2012 is the 50th anniversary of the James Bond film franchise - Over the next ten months, I will be going through the complete series and writing my thoughts of each film leading up to November's release of Skyfall, directed by Sam Mendes and starring Daniel Craig as James Bond. Bondathon 2012 starts now. I did one of these last year with Christopher Nolan films, and my outlook remains the same; I consider myself an amateur when it comes to film analysis, so there won't be any incredibly detailed breakdown of these films past said Bond fan's amateur analysis. A lot of it will skew towards how I view and relate these films to the historical context of the climate they were released in; hopefully that will be the real strength of my breakdowns.
Dr. No (Terence Young, 1962)
I must admit I was pleasantly surprised with my experience with Dr. No; I've traditionally found the film dull and uninteresting. This, however, was not the case during this viewing; I found it to be briskly paced and laden with intrigue. The plot is set against the backdrop of the Cold War with Bond's mission taking him to Kingston to investigate the disappearance of an MI6 agent. It becomes clear that the missing agent had been cooperating with the CIA's efforts to discover the origin of a mysterious radio signal that has been interfering with the U.S.'s rocket launches at Cape Canaveral. Bond follows the clues left behind and finds his way to an island owned by Dr. No, the film's principal antagonist.
As the first film in the franchise, Dr. No obviously sets a number of precedents; most importantly is Sean Connery's portrayal as James Bond. Connery's Bond comes across to the epitome of masculinity; I can imagine that Sean Connery's James Bond was to the 1960s what Jon Hamm's Don Draper is to today. He's fit, intelligent, skilled, and adept at all situations, be it physical or social. Suspension of disbelief is automatic; there's no question of authenticity. Ursula Andress sets the standard for Bond girls as Honey Ryder; she compliments the masculinity of Connery's Bond. Joseph Wiseman also sets a standard for Bond villains as Dr. No, though leaves less of an impression than Connery and Andress. Anthony Dawson fills the role of the first right-hand man for the Bond villain as Professor Dent and John Kitzmiller does the same for the often ignored ally to Bond as Quarrel; both are competent but less memorable than the main trifecta. Jack Lord leaves an impression as the CIA agent Felix Leiter, despite being an obvious spook; Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell also leave strong impressions as M and Moneypenny, respectively. Eunice Gayson portrays Sylvia Trench, Bond's first of many sub-conquests.
Dr. No feels like a Sixties film, mostly due to the film's atmosphere and to a lesser degree the visual design, with the introductory Technicolor opening sequence being a bit of a visual feast. You can pick up on the era's international tensions, with the Soviets being the usual suspects as Cape Canaveral's saboteurs; Bond quips upon his first meeting with Dr. No that "With your disregard for human life you must be working for the East." There's clear evidence of sexism; when Bond's objects to his initial firearm, a Beretta, being confiscated when he being outfitted with his famous Walther PPK, Major Boothroyd challenges his masculinity by retorting "It's nice and light, in a lady's handbag. No stopping power." There seems to be no regard to people with handicaps, with Bond quipping to Dr. No "Does the toppling of American missiles really compensate for having no hands?" Quarrel straddles the line between racial stereotype and superstitious local, with his belief in the dragon of Crab Key and towing along a massive jug of rum on the journey to Dr. No's island.
Despite not being mentioned until near the film's finale, the revelation that Dr. No in fact is not an Eastern agent and that his sabotage is under orders from an international criminal organization known as SPECTRE serves as an intriguing hook that leaves one wanting to see further adventures of Bond past the glamor of the character himself. Fortunately, this is explored much more over the course of the Connery films. The commitment to continuity featured in the series' early films is incredibly refreshing, especially considering future entries in the franchise. Overall, Dr. No serves as a compelling opening for the Bond franchise and its famous conventions, and charts a strong course for future entries.
From Russia with Love (Terence Young, 1963)
From Russia with Love has traditionally been one of my favorite Bond films, but like Dr. No, I definitely had a different experience this time around. The influence of the Cuban Missile Crisis on the filmmakers is incredibly clear; while its predecessor was set against the backdrop of the Cold War, From Russia with Love is about the Cold War. Bond's mission takes him to Istanbul, the historical cultural and political nexus of East and West, to assist in the defection of Tatiana Romanova, a Soviet analyst who has fallen in love with Bond and recover the elusive LEKTOR decoding device she promises to bring with her. The defection is an obvious trap; not laid by the Soviets, however, but by SPECTRE, Dr. No's returning antagonists. SPECTRE's plan is two-fold; manipulate both Bond and Romanova and recover the LEKTOR for their own goals, and exact vengeance on Bond for the death of Dr. No.
Off the bat the film's continuity with its predecessor stands out as one of its strongest aspects, especially when examining these films as a series. It's refreshing, to say the least, even down to the minor aspects such as the reappearance of Sylvia Trench from Dr. No. Nearly every aspect of the film is an improvement on the previous film, particularly the complexity of the plot and the ensemble cast of villains. Ernst Stavro Blofield, the leader of SPECTRE, is undoubtedly the franchise's greatest villain; the character is nothing less than pure intrigue, with the filmmakers effectively never revealing his face and even listing him as "?" in the end credits. Lotte Lenya's Rosa Klebb, the former head of Soviet counterintelligence SMERSH-turned SPECTRE operative leaves a strong impression, and Robert Shaw's Red Grant joins Blofeld as the franchises' top henchman. Pedro Armendáriz' Kerim Bey also places as the series' greatest ally, and Daniela Bianchi's Romanova is just barely edged out by her predecessor, Ursula Andress' Honey Rider.
The filmmakers takes the strengths and the appeal of Connery's Bond as established in the previous film and challenges those consistently; Grant serves as an effective foil to Bond as SPECTRE's operative, throwing Bond's skill into question as he repeatedly ensures the success of his mission, going so far as to save Bond's life in the film's famous Gypsy camp shootout. Bond's sexual prowess is turned on him, with part of SPECTRE's plan to exact their revenge consisting of secretly videotaping his initial sexual encounter with Romanova from behind a two-way mirror. It's Bond who emerges as the victor against SPECTRE in the end, but not without Bey becoming a casualty and Bond effectively challenged by the end.
Having seen this movie multiple times over the course of my life, I don't know how I missed the following: this film is really, really sexist. Romanova's motivation for defection, even if a ruse, is merely that she's fallen in love with Bond, despite never meeting him; her dialogue portrays her as nothing more than a weak female, if a memorable one; when Bond interviews her for MI6, she repeatedly interjects with fawning comments of Bond; at one point, she asks him if he'll "make love to me all the time in England?" Klebb is portrayed as an obvious lesbian, at one point angrily rebuffing Morzeny, the head of SPECTRE Island's training grounds, as he touches her arm; later on it's her touching Romanova's arm in the exact same fashion. There's a scene where Kerim Bey's mistress borderline begs him to sleep with her, he reluctantly utters "Back to the salt mines..." as he starts to take off his jacket. The Gypsy camp is the worst; two Romanies in love with the chief's son are to fight to the death until Soviet agents attempting to murder Bey throw the entire camp into chaos. When Bond asks if the chief can put an end to the bloodsport in return for saving his life, Bond is told that "your heart is too soft to be a real Gypsy," effectively portraying the Romanies as a bunch of barbarians, not to mention the fact that no actual Romani has ever referred to themselves as a Gypsy. Bond is given the two girls for the night and told he's to decide which one shall marry the chief's son in the morning; not sure how two women who were trying to kill each other over their love for the chief's son hours earlier are comfortable with a ménage à trois not with said son or how the chief himself is comfortable giving his future daughter-in-law to another man before she marries his son.
Overall, From Russia with Love is a strong follow-up to Dr. No and surpasses its predecessor in almost every way, save for some pacing issues and others listed above. It's a shame the strength the film finds in building on the previous entry's narrative foundation isn't revisited again until over four decades later, effectively hurting the franchise's overall strength and relevancy.
Goldfinger (Guy Hamilton, 1964)
Goldfinger is generally considered the quintessential Bond film, and I would be inclined to agree, for better or for worse. There tends to be two camps in Bond fandom; those who view From Russia with Love to be as absolute epitome of the Bond franchise, and those who view Goldfinger as that film; I'm firmly in the former, but the latter's greatest influence on the franchise is undeniable. Bond's mission, the first in the franchise to not involve SPECTRE, has him investigating the smuggling operations of British gold tycoon Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe) and discovering and attempting to thwart Goldfinger's Chinese-backed plot to attack the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky with a nuclear device in order to increase the value of his own holdings.
Viewing the film there becomes on fact that is increasingly obvious; this movie is incredibly gimmicky. Absolutely everything in the film revolves around gold: the villain's name contains two references to gold; his main henchman, Oddjob (Harold Sakata), is Korean; he receives his backing from the Chinese; he surrounds himself exclusively with blondes, save for his Asian stewardess Mei-Lei; the majority of his possessions are colored some shade of gold or yellow, including his clothes, his Rolls Royce, and his sidearm. It drives home the point that Goldfinger "loves only gold," but it doesn't do a whole lot for suspension of disbelief.
Goldfinger and Oddjob are both memorable adversaries, even with the former's gimmickiness; Honor Blackman portrays Pussy Galore as the first capable Bond girl; that's about where it ends, as she can't match the allure of the previous films' leads, even if they did generally serve as eye candy. Cec Linder takes over from Jack Lord as Felix Leiter; I personally really hate recasts, especially when the franchise had continuity going for it as this point. The reappearance of Nadja Regin, Kerim's Bey mistress from From Russia with Love as Bond's initial conquest, also comes across as lazy. He's definitely a step down from his predecessor; it's a shame that's how the studio system works. Refreshing, however, is their discussion of Leiter's activities in Jamaica; Goldfinger may not involve SPECTRE in any way, but establishing a continuity is a nice touch. I'm not really sure how Leiter role as Bond's primary ally seeing as the film takes place within the United States; domestic operations were the FBI's jurisdiction, and the power of J. Edgar Hoover at the time when this film came out would have made any CIA operations stateside impossible. Desmond Llewelyn, whose debuted From Russia with Love as Boothroyd, makes his first real impression in the series as the re-branded Q.
While there are fewer instances of sexism in the film, they tend to be more obscene; Galore puts up physical resistance to Bond's advances in Goldfinger's barn, and he basically forces herself upon her afterwards. I'm not sure how that doesn't borderline constitute rape is beyond me. It's left vague for most of the film whether or not Galore is a lesbian or just resistant to Bond's advances. Bond's initial mission takes him to Latin America to destroy a drug lab of a Mr. Ramirez; yes, smuggling "heroin flavored bananas" generally lacks justification, but the revolutions taking place in Latin America around this time generally were. Bond's quip on the subject exposes the sort of worldview at the time that has resulted in countless lingering systemic world issues.
Overall, Goldfinger is weaker than From Russia with Love and stronger than Dr. No, though the lingering effect the film has on the series is unfortunate at best; only recently has the franchise traded the excesses of Goldfinger for the strengths of its predecessor's consistency. Yes, the film did incredibly well commercially, but that's not a license to compromise a franchise's artistic integrity.
Thunderball (Terence Young, 1965)
Of all the films in the Bond franchise, Thunderball is the film I've probably had the least experience with; I only first viewed it within the last couple years, and this is actually my second viewing of the film. I find it incredibly hard to assess; there are many strong elements that return from the pre-Goldfinger films that work in its favor, but for some reason the film doesn't make as strong an impression as I find it should. SPECTRE returns from the Goldfinger absence with a vengeance; they steal two nuclear weapons out from NATO and hold the West for ransom, threatening to destroy a major British or American city if their demands for £100 million are not met. Bond's mission takes him to Nassau, hoping to find a lead that will lead him to the nukes.
First of all, the plot works; a terrorist organization holding the world for ransom with nuclear weapons is a cliché now, but Thunderball pulls it off with surprising finesse. MI6's response is shown to be one of complete seriousness and competency; Bond is only one of many 00 agents sent across the globe in an effort to prevent SPECTRE's plot from succeeding. Bond's investigation mirrors Dr. No; it's a detective story set in the Caribbean, and the similarities are obvious when viewing the film; even Felix Leiter (Rik Van Nutter) follows his exact same routine from the earlier film, down to the sunglasses, with it not being clear who he is or why he's stalking Bond into later in the film, the recasting playing to this. Issues with recasting aside, he's a welcome replacement for his predecessor in Goldfinger.
Like the film as a whole, the key characters are adequate but unfortunately unmemorable, Leiter included. SPECTRE's second in command to Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi), the man behind the nuclear ransom scheme, works well in the film but isn't particularly memorable past having an eyepatch; Domino (Claudine Auger), the film's Bond girl, is beautiful; unfortunately, she's not particularly memorable either. However, the most interesting character in the film, SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi), leaves a bit more of an impression; she more or less functions as a female Red Grant, with a scene of her intellectually and sexually humiliating Bond mirroring Grant's intellectual and physical humiliation in his scenes in From Russia with Love. Again, she suffers from the same issues as the rest of the characters and the film in general, but probably leaves the strongest impression of anyone.
