Tag Archives: James Bond

Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

If you’re a connoisseur of modern helicopter cinema, then Mission: Impossible – Fallout is the event of the season. Not since Black Hawk Down has the Neo-Copterism movement asserted such a well-defined visual aesthetic, such elevated narrative and tonal language, such awesome fucking explosions. Everything a refined and learned copterhead cinephile could possibly desire finds fresh life here. There is an absurdist, Lynchian quality infused into the rhythmic weaving of two whirlybirds; there are rarefied, Brechtian attributes present in those characters left on the ground. There is a continuation of the leitmotif established in the first Mission: Impossible‘s chopper-chase finale. When read through the lens of the tenets of cinéma vérité, Fallout delivers a powerful indictment of those who don’t actually know how to fly such a machine. And, in a move sure to receive recognition come awards season, auteur director Christopher McQuarrie playfully inverts the male gaze by literally flipping Tom Cruise upside down in a helicopter.

…whoops. Sorry, folks. Had my Snobometer set to High. Still, the fact remains that if there’s any Mission: Impossible movie able to withstand a level of actual criticism, it’s probably Fallout. Here, for the first time, Ethan Hunt is challenged to question whether he should choose to accept every mission that comes his way; maybe those self-destructing messages are actually destructive to Ethan’s self. That’s already a higher-level starting point for this character than any of the previous five films cared to put forth, content instead with wall-to-wall action and death-defying stuntwork.

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Casino Royale (2006): You Know My Name

Our Take Two column offers second opinions and alternative angles on films and TV series reviewed elsewhere on Motion State. Head here for our original review of Casino Royale.

We’ve done a fair bit of writing about James Bond here at Motion State. From the wonky “continuity” to an increasing need to indulge a wider audience to shitty henchmen to the way writers get away with writing the same damn movie all over again, 007’s bases are more or less covered. Heck, we even spun a conspiracy theory about Bond and Star Wars that only broke recently, now that the tables are turned and Star Wars is suddenly the more prolific franchise of the two. Double heck: we even wrote about Never Say Never Again, the “unofficial” Bond adventure featuring a plot primarily involving deep tissue massage and jazzercise. Despite the advice of the title, I’m supremely confident saying never again on that one.

The thing we’ve somehow avoided discussing is the music of the Bond franchise. Excluding franchise themes written by John Williams — Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, etc. — Bond is arguably the film series in which the theme music is most inextricable from the mere notion of the franchise itself. You pick the theme out in an instant and you wouldn’t mistake it for anything else. When I hear the words “James Bond” the first thing I think of is this:

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Face Off: James Bond and Star Wars

Motion State Face Offs pit two films, franchises, or television series against each another for no reason other than because we can.

Every single time a Star Wars movie comes to theaters, a James Bond adventure always accompanies it within a year of release. That’s a weird bit of trivia, no? Two of the most gigantic franchises of all time, both in popularity and in cold hard box-office revenue, and the jaunts through a galaxy far, far away are always paired with some good old British womanizing. I smell a conspiracy. Maybe old Bond is just insecure about his lack of Force-wielding prowess and feels the need to release a movie every time a new Star Wars flick hits cinemas.

Regardless, it gives us an opportunity — nay, begs us — to revisit those years and the state of the respective franchises. With the trend continuing this year upon the release of Spectre and The Force Awakens, let’s zip back almost four decades ago to the beginning of the phenomenon.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and A New Hope (1977)

SHLM and NH

A brief look at the weekly box office number-ones throughout 1977 betrays what you’d expect: Star Wars absolutely dominated, reclaiming the top spot again and again weeks after the original release. Great films like SorcererBobby Deerfield, and Cross of Iron have since been relegated to obscurity in the looming shadow of A New Hope. And The Spy Who Loved Me? It’s not even in the Top 10 highest-grossing Bond films (and yet Octopussy is, somehow).

