Knives Out

In spite of the hype and overdone praise that this film has received, it is still a pretty basic “Who Done It?” Maybe there is a slight hint of a criticism of the 1% to make it seem socially relevant and topical. There is one scene where there is a direct discussion of current political events, but that feels like it will date the film rather than make it relevant. Writer/Director Rain Johnson would probably have been better off sticking to the traditional focus of a murder mystery, rather than trying to make it woke by including jabs at immigration policies and tax brackets.

The creative part of the film is the overlapping story of who is behind the investigation rather than who killed the victim. As told in a series of flashbacks, we see how the victim died, and it appears that there was a cover-up of an accident rather than a murder. It is only after motives get investigated that it becomes clear a crime really did occur. The intricacies of the plot are manifest in a series of vignettes that reveal what happened, what the suspects say about what happened, and what took place after those events. All of this gives a variety of actors a chance to strut their stuff on screen and create a collection of self centered privileged characters that we can smirk at for their foibles.

Christopher Plummer gets a second chance to play a rich octogenarian with issues surrounding his heirs. He turns in a slight but joyful performance. While he is not in the film long, there are some great moments that he shares with each of the main characters. Harlan Thrombey does not seem to be malicious in the decisions he is making regarding his family, but he is less concerned with his family than he is with his personal desires. Jamie Leigh Curtis, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, and Toni Collette all are given reasons to want to see him dead, but is he really murdered? What Johnson has done with his story is to find an alternative approach to the primary motivation. Daniel Craig as celebrated private detective Benoit Blanc is brought in to determine what really happened, but why he is there and who is paying is the mystery.

Ana de Arnas plays the old man’s nurse/companion who becomes a prime suspect but also the victim of persecution. The fact that she comes from an immigrant family and is not part of the rich inner circle is the thing that tries to establish some social credentials. It’s a shorthand plot device that works but in the long run, her families legal status is a distraction to the story rather than a justification for giving this movie any weight.  Michael Shannon and Toni Collette are the quirky spice in the blend. Don Johnson could have been playing the Chris Evans role thirty years ago, so it does feel like the casting decisions were right. Craig’s accent is laid on a little thick but since so much of the film attempts a comic edge I guess it works well enough.

About halfway through, I figured out who the antagonist really is, it’s not hard given the story structure. The real question is what are their motivations for choosing the course of action that was taken. The complex legal conundrum is brought up in the funniest scene where a welcome performance by Frank Oz, addresses the consequences of the dead man’s will. The extended scene is where half of the laughs in the movie can be located, not because there are jokes but because characters act out of their natures. This is a place where Johnson’s ideas stretch us a bit but do entertain us.

The film is a solid mystery puzzle and there are some good laughs to be had, but people suggesting that this is one of the great films of the year are over selling it to you. Go in with reasonable expectations of being entertained and you will be fine.

Logan Lucky

So Steven Soderbergh has returned from his self imposed retirement to add another heist film to his resume. Having already directed the three “Ocean’s” film, why he felt compelled to make another in this genre is not really clear, but we can be thankful that he made that choice, “Logan Lucky” is a cleverly structured film with a lot of humor but it is indeed a straight heist movie and not a parody. It is loaded with surprise complication, twists in the plot and enough offbeat characters for two other movies as well.

Channing Tatum and Adam driver are brothers Jimmy and Clyde Logan. They are a couple of sad sacks that have a reputation in their family for failure. Jimmy was on his way to the NFL when he blew out his knee and Clyde lost a hand in Iraq serving his country. They have some small time juvenile crime behind them, but when Jimmy unjustly gets fired from his job, he begins planning a robbery. Heist films usually develop in one of two ways, either we see all the planning and then watch the execution (usually go wrong) or we get a minimal amount of information on the plan and we see it play out in front of us, (usually with lots of surprises). This film falls into the later category. Most of what we see of Jimmy’s plan is a list of stupid things not to do during the crime. Everything else is fresh to the audience.

Because the brothers are forced to use some help that is not exactly hitting on all cylinders,  you might get the idea that they are not to bright and this is going to go in the direction of a Cohen Brothers movie, where we follow the idiots trying to make their plan work. While there is humor and some of it is based on a shortage of IQ, the main thrust of the movie is about how well planned the robbery actually is. Of course there are detours and complications, but those are the things that add to the value and entertainment of the film.