This is the first film in the Bond franchise that seems to be evolving with the changing times; it may seem minor, but many of the female characters in Thunderball all wear bikinis that showcase significantly more skin and look much more contemporary than those worn by previous characters in the franchise, particularly Honey Rider's oft-remembered bikini from Dr. No. Again, it may seem minor, but it's an important detail nonetheless in tracking the franchise's evolution along with the times.
In closing, Thunderball's almost-paradoxical qualities make it particularly difficult to assess against its predecessors. It's strong, yet bland; there are numerous qualities that would make for crafting a strong film in the franchise, yet many additional ones that fail to set it apart. Overall, Thunderball is probably the weakest film yet in the franchise, despite its numerous formidable strengths.
You Only Live Twice (Lewis Gilbert, 1967)
You Only Live Twice is undoubtedly the first weak film in the franchise. An American spacecraft has been hijacked mid-orbit by a mysterious larger vessel of unknown origin; the Americans blame the Soviets, but British intelligence shows that the vessel touched down somewhere in the Sea of Japan. Bond's mission takes him to Tokyo in a race against time to determine the origin of the vessel before the Soviets and the Americans launch further spacecraft into orbit. It turns out that SPECTRE, under the direct leadership of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, is behind the hijackings at the behest of an unnamed Eastern power to manipulate the Soviets and the Americans into a conflict.
Of course, the plot is ludicrous; any confrontation between the Soviets and Americans would have had dire consequences for every country the world over. Bond finally meets Blofeld face to face; Donald Pleasance generally works well as Blofeld, despite, well, having a face. The film fumbles the Bond girl aspect; Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi), a member of the Japanese SIS, is the obvious Bond girl until she is killed off and replaced in the final third of the film by Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama), another member of the Japanese SIS. Neither are particularly memorable, especially the latter. Tiger Tanaka (Tetsurō Tamba), the head of the Japanese SIS and Bond's main ally, also shares the same fate.
The film stands out in being incredibly outlandish; Bond piloting and dogfighting Little Nellie, Q's specially designed autogyro and the film's climax, in which dozens of handgun and katana wielding ninjas assault SPECTRE forces inside an erupting volcano, are the general stand outs. Where Thunderball began to show signs of progress in regards to gender, You Only Live Twice falls back in line with the previous films' issues with sexism; at one point Tanaka says to Bond "...in Japan, men always come first; women, second." to which Bond replies "I might just retire to here." Seeing how contemporary Japanese culture still grapples with, it comes across as crass.
The film does harken back to Dr. No, however, in SPECTRE's interference in the Space Race between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., which works in its favor and gives it a historical relevance. On the flip side, however, the film breaks continuity when Bond tells Dikko Henderson (Charles Gray), his MI6 contact with Tokyo, that he's never been to Japan before; in From Russia with Love, Bond begins to tell Tatiana Romanova about a time when he and M were in Tokyo. The film also seems to have a subtle non-smoking message; when Bond meets with Mr. Osata (Teru Shimada), the head of SPECTRE's Japanese corporate front Osata Chemical, Osata says to Bond "You should give up smoking. Cigarettes are very bad for your chest." Later in the film, when Bond asks Blofeld if he may smoke in an attempt to recover one of his explosive cigarettes, Blofeld replies "It won't be the nicotine that kills you, Mr. Bond."
Once again, You Only Live Twice has the unfortunate distinction of being the first weak Bond film, with the formula beginning to feel stale, even moreso than Thunderball. It's outlandish, the characters save Blofeld are forgettable, and the Japanese setting is regretfully underused. It has the most epic scale of any of the Bond films to date, but that's not necessarily a positive when not particularly well executed.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (Peter Hunt, 1969)
On Her Majesty's Secret Service is without a doubt my favorite film in the franchise. The film generally gets a lot of heat for the replacement of Sean Connery with George Lazenby as Bond; the film is bookended by Connery films You Only Live Twice and Diamonds are Forever, so it often gets ignored as well. I find this to be more or less criminal; while it heavily deviates from the established post-Goldfinger formula and it takes the "James Bond Theme" as an audio backdrop during the climax to remind the viewer they're actually watching a Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service definitely deserves more recognition than most other films of the series.
After two unsuccessful years, Blofeld's trail has gone cold; M reassigns Bond from Operation Bedlam, which prompts him to resign out of frustration from MI6 entirely. Moneypenny alters Bond's resignation letter to a request for two weeks leave, allowing him to pursue a lead through Marc-Ange Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti), the head of Union Corse, the largest crime syndicate in Europe after SPECTRE. After catching Draco's eye during Bond's pursuit of his troubled and often-suicidal daughter, Tracy di Vincenzo (Diana Rigg), Bond is brought to Draco by his strongmen and the two strike a deal; if Bond romances Tracy, Draco will use his position to direct Bond in the direction of Blofeld. Tracy falls in love with Bond, and Blofeld is revealed to have established the clinical allergy-research institute of Piz Gloria in the Swiss Alps while attempting to claim a title of Swiss nobility. Blofeld's scheme is to use brainwashed patients of the institute to distribute bacteriological warfare agents unless he is granted amnesty for his past crimes.
The biggest change, of course, is the replacement of Sean Connery with George Lazenby. Lazenby plays Bond as more of a playboy than Connery but as much less of a physical presence. His impersonation of kilt-wearing London College of Arms genealogist Sir Hilary Bray doesn't particularly come off as the paragon of masculinity one imagines of James Bond. On the other hand, Lazenby portrays a refreshingly more vulnerable Bond than Connery; as the film is more or less set up as a love story, it works well. A scene when Bond attempts to hide from Blofeld's strongmen in the crowds of Lauterbrunnen effectively portrays him as frightened and vulnerable. In addition, his chemistry with Diana Rigg's Tracy is excellent, as is Rigg herself, who is portrayed as Bond's equal and not mere eye candy as her predecessors were. Telly Savalas takes over the role of Blofeld from Donald Pleasance and portrays him as a more physically active villain; he personally leads the film's two ski chases and attempts to make his escape from Piz Gloria via bobsled. He comes across as awkward, however; a scene when he attempts to seduce Tracy has a cringe-worthy moment where Blofeld unzips his jacket, revealing his out-of-shape midsection. Ferzetti's Draco, on the other hand, works well, as does Ilse Steppat as henchwoman Irma Bunt, who recalls Lotte Lenya's Rosa Klebb from From Russia with Love.
Sexism still rears its ugly head, particularly in the manner Draco treats his daughter. During his initial encounter with Bond, after Bond suggests that "she needs a psychiatrist, not me," Draco snaps back with "what she needs is a man, to dominate her!" His original proposal to Bond for capturing Tracy's heart is a personal dowry of £1,000,000; he attempts to honor this offer when the two marry at the end of the film, despite Bond's refusal at the beginning of the film. During the climax, when Tracy refuses to leave Piz Gloria without Bond during the climax, Draco knocks her unconscious by clocking her in the face. Likewise, early in the film when Bond first meets Tracy, he slaps her when she answers "I don't know what you're talking about" when Bond interrogates her on the identity of Che Che (Irvin Allen), one of Draco's strongmen who attacked him upon entering her hotel room at the Palacio. Homophobia also returns, as the genealogist Sir Hilary Bray Bond is posing as is gay, with Blofeld's English Angel of Death (Joanna Lumley) snidely remarking "Of course I know what he's allergic to." Irma Bunt may or may not also be a lesbian, though this is one area where she does not recall Rosa Klebb as vividly.
Obviously, both Bond and Blofeld have been recast; the film hits a major continuity snag in that Bond and Blofeld don't immediately recognize each other, despite coming face-to-face in You Only Live Twice. The film is adapted directly from the novel, which preceded Bond and Blofeld's first encounter, but it still follows the canon of the film series. Other sections of the film, reference past films, with Bond removing from his desk Honey Rider's knife belt from Dr. No to "Underneath the Mango Tree", Red Grant's garotte wrist watch from From Russia with Love to "Opening Titles: James Bond Is Back/From Russia with Love" and his own rebreather from Thunderball to "Thunderball." When Bond is being led to Draco's office, the janitor (Norman McGlen) is whistling "Goldfinger." The opening title sequence features a montage of scenes from each preceding film as well. All these work remarkably well in connecting On Her Majesty's Secret Service to past films, which makes is easy to gloss over the aforementioned hiccups.
In closing, On Her Majesty's Secret Service is an excellent film and the best in the franchise to date, overcoming the odd casting choices of George Lazenby and Telly Savalas. It's a welcome return to form after You Only Live Twice. The love story at the heart of the film gives it a strong emotional core, and the different aspects of the film work incredibly well together. On Her Majesty's Secret Service is the capstone to the most relevant era in the James Bond franchise. It represents a high mark that no film in the franchise has yet to reach since, and one that, for some reason, few films since seem to even attempt to.
Diamonds Are Forever (Guy Hamilton, 1971)
Following the mixed reception and diminished box office returns of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever reunites Sean Connery and Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton for a very Goldfingeresque film set against the backdrop of 1970s Las Vegas, Nevada. It's not just a noticeable return to the established post-Goldfinger formula, but to Goldfinger as well; the film emphasizes diamonds, just as Goldfinger did gold, "Goldfinger" singer Shirley Bassey returns as title theme singer, and the camp is turned up to a level even beyond its predecessor. It all amounts to Diamonds Are Forever being a goofy, if enjoyable, mess clearly intended as a throwback to Goldfinger.
Sir Donald Munger (Laurence Naismith), chairman of the legal diamond trade-controlling Diamond Syndicate, has convinced the British Prime Minister to assign MI6 to investigate an increase in South African diamond smuggling, where 80% of the world's diamonds are mined. The Syndicate is alarmed at not only the increase in smuggling, but that none of the stones seem to have reached the market; Munger believes that an unknown party is stockpiling the diamonds to either depress prices by putting all of the stones on the market at once or blackmailing the Syndicate with a threat to do so. Due to several recent murders, the Syndicate is threatened with the South African mines shutting down operations; if the identity of the unknown party is not discovered before this happens, it would be catastrophic to Syndicate as well as the government. Bond's mission to track down the smugglers takes him initially to Amsterdam and further to Las Vegas, where it is revealed that the unknown party is none other than Ernst Stavro Blofeld, thought killed by Bond at the beginning of the film presumably in retaliation for Tracy's death in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Blofeld, posing as reclusive Las Vegas billionaire Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean), is using the smuggled diamonds to create a diamond-powered laser satellite powerful enough to destroy entire nuclear stockpiles from orbit, proposing an international auction between China, the United States, and the Soviet Union for nuclear supremacy.
The biggest aspect of Diamonds Are Forever, of course, is the return of Sean Connery as James Bond, as George Lazenby had become convinced that the character would be archaic in the oncoming decade. Connery, who had been starting to show his age in both Thunderball and You Only Live Twice, looks terrible in Diamonds Are Forever. Viewing the film, Connery appears to have filmed his scenes in not 1971, but 1981; he's very visibly out of shape as well, especially when his shirt comes off. The setting of Las Vegas, unlike Connery, however, is captured well in the film; everything from mob goons to the clear Howard Hughes-inspired omnipresence of recluse Willard Whyte captures the essence of the city. The setting also works well with the outlandishness of the film; it is Vegas, after all. Charles Gray, who previously portrayed Bond's MI6 contact Dikko Henderson in You Only Live Twice, takes over the role of Blofeld from Telly Savalas; he has more of a screen presence then his immediate predecessor, but, like the rest of the film, he's not really a character to take seriously, especially when there are multiple doubles of him walking around or he's incognito dressed as a woman still toting his trademark cat and cigarette holder. Tiffany Case (Jill St. John), the film's Bond girl, is pure fluff, only serving as eye candy and enhance the camp. Felix Leiter returns, recast for the fourth time as Norman Burton, and he turns in the weakest performance of any Leiter yet. Leiter and his CIA agents are completely inept, allowing not only Tiffany Case to escape from their surveillance at Circus Circus but Blofeld in drag to walk right past them at the Whyte House. It's still not clear why the CIA are even conducting domestic operations at all, especially considering J. Edgar Hoover was still Director of the FBI at this time. Two characters that do leave an impression, however, are Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith), two Blofeld assassins that eliminate each link in the smuggling chain as the final shipment of diamonds is brought to the underground laboratories of WW Tectronics outside Las Vegas. The two make campy quips after every successful (and in Bond's case, attempted) assassination, and steal every scene they appear in.
Bond is still slapping around women; when he asks Case "who's your connection" in the smuggler ring, he slaps her when she responds "You sound like a cop to me." Homophobia is more prevalent than in past entries; Mr. Wint, who is heavily implied to be Mr. Kidd's lover, is always shown to be drenched in perspiration, sporting a five o'clock shadow and reeking of an aftershave which Bond remarks "smells lie a tarse handkerchief." Tarse, of course, is Old English for a man's genitals. During the final encounter between the two on the deck one of Willard Whyte's cruise liners, Bond pulls Wint's coattails backwards between his legs, eliciting verbal and physical delight from Wint. On the other hand, there are lots of African-Americans in the film, reflecting growing racial equality in the United States. Thumper (Trina Parks), one of the two women guarding Willard Whyte for Blofeld, is African American herself; she works well alongside her Caucasian counterpart, Bambi (Lola Larson). It's a far cry from how the character of Quarrel was portrayed in Dr. No, and shows the changing of the times.