And still The Spy Who Loved Me is one of the better entires in the long-standing franchise, certainly one of the better outings for Roger Moore’s 007. After the idiocy of Live and Let Die and the beautiful weirdness of The Man with the Golden Gun, Moore’s Bond got relatively straightforward in a collaboration with the Russians against the maniacal Karl Stromberg and his trusty metal-toothed henchman. It seemed like Moore’s Bond was finally coming into his own, like the franchise was on its feet again after a long string of so-so spy shindigs. To this day it’s one of the most revered Moore outings.

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The World Is Not Enough (1999)

Neal Purvis and Robert Wade co-wrote the scripts for an important chunk of the James Bond franchise, penning everything from The World Is Not Enough to Skyfall. They’ll receive a credit for the upcoming Spectre, apparently advising primary writer John Logan, but the previous five films are pretty much The Wade/Purvis Era while Skyfall might end up marking an overlap with The Logan Era. There are a few stinkers throughout Wade/Purvis, namely two that are regarded among the worst Bond flicks of all time: the Joel Schumacher-esque Die Another Day and the incorrigibly self-serious Quantum of Solace. Odd that one would be too goofy and one not goofy enough. But the other three efforts comprise the real Wade/Purvis Bonds, allowing those other two to just be buffers interspersed between the flicks that actually matter: The World Is Not Enough, Daniel Craig’s introduction in Casino Royale, and the mega-hit Skyfall.

The theory goes that a Bond scribe — at least this particular duo — takes two or three tries to really get it right. Even Ian Fleming only turned out his best Bond yarns after testing the waters with the likes of Live and Let Die and Moonraker. With Wade/Purvis, the tautness of the story is the best evidence to support this theory.

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Moonraker (1979)

Ah, Moonraker. Shall I compare thee to another Bond film? Thou art more absurd and more simplistic. Sometime too seriously does Bond brood, and often is his complexion covered in facepaint like in Octopussy. And every fair from fair sometime declines, by chance or waning box office returns on the Dalton Versions. But your eternal ridiculousness shall not fade, Moonraker, nor will your incorrigible fan service be overlooked, so long as men can breathe or eyes can see — so long lives this and this gives life to thee…or, well, not exactly life, per se, but at the very least a juvenile rundown of Bond henchmen.

Jaws bites stuff. It’s sort of his thing. He chomped his way through The Spy Who Loved Me and was meant to die at the end of that film, but apparently test audiences preferred an ending where Jaws survives to bite another day. That might not necessarily have meant that audiences wanted to see Jaws again in the very next Bond outing, but see him they did. Consistently. I mean really, he’s in like every scene simply because.

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The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

After dragging Sean Connery back one last time for Diamonds Are Forever, the hunt was on for a new Bond that would be so kind as to stick around for more than one movie. That meant the first movie starring this new Bond would have to be really good; instead, it was Live and Let Die. No more Connery to be found here, sadly, but also no more world domination plots or supervillain nutjobs — just drug trafficking and regular nutjobs. Live and Let Die is weird, sure, but it’s not good weird. The film is too weak and Roger Moore is too clueless for any of the weirdness to cut through the muck. But the follow-up The Man with the Golden Gun is weird, is good weird, and may in fact be the best weird you’re going to find in the entire Bond franchise.

The film was more or less pronounced Dead On Arrival. As Moore’s second outing, The Man with the Golden Gun continued to fail to live up to any of the Connery Bond films. You name it, the critics decried it: weak plot with low stakes; weak dialogue; weak delivery of that dialogue, particularly from Moore’s Bond; weak Bond girl Mary Goodnight; stupid, unimaginative gadgets like a flying car; stupid, unimaginative inclusion of that fat sheriff from Live and Let Die; and, most damning of all, the simple and nearly indescribable fact that something about this doesn’t feel like a Bond movie. “Maybe enough’s enough,” wrote one critic, which is a funny thing to read with Spectre, the 24th film in the series, being released this year. Nowadays we know that it doesn’t matter how terrible Bond gets, or how many films in a row are stinkers, or how many miscast actors are handed the license to kill. There will always be another Bond flick, another ten, until the time comes to cast an invading alien as 007 (coming to zombie-infested theaters everywhere).

