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Posts Tagged ‘Quantum of Solace’

In a recent article on the BBC website (quoting an interview in the Guardian) James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli stated her belief that James Bond will “probably” never be played by a woman. “Bond is male. He’s a male character. He was written as a male and I think he’ll probably stay as a male.” She went on to say “And that’s fine. We don’t have to turn male characters into women.” The same article went on to quote an article where Halle Berry also said that Bond should remain male, she however suggested a new Bond type female character could be created.  While it may not be a popular, or politically correct opinion at the moment, I agree that Bond only works as a man.  We are however, at a point in time where Bond casting can be colour-blind, while Bond needs to remain British (and male), we are a multicultural society, despite the views of a vocal minority, you don’t have to be white to be British.  This leaves the door open, not just for Idris Elba, but for any other British actor regardless of race, I believe Henry Golding has joined the debate!The Next James Bond_

To change the sex of Bond would impact on all his interactions with other characters to such an extent it would distract from the story.  Regardless of what I, or anyone else thinks, Broccoli is the person most directly responsible for casting the part, so will ultimately decide the direction it takes. This isn’t to say characters are locked into being one sex.  The BBC article I mention, refers to the new series of Doctor Who, starting tomorrow with the first ever female Doctor.  Ghostbusters (2016), wasn’t terrible because of the idea, or the casting of woman, the cast were good, the issue was with the terrible script. Barbara Broccoli

Back to Halle Berry and her idea: There has previously been a suggestion that her character Jinx Johnson, from Die Another Day (2002) would get her own spiff-off movie or TV show.  Fortunately, this did not happen, she was a terrible character from a terrible film.  The only positive thing I have ever heard about the character, is that she looks good!  Truely representing all that is bad about Bond!  There are far better characters in the Bondverse to get their own movie, characters with a little agency, would be: Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell) from Licence to Kill (1989), Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) from Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), or Camille (Olga Kurylenko) from Quantum of Solace (2008).  I’m not sure any Bond shared universe is a good idea, do we want a new Bond related film every year?  The current format of a film every few years, reboot every decade or so works. Female Bond Spin-offs

It would be better to start from a clean slate, developed a new completely different character in their own universe and having their own characteristics.  Fortunately, that is exactly what Barbara Broccoli is doing.  In a rare none Bond movie, EON Productions next movie will be The Rhythm Section adapted from the book of the same name by Mark Burnell.  The first of four books about the character Stephanie Patrick.  In the books Stephanie Patrick is a couple of turns short of rock bottom in a downward spiral following a traumatic event.  She is working as a prostitute to fund her drug problem until a revelation from a  journalist sends her life in a completely new direction.  The books are about identity and purpose, but work on a more surface level too, with great action.  There are four books in the series leaving at least three more stories to adapt, but with author Burnell onboard writing the script, there could be more than that.  Blake Lively is staring, and looks like a good choice.blake lively

And finally the elephant in the room, who will be the next Bond?  The name we can’t escape is Idris Elba, I think he would make a fantastic Bond, but fear his time may have passed.  At 46 he is about the right age now, he should be making his second film.  As it is, he would be 50/51 before he made his debut, giving him time to make three film before he is too old.  I am not going to list contendors or speculate on who will take the part, that’s for another day, but I am going to keep banding the drum for my Bond Movie idea, I know it will never happen but it doesn’t stop me modestly suggesting it’s a great idea: Bring Timothy Dalton back to play a long retired James Bond, forced back for one last mission (there are multiple story ideas to facilitate this).  As he gets older, the same idea could also work for Pierce Brosnan. Old Bond

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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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After the release of Skyfall I suggested a “Bond Week” eight seminal Bond films to watch over a week (one a day and two on Sunday), now I have a new Bond Week, with a difference or two.  The first Bond Week was an idea, a hypothetical list to immerse someone in the world of Bond movies.  The Second Bond Week consists of Daniel Craig’s four Bond movies, four movies that I watched over the past five days.  

Casino Royale (2006) was the film I hadn’t seen for the longest.  It confirmed my original thought, that it is the best of Craig’s Bond film.  Directed by Martin Campbell who also made GoldenEye (1995), Pierce Brosnan’s first and best outing as Bond.  The script is excellent with the perfect balance of action, grit and humour, it is everything Bond should be.  Weaving together three distinct stories including one that takes its plot outline from Flemings source novel. Made after The Bourne Identity (2002) but before its sequels the influence is clear but it is still 100% Bond.  Clocking in at 144 minutes the film never feels that long, surprisingly second billed Eva Green doesn’t appear until the hour and the film runs for a full 30 minutes after the death of the main villain Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen).james bond and vesper lynd