Overall, Diamonds Are Forever is a noticeable step back from the high point reached of On Her Majesty's Secret Service; it's a shame that there wasn't an effort to expand on the strength of its immediate predecessor, and it more or less sweeps the events of the past film under the rug in the opening sequence. Connery looks terrible, and the pervasive camp and scenes like Bond escaping from WW Tectronics in a moon buggy make it hard to take seriously. It's mindless fluff, though admittedly enjoyable, to say the least.
Live and Let Die (Guy Hamilton, 1973)
Following Diamonds Are Forever, Sean Connery decided to permanently retire from the role of James Bond; enter Roger Moore, who combined with the film's permeating 1970s atmosphere represents the first clear break from its predecessors and the beginning of a new era in the Bond franchise. Three British agents have been killed in a twenty-four hour span; Baines (Dennis Edwards), who was stationed on the Caribbean nation of San Monique; Dawes, who was keeping an eye on San Monique's Prime Minister Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto) while visiting the United States; and Hamilton, who was assisting with the CIA's investigation of Harlem heroin kingpin Mr. Big in New Orleans. Bond's mission to investigate the murders and determine the link between them takes him to Harlem, Louisiana and San Monique, where he discovers that Kananga, who is Mr. Big, plans to use his diplomatic protections to smuggle two tons of San Monique-grown heroin into the United States and distribute it for free, spiking the number of addicts and creating a monopoly he can exploit for financial gain. There's also lots of blaxploitation tropes and voodoo.
The first third of the film draws heavy inspiration from the blaxploitation genre that was popular in the early 1970s; it doesn't work well. Juxtaposed against dozens of pimps and hoods, Bond comes across as awkward, stiff, and uncomfortable in his own skin. It's a terrible debut for Roger Moore, and showcases Bond as significantly less relevant as a pop culture symbol in the 70s. The script doesn't make it much better; when Bond's cab driver (Arnold Williams) warns him that Kananga's car is heading uptown towards Harlem, Bond responds "Oh, you just keep on the tail of that jukebox and there's an extra twenty in it for you." His driver's response of "Hey man, for twenty bucks, I'll take you to a Ku Klux Klan cookout." It's horrendous, and the insults of "honky" and "cue ball" directed towards Bond stick pretty easily. The remaining two-thirds of the film, which shifts the focus to voodoo, fare better, but much of the damage has already been done. Despite his rough debut, Moore is a noticeable improvement from Diamonds Are Forever's Connery; where Connery appeared aged and out-of-shape, Moore appears youthful and toned. Like Lazenby, Moore can't match the physical presence of Connery in his prime, but narrows the gap between Lazenby's and Connery's appearance. Where Lazenby portrayed Bond as a playboy, Moore portrays him as more of a quipping gentleman. It's an improvement from the portrayal of Bond seen in Diamonds Are Forever and, to many degrees, On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Kotto's Kananga is a respectable and capable, if forgettable, debut villain for the beginning of a new era of Bond. His performance of Kananga as a controlling, power-hungry dictator of a small island nation leaves more of an impression than performances of Telly Savalas and Charles Gray as Blofeld in the previous films, if not the character itself.
The Bond girl, tarot card-reading Solitaire (Jane Seymour), is Kananga's sole Caucasian in his entourage. She's a significant improvement on the mindless Tiffany Case in the previous film, though she's not a particularly interesting character. In one particularly slimy scene, Moore seduces her using a deck of tarot cards containing only the Lover card, preying on her devotion to tarot reading. It's not as crass as Connery threatening to report his pursuit to her superiors unless she sleeps with him like in Thunderball, but still a particularly unflattering scene for Bond nonetheless, especially considering her clairvoyance derives from her virginity. Her character then develops a bit of a sex addiction, but remains bland otherwise. Felix Leiter returns, recast as David Hedison, who is probably the strongest Leiter since Jack Lord in Dr. No. With J. Edgar Hoover having died in 1972 and Richard Nixon in the White House, it's more plausible for the CIA to be conducting domestic operations. Roy Stewart portrays one of Bond's CIA contacts in the San Monique, Quarrel Jr., son of Quarrel from Dr. No; it's a nice throwback, though the character, like others, is forgettable. Bond's other contact, double agent Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry), stands out as being Bond's first black conquest, but isn't much use for anything else. Kananga's right-hand Tee Hee Johnson (Julius Harris), sports a hook for his right-hand due to his entire arm being devoured by a crocodile; he's also capable, but unmemorable. The final player is Kananga associate Baron Samedi (Geoffrey Holder), a 9-foot tall voodoo cultist who protects Kananga's heroin-producing poppy fields from suspicious San Monique natives. He may also be the voodoo Loa of sex and resurrection. He doesn't do much besides smirk, laugh, and seemingly resurrect from death. His fame derives more from Rare's 1997 video game adaptation GoldenEye 007 then Live and Let Die.
Obviously the film has lots of racial overtones; it's never as explicit or pointed as anything during the Connery era, however. During the third-act Louisiana river chase, the film turns into a parody of deep-south race relations, with Kananga's hoods facing off against the Louisiana state police led by redneck Sheriff J.W. Pepper (Clifton James). The sexism of the Connery films has completely dissipated; Kananga's domineering grip on Solitaire is portrayed as a serious negative. Midway through the film, Kananga threatens Solitaire by exclaiming "Your power exists to serve me, and it is mine to control. If and when the times comes I decide you are to lose it, I myself will take it away" after she claims she drew a Death card instead of a Lover card in regards to Bond. Later, when Kananga discovers she had slept with Bond, he violently knocks her to the floor and says "When the time came I myself would have given you love. You knew that. You knew that!" He's portrayed as an angry, violent man, another clear break from the Connery era. Kananga's race doesn't factor in to his abuse of Solitaire, however.
Live and Let Die is the first Bond film to really show historical progression, captured by the film's inspirations, atmosphere, score and most notably Roger Moore himself. It's a very bland film, suffering from the same problems that Thunderball did, and it's the weakest since You Only Live Twice. There's not much that really justifies repeated viewings, unless James Bond killing black people peaks your interest. It's a clear break from its predecessors and the beginning of a new era for Bond, though not a particularly impressive one.
The Man with the Golden Gun (Guy Hamilton, 1974)
On October 6th, 1973, Egyptian and Syrian forces crossed Israeli ceasefire lines agreed to during the resolution of the 1967 Six-Day War, sparking the month-long Yom Kippur War. When U.S. President Richard Nixon announced Operation Nickel Grass, an airlift to resupply Israel with weapons and supplies, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries declared an embargo, raising the price of oil by 70% and cutting production by continuous 5% increments. This created an economic recession in the West, leading to a greater interest in renewable energy by Western governments. The Man with the Golden Gun is set against the backdrop of the 1973 oil crisis; it's the first Bond film since From Russia with Love and to a lesser degree You Only Live Twice to incorporate ongoing world events. It's refreshing to see the series leave the historical vacuum it's existed in for over a decade, even if it doesn't amount to much more than background noise. MI6 receives a golden bullet, trademark of illusive assassin Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), inscribed with 007. Believing Bond to be targeted for assassination by Scaramanga, M removes him from his current assignment of tracking down Gibson (Gordon Everett), a British solar energy expert gone missing in possession of a Solex agitator, a component capable of converting solar radiation into electricity on an industrial basis at 95% efficiency. Bond sets out to track down Scaramanga, leading him from Beirut to Macau and finally Hong Kong; his two assignments converge in Bangkok after Scaramanga assassinates Gibson and takes the Solex agitator for himself. Bond discovers that Scaramanga, having successfully weaponized the Solex, plans to auction it off to the highest bidder; Bond's antagonizing of Scaramanga causes the assassin to develop a grudge, forcing Bond into a duel to cement his place in history as the world's greatest assassin.
Francisco Scaramanga is the series' best villain since Auric Goldfinger. The film's opening sequence pits him in a duel against Rodney (Marc Lawrence, who previously portrayed a Las Vegas mobster in Diamonds Are Forever; it's unclear whether the two characters are one in the same) in which Scaramanga is unarmed for the majority of it; it effectively establishes the character for the rest of the film. Lee channels his Hammer Horror characters, coming across at times as a frightening sociopath; his tall, slender, suited appearance evokes the more contemporary Slender Man, giving his character an unsettling vibe. It's also implied that he's physically abusive; after successfully assassinating Gibson, he returns his junk to find his mistress, Andrea Anders (Maud Adams) waiting for him in bed, how caresses her body with the barrel of the Golden Gun. When she recoils, he grows angry, and moves the barrel across her lips. It's no wonder that it was Anders who sent the bullet to MI6, hoping that Bond would free her by killing Scaramanga.
Moore, on the other hand, gives a less flattering performance. The freshness he brought to Live and Let Die has evaporated; what remains is the out-of-place Bond from Harlem. Moore just doesn't fit; his attempt to channel Connery fails horrendously. When Bond breaks into Anders' hotel room at The Peninsula Hong Kong and subsequently watches her shower, he doesn't come across as Connery did in Thunderball; he comes across as a creep, just as he did in the previous film when he used a stacked deck of tarot cards to deflower Solitaire. As he roughs her up trying to glean information on Scaramanga's whereabouts, he comes off as abusive; it may have worked for Connery in the 60s, but not as much for Moore's post-second-wave feminism Bond of the 70s. It's a Bond fading fast into irrelevancy, if not already there. Mary Goodnight (Britt Ekland), an M16 staffer assigned to Hong Kong, is the film's Bond girl. She's got an endearing smile and generally has adequate knowledge and know-how; she's still a complete ditz, though not quite as bad as Diamonds Are Forever's Tiffany Case. Her defining trait is yearning to sleep with Moore's Bond, which somehow hasn't happened yet, despite his sleeping with everyone else. She's passable, though, again, endearing enough to stand out. Hervé Villechaize portrays Nick Nack, Scaramanga's French-accented dwarf manservant. Like Scaramanga, he's a great addition to the film, though he doesn't quite reach legendary status. Still, he's the best henchman the series has seen in almost a decade. Soon-Tek Oh rounds out the cast as Lieutenant Hip, an MI6 agent in Hong Kong who assists Bond in Bangkok. He's forgettable, but fits well into his role.
The Man with the Golden Gun is the first film where it becomes apparent that the James Bond series has lost its identity. It's no longer about intrigue; Bond has essentially become a plug-in for other genres. Where Live and Let Die plugged Bond into the blaxploitation genre, The Man with the Golden Gun plugs him into the popular martial arts films of the early 1970s. Nowhere is this more apparent then halfway through the film when Bond regains consciousness in a martial arts school and has to fight for his life against the students. What's more, the elements that remain from Bond are recycled from earlier films in the series. Obviously, the title The Man with the Golden Gun recalls Goldfinger, as does Bond's white dinner jacket. Scaramanga and Nick Nack recall Goldfinger and Oddjob. The oriental setting recalls You Only Twice; Hai Fat (Richard Loo) and his front company Hai Fat industries recalls Osata and Osata Chemicals and Engineering. When M removes Bond from the hunt for Gibson, Bond submits his resignation to which M gives him leave from MI6; the same thing happened when Bond was removed from the hunt for Blofeld in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Scaramanga's abduction of Goodnight and her subsequent bikini-clad reappearance on Scaramanga's island recalls Tiffany Case from Diamonds Are Forever. The riverboat chase recalls Live and Let Die; even J.W. Pepper returns. It all comes together as an action comedy. This is nowhere more evident than in the scoring; it often edges into cornball. A particularly excessive moment comes during Bond's pursuit of Scaramanga late in the film; Bond, finding himself on the opposite river from Scaramanga, launches his car off a broken bridge; as the AMC Hornet spins a full 360 degrees, the frame slows to an accompanying slide whistle. Scaramanga's AMC Matador then subsequently transforms into an aircraft and he escapes.
In closing, The Man with the Golden Gun is still an enjoyable film, even though it's become obvious where the franchise is heading. Scaramanga is one of the classic Bond villains, and his Golden Gun is even more legendary than Bond's own Walther PPK. Bond's mission of recovering the Solex Agitator and alleviating the West's dependence on Middle Eastern oil is still incredibly relevant nearly four decades after its initial release; it's bit of an indictment of Western governments that it is. However, It's a film that lacks an identity, recycling elements from previous films and dropping Bond into the martial arts genre; the film's devolution into comedy makes one wonder if The Man with the Golden Gun's producers take the character and the franchise seriously anymore.