Daniel Craig steals most of the scenes he appears in. His bleached hair and motley collection of tattoos place him in a stereotype of hillbilly criminals, but it turns out he understands chemistry pretty well. One of the big laughs in the film comes when he basically conducts a lecture on explosives in the middle of the heist. If you like prison break films, this movie has a plot line that includes some clever misdirection and it gives Dwight Yoakam a chance to shine as an officious Prison warden. There are a half dozen other characters that probably deserve to be mentioned, including the cute as a button Farrah MacKenzie who plays Jimmy’s daughter Sadie. Riley Keogh is the bother’s little sister and she plays a pretty big role in the heist as well.

We are getting to the end of summer and that usually means that the films coming out are just trying to make some bucks off of the lack of competition. “Logan Lucky” does not have anything to apologize for, it is well put together and entertaining. You will care about the characters and you hope it all goes well, but what fun would there be if everything goes off like clockwork?

SPECTRE Reconsidered

There are very few films that I see in theaters more than once anymore. Except for the occasional classic, a return visit to a theater for a contemporary film is rarely needed. I have a subscription service through DISH and Netflix and Amazon give me plenty of opportunities to see recent films again, without having to make a trip. There are however exceptions and one of the film series that I will take in as often as possible in a theater is James Bond.

spectre

It is no secret if you have visited this site before that I am a 007 fanatic. I had a lot of fun last year coming up with 7 things I loved for each of the EON James Bond films. This was all in aid of the debut of SPECTRE, the most recent addition to the James Bond canon. As a fan there is always something satisfying about a new episode with 007, but it is also easy to be disappointed, especially in light of how great the previous chapter was. Inevitably, SPECTRE was going to suffer a little by comparison to the previous film. Bond’s ancestral home is destroyed, his Aston Martin DB5 is massacred, and his boss steps off the stage in a thrilling ending with a villain that was exceptional. It’s hard to find ways to make what comes next feel compelling. The screenwriters did find a hook to try and keep things at this heightened level, they make all of the events in the previous three Bond films the design of a secret organization with a strong hidden connection to 007 himself.

I suspect most Bond fans would have been happy to move on and start with some stand alone assignments. That’s exactly the way I felt at the end of Skyfall, we were at a new beginning. To quote Michael Corleone, “Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in again.”  SPECTRE ends up with a Jerry rigged connection to the three previous Daniel Craig films. I originally wrote that this was my biggest problem with the movie. I did not see the film as a failure, but I was less enthusiastic than I might have been. There was however a beacon of hope that might alter my opinion a bit. As an enthusiastic fan, I’d purchased a special pass that came as a steel engraved card with my name on it and the SPECTRE Octopus logo. It entitled me to see the film once every day, in any format that it was playing in at a Regal Theater. I took advantage of my financial commitment and as a result I have now seen the movie more than a half dozen times on the big screen. This has given me a chance to adjust to some of the rapid character points and clumsy plot development that I was originally hesitant about. It also gave me the ability to see a couple of things that are actually important to the ability of the Bond films to continue to entertain.

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Ever since the departure of Pierce Brosnan as Bond, the producers have tried to get Bond back to basics and turn the character into a more reality based character. Gone are the invisible cars and avalanche surfing days. They have been replaced by extensive scenes of torture and casual cruelty. Casino Royale features a grim Bond freshly minted into the 00 ranks. His opponent LeChiffre is a terrorist financier who manipulates the situation through a romantic mole. It turns out that there is a secret figure behind the plot that emerges at the end, Mr. White. In the follow up, Mr. White is a figure in a mysterious consortium called Quantum, and they have their fingers everywhere, including at the side of M. Suddenly, this organization looks like it will be the main opponent for Bond in future films. When we move to the third Craig film though, Quantum has disappeared and it seems like a rogue hacker that Bond is up against. According to the plot of the current film all of these are linked together under an umbrella organization, with a name familiar to Bond fans from the 60s.

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The conspiracy gets deeper, the violence levels affecting the general population gets greater, and Bond and MI-6 are

like the boy plugging the dyke with their finger. At this point the series is getting murky and it begins to feel a little like an X-Files episode with the tag line “Trust No One.”  I don’t need a jet pack or submersible car, but I would like a little fun to go along with the adventure. In going “Bourne” the producers were at risk of losing much of what made James Bond fun for several generations. SPECTRE does not return us to the parody days of Brosnan and Roger Moore, but it finally does restore a sense of humor to the movie series. So let me spend some time praising the virtues a a little levity in the newest film.