Quantum of Solace (2008).  I once described Quantum of Solace  as the perfect Bond film, it isn’t the best Bond film but it is everything you want from a Bond film.  The film is the closest Craig’s Bond ever gets to  the character from Ian Fleming novels.  At 106 minutes, it is the shortest of all 24 Bond films, this again goes back to the 250 page novels.  But most importantly, it does the bravest thing a film can do, it doesn’t try and be bigger and better than its predecessor.james bond and Camille

Skyfall (2012).  If Quantum of Solace is the perfect Bond film and Casino Royale is the best, Skyfall is the biggest.  Introducing Q and Moneypenny to the rebooted series, having two M’s and delving into Bond’s childhood, there is a lot going on.  The 50th anniversary Bond movie, it is filled with nods to the earlier films, despite this it still works as a film in its own right, not just a Bond film.  I’m sure it is the first Bond film for many viewers, it works as well for them as it does for existing fans.   There is an interesting departure from the Bond formula.  Dispensing with a primarily  “Bond Girl” Bond spends the final act with M (Judi Dench).James Bond and M

SPECTRE (2015) Having watched the first three on DVD, I have been back to see SPECTRE at the cinema for a second time.  Skyfall director Sam Mendes returns for what feels like an end of an era.  Bringing all the plots of the previous films together and attributing them to SPECTRE feels a little clunky and forced.  Take this aside and the film is great.  M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) are given more to do then their characters can normally expect.  This break from formula shows real confidence by Mendes.  If it is Daniel Craig’s last Bond film, it is a fitting swansong.James Bond and Madeleine Swann

In this era of bindgewatching television, four movies in four days isn’t a big task, will I take on all 24 Bond movies in a month?  possibly one day.  Did I learn anything from watching the films back to back? probably not but it does lend a prospective to them.  Timothy Dalton is the closest to the character described by Ian Fleming; Pierce Brosnan looks like the character Fleming described; Sean Connery had the best of Fleming’s stories, but Daniel Craig has the best Story arc and the most consistently good movies.  Is Craig the best Bond? possibly!

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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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I started writing a review of The Living Daylights (1987) for my Groovers Video Vault, it quickly became clear that I was not writing about the movie but about its star, Timothy Dalton. He probably isn’t the best James Bond, but he is certainly the most underrated, probably the closest to the character Ian Fleming wrote, and possibly the most influential since Sean Connery. The review of The Living Daylights will have to wait for another day.

In 1985 a 58 year old actor played James Bond, the actor Roger Moore was playing the part for the seventh and final time in his twelve year tenure. An older Bond could have made an interesting character as it did when (the younger) Sean Connery reprised the role for the unofficial Never Say Never Again (1983), but thanks to lazy writing, Moore still playing the part as if he were a much younger man. This was exacerbated by the over reliance of silly gadgets and comedy one liners. In essence the small elements that made Bond, Bond had taken over. It was a bit like watching an aging rock star putting all their effort into an extravagant stage show but forgetting to sing the songs. The final nail in the creative coffin was that they had run out of Ian Fleming novels and were writing new stories, bad stories. Bond had become a parody, the result A View to a Kill was a terrible film, the franchise was an unsustainable mess, something had to be done. There was little of merit in the Roger Moore movies after his third outing, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), the series really needed new direction back then. I suspect that remembering the failure of George Lazenby as Sean Connery’s replacement, the producers were scared of upsetting the status quo and kept Moore in the role for an extra decade. As bad as the films got (Moonraker (1979), Octopussy (1983) and A View to a Kill (1985) being the low points) they still made money.

Producers, particularly Cubby Broccoli courted a young little known Irishman Pierce Brosnan who was staring in the TV show Remington Steele. Contractual obligations prevented Brosnan from taking the part so attention turned to Shakespearean actor Timothy Dalton. Dalton had been approached to replace Connery in the late 60’s but felt he was too young, and then again in the early 80’s when Moore’s contract was in dispute. Comments in various interviews have suggested Dalton was not happy with the direction the franchise was going, he also suspected that he and other actors were used force Moore’s hand. When he eventually took the part he did it on his own terms. A fan of Flemings source novels, Dalton insisted on scaling back the sci-fi/fantasy elements of the plot in favour of a grittier more plot driven story. He played Bond as a reluctant hero who like his literary counterpart drank and smoked too much. He was a man clinging to small pleasures while he tried to take away the taste and guilt of the repugnant side of the job. This can be seen early in his first movie, The Living Daylights (1987). It took its name from an Ian Fleming short story that was originally published along with Octopussy.

