Daniel Craig suits up again in the latest Bond flick, taking his fourth spin as the super spy in Spectre. The film’s overseas reviews have been very strong and it will likely dominate the weekend’s box office but who among us would call Craig the best Bond?
I have a theory that the Bond nearest and dearest to your heart is the first 007 you saw projected on the big screen.
Popular consensus tells us that Sean Connery, who played the role in six films spanning 1962 To 1971 and then once again in 1983’s non-officially sanctioned Never Say Never Again, is the best Bond. As cool as Connery was he isn’t my top of the pops. Dr. No, the first 007 movie, came out before I was born and Connery more or less permanently parked his Aston Martin around the time I entered grade two.
The Bond that made the biggest impression on me was Roger Moore. I know critically speaking he wasn’t the most beloved Bond. Pauline Kael once wrote about him, “Roger Moore is dutiful and passive as Bond; his clothes are neatly pressed and he shows up for work, like an office manager who is turning into dead wood but hanging on to collect his pension.”
I also know that hardcore spy fans considered Moore too well-mannered and pleasant to be effective, but he was my first, and I guess the first cut is the deepest because I still have a fondness for his breezy take on the super agent.
But that’s just me.
To get a broader picture I did a highly scientific Double-Blind Bond Peer Reviewed In House Clinical Trial (in other words I asked my Facebook and Twitter friends) to determine the world’s favourite 007 portrayer.
The contenders were Connery, George Lazenby, Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Craig — everyone who has played Bond in one of the 24 officially sanctioned 007 movies.
Several contributors brought up others like Barry Nelson, who played James Bond in a 1954 television adaptation of Casino Royale. Also mentioned were David Niven’s turn as Bond in 1967’s Casino Royale and another actor who has never played 007. “Clive Owen,” suggested one poster, “once they get around to casting him in the next one.”
After eliminating the unofficial 007s and non-Bonds a team of experts (OK, it was just me reading through the posts as Live and Let Die played on the TV behind me) sifted through the results.
Pollsters said Brosnan Is Not Enough to ’90s Bond Pierce Brosnan who came in dead last with just 1.9 per cent of the vote.
“I liked Pierce Brosnan because he embodied all the others combined,” wrote one positive poster. “Charm, humour, ruthlessness, cunning.”
Timothy Dalton earned 3.9 per cent with one respondent saying, “If there really was an agent who was an assassin with a licence to kill … it would be him.”
At 9.8 per cent, George Lazenby fared better than Brosnan and Dalton even though he only made one 007 film.
My favourite Bond came in third with 15.6 per cent, just behind Daniel Craig’s 21.5 per cent. “Craig gets me wanting to watch whereas the others are placeholders,” wrote a Facebook friend, “Sorry.”
By far and away, Sean Connery was the winner with a whopping 39.2 per cent of the vote. This comment seems to sum up the reason why people like him. “Sean Connery because Sean Connery!”
Who is your favourite Bond? Chime in at @metropicks.
For many of us James Bond has been a constant. For more than 50 years a series of actors have taken on the role over the course of twenty-four officially sanctioned movies. He has been, by times a killer, a clown, a lover, a sinner and a saint. In “Spectre,” the latest edition of the Bond Follies, he is all those things and more.
The new film opens just days after the events of “Skyfall.” M (Judy Dench), Bond’s boss and confident, has been killed and 007 (Daniel Craig) is fulfilling her last request. He’s in Mexico City (just the first of many exotic locations in “Spectre’s” travelogue) to assassinate an Italian mobster through a crowded Dia De Los Muertos parade. It’s a wild scene—involving thousands of extras, helicopters, exploding building and a serious fall broken by a well-placed sofa—that sets the tone for the rest of the film; Big, loud and slightly silly.
Information gathered from the mobster’s widow (Monica Bellucci) leads Bond to Rome and a meeting of the super-duper, top-secret terrorist organization SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) led by evil genius Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz).
Back in London the new M (Ralph Fiennes) is defending the 007 program from C (Andrew Scott), a bureaucrat who snidely says, “We’re going to bring British intelligence out of the dark ages and into the light.” In other words, on-the-ground agents and their licences to kill are about to be replaced with drones and high tech surveillance and security. The plan is to unite the defence systems of the world and dispense with Bond’s human touch.
Meanwhile Bond is still globetrotting, now with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) on his handsomely tailored arm. She’s the daughter of a former SPECTRE member and just might hold the key to infiltrating the organization.
“Spectre” is worth a look for the scenery alone, and no, I don’t just mean Daniel Craig’s Tom Ford suits or Monica Bellucci’s jewels. From Rome to Tangiers to Mexico City and beyond the movie is a parade of beautifully shot tourism brochure-ready landscapes.