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Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Grantland’s Chris Ryan makes a great point here about the way in which the James Bond franchise has changed, for better or worse, to not only gel with modern viewers but to fit the current model of blockbuster franchising. It was always the case that each 007 flick was a standalone film, made even more explicit with those little “James Bond will return” tags at the end. These are installments, and if this particular one stinks then we still have the next one to look forward to or the previous one to rewatch. If you want to jump in on a random one (like, say, Never Say Never Again — wait, bad example), that’s no problem. You won’t miss a step.

Ryan’s point is that all of that has changed now, as the Spectre trailer makes fairly heavy reference to Skyfall and even to Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale. This is continuity as Bond has never known, and Ryan further posits that the filmmaker might be the one who mainly benefits from such a thing — Spectre now seems “more important” than Skyfall (whatever that might mean) just by virtue of being a continuation of the story. Who wouldn’t rather direct “the Bond movie that the last few have been leading up to” over “the next Bond film in a string of other Bond films”?

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Skyfall (2012)

For such a successful franchise of movies, there is no denying that of the 23 James Bond installments, a handful of the movies are nothing special on their own. That is to say, strip away the Bond allure and you’re left with a lot of movies that probably resemble a 2014 Kevin Costner film (3 Days to Kill, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit… you get the picture). But the most recent entry Skyfall certainly does not fit into this category of Bond movies. In many ways, Sam Mendes’ first Bond movie is not a typical Bond film; making it not just a great James Bond movie, but a great movie in general.

Mendes gives the viewer this sense early when Q says to Bond — but really to the audience as a sort of aside — “what did you expect, an exploding pen?” It’s Mendes way of saying, “what did you expect, a typical Bond movie?” In the case of Q, what he gives Bond — a fingerprint encoded gun — is even better. And in the case of Mendes, what he gives the viewer is also far better.

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Casino Royale (2006)

Of the three Daniel Craig Bond films, two have been received with applause from audiences and critics alike. One of the two is Casino Royale, Craig’s debut as 007. Royale has changed the game as far Bond films go. No more (completely) preposterous gadgets or (literally) impossible feats are featured in this film. No more corny lines and no more maniacal, manacle-wearing, super-genius super-villains. Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale is rooted in reality. Of course, there is some stuff that might seem somewhat far-fetched, but you just don’t have yourself a Bond film without at least a splash of absurdity.

Daniel Craig is stupendous in this film. He fully embodies the perhaps overly confident, womanizing alcoholic who, at the same time, wears a badge of courage and integrity at (almost) all times. Craig portrays the smoothest Bond I have ever seen. I know what you’re thinking…probably screaming, actually. Connery will always be Bond, no one is saying otherwise. At the same time, Craig, in my most humble opinion, one ups him in the “I’m the coolest dude on planet Earth” department. It’s everything from the way he carries himself to the timing and delivery of his lines (every one of which hits perfectly). What is most notable, though, is the dark side that Craig brings to the timeless character. His orphanage is addressed in the film, the emotion behind his first kill is evident, and Bond drinks with a purpose throughout Royale. Craig makes it all work so well, from the stern look in his eyes as he races through the Miami Airport to the sarcastic smirks he makes at Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) from across the poker table.

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Never Say Never Again (1983)

The next Bond movie will be Spectre, which will mark the fourth outing for Daniel Craig’s modernized James Blonde and the second for director Sam Mendes following 2012’s Skyfall. Mendes won’t be the first to return for another helping of 007, and in fact the trend since Dr. No has hewed closer to “we’ll ask you back if your movie doesn’t suck” than anything else. The math, for those of you struggling here: Skyfall doesn’t suck = Mendes returns.

But Spectre will also mark the return of…well, SPECTRE. The evil organization (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) has been absent from the Bond franchise for the past eleven films, at least according to Bond purists. According to everyone else, the last time SPECTRE plotted against MI6 was in 1983’s Never Say Never Again, the only Bond film not produced (or sanctioned) by Eon Productions, a film that saw the valiant (ahem) return of Sean Connery to the James Bond role. Never Say Never Again pits this 53-year-old version of the spy against SPECTRE as the organization counter-intelligences, terrorizes, revenges and extorts all over everybody’s ass. Math: SPECTRE = evil.

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