The Spy Who Loved Me (Lewis Gilbert, 1977)
Two nuclear submarines, the British Ranger and the Soviet Potempkin, have mysteriously vanished at sea. An unidentified party has developed a submarine tracking system; Bond's mission takes him to Cairo, where the plans have leaked onto the market. At the same time, the KGB assigns their best agent, Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) codename Triple X, to recover the plans for the Soviet Union. As the two agents become aware of each other, MI6 and the KGB decide to pool their resources, leading Bond and Amasova to Karl Stromberg (Curt Jürgens), head of the Stromberg Shipping Lines, in Sardinia. Stromberg, the two discover, used his supertanker the Liparus to capture the two nuclear submarines. Stromberg's plan is to launch nuclear attacks on New York and Moscow, pushing the two superpowers into open nuclear conflict and allowing Stromberg to create a new underwater civilization. Sound familiar? The Spy Who Loved Me's plot is heavily recycled from You Only Live Twice: in the former, SPECTRE had used a massive spacecraft to swallow up smaller American and Soviet spacecraft, hoping to manipulate the two powers into an open confrontation; in the latter, it's Stromberg using his supertanker to swallow up American and Soviet submarines, hoping to manipulate the two into a nuclear war as well. The climactic sequences, set inside SPECTRE's volcano base and Stromberg's Liparus, might as well occur on the exact same set, down to the enemy forces fortifying their command center behind armored shutters and the monorail systems that run throughout both. It's no coincidence that The Spy Who Loves Me's director, Lewis Gilbert, was also the director of You Only Live Twice.
Thankfully, The Spy Who Loved Me is significantly better then You Only Live Twice, as well as most of its predecessors. It manages to do so despite having many of the same flaws Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun suffered from. Like those films, Bond is still a plug-in to other popular films; in The Spy Who Loved Me, it's Steven Spielberg's 1975 Jaws. The film has a number of scenes set against an ocean backdrop, some underwater, and Stromberg has a pet shark he feeds his traitorous assistant (Marilyn Galsworthy) and attempts to feed Bond to. Stromberg's henchman, a seven-foot tall strongman sporting a set of metal teeth, is even named Jaws (Richard Kiel). Despite the obvious goofiness, Jaws is the series' best henchman since From Russia with Love's Red Grant. There's even a fight cramped train compartment between him and Bond, a clear nod to the encounter between Bond and Red Grant. He's an excellent, memorable character, and he stays silent throughout the entire film. He's backed up by a strong performance by Jürgens's megalomaniacal Stromberg, as well as a capable performance by Bach. Agent Triple X falls short of classic, but she's still a breath of fresh air after the throwaway characters of Tiffany Case, Solitaire and Mary Goodnight. She's intended to be Bond's equal; when she's first introduced, the camera focuses on her lover, fellow KGB agent Sergei Barsov (Michael Billington), as if he's Triple X. It's not quite the dramatic reveal its intended to be, but it gets the point across.
She doesn't last very long against the charms of Moore's 007, however; it's still pushing the suspension of disbelief, though he's much better than he was in The Man with the Golden Gun. When Bond goes to the apartment of Aziz Fekkesh (Nadim Sawalha), the intermediary of Majava Club owner Max Kalba (Vernon Dobtcheff), who's selling the leaked plans, Fekkesh's associate Felicca (Olga Bisera) is in his arms within sixty seconds. Roger Moore's Bond must exude pheromones, because he's starting to look too old for the role. Still, he's significantly less stiff and more believable in the action scenes, especially the climactic battle aboard the Liparus. When Amasova is reciting Bond's dossier and mentions "Many lady friends, but married only once. Wife killed...," Moore's Bond cuts her off with a well delivered "Alright, you've made your point." It's a nice callback to Tracy, who more or less has been forgotten by the series since Sean Connery sent one of Blofeld's doubles into a pool of superheated mud in Diamonds Are Forever. Overall, it's a noticeable improvement from The Man with the Golden Gun.
The Spy Who Loved Me is the first film set against the backdrop of détente; the film's plot clearly reflects this with the cooperation of Britain and the Soviet Union through Bond and Amasova. It's a stark contrast from earlier films like From Russia with Love, where the plot revolved around stealing Soviet technology to bolster the British position in the Cold War. Other then that, the film sticks to its fusion of Jaws and You Only Live Twice. The film's score is influenced by disco; it's much better then The Man with the Golden Gun's often slapstick score, even if it is a bit dated now. There's still a fair amount of its immediate predecessors inclination towards action comedy, but The Spy Who Loves Me takes itself much more seriously, and it shows. There's still bits like Bond and Amasova's bumpy ride through the desert in Jaws' decimated telephone service van set to circus music, as well as Bond's Union Jack parachute while escaping KGB forces in the Austrian alps. Sure, it's now considered an iconic moment, but it's a hell of a way to broadcast that James Bond isn't as much a secret agent as he is a superhero. Still, it's overall a change for the better.
Overall, The Spy Who Loves Me really threads the needle and emerges as one of the best Bond films to date. It suffers from a lot of the same foundational problems as Live and Let Die and The Main with the Golden Gun, specifically recycling the entire plot from You Only Live Twice. Still, it's a particularly enjoyable film with a number of iconic moments and characters, and outperforms when it would be otherwise held back. It's not a true return to form for the series, but it's a well done film nevertheless.
Moonraker (Lewis Gilbert, 1979)
Released following the runaway success of George Lucas' 1977 Star Wars, Moonraker is a clear attempt to take advantage of the immense popularity of Star Wars, as well as other popular science fiction such as Star Trek, 2001: A Space Odyssey and even Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Like The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker takes cues from Lewis Gilbert's freshman effort, You Only Live Twice; unlike its immediate predecessor, however, it's doesn't turn out well. A Boeing 747 carrying an American-made Moonraker space shuttle destined for Britain has crashed in mid-flight under mysterious circumstances. Despite the wreckage of the 747 being discovered in Canada, no trace of the Moonraker was found. Suspecting hijacking, MI6 assigns Bond to investigate, beginning his search at shuttle manufacturer Drax Industries in California. Bond's investigation takes him to Venice, Rio de Janeiro, the Amazon and even space itself as he attempts to stop a genocidal plot by Drax Industries head Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) to use nerve gas to exterminate all human life and repopulate it with his own master race.
Sound outlandish? Moonraker manages to not only be moreso than You Only Live Twice, but also upend its predecessor as the worst film in the franchise. It's a mess of jumbled science fiction cliches. Drax comes across as a generic Star Trek villain who is established as a mix of Auric Goldfinger and Karl Stromberg; his genocidal ambitions recycled from the latter, except he doesn't need to manipulate the Americans and the Soviets into destroying humanity as he has his very own space station. Most of his crew appears as if they were on loan from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which also released in 1979. Drax's space station is obviously drawn from the Death Star in Star Wars, with an interior that's a mix of the Rebel blockade runner Tantive IV and the Discovery One from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The climactic laser shootout is drawn from the opening scene of Star Wars, at least the sequence that isn't horrendously set in the void of space, where defeated soldiers are hurled off into the abyss like Dr. Frank Poole from the latter; Drax also shares the same fate after Bond vents him out of an airlock. There's even Also sprach Zarathustra played on a horn during pheasant hunting at Drax's estate and the motif from Close Encounters of the Third Kind used as a door code as Drax's Venetian laboratory.
Roger Moore is more out of place than he's ever been, especially when he's bedding women despite being twice their age. Again, his Bond has to exude some sort of powerful pheromone. His seduction of one of Drax's pilots, Corrine Dufour (Corinne Cléry), ends up getting her killed, just as his seduction of Solitaire in Live and Let Die nearly did her. When he first meets the film's Bond girl, undercover CIA agent Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles), he is visibly taken aback that the person designated by Drax to assist in his investigation is female, even uttering "A woman?" When he runs into Goodhead again in Venice and she explains she's in Italy to address a seminar of the European Space Commission, he retorts "My, heady stuff. But there again I keep forgetting that you are more than just a very beautiful woman." He comes across as a misogynistic fossil, especially considering Britain's Prime Minister is by now Margaret Thatcher, and he still doesn't fit in very well in the action scenes. Goodhead is another capable yet unmemorable Bond girl, though it's a wonder her role isn't filled by Felix Leiter. Jaws returns, and once again steals the scenes he's in, even if his newfound relationship with Dolly (Blanche Ravalec) and 11th-hour conversion to ally is relatively bizarre, though minor against some of the film's other excessive moments. Drax's henchman Chang (Toshirô Suga) doesn't leave much of an impression before he's dispatched by Bond mid-film.
Beginning with Live and Let Die, Bond has been thrown into genres not his own with mixed success; Moonraker is the first film to make the case that there's little justification to continue the series as its lost identity entirely. There's absolutely no reason a series that began as spy vs. spy against the backdrop of the Cold War should send its protagonist into orbit. It's a complete mess, and it doesn't even attempt to take itself seriously. The intrigue the series was able to capture in its early entries has completely left the series. Lazenby may have destroyed his career by walking away from the role of Bond following On Her Majesty's Secret Service, but his assertion that Bond would become archaic in the following decade wasn't far from the truth. There's not even a shred of an argument for the series to continue following Moonraker, especially when it doesn't offer anything that a generic Star Wars knockoff couldn't. Overall, Moonraker is the weakest film yet, and it's hard to justify continuing the series after it.
For Your Eyes Only (John Glen, 1981)
The British spy ship St. Georges has been sunk by a naval mine in the Ionian Sea off the coast of Albania; the St. Georges was equipped with an ATAC, a transmitter used to coordinate the Royal Navy's fleet of Polaris submarines. Due to the sensitive nature of the mission, MI6 had asked marine archaeologist Sir Timothy Havelock (Jack Hedley) to secretly locate the wreckage, but Havelock and his wife were assassinated by hitman Hector Gonzalez (Stefan Kalipha) before Havelock could deliver his report. Bond's mission sends him to Spain, the Italian Alps, Greece and Albania in an attempt to identify the men who hired Gonzalez and recover the ATAC for Britain; during the mission, he becomes caught up in the feud between two Greek smugglers, Aris Kristatos (Julian Glover) and Milos Columbo (Chaim Topol), as well as Havelock's daughter, Melina's (Carole Bouquet) quest to avenge her parents' death. Bond discovers that Kristatos hired Gonzalez, and plans to deliver the ATAC to Chairman of the KGB General Gogol (Walter Gotell).
The films open Bond laying flowers on the grave of his murdered wife, Tracy. A Universal Exports helicopter soon arrives for Bond; it's quickly remotely hijacked by none other than a wheelchair-bound Ernst Stavro Blofeld (John Hollis; voice: Robert Rietty). Blofeld's face is obscured for the entire sequence, harkening back to his appearance in From Russia with Love; he also sports a neck brace, as he did during the final moments of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Bond is able to turn the tables on Blofeld, regaining control of the helicopter and using its ski to catch Blofeld's wheelchair and lifts him into the skies above London; as Blofeld pleads for his life, Bond adjusts the helicopter's tilt, sending Blofeld to his death. The scene of Bond finally avenging Tracy is everything the pre-credits sequence of Diamonds Are Forever wasn't, and it sets the tone for the film. For Your Eyes Only is a true return to form for the series, harkening back to From Russia with Love and On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the series' strongest outing. Cut away is the excess that has dominated a decade of Bond films; this is a classic Bond, filled with intrigue and set against the backdrop of the Cold War.
The opening of the film is a clear throwback to On Her Majesty's Secret Service; the ATAC is a throwback to From Russia with Love's LEKTOR decoding device. The scenes set in the Italian Alps are also a callback to the former, with an ample amount of skiing; there's even a bobsled sequence, just like in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, as well as lots of Olympic rings in the scenery. Topol's Columbo is a throwback to From Russia with Love's Kerim Bey; he also turns in the strongest performance of any Bond ally since then. KGB agent Erich Kriegler (John Wyman) is another throwback to From Russia with Love, though he's not nearly as memorable as Red Grant. Kristatos is an excellent villain, and significantly more grounded than a number of his predecessors. Carole Bouquet is also exceptional as the hard-edged, revenge-obsessed Melina Havelock; she's a drastic improvement from the Bond girls of the past decade. Emile Locque (Gothard), Kristatos' agent who hires Gonzalez who Bond is misled to believe is actually Columbo's agent, rounds out the cast; he's not particularly memorable, however.
Roger Moore, who was beginning to appear too old in both The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, really breaks the threshold in For Your Eyes Only. He's just too old to believably be evading strongmen on skis or scaling the cliffs of St. Cyril's Monastery. However, Moore turns in his strongest performance to date, portraying Bond as hard edged, serious and even a bit world-weary, telling Melina "Before setting out on revenge, you first dig two graves." Perhaps the hallmark of Moore's portrayal of Bond, his seeming chemical ability for women to instantly fall into bed with him, is turned on its head in For Your Eyes Only; when Kristatos' ice-skating prodigy, Bibi Dahl (Lynn-Holly Johnson) throws herself at Bond, he constantly rebuffs her advances. It's a stark change from his Bond from the previous decade, who would take women wherever he found them, no matter what the life-threatening circumstances or age differences. It's a shame it's the first outing where Moore portrays Bond in this manner, as he's excellent.
For Your Eyes Only is a true return to form for the series, taking cues from From Russia with Love and On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Everyone is in top form, particularly Roger Moore, who turns in his best performance to date. The plot is a throwback to From Russia with Love, showcasing the gradually warming Cold War after a decade of détente. It's a significantly leaner film, cutting away the excess of its immediate predecessors, especially Moonraker. It's the strongest film since On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and one of the best to date.