The cold opening has a couple of moments that bring a smile to our faces. Bond stalks his prey behind a deaths-head mask and suit and has a local beauty for cover while he does so. When he gets her to the hotel room and kisses her, we might be expecting a romantic clutch but instead when she turns back to him after climbing on the bed, she is taken aback by his near instant transformation into a regular suit with an angry looking weapon at his side. He steps out and says he’ll just be a moment. Finally a laugh in a Daniel Craig film. [To be fair there were a couple in Skyfall but this movie is clearly more engaged in Bond’s humorous side.] He does get a Roger Moore moment when as the building that he shot into collapsed and then triggered a similar collapse in the one he is occupying, he ends up landing on a couch after dropping a couple of stories, with a sconce in his hand. A second laugh in the pre title sequence, this might be a laugh fest.

We also get a return to the traditional byplay with Miss Moneypenny. They don’t quite flirt but it seems as if they could. When she delivers material to his apartment at night, there is a subtle joke about his lack of effort at decorating. When he reaches out to her in the middle of a car chase, at three in the morning, he comments on her having a male guest at her place at that time of night. This is the possessive James Bond we knew from the old days, paying attention only when it suits him.

Bond juxtaposes his bad ass assassin facade with a jesters grin when he dispatches two killers sent to kill the widow of his first target. She claims that it will be a no use for him to intervene because in five minutes there will be another killer at her door. His response “Just enough time for a drink.” A little gallows humor to ingratiate himself with a key informant. Thank you Mr. Bond. When he boldly bluffs his way into a secret meeting of the phantom group, he  calls the screener an asshole as he introduces himself as Mickey Mouse, oh yeah, in Italian. When the head of SPECTRE reveals himself at the meeting to James, he does it with a little cuckoo call. The bad guys have a sense of humor as well.

Only one moment of humor feels exaggerated in a way that is similar to a Roger Moore Bond. During the car chase in Rome, Bond’s DB10 ends up behind a slow moving mini-Fiat. The driver comically remains in front of Bond until pushed into a parking spot and then the airbag goes off. That felt very clown like. Bond’s exit from the car before he parks it in the Tiber river is also a bit over the top, but only in the same way that the ejector seat was in Goldfinger.  Most of the humor in the film plays off of the way Bond expresses himself. He remains cool and cocky, even when being tied up to be tortured. They don’t go quite as far as to make a joke based on the bad guy scratching his testicles (like they did in Casino Royale) but there is a moment of levity before Christoph Watlz reveals his character’s new name. Bond speaks softly and greets the white Persian cat that walks across his lap in a casual way. No joke, just a moment of incongruous levity.

A second issue that I need to reconsider is the title song. When I first heard the Sam Smith tune “Writings on the Wall”, I was underwhelmed. His breathy deliver and wan styling seemed too soft for a James Bond film. When you watch the opening credits and see the nude silhouette of Daniel Craig, surrounded by faceless girls and octopus tentacles, it is almost laughable.

But once you get over the novelty of that image, it is both frighting and sad, and that’s what the story is ultimately about. The sadness of uncertainty, especially about love. The tune becomes a haunting reminder of all the losses for Craig’s Bond, and the fear that he can never have the real love and stability that he professes to want. A lot of people have said that they see this movie as a remake of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. They believe the relationship with Madeleine is doomed. If that is true, then the music has perfectly captured that notion. I’m not a 100% convinced but I am a lot closer to seeing this as a lesser Shirley Bassey effort rather than a miserable Madonna failure.

My final criticism in the original review was about the climax of the film. The damsel in distress card is played and that is such a conventional moment. It was also arrived at quickly and without much sense. Madeleine leaves Bond abruptly, disappears and ends up tied to the railroad tracks, oops, sorry, tied up in the building about to explode, and Bond has to find her. Their exit from the building is really solid however and the music score pumps up the boat/helicopter chase pretty well. I love the fact that M,Q, and Moneypenny have something to do at the end, but it is a little disconcerting that the new intelligence agency, that is supposed to be state of the art, has no alarms, guards or obvious security. The anti-terror squad shows up at a helicopter crash in less than a minute, but the head of the new inter-agency intelligence network takes a header 15 stories down into the lobby of the headquarters and no one shows up except our crew.

