goldenberg). I would lean towards Zero Dark Thirty.zero dark thirty
Best Production Design
I would like to see Dennis Gassner and Anna Pinnock for Skyfall as they avoided all the usual lazy clichéd pitfalls usually associated with the franchise. However the design of Anna Karenina (Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer) is both clever and stunning so will probably win.annakarenina-sets-various
Best Costume Design
All the nominees tick all the relevant boxes Jacqueline Durran for Anna Karenina looks like a good bet.annakarenina_poster-header Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music
None of the nominated scores was that memorable for me.
Best Make Up/Hair
Forgoing the flash and flair of the other nominated movies, Lincoln had a believable look of the era.Lincoln
Best Sound
Skyfall had the most amazing sound design , especially noticeable when seen in Imax but Les Misérables will most likely win for the original way in which the songs were recorded.Les Misérables
Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects
All the nominated movies could put up a strong argument for this award, but Life of Pi edges it.life-of-pi
Best Film not in the English Language
I liked Untouchable and Headhunters but thought Rust and Bone was considerably better than both. However, I havent seen Amour (the favourite) or The Hunt so can’t accurately predict this one.Marion Cotillard  Rust and Bone
Best Animated Feature Film
I have seen two of the nominated movies. Frankenweenie was better than Brave.It's a dog's death … Frankenweenie
Best Documentary
I have only seen two of the three nominated movies so will go with the favourite: The ImposterThe Imposter
EE Rising Star Award
Her Killer Joe performance is enough for me to give it to Juno Temple but wouldn’t mind seeing Andrea Riseborough or Elizabeth Olsen win as they are both brilliant in everything they do. I would like to see more of Suraj Sharma and Alicia Vikander before deciding on their future stardomJuno Temple Killer Joe
Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer
I would love to see Dexter Fletcher, Danny King win for the excellent but under seen Wild Bill. Dexter Fletcher

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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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Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Alfred,Lord Tennyson. quoted by M

(I have attempted to limit spoilers to things seen in trailer)

M16 have lost a computer hard drive containing the true identities of NATO agents undercover in terrorist organisations. James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Eve (Naomie Harris) are in pursuit until Bond is shot and presumed dead. Held responsible for losing the drive, M (Judi Dench) is under political pressure when things take a dramatic turn for the worse. Bond returns, a shadow of his former self and sets about tracking down the person responsible, it soon becomes clear the answers lie close to home for M.

Die Another Day marked the 40th anniversary of the Bond movie series. Packed with nods to earlier movies some of which worked better than others but the film was terrible. I’m happy to report that isn’t the case here. For every nod to the past (The Goldfinger Aston Martin DB5) there is a reminder that this is a new modern Bond that exists closer to the real world than ever before (Q (Ben Whishaw) telling Bond they don’t go in for gadgets like exploding pens anymore). It is also a more serious film than we have come to expect, concerned with threats to national security not mad men bent on world domination. Another notable thing about Skyfall is how much of it is set in the UK. Although largely set oversees, Ian Fleming’s novels did spend a significant amount of time in England. The movies dispensed with this in favour of ever more exotic locations. Aside from the golf match at Royal St George’s in Goldfinger there is little of significance set in the UK. The travelogue of exotic settings helped cement Bonds image but in the ever shrinking world populated by increasingly well travelled people it takes more than that to impress viewers.

Bond movies live and die on the strength of their villains, the best villains are often the ones that are a reflection of Bond having a similar skill set but less honourable motivations. Christopher Lee’s Scaramanga rescued the otherwise poor The Man with the Golden Gun. Goldeneye took things up a notch by making the villain former 006 Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean). So how does Javier Bardem stack up? Anyone who has seen him as Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men would know he was born to play a Bond villain. There are elements of his character and appearance that are typical archetypes of a Bond Villain, but there are also some new things thrown in. The most notable of the henchmen in Patrice (Ola Rapace) who doesn’t say much but shares some great action scenes with Bond.

To craft a beautiful looking film isn’t new for Bond, whatever you may think of Quantum of Solace, there is no denying that director Marc Forster and director of photography Roberto Schaefer’s film was stunning to look at. Skyfall improves on this, to make a desert landscape or an old DC-3 plane flying over it look good is one thing, but the drab underground interiors of Skyfall look as good as the bleak Scottish landscapes. It isn’t just the way the movie looks that sets it apart the, director Sam Mendes and writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan have achieved the near impossible, a modern day reinvention of Bond set in the present day but that feels live a Fleming story from the 60’s.

A staple of the Bond movies, is the so called Bond girls, they often fall on both sides of right and wrong and often straddle the fine line. Skyfall has just two such woman, Eve (Naomie Harris) a field agent working with Bond, who I expect to see again in future films. Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe) who Bond comes across in the course of his investigation. But the greatest amount of screen time is given to Judi Dench’s M, the pair share a history and respect that along with comments on Bonds age suggests a lot has happened since Quantum of Solace. This is a Bond that would fit in well sometime after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service a damaged forty-something Bond that picks up after the last of the Ian Fleming novels. And that’s the interesting thing in three movies Craig has gone from newly promoted 00 to older more jaded version of the character than we expected. In short Craig has a greater character arc than all his predecessors put together. The cast is rounded of by a perfectly cast Albert Finney who lends a link to Bond’s rarely discussed past and Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory, Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, again a character we will most likely see again.

Well paced with the right blend of action and intrigue, is it the best Bond film ever? I am actually not sure, it has gone so far from what we have come to expect of Bond that I hesitate to call it the best Bond film of all time, but it is certainly one of the best films to feature Bond. Best of all it suggests the new beginning and a new direction will continue in future films. Craig is signed on for another two films but who will direct them? The franchise has a history of bringing back successful directors to direct multiple movies, Sam Mendes is one director really should come back to continue what he has done with Skyfall.

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