Octopussy (John Glen, 1983)
In West Germany, a mortally wounded 009 (Andy Bradford) delivers a Fabergé egg to the British embassy; MI6 soon after discovers it to be a forgery. The real egg is currently up for auction, the fourth egg over the course of the past year. Bond's mission is to investigate the forgeries, leading him to India on the trail of Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan), an exiled Afghan prince working in collusion jewel smuggler Octopussy (Maud Adams) with Soviet General Orlov (Steven Berkoff). Orlov, who favors an invasion of Western Europe, is locked in a power struggle with General Gogol; his plan is to smuggle in and detonate a nuclear weapon at Feldstadt Air Force Base in West Germany, manipulating Western Europe into unilateral disarmament. There's some influences drawn from Steven Spielberg's 1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark, but nothing nearing any of the Moore films of the 70s; Octopussy is another solid installment in the vein of For Your Eyes Only.
There's no getting around the detriment Moore's age is to his performance; he's just too old an actor to believably play Bond. Otherwise, it's another one of his more grounded performances. Bond masquerading as a clown, however, is a bit of a blemish. Jourdon's is capable as Kamal Khan, though by no means classic; Berkoff's Orlov, on the other hand, isn't particularly strong or memorable. The return of Maud Adams as Octopussy is a bit out of place, seeing as she portrayed Scaramanga's ill-fated mistress Andrea Anders in The Man with the Golden Gun. It's another capable performance, though less memorable then her last turn in the series. Kabir Bedi portrays Gobinda, Khan's bodyguard; he comes off as a Sikh Jaws, swapping the dentures for a turban. He's also capable, though forgettable. There's Mischka (David Meyer) and Grischka (Anthony Meyer), two knife-throwing twins in Octopussy's International Circus who take their orders from Khan; like Gobinda, they're capable if forgettable, resembling Mr. Wint & Mr. Kidd from Diamonds Are Forever. Finally, there's Vijay (Vijay Amritraj), Bond's contact in India, who's comparable to Lieutenant Hip from The Man with the Golden Gun. Unlike Hip, however, he meets a particularly gruesome fate at the hands of a spin saw wielded by a group of mercenaries hired by Khan and Gobinda.
Noticeable is the replacement of Bernard Lee as M with Robert Brown, who last appeared as Admiral Hargreaves in The Spy Who Loved Me. There's better reason than the revolving door role of Felix Leiter; Lee passed away during the filming of For Your Eyes Only; M is said to be on leave and Bond receives his instructions from Defence Minister Frederick Gray (Geoffrey Keen) MI6 Chief of Staff Bill Tanner (James Villers). It's probable that Hargreaves was promoted to the role of M following the departure of his predecessor in-universe. He's sterner and comes across as a condescending; he's no Bernard Lee, but that's how government agencies work. It comes across as a changing of the guard at MI6. Moneypenny now has an assistant, Penelope Smallbone (Michaela Clavell), who sports a workstation with a desktop computer. The plot, set against the backdrop of the warming Cold War, is more pointed and overt then in For Your Eyes Only with the he divisions inside the Soviet leadership and the growing Europe Nuclear Disarmament movement placing Octopussy as a film trapped in transition; it's no longer trapped in the long malaise of many of its predecessors, but it's not a clean break like Live and Let Die was. Moore as Bond is a big factor in this.
Overall, Octopussy is another solid film in the vein the return to form of For Your Eyes Only. It plays out as more of an adventure than many of its predecessors, taking clear inspiration form Raiders of the Lost Ark, though not enough to make it another plug-in as Moore's first four outings as Bond were; there's actually a stronger case to be made for 1984's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom drawing from Octopussy. It's trapped in transition, largely due to Moore; it also suffers from many of the same issues as Thunderball, being less memorable than other films in the series despite being significantly better. Still, it's one of Moore's strongest films, and effectively carries the foundational torch of its immediate predecessor, For Your Eyes Only.
A View to a Kill (John Glen, 1985)
MI6 recovers a microchip invulnerable to electromagnetic pulse from a Soviet facility in Siberia; analysis reveals the microchip to be identical to those designed by a British defense contractor recently acquired by Zorin Industries. MI6, concluding espionage by the KGB, assigns Bond to investigate the company's owner, Max Zorin (Christopher Walken). Bond subsequently uncovers a plot by Zorin, a former KGB agent gone rogue, to detonate enough explosions along the Hayward and San Andreas faults to cause a major earthquake, destroying Silicon Valley and giving him a monopoly over the market. A View to a Kill follows Octopussy's lead in introducing computer technology into the series; it seems to have followed Moonraker's lead, however, in terms of quality, as A View to a Kill is another terrible entry that casts into doubt the relevance of the series against its contemporaries.
Roger Moore looks awful, especially against the backdrop of 80s California; Moore's Bond clad in tight pants and a leather jacket is easily his most awkward since his trip to Harlem in Live and Let Die. He looks older than M, Q, and Defence Minister Gray, all his superiors; the scenes where Bond is with a woman are particularly unbelievable. Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts), the film's Bond girl, is even worse; she's inept, horribly acted, and completely unbelievable as a geologist employed by the state of California. She's without a doubt the worst Bond girl in the series, undercutting even Kissy Suzuki from You Only Live Twice. May Day (Grace Jones), Zorin's bodyguard and lover who Bond also unbelievably beds, fares better, but doesn't leave much of an impression. Zorin, on the other hand, does; he's easily in the upper echelons of Bond villains. Christopher Walken excellently portrays Zorin as a self-absorbed sociopath, defiant to the KGB that trained and funded him yet loyal to the man who facilitated his birth as part of a Nazi experiment to create abnormally intelligent children Dr. Carl Mortner (Willoughby Gray). It's a shame such an excellent villain is undercut by how terrible the film is. Patrick Macnee rounds out the cast as MI6 agent Sir Godfrey Tibbett; he's surprisingly fairly memorable, despite meeting a similar fate to his predecessor Vijay from Octopussy.
Whereas Octopussy showcased the series trapped in transition, A View to a Kill showcases society trapped in transition. The first half of the film plays out against the backdrop of European high society, being set at locales such as the Ascot Racehorse in Berkshire, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and Zorin's estate in Chantilly, France. Like the auction and even the Fabergé egg itself in Octopussy, it comes off as remnants of an archaic and irrelevant aristocracy. The second half of the film is set against the backdrop of the booming economy of Silicon Valley; Zorin invests more in his plan to monopolize the microchip market then he does fixing horse races in Europe. When General Gogol chastises Zorin for attempting to eliminate Bond without KGB approval and warns him that "Reprisals might jeopardize ongoing operations," Zorin angrily retorts "You jeopardize mine!," abruptly resigns from the KGB, and holds Gogol's men at gunpoint. It's emblematic of the growing corporate power during the Reagan Era; later on, when Stacey goes to her superior at San Francisco City Hall, W.G. Howe (Daniel Benzali), with evidence of Zorin's plan to destroy Silicon Valley, he abruptly fires her. Later, Zorin literally orders Howe around in his own office; he then murders the incredulous Howe.
The CIA is still operating on American soil; there have been two CIA agents that have assisted Bond since the last appearance of Felix Leiter in Live and Let Die, leading one to wonder about his absence. While active KGB agents on American soil perfectly believable, the fact that General Gogol is in San Francisco actively engaged in an operation as a getaway driver and that CIA Agent Chuck Lee (David Yip) is unaware of his presence is not. Disregarding plot holes like these doesn't make A View to a Kill a better film; it's a terrible entry that has much of the same effect as Moonraker, though it somehow manages to avoid such a depth. Not even Christopher Walken's portrayal of Max Zorin, a true classic Bond villain, can make up for the remainder of the lackluster film; A View to a Kill is one of the series' weakest, and makes a similar case to Bond's irrelevancy in the 80s as Moonraker did in the 70s.
The Living Daylights (John Glen, 1987)
After over a decade playing James Bond, Roger Moore decided to retire from the franchise following A View to a Kill. Taking over for Moore is Timothy Dalton, who had originally turned down an offer to star in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Dalton had considered himself too young; two decades later, Dalton brings a renewed vigor to a role that had twice looked to have become irrelevant against its contemporaries. The Living Daylights does for a post-A View to the Kill Bond what For Your Eyes Only had done for a post-Moonraker one. The Living Daylights is one of the freshest films in years, and one of the overall best in the series.
In Czechoslovakia, Bond assists in the defection of KGB General Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé). Koskov explains during his MI6 debriefing his reasons for defecting: newly promoted Chairman of the KGB, General Leonid Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies), has revived Smert Spionam, the Soviet counterintelligence agency formerly headed by Rosa Klebb, and Koskov fears nuclear escalation when the KGB begins to assassinate CIA and MI6 agents. Shortly after his debriefing, Koskov is kidnapped from an MI6 safe house by Necros (Andreas Wisniewski), whom MI6 believe to be KGB; having found a Smert Spionam calling card on the body of 004 (Frederick Warder) in Gibraltar, M assigns Bond to assassinate Pushkin during the general's visit to Tangiers. Bond, having previously crossed paths with Pushkin before, is unconvinced of the plot; he returns to Czechoslovakia to interrogate Kara Milovy (Maryam d'Abo), the KGB sniper whom Bond had prevented from assassinating Pushkin during his defection. Bond discovers that Milovy is not a KGB agent but Koskov's girlfriend and that Koskov had staged his defection with the help of arms dealer Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker) as part of a plot to manipulate MI6 into assassinating Pushkin, keeping the arms agreements made between the KGB under Koskov and Whitaker and using the Soviet down payment to purchase opium from the Snow Leopard Brotherhood, the largest dealer in the Golden Crescent, and turn a massive profit.
Timothy Dalton is excellent as Bond, portraying him as a man forged into a weapon by MI6. This brutal professionalism has left Bond weary; Dalton's Bond is shown to be weary of his employer's directives, beginning his own investigation when doubting the authenticity of Pushkin's resurrection of Smert Spionam. He's resentful, even; when Saunders (Thomas Wheatley), the agent who arranged Pushkin's defection in Czechoslovakia, tells Bond he intends to report to M that Bond deliberately disobeyed his orders to terminate Milovy, Bond angrily retorts "Stuff my orders! I only kill professionals. The girl didn't know one end of the rifle from the other. Tell him what you want. If he fires me, I'll thank him for it." Dalton is much more believable defying M than Moore, Lazenby and even Connery was; it's the strongest portrayal of Bond since From Russia with Love. The remainder of the cast, however, is a bit mixed; Koskov isn't a particularly strong or memorable villain, and Whitaker is weaker than any villain since Moonraker's Hugo Drax. Milovy is also forgettable; she plays her role in the story capably, but doesn't particularly stand out. She's a significant improvement than Stacey Sutton from A View to a Kill, though. Necros is another throwback to From Russia with Love's Red Grant, switching out Grant's wristwatch garrote for a pair of Walkman headphones; he's more memorable than Erich Kriegler from For Your Eyes Only, but less than many of his predecessors.
Felix Leiter finally returns after a decade-long absence; he's now portrayed by John Terry. What he's been up to since Live and Let Die is a mystery. Terry is probably one of the stronger actors to portray Leiter, though like much of the rest of the cast, he's fairly forgettable. Bond's ally in Afghanistan, Mujahideen Deputy Commander Kamran Shah (Art Malik), on the other hand, is an excellent addition. His presence, as well as much of the sequence in Afghanistan, however, borders on crass. While the Shah's support of the Snow Leopard Brotherhood's opium sale somewhat attempts to portray the group as perhaps engaging in some nefarious practices, overall the Mujahideen are portrayed as heroic; in reality, they were anything but. The Living Daylights is also the first time that Bond has actively been directly pitted against the Soviets, save for the opening sequence of The Spy who Loved Me; it's the hottest entry in a series set against the backdrop of the Cold War. Coupled with Bond's alliance with the Mujahideen, it showcases how dominant the Reagan Doctrine had become in the decade after the détente-focused The Spy Who Loved Me, just as A View to a Kill had showcased how dominant Reagan's business-centered domestic policy had become. A final casting note is the replacement of Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny with Caroline Bliss; while Maxwell was roughly the same age as Moore, her screen presence never diminished like his. Bliss' Moneypenny has less chemistry with Bond and is generally weaker than her Maxwell's portrayal.
Whereas Octopussy began a transition for the series that was held back by the abysmal A View to a Kill, The Living Daylights is the series fully transitioned. Dalton absolutely dominates the film, and his portrayal of Bond is a welcome addition after the malaise of the Moore films. Despite Dalton being surrounded by a fairly forgettable cast and a complex plot that skirts convolution, The Living Daylights is another return to form for the franchise. For the first time in almost two decades, Bond is relevant again. The Living Daylights the freshest film since On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and overall one of the best in the series.
Licence to Kill (John Glen, 1989)
Bond is in Key West for the wedding of now-DEA agent Felix Leiter (David Hedison); just prior to the wedding, the two successfully capture Latin American drug lord Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) in the Bahamas. Sanchez quickly escapes, and exacts retribution by having Leiter maimed and having his wife Della (Priscilla Barnes) murdered; Bond swears revenge. M intercepts Bond, chastising him for ignoring his assignment in favor or pursuing Sanchez and ordering him to leave the country; Bond angrily resigns from MI6 and pursues Sanchez to the Republic of Isthmus. Licence to Kill is another film dominated by Dalton's portrayal of Bond; the elements of professional bitterness hinted at in The Living Daylights take center stage, with Bond cutting ties with MI6 instead of letting it encroach upon his personal goals. Unfortunately, it's never manages to excel the way immediate predecessor did and is one of the weaker films in the series.