Finally, although it comes before the credits, there is a bit of a stinger and the producers know exactly where to hit a real Bond fan to make us want more. A miraculous resurrection is lingered over with a shot of the historically significant gear shift knob, and 007s oldest ally comes in to slap us awake at the exit. Cue the original theme played over the scene in perfect placement and now I want to see the movie again and I can’t wait until the next installment shows up.

SPECTRE

In case you had not noticed over the last few weeks, I am a James Bond fan. I may even be an apologist, since I managed to find things to like in all the Bond films, even the ones at the bottom of my list. From a critical point of view, it’s best not to let your passions interfere with your judgement, but as someone who has listened to a lot of argument, I can tell you that passion often trumps good judgement. A thoughtful idea is often no match for an instance of visual gratification or nostalgic touch on ones memory. I can’t really pretend not to have a prejudice in regard to these films and everyone reading this should be forewarned, this is an opinion influenced by fifty years of conditioning.

[Spoiler Alert] A plot point is discussed in the next paragraph that might reveal more information than you want on characters in the film.


“SPECTRE” is a solid action film, with the requisite 007 tropes, and several terrific sequences.  It was very satisfying in my opinion, but it does not rise to the levels of greatness it’s predecessor achieved. That it suffers in part from that comparison is largely the fault of the screenwriters who found it necessary to inject every Daniel Craig Bond film with a continuing story line concept. “Skyfall” is the Craig version of our hero with the least degree of attachment to the previous films, and one of the reasons it works is the stand alone nature of the script. “SPECTRE” reaches into the grave to pull a thread that suddenly becomes the link between all of these stories. There is an intriguing idea in having the greatest threat to humanity and humanities greatest protector be connected in  a very essential way, but it strains the story to make it work in the quick way it has to develop. “The Ten Commandments”, “East of Eden” and “Thor” all explore the same territory but manage to do it with more aplomb than can be mustered here. There is not enough time to go into Bond’s history again, and then make him the “Good Twin”. 


That having been said, let’s talk about the stuff that makes the movie worth your time and money. The Bond girl in this film is a bright psychologist who is half Bond’s age. She is also fairly self sufficient when it comes to some of the action bits. Léa Seydoux is a blonde innocent trapped in a world of venomous manipulators. The fact that she becomes part of the story is a result of one of those threads I mentioned before, being tugged at in a pretty effective scene. A recurring character is a victim of Polonium type poisoning, and his only desire is to protect his daughter. James is traditionally  a misogynist in the chauvinistic style of the past. He dismisses women and he treasures them simultaneously. The writers give Madeleine Swann enough to do to make her not be an impediment that Bond must drag around for the last third of the film. They do however fall back on the oldest of story telling shortcuts in modern suspense films and it is a bit tired.  Daniel Craig’s James Bond has been on a train before, but usually on the outside getting a beating as the scenery passes. In this film, his character finally gets to appreciate the romantic elements of train travel that made previous  versions of Bond so happy. Of course he does get the beating as well. 


Three characters get used more in this film than they have in previous films. “M” is a player in the story and not just a spear holder as as so often been the case. This is a continuation from the previous film that is welcomed. The political angle of the story is an opportunity for “M” to do something not just say things that advance the plot. Ralph Fiennes might have played Bond twenty years ago, now he is well cast as the civilized version of espionage, that the world will see. “Q” is the resident geek who gets a chance to make choices that will give Bond the ability to act more freely than he might have, and “Q” gets to work in the field a bit more as a consequence. Moneypenny is the least used character, but she does ultimately get out from behind the desk or computer and helps out as well. These are all improvements that a Bond fan like me will be glad for. They were the kinds of things I anticipated at the end of the last outing.  

Now when I saw a year ago that the title of the new film was going to be “SPECTRE” , it was inevitable that the head of that criminal organization would return in this re-booted universe. There was not really any doubt that Christoph Waltz was going to be that character. If there were a grand plan that the organization was responsible for and Bond was sent to stop it, I’d have been alright with that. As it is, we have a more insidious plot that draws on recent films to make us doubt our allies and ourselves. The paranoia factor is ratcheted up so high, it makes the quislings of Quantum seem like pikers. As it turns out, they and every other foe that our current version of Bond has faced end up being tied together in an unnecessary complication of previous plots.  Yet somehow, with the stakes as high as they are, it feels like this is a showdown between figures that really have not had a relationship before. The story tries to build a background but it is under done and unsatisfying. There are still some sequences though that make the mano a mano approach work anyway. When Bond boldly enters into a meeting trying to pass himself off as a member of the organization, the shadowy image and disembodied voice work at building some suspense and tension. There is also a good scene back in London, late in the film , which contains the viciousness of the organization and it’s leader quite well. The scene of torture in the desert is a bit anti-climactic but it turns out to be the penultimate confrontation rather than the final one, thank goodness. 

