Tag Archives: pierce brosnan

Die Another Day

images 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 there is lots of ice, bad CGI, yet another space laser, and Madonna. Also North Koreans finally get to be the baddies.

Alex: This film turns on the idea of a sooky North Korean military official, Moon, who wants to make money but is prevented from doing so initially, we presume, by Also High Military Official Dad and then by James Bond spannering his plans. Presumed dead, he goes off and has his DNA changed and comes out looking like a preppy English public-school product (that’s a spoiler BTW) named Graves, and uses that – plus a load of diamonds – to fool the world and meanwhile construct a space laaaaaaser. Bond, naturally, ends up foiling GraveMoon’s plans.

That’s all well and par-for-Bond-good. However, my one enormous, abiding, overwhelming and rage-inducing problem with this film is not the dreadful CG and Bond surfing enormous avalanche-caused waves on a bit he ripped off a land-speed-record car. Nope, I can roll my eyes at that and deal with it. It’s not even the ludicrous, so-heavy-with-innuendo-I-can’t-believe-it-floats conversation that Bond and Jinx (Halle Berry) share. I dealt with Christmas Jones; I can avoid throwing things for this one. My problem is this: if you have a space-based solar shield thing that can be so focussed that it becomes a laser, and it’s capable of being so targeted that you can use it to chase a car across the icewhy the hell are you using it to blow up land mines in the Korean DMZ? Why aren’t you using it to pick off, I dunno, the White House?  Maybe the South Korean government buildings, if that’s who you’re really pissy at? Then go for Westminster, maybe the UN buildings in New York, and throw in the entirety of The Hague while you’re at it so you can’t ever be charged with war crimes? This part of the film utterly ruins any credibility GraveMoon might have had.

ANYWAY. The above is a real shame because the film begins as possibly the darkest of any Bond because he’s captured by the North Koreans and tortured. And rather than the credits being just full of nudey girls, the torture is shown in quite clever ways through diamond-cum-ice frames (both a theme throughout). This quite cleverly allows the audience to see the brutality but not get overwhelmed. It’s also the first time, I think, that the credits have been used to add to the storyline. There are still nudey girls, though, don’t worry.

images2imagesBond ends up being traded for a North Korean whose face he filled with diamonds, because the Americans think he’s spilled his guts, and after escaping from the Brits by stopping his own heart he ends up in Cuba, looking for Mr Diamond Face (Zao). While there he hooks up with Jinx and interrupts Zao’s facial reconstruction. Some time later Bond is back in Britain and has a sword fight with GraveMoon, whom Bond is just naturally suspicious of because he’s too good-looking (ok there’s a connection to conflict diamond but whatevs), and GraveMoon’s fencing teacher is Madonna. In leathers. And she gets to say that she won’t watch them because she doesn’t like cock fights. ZING.

Eventually Bond and GraveMoon and Jinx and GraveMoon’s assistant Miranda Frost end up in Iceland, and that’s when all the crap goes bad and there’s death the end. Oh wait, except for using a SPACE LASER to take out land mines. THEN it’s the end.

images3I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but Christmas Jones is better than Miranda Frost as a character. Oooh she’s all indifferent towards Bond, she’s Frosty, geddit?? For all of FIVE MINUTES. And yes, being a turncoat is relatively interesting, but not enough is made of it for it to actually be interesting. Jinx… well, it’s almost obvious now for a kick-ass woman to be an international agent, so the revelation that she’s NSA isn’t unexpected. She gets a couple of nice fight scenes, but I’m completely disinterested in girl-on-girl fights as a Thing (although theirs was ok as a fight), and really I think she should have tried harder to escape the ice prison. Also let’s not forget her callback to Ursula Andress is Doctor No, coming up out of the water to Bond’s waiting eyes, wearing a bikini. M is wonderfully cold in this film, especially at the start – she may be fond of Bond as a person but as an asset, the price for his freedom was too high and she’s not worried about him knowing it (and, to his beardy credit, Bond knows it too – I like these glimpses of professionalism).

imagesRacially I think this is quite problematic. After all, the Korean Moon does remake himself as a Westerner, and Zao tries to. (Incidentally, GraveMoon confronting Bond about his identity change is one of my favourite bits, with Moon saying he based Graves on Bond: “I paid attention to details – that unjustifiable swagger, the crass quips, the self-defence mechanism concealing such inadequacy.”) He couldn’t have stayed Asian and been as successful, got knighted, etc? Bah. But he and the other Koreans are no condemned for their race, which is good, and there’s not even really any comment on North Korea itself. Colin Salmon is back as a fairly powerful underling to M, Jinx is of course black… and there’s a fairly dodgy Chinese concierge-spy, and I’m not sure what I think of him.