Despite one of the strongest performances in the series in The Living Daylights, Dalton comes across as significantly stiffer in Licence to Kill; the pronounced widow's peak he sports for the quarter of the film where his hair is slicked back undercuts the youthful image that was so essential to his performance in the previous film. He never looks as out of place as Sean Connery in Diamonds Are Forever or Roger Moore did in all of his films, but he still has an awkward screen presence. Davi is decent if fairly unremarkable as Sanchez; his diamond-collared iguana is a clear throwback to Blofeld's diamond-collared Turkish Angora. Carey Lowell is Pam Bouvier, a former U.S. Army pilot and one of Leiter's informants in Latin America; she's another in a long line of capable yet unmemorable Bond girls. Benecio del Toro portrays the switchblade-happy Dario, one of Sanchez's enforcers and a former Nicaraguan Contra; he must have been too liberal for them, because rapists and murderers dominated the Contras. He doesn't spend much time on screen, and is never given the opportunity to shine; the character has a fair amount of untapped potential. Leiter is once again portrayed by David Hedison, almost two decades after Live and Let Die; it's refreshing to see him return to a role that basically operated as a revolving door, especially as he was one of the stronger actors to portray Leiter. He's not on-screen for a lengthy amount of time, however. The cast is rounded out by Sharkey (Frank McRae), a friend of Bond and Leiter who joins the former's vendetta before losing his life to one of Sanchez-associates Milton Krest's (Anthony Zerbe) henchmen; he's perhaps the weakest of all Bond's allies.
Licence to Kill is another entry dominated by the Reagan Era; this time the backdrop is the War on Drugs. Like a number of Reagan Era policies, the War on Drugs during the 80s was an incredibly muddled mess. The CIA had been complicit in the Contras' drug trafficking; Bouvier was probably involved as well. Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, who Sanchez draws inspiration from, had even been protected from DEA indictment by then-Director of Central Intelligence George H.W. Bush; by the time Licence to Kill was released, Bush was President of the United States. Dalton's Bond in particular is an anti-drug zealot, cutting open packages of Krest's cocaine underwater and destroying Sanchez's tankers full of cocaine-gasoline mixture. In The Living Daylights, Bond destroyed Koskov's entire shipment of Snow Leopard Brotherhood opium, to which an incredulous Whitaker responded "You burned up a half a billion bucks?" Dalton's Bond really buys into "Just Say No," doing his part to destroy all the drugs he finds; he comes off as puritanical.
Overall, Licence to Kill is one of the weakest entries in the series, though it manages to avoid the abysmal depths of You Only Live Twice, A View to a Kill, and Moonraker. It's the starkest drop in quality following an actor's freshman outing as Bond in the series. Dalton's performance, which carried The Living Daylights, is a double-edged sword in this film. Licence to Kill builds upon his hard edge and the resentment he harbors towards his employers, but he frequently comes across as awkward and stiff. His resignation doesn't seem to have any consequences either; at the end of the film, it's clear M plans to rehire him regardless, despite telling Bond "We're not a country club, 007!" Still, it's not as horrendous as some of its predecessors, which might as well be an accomplishment in itself.
GoldenEye (Martin Campbell, 1995)
On December 25th, 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved following years of political and economic stability. Following the release of Licence to Kill in 1989, series distributor Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists was sold to Pathé Communications holding company; Danjaq, LLC, the owner of the Bond film series' trademarks and copyrights, sued MGM for licensing the films to Pathé without Danjaq approval. In April 1994, after years lawsuit-induced production delays, Timothy Dalton resigned the role of James Bond. Pierce Brosnan, who had been originally approached to take over for Roger Moore following A View to a Kill, was tapped as the fourth actor to portray James Bond; GoldenEye, released half-a-decade after the end of the Cold War and half-a-dozen years after Licence to Kill, deftly takes advantage of the circumstances surrounding its release and is not only the strongest film since For Your Eyes Only, but the most relevant film in over two decades.
MI6 intercepts a distress signal from a supposedly-abandoned radar station in Severnaya, Russia, which MI6 had once suspected was the ground station for a covert spaced-based weapons system codenamed GoldenEye; satellite surveillance discovers a electromagnetic pulse-immune Eurocoper Tiger helicopter, previously stolen by agents of the St. Petersburg-based Janus Crime Syndicate in Monte Carlo, leaving the station. Moments later, MI6's satellite is knocked offline; when surveillance resumes, the Severanaya installation lies in ruins. Concluding the GoldenEye to be an orbital electromagnetic pulse weapon stolen by Janus agents, Bond is sent to Russia to identify the Janus saboteurs and recover the GoldenEye access codes. Bond discovers that Janus is Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean), a former MI6 agent presumed killed during a joint mission nine years earlier; Trevelyan plans to fire the GoldenEye on London from a second GoldenEye ground station in Cuba, destroying Britain's economy in retaliation for the 1945 British repatriation of the Lienz Cossacks, who had sought to join forces with the British against the Soviets following the defeat of their Nazi allies; Trevelyan, a Cossack, was orphaned when his father murdered his mother and committed suicide after the two survived Stalin's execution squads.
Pierce Brosnan is the best Bond since Connery, replicating his predecessor's flawless balance between charm and physical presence. He's at home on the screen and more importantly every move he makes is natural and believable, be it physical or more-charisma based. When Bond easily seduces Caroline (Serena Gordon), a psychologist sent to evaluate him by the new M (Judi Dench), Brosnan's charm makes it completely believable; it's a far cry from Roger Moore's pheromone-induced seductions. Opposite Brosnan is Sean Bean's 006; he's easily the best villain since The Man with the Golden Gun's Francisco Scaramanga. Trevelyan is a warped image of 007, perhaps what Bond might have become if he continued down the path of the Timothy Dalton films. He's consumed by hatred and even envy; when he forces himself upon Natalya, he becomes more violent as she resists, a stark comparison to the ease of Bond's seductions. The chemistry between the two is stronger than the majority of other relationships in the series. Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), Trevelyan's henchwoman, is excellent as well; she's a throwback to Fiona Volpe from Thunderball. The scene of her and Bond meeting at the baccarat table in Monte Carlo is another throwback, this time to Bond and Sylvia Trench's initial encounter in Dr. No; this time, however, Bond loses her to Canadian Admiral (Billy J. Mitchell), who she subsequently murders during sex. The film's Bond girl, Severnaya survivor Natalya Simonova (Izabella Scorupco), is a weaker addition, though her occupation of computer programmer adds to the film's digital lean; CIA agent Jack Wade (Joe Don Baker), is weaker still, and a bit out of place seeing as Baker had portrayed arms dealer Brad Whitaker only two films ago in The Living Daylights; still the two are memorable characters if lesser additions compared to the rest of the cast.
Judi Dench's M is a significant improvement over Robert Brown's portrayal; it's established she's his successor, not a convenient recast. She's shown as easing into the role, as Bond dominates the MI6 briefing on the Severnaya incident; Bond agrees with her assessment that he thinks she's "an accountant; a bean counter more interested in my numbers than your instincts." She quickly rebukes him, however, calling him "a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War, whose boyish charms, wasted on me, obviously appeal to that young woman I sent out to evaluate you" It's one of the most important lines of the film; since the end the series' first decade, the series had become borderline irrelevant; the dissolution of the Soviet Union threatened it even further. By setting the film's narrative against the backdrop of the end of the Cold War, it succeeded exactly where it needed to; by giving the role of M to a woman, it directly addressed the issues the early entries in the series had with overt sexism. When informing Bond that the man who supposedly killed Trevelyan, Arkady Grigorovich Ourumov (Gottfried John), is now head of the Russian Space Division, she warns Bond against "running off on some kind of vendetta. Avenging Alec Trevelyan will not bring him back.," referencing Bond's vendetta-fueled resignation from Licence to Kill. Samantha Bond, who now portrays Moneypenny, is a significant improvement over her predecessor, Caroline Bliss; the chemistry between Bond and Moneypenny is the strongest since the early Connery films. She also addresses the role of sexism in the earlier films, responding to one of Bond's tension-laden quips with "You know, this sort of behavior could qualify as sexual harassment." Even the film's title sequence addresses these, juxtaposing images of the destruction of Soviet symbols with lyrics about a woman dominating Bond.
GoldenEye succeeds where it could have easily failed in modernizing a series defined by the Cold War. By working the dissolution of the Soviet Union into the film's plot, setting the narrative in Russia and Cuba, and giving Trevelyan weapon for the Internet age. It's the first digital entry, and the starkest beginning for a new era in the series. Brosnan is the best Bond since Connery, and Alec Trevelyan is one of the film's most memorable villains. It's not only the strongest film since For Your Eyes Only, but it's the most relevant entry since the 1960s. GoldenEye is one of the required films for anyone unfamiliar with the series; it's the most essential entry since From Russia with Love.
Tomorrow Never Dies (Roger Spottiswoode, 1997)
The British frigate HMS Devonshire has been sunk in the South China Sea, presumably by the Chinese; the Devonshire's global positioning systems showed it to be in international waters, despite Chinese claims it was only miles off their coast. When the newspaper Tomorrow reports that Vietnamese officials had found the bodies of the Devonshire crew riddled with ammunition used by the People's Liberation Army Air Force, the British begin to mobilize the Royal Navy to recover the Devonshire. During the initial crisis, MI6 had detected a mysteriously signal on the global positioning frequency being broadcast from a satellite belonging to the Carver Media Group Network, the owners of Tomorrow; Bond is given 48 hours to investigate the head of the group, Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), taking him from Hamburg to Saigon. Bond, working with Chinese agent Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), discovers a plot by Carver and Chinese General Chang (Philip Kwok) to manipulate Britain and China into conflict at the wreck of the Devonshire. During the skirmish, Chang will call an emergency meeting of the Chinese leadership and Carver, using a stealth boat constructed from materials supplied by Chang, will launch a cruise missile into Beijing, leaving him next in succession; in return, Carver will secure exclusive broadcasting rights in China for decades. Tomorrow Never Dies is more or less an update of The Spy Who Loved Me, with Stromberg replaced by Carver and the Soviet Union traded for China; it's a significantly weaker film than The Spy Who Loved Me, as well as of its immediate predecessor, GoldenEye.
Brosnan turns in a significantly weaker portrayal in Tomorrow Never Dies; he lacks the sharpness that dominated GoldenEye. It's not quite the drop in quality of Dalton's Bond from The Living Daylights to Licence to Kill, but it's noticeable nonetheless. Opposite Bond is Pryce's Elliot Carver, who's a much weaker villain than his immediate predecessor Alec Trevelyan; however, his portrayal of a psychopathic Rupert Murdoch-like media mogul is still one of the more memorable villains in the series. Michelle Yeoh's Colonel Wai Lin is also memorable, and one of the better Bond girls; she's a modernized Anya Amasova, in line with the rest of Tomorrow Never Dies' updates to The Spy Who Loved Me. Carver's henchman, Stamper (Götz Otto), is another blonde-haired strongman in the tradition of Red Grant; he's probably the strongest since From Russia with Love, though that's not saying much, as For Your Eyes Only's Erich Kriegler and The Living Daylights' Necros are two of the less memorable henchman in the series. Jack Wade briefly returns to assist Bond during his investigation of the Devonshire wreckage; outfitted in a button-down covered with dinosaur prints, he's gaudier than he ever was in GoldenEye.
One of Tomorrow Never Dies' stronger aspects is a deeper examination on Bond's vulnerabilities in regards to women, which had been briefly touched upon in GoldenEye. In regards to Bond's resolve to kill Trevelyan despite being former friends, Natalya asks Bond "How can you act like this? How can you be so cold?," to which Bond replies "It's what keeps me alive." Natalya coldly responds with "No. It's what keeps you alone." When Bond compares Trevelyan's plot to a schoolyard grudge, Trevelyan retorts with "Oh please, James. Spare me the Freud. I might as well ask you if all the vodka martinis ever silence the screams of all the men you've killed, or if you find forgiveness in the arms of all those willing women for all the dead ones you failed to protect." Tomorrow Never Dies works this into its most prominent subplot. Bond had previously had a relationship with Carver's wife, Paris (Teri Hatcher); M suggests that Bond use his prior relationship with her to further his investigation. This prompts a pained and uncomfortable response from Bond; it's clear the relationship is an emotional wound. When the two encounter each other again, it's revealed that Bond abruptly ended the relationship because she got to close to him. When Carver has her killed after discovering she lied to him about knowing of his affiliation with MI6, Bond angrily exacts his revenge on her killer, professional hit man Dr. Kaufman (Vincent Schiavelli); it's clear he blames himself for her death. Their relationship is hardly as developed as the one between Bond and Tracy in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, but Brosnan is the first Bond since Lazenby to portray Bond as this vulnerable.