The stuff that happens in front of those landscapes is worth a look too. Director Sam Mendes keeps the pedal to the metal, tossing out implausible plot twists and action scenes with great regularity. City blocks blow up, airplanes chase automobiles and, of course, the classic ticking bomb makes an appearance. As usual the body count is high and there’s even a wild areal fight sequence before no more than four lines of dialogue have been spoken.
There’s all that and a lighter tone then the other Craig Bonds. The grim-faced 007 has been replaced by a slightly-less grim faced Bond. Craig isn’t channelling Roger Moore or anything quite so broad, but there are laugh out loud moments as “Spectre” simultaneously plays up to and satirizes Bond stereotypes. In one scene Dr. Swann and Bond fall into a surprise embrace. In any other Bond movie they would kiss and tumble into bed. Here she says, “Don’t think for a moment this is where I fall into your arms,” effectively satirizing the Bond as lady-killer stereotype and making strides for Bond Girls everywhere.
Too bad there’s no such reinvention of the Bond villain. As Oberhauser Christoph Waltz is a bit of a dud. His backstory is interesting and he certainly has evil intent, but he comes across here more as a bully than a supervillain. Waltz doesn’t come close to the menace he brought to “Inglourious Basterds’” Col. Hans Landa. He’s barely in the film but casts a long shadow… a long shadow that could have been much darker.
If there is a message in “Spectre” it has to do with new versus old. C represents a dangerous future where drones and surveillance put enemies at arm’s length. M and Bond represent tradition, a more gentlemanly form of killing where you have to look into the eyes of the person you’re about to off. It seems to be asking if James Bond is of the past, a dinosaur. I’d say no, not as long as the 007 movies are as entertaining as this one.
That’s the line in “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” that explains the motivation of almost every character in the story. The retirement comedy paints old age in broad strokes, but nails the dark humour of the twilight years with clear, concise and funny dialogue.
As we learned in the first instalment, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a slightly ramshackle retirement home in the Indian city of Jaipur. It’s the kind of place where the proprietor, Sonny (Dev Patel) takes roll call every morning to ensure no one has passed on during the night. His guests are mainly British expats looking to comfortably live out their remaining days… and maybe get a new lease on life.
The original hotel is almost fully booked, and with everyone is looking hale and hardy, there likely won’t be many vacancies for some time. Always a big thinker Sonny looks to expand his business with the backing of an American retirement home chain. The first hurdle in deciding whether the Best Exotic Marigold becomes a “franchise or a footnote” is quality test administered by an undercover guest. When two new guests arrive on the same day director John Madden cues the screwball comedy, injecting a mistaken identity element into the feel good story.
“The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is like a mini-Bollywood epic, there’s a bit of everything—dance numbers, comedy, romance and even a murder plot. Ordinarily that would be too much for a two-hour movie—an attempt to please everyone which usually means you please no one—but here the elements fit together. Sure, sometimes the plot shards creek almost as much as the joints of the oldsters we’re watching on screen, but the goodwill the cast—who much have upwards of a 1000 years of combined screen experience—is the cinematic Voltaren that greases the script’s tired bones.
Of the headliners, Judy Dench is reliably great, touching and sincere while Bill Nighy is heartbreakingly moon-faced in love but it is Maggie Smith who steals the show. She stares down mortality with a mixture of poignantly observed insight and on-target barbs. She delivers lines like, “Just because I’m looking at you while you talk doesn’t mean I’m interested,” and “How was America? It made death more tempting,” with the precision of a neurosurgeon and elevates every scene she’s in.
“The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is review proof. It’s a charm offensive from a group of actors aiming to please, and for the most part, they do.
Remember the song Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order? Well that song could have been the inspiration for the new Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett film Notes on a Scandal. Actually the movie is based on the controversial 2003 Zoë Heller novel about Sheba Hart, a high school teacher played by Cate Blanchett, who has an affair with a student and the lonely, spinster teacher who chronicles the liaison and subsequent fallout.
So far it sounds like a riff on the Mary Kay Letourneau story, but this story is deeper and more involved than that. Take parts of Letourneau’s story, add a dash of Fatal Attraction and you have Notes on a Scandal. Judi Dench plays Barbara Covett, the narrator, a woman obsessed with the Blanchett character. By agreeing to become Barbara’s friend, Sheba gives into blackmail so she can avoid the scandal that would follow if the news of her affair became public. Unfortunately for Sheba Barbara isn’t only looking for a casual friendship.
The movie employs a technique that usually falls flat—the use of a narrator all the way through a film—but Dench adds a delightful dash of coldness—she describes Sheba’s son, who has Down’s Syndrome as “a tiresome court jester”—and bitterness in the reading that illuminates her dark secret.
Notes on a Scandal is mean spirited, and slightly sordid, but is elevated by Dench and Blanchett’s terrific performances.