Waltz does not get as much screen time or character development as a villain probably needs. Le Chiffre and Silva in the two highwater marks of this iteration of Bond were the models of that kind of storytelling. Here it all relies on moods and asserted links to previous actions to make Waltz the bad guy. When he finally acquires a signature feature of the character, I thought the real plot was kicking in, unfortunately, this takes place in the last fifteen minutes of the movie. So the challenge that Bond usually faces is the formidable substitute, Mr. Hinx. David Bautista is a modern version of “Oddjob” or “Jaws”. He is relentless, tough and resilient. He also has enough charisma to pull off the silent role and get away with having a single verbal line in the film. Although Bond ultimately prevails over his enemies, they may not be down for the count permanently. I’d be fine with that as long as the story were more direct and the pacing a bit stronger.

All of this criticism might make you think I did not like the film, as I’ve already said, far from it, I enjoyed the heck out of it.

This is the unique ticket I bought from Regal Entertainment, it entitles me to admission to see “SPECTRE” every day that that it plays in a Regal theater. They only sold 1000 of them across the country, so it is a unusual souvenir and a threat to the financial foundations of that company, because I plan on using it a lot. The opening scene by itself might be worth a visit or two. There is a really solid car chase through Rome that provides some thrills and a couple of the humorous beats that a Bond film should have. The fight scene on the train is another few minutes that make a return visit worthwhile.  

I don’t care much for the Opening Song, it seems to lack a melody and there is never much drive to it. I have learned over the years though that some things can grow on you and I finally appreciate the Chris Cornell song from Casino Royale” so maybe this will work it’s way into a more favorable status down the road. The “Day of the Dead” setting in Mexico City was visually interesting and the lonely trek through the Austrian Alps to try and track down a lead was a solid moment of loneliness. There were some aspects of the secret desert lair that were also interesting, so I can say that the movie looks great. I just think it needs to be a bit tighter, and it would have benefited from starting a fresh adventure rather than dragging in parts of the past few films. Monica Bellucci was hailed as a breakthrough in casting a mature woman as a counterpart to Bond, but her part is brief . It did have an awkward sexual element to it but there was also the most sensual image of the film in one of her scenes so if you are a fan it might be worth it to you but it was frustrating that she was gone so soon. 

 

I may come back and offer a different view of the film, maybe after the tenth trip I take on my dime and Regal’s foolishness. For now let’s just say 007 fans will be satisfied and the world is safe for a couple of more years.

 

 

Double O Countdown: Skyfall

We made it to the end. I don’t know how my fellow bloggers who post on a daily basis manage to find time to do so. It has been an exhausting four weeks. Everyday I have been scanning the films, compiling a list, capturing shots, finding images to share and it was always so much because I wanted to look at everything. It has all been worth it. This post is going up the morning of the day I will be seeing the new Bond film “SPECTRE”.  I hope it has helped wet your appitiete as much as it has mine.

“Skyfall” is just about perfect in my mind. I have seen haters out there who have had the audacity to say it is a bad film, they have no idea what they are talking about. This movie is packed with things that action film lovers will want to treasure, that Bond fanatics like me will geek out over, and it has qualities that film professionals have honored in numerous ways. Here are the Double O Seven ways it did it for me.

001  Adele gives Shirley Bassey a run for her money.

The title song is lush, mysterious and romantic. It kicks in with a chorus that is dramatic and brings the intensity level up very effectively. That it is played over some spectacular title images adds to it’s luster.

002  Judy Dench Classes up the film like you can’t believe

This was the biggest role for Dench in the series, she plays it tough and has just the right amount of vulnerability in the key scenes. She gets to participate in the climactic battle at Bond’s ancestral home and she is completely believable. In the opening, she is unsentimental in risking Bond’s life in pursuit of the Macguffin.

When the HQ of MI 6 is attacked and a half dozen are killed, she is a isolated figure with the world against her.

She has to defend herself at a public hearing where she will be humiliated for political reasons, still she does not give an inch.