Overall I think I have to call this a pretty disappointing end to the Pierce Brosnan era – one that started so well got, dare I say it, closer to the Roger Moore style of innuendos, and pushed the limits of CG beyond the realms of what was necessary. I do think the basic story lines stayed interesting – but then they have mostly done so for the whole series.

ETA: how could I forget?? The stewardess on the plane who serves Bond is Roger Moore’s daughter! That’s cool.


An invisible car which leaves tyre tracks in the snow is not invisible.  A space laser is so Connery and John Cleese returns as R … Q. This Bond did not light my fire. 2 Martinis.

The World is Not Enough

This review is part of Project Bond, wherein over the course of 2014 we watch all of the James Bond movies in production order.

imagesSummary: in which we get a Bond film that deals with both oil and nuclear weapons at the same time! Swoon! Also Denise Richards is a nuclear physicist and Hamish Macbeth is an unconvincing anarchist.

Alex: one of the things that people remember about this film is Denise Richards. Or maybe that’s just me. So let me get this bit out of the way first. I was already groaning in anticipation of rewatching her in this film. My thoughts were coloured by two things: the first time we see her, and the last time. The first time, she’s climbing out of a hazmat suit and the only way the camera could have fawned over her any more would have been to actually be touching her skin. It’s not quite a strip tease, but mostly because she’s still wearing clothes (a crop top and tiny shorts). Then the last scene… it might actually count as the worst line in Bond history, and let’s be honest that there’s some pretty… oh heck… stiff competition. Her name is Christmas Jones, and I’m pretty sure that’s her name solely in order to set up that last, appalling, joke: Bond saying “I thought images-6Christmas only came once a year.”

So yeh, my expectations were pretty low, and when you take in to consideration my love of Michelle Yeoh just a fortnight prior… I was resigned at best. Turns out, though, that Richards is better than I remembered. Yes her opening scene has her wearing ridiculous clothes, but later she mostly gets to wear sensible clothes (except when Bond is using her to distract someone, which I am not best pleased by). She doesn’t have the greatest dialogue – not her fault – and sometimes her delivery is a bit painful. But she is by no means the worst Bond girl ever, and she’s allowed to be competent at her job, too. Bond says “What do I need to defuse a nuclear bomb?” and she says: “Me.” And then she does it, too, on a speeding rig inside an oil pipeline. So Richards, you were better than I remembered. Good work.

Since I’m already talking about the women: Sophie Marceau… meh. She’s ok. I think the character of Elektra (yay Greek spelling!) is a fascinatingly complex and intriguing one: daughter of a construction baron, kidnapped then escaped when not ransomed; takes on father’s business but insists that it’s because the oil was found by her mother’s family – so Azerbaijani, I think? – and that her father stole it from them. So we get notes of colonialism  in different forms here, which is surprisingly deep. And it turns out that rather than having Stockholm Syndrome – since she’s working with the Big Bad – she turned him, to get revenge on her father. So she has great agency, even though the film insists that she must use her body in order to get it. But I wasn’t in love with Marceau’s performance, sadly (also I can’t help but have the line “I have heard about your…. woman” from Braveheart in mind, which is totally my problem not hers).

And M rocks, as always, and this time she’s in the field! And she manages to Magyver an alarm clock to rig a location beacon so Bond can find her! Brilliant. She’s also revealed to be a mother, which I am unconvinced was a necessary move.

