Each of our Film Journeys is a distilled exploration of the career of someone in movies. Sometimes it’s a director, occasionally a composer but this time, we’re going to do something a little different. We’re only days away from the release of SPECTRE, the 24th film in the James Bond franchise. A film franchise that has lasted for more than 50 years as is as strong as it ever was. So, to celebrate the new film and all that has gone before, we are doing a Film Journey of James himself.
So, I guess it’s time to come clean, who’s my favourite Bond actor? Well mine is Roger Moore. Yes he’s cheesy and yes his Bond isn’t as dark as other interpretations, but that’s exactly why I like him. It’s a pretty safe bet to say that we all know our favourite actor to play Bond … but when asked ‘what’s your favourite Bond film’, can we be so sure?
We usually pick three films as suggestions for you to revisit to see more of the work of our focus for that particular Film Journey and this week is no exception; except we’re going to look at six films, so apologies for rattling through them so quickly.
Connery Era Suggestion
Our first film is a Connery era Bond – GOLDFINGER. Whilst DR.NO started it all, (when talking about the film franchise), GOLDFINGER is where Bond really hit his stride. It was the third outing for Sean Connery as James Bond, it gave us Honor Blackman who’s character had a moniker that few can forget, it introduced us to the always dependable Desmond Llewelyn as ‘Q’, and, as became his trademark, he had the best line of all Connery Bonds:
BOND: Ejector seat? You must be joking!
Q: I never joke about my work, 007.
Lazenby Era Suggestion
For our next film we whizz a few years forward to ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, this time staring George Lazenby, in his only outing as the super spy. It’s a wildly different style for the films and, as a stand-alone, it works well. This film, more than any other, gave Bond a soul; by introducing Diana Rigg as the woman who tames his ways and, eventually, becomes his bride. But, spoiler alert, it doesn’t end well for the newly weds. This was also the film that gives the most credence to the theory that ‘Bond’ is actually just a codename and that with each actor to play him, we’ve actually been seeing a different spy assume the name of Bond. Most of that theory is based around a line, as said by Bond, in this film. As he looses both a fight with henchmen and then ‘the girl’, he turns to the camera and says;
BOND: Well that never happened to the other guy!
Moore Era Suggestion
Now we’re in the Roger Moore era of Bonds and the film to look out for here is FOR YOUR EYES ONLY. This was the fifth time Moore played Bond and he is really comfortable in the role now. Moore Bonds are often dismissed as being ‘camp’ and over the top; however FOR YOUR EYES ONLY came straight after MOONRAKER, which was, even for die-hard Bond fans quite a stretch. So here, we see a darker, grittier Bond … well, as ‘dark’ and ‘gritty’ as Roger Moore gets. This film has everything you’d want from a Bond film: car chases, ski chases, underwater action, set-pieces dangling hundreds of feet off a mountain top, all set against a funk-filled soundtrack from Tom Conti. With Moore playing it a little rougher and a very neat twist involving the true identity of the main villain it’s cracking entertainment and, on top of all that, you have Q back on top form:
Q: I disregard these jibes about our equipment, 007. I don’t suppose you find it funny in the field!
Dalton Era Suggestion
After Moore came Timothy Dalton, with two instalments: THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS, (which was written for Roger Moore, but plays well with Daltons’ harder take on Bond), and LICENSE TO KILLm which stars a very young Benicio Del Toro. These two are an odd couple in that they are so similar and yet so different. Daltons’ Bond was much edgier; he played him with an attitude that meant he didn’t waste any time and certainly didn’t suffer fools. A scene in LICENSE TO KILL, for example, shows him disobeying a direct order from M, the head of British intelligence.
BOND: Sir, they’re not going to do anything. I owe it to Leiter* … He’s put his life on the line for me many times.
M: Oh spare me this sentimental rubbish! He knew the risks.
BOND: …and his wife?
M: This private vendetta of yours could easily compromise Her Majesty’s government. You have an assignment and I expect you to cary it out objectively and professionally.
BOND: Then you have my resignation, sir.
M: We’re not a country club, 007!
*Leiter refers to Felix Leiter, a CIA operative that helps Bond on many missions and becomes he good friend
Brosnan Era Bond:
Our penultimate film for you to watch to catch up on the character of Bond is GOLDENEYE. This was the first film for Pierce Brosnan as he took over the role of Bond. Although he was tipped for the role before Dalton, his contractual obligations on TV show Remington Steel meant that he missed his first-chance at playing Bond.
It had been 6 years since the last Bond film and so the producers brought in director Martin Campbell to take on the reins. GOLDENEYE was everything the franchise needed Bond to be, with Brosnan playing him tough, but suave and always with the hint of a twinkle in his eye … in essence, pretty much all the previous Bonds rolled into one. Highlights from this film include Bond straightening his tie knot mid tank battle and, of course, our dear friend Q again:
Q: “DON’T TOUCH THAT! That’s my lunch!”
Craig Era Suggestion:
Our final film in this James Bond Film Journey is CASINO ROYALE; the first outing for Daniel Craig. By the time Brosnan had played the spy five times the franchise had hit a spot of fan lethargy and so a shake up of the formula was required. Once again the producers called on director Martin Campbell, who came back and, effectively, launched the franchise for a second time in just over a decade.
CASINO ROYALE sees Bond start from scratch again. It was never called a reboot because, with 24 official films, a number of ‘non-canon’ films, books, short stories, video games and all sorts of other stories attached to the character, you can never really remove that cultural baggage and start afresh. Which is why it was so surprising that ‘fresh’ is possibly one of the best words to use hen describing CASINO ROYALE.
With SPECTRE about to be released worldwide in a few days time this list of Bond films to watch may well go out of date, but, as we’ve seen time and time again with this franchise; whilst the style of filmmaking may change from era to era, there is, as they say, one man we can always count on. One name that signifies reliability above all else: Bond, James Bond.
- Benicio Del Toro
- Casino Royale
- Daniel Craig
- Desmond Llewelyn
- Diana Rigg
- For Your Eyes Only
- George Lazenby
- Honor Blackman
- James Bond
- License To Kill
- Martin Campbell
- On Her Majesty's Secret Service
- Pierce Brosnan
- Remington Steel
- Roger Moore
- Sean Connery
- The Living Daylights
- Timothy Dalton
- Tom Conti