As she and Bond flee London to draw their nemesis into a fight away from others, she is not alone, but still feels the weight of the world and the isolation with 007 at her side.

003  Let’s Hear it for the Movie Magician Roger Deakins

He makes beatiful images even more beautiful, see the reds pop in this image.

The lighting and shadows in some scenes recall the glory days of post war film noir.

Shadows that tell the story as well as the pictures and words do.

Backlighting for effect and hiding the face of the character in the bright red light from a fire, awesome stuff.

Composition is another of the arrows in his quiver.

I know “The Life of Pi” was beautiful, but Roger Deakins was robbed at the Academy Awards this year.

004  Once again, the villain makes the movie.

Javier Bardem as the betrayed and bitter ex-agent Silva, is all quirky body movement and lilting articulation when he speaks.

The story he tells of his Grandmothers Island and the rats is creepy, but watch the way he tries to get to James by delicately manhandling him.

Of course Jame’s response was classic bravado with a twist of humor.

Even when he is captured, Hannibal Lecter-like, we know that he is a snake that is too dangerous to let live. A terrific character matched by a terrific performance.

005  Fan Service from Aston Martin

I’m only slightly kidding when I say I may have peed myself when the lights go on in the garage. “Goldfinger” is my favorite Bond film, but this one proves there is always a chance it could be replaced. At least as long as a car with Machine Guns and an Ejector seat is in the mix.

006  The New M

Ralph Fiennes is well cast as a younger but mature new head of the Secret Service. He also know how to handle himself as he shows in the attack on the public hearings.

He starts off in the film as an uptight prig but turns into the wise and knowing heir to the Evil Queen of Numbers.

As he and Bond meet in the very last scene, and Bond addresses him as “M”, my heart soared and I anticipated the new film every day for the last three years.

007 The Perfect Summary of 007

He kicks ass, chases the bad guys around town on every kind of vehicle you can imagine, shoots a bucket load of bullets, and still cares about how his clothes drape properly.

If you don’t jones on this shot, why are you reading any of this?

James Bond Will Return in “SPECTRE”

Double O Countdown: Quantum of Solace

A slight misfire from the EON team after the success of “Casino Royale”. Maybe it suffers from comparison to it’s companion piece, or maybe it is the dour villain and odd subject. I got the feeling there was a political statement here somewhere, but it was not clear what they wanted to say, and people don’t go to a Bond movie for the message. It does have a revenge theme to it that I like, and there are a few sequences that work pretty well, but my guess is that they had the wrong director and an incomplete script. Camera movement can’t solve weak story telling. Here are seven things I liked about the film despite it’s weaknesses.

001  Hotel Hell

The lavish hotel that the evil general and the main villain Dominic Greene occupy at the end of the film,the Paranal Observatory’s ESO Hotel, gets burned up in a fire in the middle of the desert, when the macguffin of the story is water. Go figure. It looks pretty spectacular though.

002 Agent Fields leaves the story.

The beautiful British spy contact that Bond woos while in pursuit of the villain in the story, ends up dead, covered in black oil. An image that recalls the horrific end of an earlier innocent in “Goldfinger”.

003  The last gunshot of the foot chase originating from an interrogation of Mr. White.

This was a daring shot while hanging upside down after a vigorous chase and fight. Bond dropping near to the ground and then struggling to grab a gun just at his fingertips works visually because of the camera work.

004  Euro Weenie Roast in the Desert.

Bond demonstrates that he lacks the Quantum of Solace that would allow any humanity to survive. After he interrogate Dominic Greene, he abandons him in the middle of the desert, with no water to drink (irony) and only a can of oil to quench his thirst (spite for the death of Agent Fields). It is one of the brutal acts of 007 that makes him an intriguing and not always pleasant companion at the movies.

 Drink up Mr. Greene, you’re a dead man anyway.

005  A Different End to a Knife Fight

Bond gets jumped in a hotel room and has a brutal but very quick fight to the death with his attacker.

When he finally takes the knife away and uses it to kill his enemy, it is not in any sense typical. He does not stab his opponent in the neck or heart, he jams the blade into his thigh, severing the femoral artery and watches and holds his enemy as he bleeds out quickly.

Another harsh moment in the life of a spy.