So the plot: someone is sabotaging Elektra King’s pipeline, and because her father was M’s friend M sends Bond to investigate. It eventually turns out that Reynard the Anarchist is doing it – in collusion with Elektra, because the idea is actually to nuke Istanbul, making the three Russian pipelines impossible and therefore Elektra’s pipeline the only one that the West can access. So it’s partly about revenge (dad didn’t ransom me), partly about money, and for Reynard (Hamish Macbeth Robert Carlyle) images-2it’s both about love (of Elektra) and anarchy.

Well, I presume Reynard’s in it partly for the anarchy. He’s called an Anarchist by M et al, but to be honest you never see any real demonstration of his attachment to anarchy as an ideal. He’s also back to being that not-quite-normal Bond villain: he has a bullet in his brain that means he’s slowly losing all sensation, which apparently makes him super strong for some reason? Anyway I think he’s amongst the most boring of all Bond villains.

Far more interesting is Robbie Coltrane, another Scot playing a Russian, reprising his role as Valentin. How can you not love a character who greets Brosnan with “Bond James Bond!” Love it. His caviar factory gets sawn in half by a helicopter tree cutting saw, then he appears to die – but doesn’t – but then does, although not before helping Bond escape from Elektra. He’s a great cameo, almost replacing Felix Leiter I think.

The saddest part about this film is Bond’s scene with Q, wherein Q introduces him to his trainee – John Cleese – whom Bond dubs R. Bond asks, concerned, whether Q is really thinking about retiring; Q doesn’t reply. Desmond Llewellyn died at the end of the year this film was released (1999).

James: I disagree that Q doesn’t answer the retirement question …  Bond shows his dismay that Q is considering retirement and then Q signs off with his famous “Now pay attention, 007,” and then offers some words of advice: Q: “I’ve always tried to teach you two things: First, never let them see you bleed;” Bond: “And second?” Q: “Always have an escape plan” — before he is lowered out of view.  Foreshadowing! Back to the rest of the film then, the opening sequence is one of the best with a high speed boat chase on the Thames.  Like Alex I expected Denise to be more cheesy that she turns out to be, the character is overdone but then many things about this Bond are. Bond is issued with the usual modern era set of interesting gadgets; a ski jacket which can turn into a protection cocoon, another BMW to destroy and a watch with a grappling hook built in.  The twists and turns of the villains and not villains could have been very clever, but in the end Elektra has to explain it all or the film wouldn’t make sense.  2 Martinis.

Tomorrow Never Dies

images-4This 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 Michelle Yeoh is more bad ass than Pierce Brosnan, and the Bond franchise moves with the times to realise that the media can be more terrifying than lone wolf assassins.


See? Bad. Ass.

Alex: I love the opening to this film. M and various military people are watching a ginormous screen showing a Russian illegal arms bazaar, courtesy of some unnamed-but-we-know-it’s Bond British agent. Once they have confirmation that some important dude is there, the ranking admiral calls in a missile strike and M gets incensed that her man hasn’t had time to get out. And then Bond points out that he’s looking at a nuke OH NOES! Bond then steals the plane and the nuke. Natch. It’s a seriously awesome opening with good dialogue, good tension, great stunts. It sets the film up really nicely… although it actually doesn’t suggest the central premise, which is the power of the media.

The next scene doesn’t flag the media either: a British naval ship is overflown by a Chinese MiG saying the ship is in Chinese waters. Cut to a Scary Stealth Sub with a scary drill, and it turns out that someone is manipulating both the Brits and the Chinese. But then – oh then – we get a scene that’s basically a throwback to Blofeld: a white-haired man directing operations from a secret high-tech base, telling the men on the sub to kill the survivors in the water. What’s different here is that he’s writing headlines as he does it.


