This review is part of Project Bond, wherein over the course of 2014 we watch all of the James Bond movies in production order.
Summary: in which the design people must have got a good deal on glass. Water is the most precious thing in the world… and this is actually a sequel?
Alex: turns out this isn’t quite as bad as I remembered. Faint praise I know, but after the glories of Casino Royale there were a lot of hopes riding on this film and at the time… well. I was sad. However, in the context of all Bonds, this one isn’t too shabby. Also, shout out to yet another absolutely kick-ass song; Jack White and Alicia Keys are an inspired, off the wall choice and I think they’re awesome.
The film opens with a brutal, fast car chase through Italian mountains and at the end, it turns out Mr White was in the boot of Bond’s car. So this is picking up where the last one left off in a way that has really never happened before. This is intriguing and actually somewhat discomfiting. It’s weird enough to have the odd call-back to a dead wife; now we get a Bond who is actually affected by things in the last film?? Wha – ??
The credits open without Bond shooting down the barrel of a gun. (He does so at the end of the film instead.) The credits are very different from those before, except that the nudey girls are back. Hello boobs.
Bond has brought Mr White to M, and there’s all sorts of discussion about Le Chiffre and Vesper that is meant to suggest you’re still watching Casino Royale. Mr White is amused by their arrogance at thinking they can keep him prisoner, and then M’s bodyguard tries to kill her because he’s One Of Them. Bond saves M and chases him – the parkour isn’t as good as last time, but they do go through a glass roof and do some spinning-upside-down fighting. To be honest it’s all a bit video game-y.
Bond keeps chasing down these Mr White/Le Chiffre connections, and ends up in Haiti where yet more glass is broken in a fight with someone who’s maybe connected. He takes the guy’s briefcase and is picked up by a woman in a case of mistaken identity; lucky for her since the other dude was meant to kill her. There are shenanigans that suggest she’s sleeping with a nasty man who was probably responsible for setting up that hit… and we know he’s nasty partly because he’s so slimy, partly because he smugly claims to have facilitated a change of government in Haiti to help out some big corporate. Villain then ‘gives’ the woman to a a general who’s buying his services to (re)take over Bolivia. Bond saves the woman but she’s furious – because it turns out she wanted that to happen.
Let’s talk about Camille. I love her. She is ruthless and determined and she’s being trying to get close to the general for years in order to get revenge for her family, whom he killed. Yes, she’s another in a long line of women who start out loathing Bond and then work with him, but there’s a difference. She doesn’t sleep with him. WHOA. Bond writers, are you actually growing up?? Also, she’s tough, with added real fear about what it will be like to kill someone. This is, I think, not feminine weakness – Bond never treats it like that – but real concern about, y’know, taking a life. I really like Camille.
Camille was using Dominic Greene to get to the general. Greene appears to be a wealthy entrepreneur who is also philanthropic and solicitous for the world. BIG RED WARNING LIGHT. (Also he has amusingly coiffured henchmen.) Of course Greene is actually a scheming arrogant villain who is just our for MOAR MONEYS. Greene’s going to do this by tying up all of Bolivia’s water and forcing the country to pay through the nose for it. He’s got a deal with the CIA (hello Leiter, you awesome man you, I know you’re not evil you’re just hanging with the wrong crowd) and he’s in the Mr White and a bunch of other big nobs. Basically, this is the new SPECTRE.
Bond goes to Bolivia to figure out what Greene’s up to and is met at the airport by Fields, from the consulate. Gemma Arterton has lovely reddish hair here, so clearly she’s Strawberry Fields but the writers choose not to actually go there in the dialogue. Fields tries to boss Bond around but he bosses her around instead and they end up in bed. Natch. (So the writers aren’t growing up that much.) And then she ends up dead, also natch, in a horrible call-back to Goldfinger: she’s covered in oil, because everyone thinks Greene is after that rather than water.
Anyway, Bond and Camille follow Greene and the general to the weirdest five-star hotel in the middle of a desert, and they proceed to destroy the place. Lots of glass gets broken in the process, Camille gets her revenge, Greene dies in the desert with motor oil in his stomach (which Bond sadistically gave him as he stumbled off).
This is, however, not the end of the film. Bond goes to Russia, and there confronts a man and a woman – the woman wearing a very familiar Algerian love-knot. She’s Canadian secret service, he’s Vesper OTP, Bond gives him to M and appears to have forgiven Vesper for her betrayal. So I guess that’s nice.
Oh, interesting cameo I forgot to mention: Mathis! Bond asks him for help, and after grousing about the torture that was all Bond’s fault, of course he goes along for the ride. And ends up dead in Bond’s car boot. Poor Mathis.
OH MY GOODNESS ONE FILM LEFT.
Oh the opening ! Cars, the tunnel, slightly grainy film and the noise ! This could be a Top Gear episode reviewing the exhaust noise of cars in a tunnel under a Romanian palace. For the film nerds this Bond was mostly shot on super 35mm which gives it a beautifully gritty and real if a slightly Bourne franchise look. Alex beat me to the punch, but the opening theme is great – Alicia Keys and Jack White. The opening credits, sand dunes (foreshadowing) and the graphic novel style is retained too, but with boobs – they’re back. Bond is still Bond.
The main event – Felix is back (on the right team, just not the local US team). Camille to Bond – ‘There is something horribly efficent about you’ – ‘Is that a compliment ?’ Fields covered in oil (again gazumped by Alex this review) Goldfinger style. All the while Bond is more and more dishevelled … I think nearly the whole film is made with him wearing one suit.
2.5 Martinis – served warm sitting out in the sun.
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Maybe I have to see it again, but my memories of this one are uniformly negative, start to finish.
Bond is still cold with flashes of humanity, there’s not enough M but she remains very good, Greene is cheesy and mostly enjoyable… not the greatest but definitely not the worst!