Blog 024: Skyfall (2012)

Skyfall (Sam Mendes, 2012) is tied with Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006) as my favorite James Bond film.

Released during the fiftieth anniversary of the franchise, Skyfall celebrates what makes the series so great. Die Another Day (Lee Tamahori, 2002), which debuted during the fortieth anniversary, likewise served as a form of celebration. But where Die Another Day stuffed callbacks to past films at every conceivable moment in a tired, formulaic story, Skyfall’s references are more subtle and are situated within a story that draws more from The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008) than the 007 franchise formula. Continue reading “Blog 024: Skyfall (2012)” »

Postscript: Quantum of Solace (2008)

Quantum of Solace (Marc Forster, 2008) is the first sequel in the series, building on the narrative of Casino Royale. While it shares the former’s stylistic aspirations, the film’s execution ranks among the lesser entries in the franchise. Quantum of Solace is chaos. The plot is convoluted and confusing, the style is overwrought and overwhelming. The pre-credits sequence makes clear that the filmmakers take inspiration from contemporary successes like The Bourne Supremacy (Paul Greengrass, 2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass, 2007) rather than pursuing the logic of Casino Royale. As a result, the film feels disjunctive, never assured and focused.

Overall, Quantum of Solace may be described as an overindulgent film. Its insistence on artsy framing and heavy-handed cross-cutting is not in servive of plot or character, but visual excess. While there are some impressive shots, especially Bond’s walk through the desert, much of the film feels like loosely connected vignettes. Craig’s performance is more on edge, showing more anger and aggressiveness which lends the film a serious tone the visuals and the languid plot are unable to sustain. Continue reading “Postscript: Quantum of Solace (2008)” »

Blog 023: Quantum of Solace (2008)

It’s almost unfair to evaluate Quantum of Solace (Marc Forster, 2008) as its own film, given that it represents more of an epilogue to Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006). Because Casino Royale was such a creatively successful reboot of the James Bond film franchise, it would’ve been hard for any follow-up to reach the same heights. However, Quantum of Solace isn’t even that good of a follow-up.

Quantum of Solace was the first 007 movie I had left the theater with a bad taste in my mouth (somehow I had liked even the dreadful Die Another Day [Lee Tamahori, 2002] enough to see it in theaters three times). There was just something off with the movie, and I was hoping that this rewatch would help me to pinpoint what that something is. Continue reading “Blog 023: Quantum of Solace (2008)” »

Postscript: Casino Royale (2006)

Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006) is where Bond ascends from global pop-culture phenomenon into the annals of mainstream art cinema. It is a full-blown action blockbuster, disguised as a complex character study. From the opening frame to the final iconic line, the film achieves new heights in the series, delivering the strongest stand-alone entry which, retrospectively, elevates the entire franchise. The first film under the tenure of Daniel Craig, the best actor to ever take on the role, it builds on the spirit of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service to create an emotional narrative that looks at the man behind the mythos.

In this sense, Casino Royale is both reboot and continuation. It breathes new life into the series by playing with the entire spectrum of conventions and cliches the franchise has established. Nowhere is this more palpable than in the opening pre-title sequence. Photographed in sumptuous black-and-white colors, mixed with grainy, washed-out combat footage, it depicts Bond’s transformation into a 00 agent. The baroque cross-cutting style signals an aesthetic shift which continues to inform the Craig era. Contemporary Bond is more ambitious in its mise-en-scene, and in its storytelling. This becomes especially apparent when the end of the sequence seamlessly transitions into the iconic gun barrel shot. Casino Royale sets out to show has history is made, and it arguably exceeds any form of imagination. Continue reading “Postscript: Casino Royale (2006)” »

Blog 022: Casino Royale (2006)

James Bond had already returned to Earth in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Peter Hunt, 1969) and For Your Eyes Only (John Glen, 1981) following fantastical adventures in You Only Live Twice (Lewis Gilbert, 1967) and Moonraker (Lewis Gilbert, 1967), respectively. Thus, it seemed inevitable that history would repeat itself after the financially successful but creatively bankrupt Die Another Day (Lee Tamahori). The years 2003-2006 represented a turning point in the Bond franchise and my own life. While the series transitioned from Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig as 007, I found my first serious girlfriend and entered college. During the four-year gap after Die Another Day, I still played the Bond video games and read the first of the Young Bond novels – Charlie Higson’s SilverFin (2005) – but I seemed to have gotten over my Bond fandom. However, with the release of Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006), I rediscovered it and, over the years, I’ve grown to think that this represents the best film in the series. Continue reading “Blog 022: Casino Royale (2006)” »

Postscript: Die Another Day (2002)

Die Another Day (Lee Tamahori, 2002) is a pastiche work. The 20th Bond film, it is an homage to everything that came before and it derives much of its appeal from references to previous films. At the same time, while celebrating the tradition of the franchise, the film embarks upon a new direction stylistically. Many of the action sequences in Die Another Day involve computer-generated imagery (CGI). While mainstream film action films have come to rely more heavily on digital special effects work, one of the key characteristics of the Bond series is its commitment to physical stuntwork. Much of the criticism of Die Another Day revolved around its look, style, and feel – it was seen as inorganic and highly artificial, modeled on timely action films.

Yet, Die Another Day also brought innovation to the franchise. For the first time, the opening title sequence is a narrative that utilizes footage from the actual film, depicting Bond being tortured over the course of several weeks. While the use of a Madonna song may not work for everyone, the aesthetic approach is bold and laudable. Bond is captured at a moment of weakness and is rendered powerless as MI6 denies knowledge of his existence. It is an emotional high point for the series. Continue reading “Postscript: Die Another Day (2002)” »