006  Rene Mathis

Giancarlo Giannini returns as the French spy master Rene Mathis. After being suspected in “Casino Royale” of selling Bond out, Mathis was roughly taken into custody and questioned. His dignity and affection for Bond evaporate. Bond needs his assistence and brings him back into the fold for this story.

Mathis is the only companion to ever see Bond drunk, and he listens to the bitter tale of woe and advises James as a friend in spite of his temporary animus. This scene takes place in a Virgin Atlantic Skybar.

The French intelligence agent has contacts in the South American country they land in, but they turn out to be unreliable. Mathis finishes his too short tour of duty in the franchise, in an ignominious way. The film makers should have planned a better end for him.

007  The Opera

The best scene in the film involves Bond flushing out the members of the secret group “Quantum” while they take a meeting during a performance of Tosca.

An innovative set and the Bregrenz Culture Center are the backdrop for this innovative trap. Bond has tapped into the meeting via radio and as he listens in to the transactions, he interupts with a smart ass suggestion that the group should meet somewhere more private. When they hear that an outsider has been listening in, several of the rats reveal themselves unintentionally by abandoning what they see as a sinking ship.

As they get up and leave in the middle of the performance, they are easy targets for Bonds camera equipped cell phone.

as he points and shoots, the images are shot back to Tanner at MI 6 HQ and the computer there scans faces and starts to make identifications.

Bond encounters the head rat on his way out and Greene sends his killers after Bond.

Of Course we know how it will ultimately turn out.While the performance on stage plays out, Bond gets the best of the body guards, one of whom turns out to be there with a high ranking member of the British political class. And the plot thickens.

James Bond will Return in “Skyfall”

Double O Countdown: Casino Royale

I can safely say there is nothing about this film I don’t like. If I could break my own rules, there would easily be a dozen moments to highlight, although it might be simpler to just list all two hours and twenty four minutes of the film. The villain is perfect, the girl is perfect, the resolution is devastatingly perfect, and the final line is the most perfect of all. It is not just an over reaction to the sad state the series was in from the last film, it was the complete overhaul of the concept and the integration with the established that makes this movie work. This was Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel and it took forty years after he died to bring it to life, I’m so glad they waited to get it right.

001  A Real Bond Moment and a Touch of Humor

The re-boot of the series takes the stories in a decidedly more serious direction. It was easy to worry that the more somber 007 would ruin the joie de vivre of the movies. It turns out, there is still humor here, it is just a lot more subtle. A single self referencing smile blows the cool demeanor of the character for just a moment as he soaks in the situation he finds himself in while wearing a brand new tuxedo.

002  Torture

From the demented mind of his creator, James endures the torture scene that created the whole aura of sadism around the series. It is brutal and hard to watch, but it is also a test of wills between two very dangerous men.

003  Least Worst Alternative

After chasing the bomb maker across half of Northern Africa, and catching him with great difficulty, James is confronted by the entire security force of an African Embassy with guns pointed at him. He seems to give up on the captive, pushing him toward the head man on the staff, but quickly makes a choice that cause all kinds of trouble but one which was the least worst he could choose.

Yep, that’s our man.

004  The Free Running Chase

The bomb maker sniffs out a trap and starts to run, Bond follows. A terrific action sequence that is capped off by the previous point but which deserves it’s own slot on the list.

 

He is not as smooth at the running style as his prey, 007 is determined not to let his man escape.

005 The Black and White Opening

The re-boot starts off like a spy film from the 1960s. Not the glamorous Bond films but the John Lecarre type. Dirty, tough and Black and White.

How did he die? Not well

The Second is easier.

And then a real switch, the gun barrel logo is integrated into the scene and a new era starts.

006  Vesper Lynd [Spoilers]

Eva Green is the most desirable Bond girl and she is a femme fatale. She is clever and emotional and just the kind of a bird with a wing down that Fleming imagined his hero would fall for.

Bond fantasizes that he can leave his job and live with the woman he loves in any way he wants.

 The dream of normalcy is enough to blind him to the clues of her perfidious nature.

The moment of betrayal hits him as hard as the rope lanyard that Le Chiffre used on his testicles.

Even with that betrayal, he does all he can to save her.

007  The Final Line

They make you wait for it. Director Martin Campbell who revived Bond with “Goldeneye” a decade earlier, does it again with a brilliant shot, just the right amount of a pause, and then Daniel Craig’s delivery of the introduction that fills all of our spy dreams.

“The names Bond…”

James Bond will Return in: “Quantum of Solace”