Elliot Carver. Oh, Elliot. You are so clearly meant to be Rupert Murdoch – or maybe that’s just my bias flashing. In my memory he was a bit more subtle than he turned out actually to be; Jonathan Pryce basically chews scenery in some parts of this film. It’s all about the eyebrows. It’s also how he’s written (so he’s like Jessica Rabbit?): this is a man who is pleased when new software is released deliberately full of bugs (so stereotyped Murdoch + stereotyped Bill Gates?), as well as bribing the US president to lower cable rates. And his biggest problem, what makes him act like a petulant little boy, is that China won’t let him play in their media space. BOO HOO. So he’s setting up a confrontation between the British and the Chinese, hoping that things go very badly and a Chinese general in his pocket will end up in charge. So… kinda like some other villains we’ve known, I guess, but this time rather than hoping desperately that people – world leaders, etc – will notice what he’s doing, Carver goes straight to the masses with his newspaper/media conglomerate. I really, really love this concept.images

The women? I’ve already mentioned Michelle Yeoh. She is so, so cool. She gets one awesome lone fight scene which is fantastic; she has images-5some great gadgets (walking down the side of a building, anyone?) and Bond acknowledges her as an equal. The scene with Bond and Wai Lin handcuffed together but riding a motorbike is a magnificent stunt set piece – and I especially love that it ends with a potentially provocative outdoor-fully-dressed shower scene… and she leaves him handcuffed to the shower. Did I mention she’s an agent of the Chinese equivalent of MI6? Intriguingly though the film reassures us that she’s not really a Communist; she specifically says that she doesn’t even own a Little Red Book. I don’t think they ever felt the need to reassure us about the Russian ladies not being Communist; China is somehow more scary? Who knows. I was sad that Wai Lin did indeed end up kissing Bond, but I guess I can’t have quite everything.

Bond can though; he starts off with revitalising a fling with Paris, now Elliot Carver’s wife and played by Terri Hatcher. This role always disappointed me, because Paris is just a pawn to be used by both Bond and Carver to their own ends. Bond’s regret for her ending up dead doesn’t make up for any of that.

And then there’s M, and Dench continues to bring the goods. Possibly my favourite exchange of the entire film:

Admiral Roebuck (played by Dench’s on-screen lover in As Time Goes By): “With all due respect M, sometimes I don’t think you have the balls for this job.”

M: “Perhaps. But the advantage is I don’t always have to think with them.”

Mic. Drop.

This film wasn’t quite as good as I remembered, but it’s still enjoyable and has very few cringeworthy moments.images-2

James: The height of modern technology, a Nokia clamshell ‘smart phone’, dates the gadgets in this Bond somewhat – Bond can however drive the car with it so that’s quite cool.  It is still one of my favourite modern era Bonds, a nice balance of humour, gadgets and action.  Why oh why does Bond (especially Brosnan it seems) have to tip off the villains that he knows (albeit with clever puns about being all at sea etc)? 3 Martinis


UnknownThis review is part of Project Bond, wherein over the course of 2014 we watch all of the James Bond movies in production order.

images-1Summary: in which Bond races a plane to the ground, a tank and a train play chicken, and Bond deals with a space laser. Again. Oh also he gets a new face. Again.

Alex: Now we get into the movies that I know really well. What can I say? I’m absolutely a product of my generation. And what’s fascinating is that this film, and Pierce Brosnan, feels much closer to what I understand as ‘classic’ James Bond – certainly more than the Moores, although perhaps I’m just biased… there’s the martini, the gambling, the cars, Q… a bit of banter but mostly cold-eyed getting-the-job done-ness. I mean, look at that stance (on the right). Doesn’t it just – well, not scream, but state politely and firmly and with a gun in its hand that this man will succeed?

The film opens with perhaps the most dramatic opening ever:

… marred only by the fact that there’s about three different hairstyles on the man involved. Oh well. Then a bit later Bond throws himself off another cliff and chases a plane to the bottom of a ravine and manages to get into the plane before it hits the bottom. I’m pretty sure there’s a fundamental lack of understanding of physics implicit in this scene. Oh! And we also saw Sean Bean, as Agent 006 (I don’t think we’ve ever met another oo agent?) get killed! (which just shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.) Although then he turns up as ‘starring’ in the credits – hmm, spoiler much?

Anyway then it’s nine years later, after the boob-filled credits, and Bond is driving fast in a car with a woman – at which point I realised: no woman in the prologue! Amazing!! This woman is meant to be evaluating Bond but instead is all gooey and giggly, and quite put out when Bond starts flirting with a woman in a fast red car who nearly gets them all, and a large peloton of cyclists, killed. This is Xenia Ontatopp, whose name makes even Bond pause, and proceeds to kill her Admiral-boyfriend. We know that she’s going to be bad not so much from the killing but because she’s clearly turned on by inflicting and receiving pain. This is clearly coded as abnormal, and as we know by now, Bond villains are generally abnormal in some way. Also, she goes on to steal a brand new fancy pants helicopter. Bad Xenia, bad!