In closing, Tomorrow Never Dies is one of the weaker films in the franchise, especially as a follow up to GoldenEye. It's not quite the drastic drop in quality that Licence to Kill was to The Living Daylights, but almost every quality that worked so well for its immediate predecessor deliver mixed results this time around. Elliot Carver's scheme of global domination through the media is one of the more memorable in the series, though only because it's the most implausible since You Only Live Twice. The updates that Tomorrow Never Dies makes to The Spy Who Loved Me work reasonably well, though the end of the Cold War half-a-decade earlier makes the updated plot elements significantly less relevant. The film's deeper look at Bond's relationships is one of its high points, but overall Tomorrow Never Dies is a weak and unremarkable addition to the series.
The World is Not Enough (Michael Apted, 1999)
MI6 is investigating the sale of documents stolen from the Russian Atomic Energy Department to Sir Robert King, head of King Industries (David Calder). M, being an old friend of King's, had also tasked Bond with retrieving the funds King had paid for the documents; King had been led to believe the documents revealed the identities of terrorists who had attacked an oil pipeline King was building in Central Asia. Before being successfully retrieved by Bond, the money had been soaked in urea and one of the note's anti-counterfeiting strip had been replaced by magnesium, essentially turning it into a bomb; when King comes into contact with the money, his lapel pin, which had been switched out for one containing a radio transmitter, triggers the bomb. Years earlier, M had advised King in the kidnapping of his daughter, Elektra (Sophie Marceau); upon closer investigation, Bond discovers that the amount King paid for the documents was the same as Elektra's ransom. Believing Elektra's kidnapper, former KGB agent-turned-anarchist Renard (Robert Carlyle) to have returned, M assigns Bond to shadow Elektra and discover the identity of the traitor in King's organization. Bond discovers it to be Elektra herself, in revenge for her father refusing to pay her ransom and allow 009 to find and kill Renard. Believing herself abandoned by her father, Elektra seduced Renard; Elektra plans to have Renard feed plutonium into the reactor of a stolen Russian nuclear submarine beneath the Istanbul Strait, causing a nuclear reaction, destroying Istanbul, and giving Elektra a monopoly over oil exports from the Caspian Sea.
The World is Not Enough is the first film since From Russia with Love to feature a female adversary; Sophie Marceau's Elektra King is one of the series' stronger adversaries. Early on it's apparent her kidnapping left her psychologically unbalanced, putting herself into dangerous situations not unlike Tracy in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. When Bond tells her that she'll be safe in her villa in Baku while he continues his investigation, she responds with "I don't want to be safe." Her unhinged nature reflects a sheltered daughter so traumatized by her ordeal that she blamed her father rather than her kidnappers. Marceau has strong chemistry with Brosnan, which is integral to the film. Robert Carlyle's Renard is a weaker villain, though his inability to feel any physical sensation is well juxtaposed against his devotion to Elektra. The film's Bond girl, nuclear physicist Christmas Jones (Denise Richards), is without a doubt the worst in the series. She's completely unbelievable in the role, even more so than Stacey Sutton from A View to a Kill. Luckily, she's not particularly central to the plot, and the character's hidden strength is that she's completely forgettable. Robbie Coltrane's Valentin Zukovzsky returns, last seen as one of Janus' Russian mafia competitors in GoldenEye, becoming Bond's ally after discovering the true nature of Elektra's plans. He's one of the stronger allies in the series, despite not surviving.
The World is Not Enough continues the exploration of Bond's vulnerabilities with women that began in GoldenEye and continued into Tomorrow Never Dies; his relationship with Elektra is the focus here. When examining a video interview taken by Cyprus police following her escape, Bond is visibly appalled by the battered, crying Elektra, even touching his fingers to her image on his computer monitor. Later, Bond attempts to convince her to call off her plan to destroy Istanbul as she tortures him at Maiden's Tower, she taunts him and says "You should have killed me you had the chance. But you couldn't, not me, not a woman you've loved.," knowing full well his vulnerabilities. When Bond gets free and orders her at gunpoint to radio Renard and abort, she taunts him further, telling him "You wouldn't kill me; you'd miss me.;" when she tells Renard to "Dive!," Bond kills her. Despite quipping "I never miss," it's clear he deeply regrets having to had taken the shot, leaning over her body and running his fingers through her hair before turning his attention to stopping Renard.
Overall, The World is Not Enough is one of the stronger films in the series, and a bounce back for Brosnan after Tomorrow Never Dies. The examination of Bond's vulnerabilities with women, explored in both GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies take center stage here; the relationship between Bond and Elektra forms the film's core. It's the most distinctive quality of the Brosnan films, and allows The World is Not Enough to overcome a weaker villain in Renard and the series' weakest Bond girl in Christmas Jones. It's able to channel many of the things that worked so well in GoldenEye, producing another strong outing for the Brosnan-led modernized take on the series.
Die Another Day (Lee Tamahori, 2002)
After successfully putting an end to rogue Korean People's Army Colonel Tan-Gun Moon (Will Yun Lee) arms-for-conflict diamonds scheme by presumably killing Moon, Bond is captured by the Colonel's father General Moon (Kenneth Tsang) and held prisoner in North Korea for 14 months, when Bond is released in exchange for the repatriation of Zao (Rick Yune), a former aide to Colonel Moon captured while trying to bomb a summit between Chinese and South Korean officials. A week prior to Bond's release, the top American agent in the North Korean high command was killed; American intelligence had intercepted a message sent from the prison Bond was held in identifying him, leading them to conclude Bond had broken under torture. Bond escapes from MI6 captivity following the exchange to track down Zao and clear his name, leading him to Graves Corporation head Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens). Bond discovers Graves is actually Colonel Moon, disguised via gene therapy, and that Moon plans to use his Icarus satellite, capable of focusing solar rays, to destroy the Korean Demilitarized Zone, allowing North Korean forces to invade South Korea. Die Another Day marks the series' 40th anniversary; it's a reminder of four decades of stronger films, as Die Another Day is the worst film since Moonraker, and the absolute worst film in the series.
Die Another Day is the bastardization of the Bond series; it's pandering to the MTV generation, attempting to force Bond into the mold of early-2000s MTV culture. It fails; Die Another Day has very few redeeming qualities. It's the worst looking film in the franchise; despite the decent Icelandic setting, the film is marred by egregious use of computer-generated imagery and dramatic slow motion effects. It has the worst cast of the series; the constantly sneering Gustav Graves is even worse a villain than Hugo Drax from Moonraker. Graves' conversion from Korean Moon to Caucasian is a throwback to the worst stereotyping of the series' early entries. The film's Bond girl, NSA Agent Jinx (Halle Berry), is even worse than her immediate predecessor from The World Is Not Enough, Christmas Jones. Jinx represents everything that's wrong with the film; she's a hollow, hypersexualized character who responds to characters with such quips as "Your momma" and "He did you?" There's no intrigue or sophistication in her character, mirroring the film itself. Zao, who is midway through his own ethnic conversion, is one of the series' worst henchman, though not as weak as Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike), an MI6 double agent posing as Graves' publicist who's actually a triple agent for Graves; it was her who not only exposed Bond as MI6 during his mission in North Korea, but also leaked the information that led to Zao's repatriation. The two are only undercut by Moonraker's Chang for worst henchman in series history.
Die Another Day commemorates the series' 40th anniversary by finding a way to work in aspects of every prior film. Graves' Icarus satellite is more or less the same as Blofeld's from Diamonds Are Forever; the only difference is that diamonds are used to focus solar energy, like Scaramanga's solex agigtator-powered laser in The Man with the Golden Gun. Bond operating rogue for the film's first half is taken from Licence to Kill. When Jinx is first introduced in Cuba, she emerges from the Havana Harbor in the same fashion as Honey Rider in Dr. No; she wears a knife belt as well. There's a one-sided mirror in Bond's room at the Rubyeon Royale Hotel in Hong Kong with a video camera behind it, similar to From Russia with Love. Before bedding Miranda Frost in Graves' ice palace, he quickly slips a gun under his pillow; when Bond met Paris Carver again in Tomorrow Never Dies, one of the first things she asks him is "Tell me James, do you still sleep with a gun under your pillow?" In The World is Not Enough, Q had introduced Bond to R (John Cleese), his replacement upon retirement; the newly-promoted Quartermaster's lab is filled with items from earlier films in the franchise, such as the jet pack from Thunderball, Little Nellie from You Only Live Twice, and the mechanical alligator from Octopussy; when giving Bond an upgraded watch, he even says "Now, a new watch. This will be your 20th, I believe.," referencing the number of total entries in the franchise.
Despite playing to nostalgia, all these references do is serve as a reminder of how much stronger every film that preceded Die Another Day was. By pandering to an MTV demographic, Die Another Day undoes GoldenEye's successful modernization of the series; it's archaic again, in many regards more so than it was during Moore's tenure. None of the charm, wit, intrigue, subtlety or sophistication that defined the series had made it into this film; it's a ham-fisted mess. There are few redeeming qualities in Die Another Day; Brosnan may be passable, but Graves and Jinx are the worst villain and Bond girl in the series. Die Another Day is not only the weakest film in over two decades, but it's the absolute worst film in the series' four.
Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006)
On June 15th, 2005, Warner Bros. released Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins to critical acclaim; the film rebooted the Batman film series following 1998's ill-received Batman & Robin, severing all narrative ties with its cinematic history and starting the series anew. Over a year later saw the release of Casino Royale, a reboot of the Bond film series drawing inspiration from Batman Begins, ignoring all twenty of the series' entries for over four decades. The entire recurring cast of the Brosnan films was replaced, save Judi Dench as M; Daniel Craig replaces Brosnan as James Bond. Whereas GoldenEye had previously represented the series' modernization, Casino Royale is an even starker break; by updating the series' Cold War backdrop to a post-9/11 one, it establishes a relevancy not seen since the Connery films. The Bond series' reboot is even more successful than the film it drew inspiration from; by drawing from the strongest elements of its predecessors, Casino Royale is a stronger beginning to the new rebooted series than even Dr. No was over four decades prior, and the strongest film since On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
MI6 is investigating the financing of a global network of terrorists groups; newly promoted 00 agent James Bond follows a trail to associates of terrorist banker Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), preventing a terrorist attack against a Skyfleet S570 prototype aircraft at Miami International Airport. Just prior to the foiled attack, an unknown party had sold a over a $100,000,000 of Skyfleet; following the attack, Le Chiffre sets up a high-stakes, winner-takes-all poker game at Casino Royale in Montenegro. Concluding Le Chiffre to had used his client's funds during the attempted short and the poker game to be an attempt to recoup the funds, M sends Bond, MI6's best player, to defeat Le Chiffre and offer him sanctuary in return for information on his terrorist contacts. Despite Bond's success, Le Chiffre is killed by an assassin sent by an unknown third party, (Jesper Christensen); Bond successfully captures him during the final minutes of the film.
Craig combines elements from each of his predecessor's performances in his portrayal of the newly minted 007, but takes the character in a direction not seen before. He's a brutal killer, somewhat recalling Dalton's portrayal of Bond as a living weapon in The Living Daylights; M even calls him a "blunt instrument." It's a dramatically different portrayal of Bond than any of his predecessors'. Bond's appeal to woman is less charm and more danger. The relationship between him and British Financial Action Task Force International Liaison Officer Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) recalls the one from On Her Majesty's Secret Service; Craig's portrayal derives aspects from Lazenby's here. Lynd is the strongest Bond girl since The Spy Who Loved Me's Anya Amasova; she's particularly memorable, recalling Diana Rigg's Tracy from On Her Majesty's Secret Service; like Tracy, Bond falls in love with her only to have him die before his eyes. Le Chiffre is one of the series' stronger villains; his sophistication is greatest strength. Giancarlo Giannini portrays Bond's contact in Montenegro, René Mathis; he recalls For Your Eyes Only's Milos Columbo, and is the strong of Bond's allies since. Felix Leiter returns as the CIA's participant in Le Chiffre's poker game, this time portrayed by Jeffrey Wright; he's somewhere in the middle, though weaker than the last actor to portray Leiter, David Hedison. Judi Dench's M is even stronger than she was in GoldenEye; she portrays M as a stern, maternal character.
Casino Royale takes the strengths of the series' beginnings and updates it for a contemporary audience; the series hasn't felt fresher or more relevant since Connery's early films. Changing the backdrop from the Cold War to a post-9/11, terrorist-dominated climate is particularly smooth. Casino Royale eschews baccarat in favor of Texas hold 'em poker; the rules of Texas hold 'em, ascendant in popularity during the mid-2000s, are more comprehensible for a contemporary audience. It's stronger for doing so, as even in GoldenEye baccarat was archaic. It's also obvious that the shadowy organization associated with Le Chiffre is an updated version of SPECTRE; it serves as a compelling hook for future installments.
Casino Royale is a triumphant return to form for the series. It combines the sophistication and intrigue from the early Connery films, the relationship-focus from On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the lean from For Your Eyes Only, and the focus on modernization from GoldenEye. Craig's Bond, while working in strengths from his predecessors, is a departure from them; it's a bold new direction for Bond. Casino Royale succeeds even more than GoldenEye did in modernizing the series; Casino Royale takes its title as the most essential film since From Russia with Love. It's an excellent beginning to the revamped series, the strongest film in almost four decades, and one of the best films in the series.