The story saw a jaded Bond on sniper duty, his mission to take out a KGB sniper and aid an agents escape from East Berlin. On realising the KGB sniper is a beautiful, blonde cellist he had seen on her way to and from practice earlier, he decides to shoot her weapon from her hands rather than killing her. Captain Sender his local contact, explains to Bond that he had to mention Bonds actions in his report stating “You should have killed that sniper whoever it was” Bonds response:

James Bond Said wearily “Okay with any luck it’ll cost me my Double-0 number. But tell Head of Station not to worry. That girl won’t do any more sniping. Probably lost her left hand. Certainly broke her nerve for that kind of work. Scared the living daylights out of her. In my book, that was enough. Let’s go.”

It is with this defiance that Timothy Dalton played the part. Most of the short story makes it to the screen reworked into the plot of the movie. Bond’s words became “STUFF my orders! I only kill professionals. That girl didn’t know one end of her rifle from the other. Go ahead. Tell M what you want. If he fires me, I’ll thank him for it.”

Bonds relationship with Saunders (based on Captain Sender from the short story) is unusual within a Bond film, in that it brings out many emotions in him. Initially the two don’t get on, but they grow to respect each other. When Saunders is killed Bond loses heart in his cover and becomes agitated and on edge. There is nuance in this performance you don’t expect from Bond. This isn’t a new Bond this is a return to the real Bond, the Fleming Bond. We can see this in his interactions with General Pushkin, the new head of the KGB. This the Bond we have seen on screen and read about on the page who has always been more interested in following his instincts than his orders. Dalton’s second and final Bond film Licence to Kill (1989) takes Bond a stage further refusing M’s orders and resigning in order to seek personal revenge. The film was both praised and criticised for darker and more violent tone of the movie taking it away from the family audience and more towards contemporary Hollywood thrillers. Interestingly it wasn’t that well received by American audiences. Receiving a 15 certificate in the UK and Rated PG-13 in America probably didn’t help.

In 1990, MGM/UA was sold, this led to various legal disputes that are too complicated to go into. The legal disputes caused delays and the next film due to go into production in the early 90’s was delayed until early 1994, this again was delayed and Dalton resigned from the role despite originally signing a three picture deal.

The interesting thing about Daltos time as Bond is what happened when he quit, Cubby Broccoli got his man, the actor he always wanted to play Bond, Pierce Brosnan. After a promising start GoldenEye (1995) the series descended into something very similar to the latter Roger Moore films, farces filled with silly gadgets and product placements. Bond as a character was conceived during World War II and was a cold war character, for that reason he lost a little of his relevance after The Living Daylights. While he was away fighting drug dealers and on a brief hiatus, the world was changing, Russia was changing. To their credit this became an underlying plot point in Brosnan’s début film but it was never expanded on or played with in future films. Then in 2006 in the wake of the Jason Bourne movies for the first time ever, Bond wasn’t recast, it was rebooted with Daniel Craig getting the part to the surprise of almost everyone. His début Casino Royale (2006) was a return to form, its sequel Quantum of Solace (2008) (a direct sequel is another Bond first) was less well received. And now the Zenith of what Dalton started, Skyfall (2012) has taken Bond further from Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan than many thought possible. He may have taken it too far to be recognisable as a Bond, but it is proving popular with fans (including me), audiences and critics. Don’t expect the ever humble Dalton to take any credit where Bond is today, but I don’t think he would have got to this point without the new direction he took the character in 1987.

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Talking about James Bond in last weeks Radio Times, film critic Barry Norman made the statement: Ask anybody: who is your favourite James bond? I guarantee the answer will be the first one they ever saw”. I’m not sure if I am more discerning or just awkward, but it isn’t true of me. To the best of my knowledge and memory the first Bond I saw was Roger Moore in Live and Let Die. Moore is far from my favourite Bond, but I have recently come to the conclusion that I don’t know who my favourite Bond is! For years I have always claimed it is Sean Connery with the caveat that Timothy Dalton is the closest to the character from Ian Fleming’s novels.

I hold with the popular opinion that George Lazenby was the worst Bond, and this is a great shame as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is one of the best Bond films despite him. He is closely followed by Roger Moore whose comic version of Bond just doesn’t work for me. He did however make some decent movies, Live and Let Die and The Spy Who Loved Me were both really good films. The Man with the Golden Gun isn’t as good but does benefit from a fantastic performance from Christopher Lee as the villian Scaramanga.

So Back to who is my favourite Bond, Sean Connery certainly had the best stories with relatively faithful adaptations of Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball. You Only Live Twice is the point where the franchise started to get silly and even became a parody of itself, it was however still a good film in its own right. Connery’s only misstep was Diamonds Are Forever that was both silly and dull.