Meanwhile, in Russia, Natalya the computer programmer is having to deal with sexual harassment from a colleague. Apparently this is funny. (This theme is repeated in an exchange between Bond and the new Moneypenny – back to being M’s secretary – who archly points out to Bond that Unknownhis statement could be seen as sexual harassment and that the punishment is one day having to make good on your insinuations. Way to go scriptwriters, in making sexual harassment at work a sexy sexy thing.) Anyway most everyone is killed pretty soon by Xenia and the space laser – I’m sorry, space-based EMP – called GoldenEye. The EMP is cool but perhaps to most striking thing about this scene is how modern it looks, with its banks of computers. Yes perhaps this dates me – after all they’re all big clunky CRT screens etc – but they’re still on desks, being used by individuals, and there’s a whole bunch of them.

Anyway, because of this event we go back to Britain and get to the best bit of the whole movie: the new M. Hello Dame Judi Dench I love you very much. Seriously the interaction between this M and Bond is the highlight of the entire thing. There’s disparaging discussion about her being a bean counter and then she turns up and is cold, calculating and totally ready to send a man off to die. She’s willing to accept when she’s wrong and she’s willing to do something about it. Also: “if I want sarcasm I’ll talk to my children,” and Bond is “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur.” So tough. So real. So human – “come back alive.”

images-2Eventually it turns out that the helicopter was stolen for Alec – Sean Bean – who’s not dead but is scarred (see? abnormal) and who was always going to use his position to hurt Britain in some way because his parents were Lienz Cossacks, betrayed by the British afterimages WW2. In a botched attempt to kill Bond, Alec introduces him to Natalya – and this picture, on the right, reflects no part of the film whatsoever at any point in time. They end up in Cuba, where they foil Alec’s plans for stealing lots of money and – perhaps more importantly – wiping London’s computer records and sending England “back to the Dark Ages.” Actually Alec, in the not-Dark Ages they had print copies so they would have been fine if you’d used an EMP on them. But I guess your history education is a bit lacking. Anyway, this plot idea is an interesting one – not physical destruction but informational. Also, it reminded me a lot of Die Hard with a Vengeance.

My assessment of the first Brosnan Bond? He looks like Dalton, which is interesting. I think it continues the more violent/’realist’ tendencies of Dalton but is somewhat softer; Brosnan already has more quips than Dalton. M is awesome – did I mention that? On the women issue, Natalya is highly competent as a computer programmer – despite being constantly undervalued by her arrogant “I am inVINCible” co-worker Boris. But Moneypenny is a bit sad, and Xenia chews the scenery like it’s going out of fashion, and Minnie Driver is just bizarre as a Russian gangster’s mistress strangling a cat singing “Stand by your Man.” The explosions are bigger than before, the stunts are incredible, and the chase scenes are fantastic. This is a very enjoyable film.

James: A modern action movie which hasn’t dated as much as I thought it might.  I had never realised how like Dalton Brosnan looked either until this re-watch.  We’re back to the cold war with great classic gadgets, though we see the rise of product placement with the Omega watch foreshadowing Nokia, BMW and others in future Brosnan films.  The portrayal of computer hacking is typical of movies from this era (or full stop?) – the slightly nerdy looking, yet likeable character madly bashes at a keyboard while others look on applying pressure of death or similar and some how when the hack is completed it’s always show in some very cartoonish visualisation rather than they reality of unix terminals and copying files off a system.  Q doesn’t disappoint with gadgets like a pen grenade and we introduce one of my favourite good bad guys Robbie Coltrane playing Valentine a Russian mobster.  The finale of the movie is magnificent set against the background of Arecibo’s 305m radio telescope dish built into a volcanic crater in Puerto Rico (and it really is).  It’s like a less rubbish version of the finale from You Only Live Twice in Japan.  3.5 Martinis.