Quantum of Solace (Marc Forster, 2008)
Bond, having captured Mr. White during the closing moments of Casino Royale, brings him to an MI6 safe house in Siena, Italy for interrogation; after taunting M on how little information she has on his organization, M's bodyguard Craig Mitchell (Glenn Foster) pulls his gun and attempts to both M and Bond. In the ensuing chaos, White escapes and Bond kills Mitchell. When examining Mitchell's effects, MI6 finds a tagged banknote MI6 had introduced into Le Chiffre's money-laundering operation; just prior, a number of banknotes from the same series were deposited into an account in Port-au-Prince. Bond follows the trail to environmental philanthropist Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), uncovering a plot by Quantum, the shadowy organization behind Greene and White, to use their clout to secure international support for a military coup d'état by exiled Bolivian General Madrano (Joaquín Cosío) in exchange for land rights to a seemingly barren piece of desert; in reality, Quantum will gain control of over 60% of Bolivia's water supply. Quantum of Solace is a direct follow up to the excellent Casino Royale, and the first direct sequel for the series since the Connery films.
Daniel Craig builds on his portrayal of Bond in Casino Royale; it's no stretch to say he's better in Quantum of Solace, a quality that eluded both Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. He's even more brutal than he was in the previous film; in Quantum of Solace, Bond is in the midst of a murderous vendetta sparked by the death of Vesper Lynd, channeling it against any associates of Quantum. The film's Bond girl, Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko), tells Bond "there's something horribly efficient about you." Kurylenko's Camille, whose parents were murdered by Madrano, operates as the flip side of a coin to Bond; her deadly vendetta against Madrano echoes his against Quantum. After she avenges her family's death, she tells Bond "I wish I could set you free." She's one of the stronger Bond girls of the series. Greene is another villain in the mold of Le Chiffre; a contemporary villain that could easily blend in with society. He's capable, though forgettable; the film's true villain is the faceless Quantum. Cosío's Madrano, on the other hand, never comes across as believable in his role, and Quantum of Solace is worse off for it. Mathis returns after being falsely accused of betraying Bond in Casino Royale; he's overall weaker than in his last appearance, though serves out the role of prodding Bond to come to terms with the nature of Vesper's betrayal and death. During their initial reunion, he tells Bond "I was sorry to hear about Vesper. I think she loved you.," Bond responds "Right up until she betrayed me.;" Mathis flatly tells Bond "She died for you." His death is one of the more poignant scenes in the film, reflecting Vesper's in Casino Royale, at least until Bond unceremoniously drops his body into a dumpster. Jeffrey Wright, returning as Leiter, is stronger than his initial appearance in Casino Royale; it's refreshing to see the role not recast as it had been through the series' history. Judi Dench, like Craig, turns in a better performance in Quantum of Solace, establishing an even stronger maternal relationship with Bond.
The greatest strength of Quantum of Solace, as it was in Connery's early films, is its narrative consistency with its predecessor. It's the most direct sequel to a previous installment in series history, even more so than From Russia with Love was to Dr. No. All the major characters return from Casino Royale, and the events of the past film are referenced throughout the film. Despite these strengths, there are a number of continuity hiccups, MI6, which in the previous film appeared as a classic government office, is now a high-tech digital command center; as Quantum of Solace takes place directly following the finale of Casino Royale, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense how this came to pass. Villiers (Tobias Menzies), M's secretary in Casino Royale, has also conspicuously vanished, being replaced by Bill Tanner (Rory Kinnear); it doesn't make a whole lot of sense why he doesn't appear either. During the film's opening car chase, Bond is driving an Aston Martin DBS with Mr. White in the truck; it's not clear where this car came from, as there was a Jaguar XJ8 parked in White's driveway at the end of Casino Royale.
Overall, Quantum of Solace breaks the cycle of lackluster follow-ups to excellent Bond-introductory films; it's the first film since The Man with the Golden Gun to not be significantly weaker.. Craig is even better than he was in Casino Royale, unlike Dalton in Licence to Kill and Brosnan in Tomorrow Never Dies. Quantum of Solace's narrative consistency is it's key strength, and it's effect in keeping the series' renaissance strong. It's a bit of a modern Thunderball; despite its strengths, it's not a particularly memorable film. Still, by introducing Quantum, it keeps the series' intrigue alive, just as SPECTRE did for Connery's films. While Quantum of Solace falls short of classic, it's a worthy follow up to Casino Royale, and one of the stronger films of the series.
Skyfall (Sam Mendes, 2012)
In Istanbul, mercenary Patrice (Ola Rapace) kills MI6 agent Ronson (Bill Buckhurst) and steals a hard drive containing the names of every NATO agent embedded in terrorist cells across the globe; while trying to recover the drive, Bond is accidentally shot from afar by MI6 agent Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) on orders from M. Presumed dead, Bond takes the chance to retire from MI6, subsequently falling out of shape, into depression, and becoming addicted to alcohol and painkillers. Three months later, the hard drive is accessed from M's computer within MI6; moments later, an explosion rocks MI6, killing eight employees. Soon after, the identities of five embedded MI6 agents are posted online, with a promise to release another five within a week; the agents are killed before they can withdraw. Bond returns from the dead, offering to take the lead in the investigation; he follows a trail from Patrice to Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a former MI6 agent who had worked under M while she ran operations in Hong Kong. Silva, while under M's command, became increasingly rogue, hacking the Chinese without authorization. With the Chinese onto Silva and the transfer of Hong Kong's sovereignty from Britain to China rapidly approaching on July 1st, 1997, M gave Silva up, ensuring a peaceful transition; Silva, having survived five months of brutal torture, swore revenge. Bond, in no condition to return to active duty, resolves to protect M from Silva at all costs. Skyfall, released 50 years after Dr. No is a dark, brooding thriller, unique among its predecessors; it's also one of the series' best. Skyfall is an incredible addition to the canon, serving as not only a deconstruction of the Bond mythos, but as a powerful argument for the series itself as it moves into its next 50 years.
Daniel Craig has aged drastically in the past four years; Craig no longer not looks the part of the young, headstrong agent of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Craig's age is addressed directly; this is an aging Bond suffering under the weight of years of service to MI6. Upon Bond's return, M tells him that "You and I have been at this for quite awhile.;" Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) tells Bond "You don't need to be out in the field to see the obvious. It's a young man's game." When Bond is first introduced to MI6's new Quartermaster (Ben Whishaw) in an art gallery, he remarks upon one of the paintings, saying "It makes me feel melancholy. A grand old warship being hauled away from scrap." During a tension-filled scene where Moneypenny shaves off Bond's scruff, she tells him "You look the part now.;" when Bond inquires "And what part is that?," she quips "Old dog, new tricks." Bond fails his MI6 evaluations; not only does he collapse after a physical fitness test, but he can't even hit a stationary target in the firing range. When tailing Patrice in Shanghai, Bond can barely hang on the underside of an elevator as it ascends up a skyscraper; after successfully disarming Patrice, Bond doesn't even have the strength to keep him from falling to his death.
Javier Bardem's Raoul Silva is one of the all-time greatest Bond villains; only series stalwarts Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Auric Goldfinger top him. Silva is a chilling, flamboyant psychopath; despite not appearing on-screen until well over an hour into the film, the character is built up through his actions off-screen. When Bond confronts Sévérine (Bérénice Lim Marlohe), Silva's agent and lover, she begins trembling at the mere mention of Silva; she asks Bond "How much do you know about fear?" Bond retorts "All there is.;" she flatly responds "Not like this. Not like him." When Silva finally makes his appearance, he immediately establishes himself; there's absolutely no daylight. Judi Dench is incredible in her final appearance as M; her maternal influence, stronger than ever with Bond, is effectively warped with Silva. When she dies from her wounds at the end of the film, Bond's devastation is comparable to a son losing his mother. Time will tell if Mallory can stand up to her. Naomie Harris' Moneypenny is the best since Lois Maxwell; her and Bond have excellent chemistry, and hopefully she remains with the series for as long as Craig does. Whinshaw's Q never manages to match Desmond Llewelyn, though he does leave a stronger impression than John Cleese.
Skyfall is an incredible film to mark the 50th anniversary of the Bond film series. It joins its predecessor Casino Royale in the highest echelon Bond of films; Skyfall is taut, dark, and powerful. Daniel Craig is once again in top form, defying his age; there's something to be said that with only three outings as Bond, two of Craig's films rank in the top four of the entire series. Javier Bardem's chilling Raoul Silva is one of the best villains in the series. Judi Dench gives an excellent final portrayal as M; her tragic death ranks among Tracy Bond's in On Her Majesty's Secret Service and Vesper Lynd's in Casino Royale. Happy 50th anniversary, 007; there's no doubt in my mind that once again, James Bond will return.
1) On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
2) From Russia with Love (1963)
3) Casino Royale (2006)
4) Skyfall (2012)
5) For Your Eyes Only (1981)
6) GoldenEye (1995)
7) The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
8) The Living Daylights (1987)
9) Goldfinger (1964)
10) Dr. No (1962)
11) Thunderball (1965)
12) Octopussy (1983)
13) Quantum of Solace (2008)
14) The World is Not Enough (1999)
15) The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
16) Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
17) Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
18) Live and Let Die (1973)
19) Licence to Kill (1989)
20) You Only Live Twice (1967)
21) A View to a Kill (1985)
22) Moonraker (1979)
23) Die Another Day (2002)
1) Ernst Stavro Blofeld (From Russia with Love)
2) Auric Goldfinger (Goldfinger)
3) Raoul Silva (Skyfall)
4) Rosa Klebb (From Russia with Love)
5) Francisco Scaramanga (The Man with the Golden Gun)
6) Alec Trevelyan (GoldenEye)
7) Karl Stromberg (The Spy Who Loved Me)
8) Max Zorin (A View to a Kill)
9) Aris Kristatos (For Your Eyes Only)
10) Elektra King (The World is Not Enough)
11) Dr. Julius No (Dr. No)
12) Emilio Largo (Thunderball)
13) Kamal Khan (Octopussy)
14) Elliot Carver (Tomorrow Never Dies)
15) Dr. Kananga (Live and Let Die)
16) Le Chiffre (Casino Royale)
17) Renard (The World is Not Enough)
18) Franz Sanchez (Licence to Kill)
19) Dominic Greene (Quantum of Solace)
20) General Georgi Koskov (The Living Daylights)
21) General Orlov (Octopussy)
22) Brad Whitaker (The Living Daylights)
23) Hugo Drax (Moonraker)
24) Gustav Graves (Die Another Day)
Bond Girl Ranking
1) Tracy di Vincenzo (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)
2) Honey Rider (Dr. No)
3) Tatiana Romanova (From Russia with Love)
4) Pussy Galore (Goldfinger)
5) Vesper Lynd (Casino Royale)
6) Anya Amasova (The Spy Who Loved Me)
7) Melina Havelock (For Your Eyes Only)
8) Sylvia Trench (Dr. No)
9) Natalya Simonova (GoldenEye)
10) Wai Lin (Tomorrow Never Dies)
11) Domino Derval (Thunderball)
12) Octopussy (Octopussy)
13) Camille Montes (Quantum of Solace)
14) Kara Milovy (The Living Daylights)
15) Solitaire (Live and Let Die)
16) Holly Goodhead (Moonraker)
17) Pam Bouvier (Licence to Kill)
18) Mary Goodnight (The Man with the Golden Gun)
19) Tiffany Case (Diamonds Are Forever)
20) Kissy Suzuki (You Only Live Twice)
21) Stacey Sutton (A View to a Kill)
22) Christmas Jones (The World is Not Enough)
23) Jinx (Die Another Day)
1) Red Grant (From Russia with Love)
2) Jaws (The Spy Who Loved Me)
3) Oddjob (Goldfinger)
4) Fiona Volpe (Thunderball)
5) Xenia Onatopp (GoldenEye)
6) Nick Nack (The Man with the Golden Gun)
7) Mr. Wint & Mr. Kidd (Diamonds Are Forever)
8) Irma Bunt (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)
9) Tee Hee Johnson (Live and Let Die)
10) Gobinda (Octopussy)
11) May Day (A View to a Kill)
12) Stamper (Tomorrow Never Dies)
13) Necros (The Living Daylights)
14) Mischka & Grischska (Octopussy)
15) Dario (Licence to Kill)
16) Erich Kreigler (For Your Eyes Only)
17) Baron Samedi (Live and Let Die)
18) Professor Dent (Dr. No)
19) Zao (Die Another Day)
20) Miranda Frost (Die Another Day)
21) Chang (Moonraker)
1) Kerim Bey (From Russia with Love)
2) Milos Columbo (For Your Eyes Only)
3) Marc-Ange Draco (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)
4) René Mathis (Casino Royale)
5) Felix Leiter (Dr. No)
6) Quarrel (Dr. No)
7) Valentin Zukovsky (The World is Not Enough)
8) Kamran Shah (The Living Daylights)
9) Commander Carter (The Spy Who Loved Me)
10) Jack Wade (GoldenEye)
11) Lieutenant Hip (The Man with the Golden Gun)
12) Sir Godfrey Tibbett (A View to a Kill)
13) Vijay (Octopussy)
14) Willard Whyte (Live and Let Die)
15) Tiger Tanaka (You Only Live Twice)
16) Quarrel Jr. (Live and Let Die)
17) Sharkey (Licence to Kill)