I have already said Timothy Dalton most closely resembles the character from the books in his portrayal, but there is another actor who probably looks most like Bond, Pierce Brosnan. This may be a bit of a stretch as there is little description of Bonds appearance beyond his short black hair and a resemblance to Hoagy Carmichael. Pierce Brosnan isn’t my favourite Bond either. He is perfect for the films he made and the time they were made, but sadly most of them weren’t actually very good. After a strong opening with GoldenEye the rest of his films got progressively worse culminating with the car crash of a movie, Die Another Day that was as bad as anything Moore did.

This leaves us with two contenders: Timothy Dalton who was hamstrung by only making two appearances both of them being good but not great films, The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill. Had he made more films he could well have been my favourite Bond but for reasons to long winded and complicated to go into today he didn’t. And finally Daniel Craig, Casino Royale is certainly one of my favourite Bond films and Quantum of Solace is underrated and will probably age well, but is he my favourite? Not yet but he may well be in future, with three more movies including Skyfall due out next month, he will certainly have a chance before handing his Aston Martin and Walther PPK to Michael Fassbender, my choice for the next James Bond.

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With all the buzz surrounding Skyfall I recently re-watched Casino Royale and enjoyed it so much I immediately watched Quantum of Solace. It was the first time I have seen the two movies back to back, I don’t know if it benefited from this or if it is just a better movie than I (and many others) have given it credit for, but something has caused me to re evaluate the underrated movie. While Ian Fleming’s books often followed on from each other, there has never before been a Bond movie that was a direct sequel.

Following Casino Royale was always a seemingly impossible task and just about any sequel would have suffered by comparison. It is easy to look back on Casino Royale as the benchmark for Bond, but back in 2006 it was a risky proposition. Daniel Craig wasn’t the first actor to take over the mantle of Bond, and it wasn’t the first time the character was taken in a new direction, but it was the first time the story had been completely rebooted. But it worked, what we got was a modern Bond, that fitted with the modern world, a post Jason Bourne world but who retained the characteristics of what had gone before in the previous movies, but more importantly the original books. It would have been very easy to walk away from the plot threads left by Casino Royale and create an entirely new movie, but that would have been a waste.

The Bond of Quantum of Solace is an emotionally broken man following the death of Vesper Lynd having made her a more sympathetic character than the one in the book. The Bond of the novels is a cold hard bastard, here we are seeing the creation of that character more like the Bond of You Only Live Twice (1964 novel) following the death of Bonds wife Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In his quest for revenge Bond forms an alliance with a similar goal Camille (Olga Kurylenko) whose quest for vengeance overlaps with his. Given the two characters and the place they find themselves in, there is a completely new dynamic to the Bond/“Bond Girl” relationship. This leaves Gemma Arterton’s Agent Fields (read the credits to discover her first name) to fulfil the more traditional Bond Girl role. It would be easy to dismiss her small role, but it is significant to the plot and has a telling nod to the earlier Bond films. The globetrotting nature of the movie is in line with what you would expect but is less important than it was in the earlier films. The problem with Bond in the modern day is how to work around the existence of modern communications technology, contrivances of the plot and the setting make great use of this and it really works. I would however say that this can not work every time and sooner or later it will have to find its place in the world again.

As movies become more bloated it was a brave decision to make a Bond movie lasting little more than a hundred minutes, but it really works. As a direct sequel Bond hit’s the ground running, or driving to be more precise. To the credit of the short running time and the tight concise plot the pre credit sequence is directly relevant to the plot (they aren’t always). Beginning where Casino Royale’s epilogue ended sees Bond’s Aston Martin is chassed along perilous mountain roads between Lake Como and Siena with Mr White (Jesper Christensen) locked in the boot. Many of the less positive reviews criticise the plot, this is unfair, the plot is sound if a little simple. Bent on revenge but also investigating the Quantum organisation (a modern day SPECTRE) Bond’s part in the plot works. The villains, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) and General Medrano (Joaquín Cosio) are suitably menacing and loathsome and walk the fine line between caricatures and believable characters. Their intentions, the control of water supplies seems a little low key in comparison to megalomaniacs set on word domination or destruction but is actually both a most timely and realistic one. The one thing that seems to have been overlooked, it is possibly the best looking Bond film. The design and photography is nothing short of stunning, from the old DC-3 plane to the desert landscapes. They also make great use of the Palio di Siena horse race and a performance of Tosca on the floating opera stage at Bregenz, Austria. You don’t watch Bond for the production design but it certainly does no harm to the overall movie.

An underrated and under-appreciated movie that its detractors really should give a second chance. Like me I would recommend you watch it back to back with Casino Royale to best appreciate it in context.

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