Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Villain – 5, Girls – 7, Gadgets – 7, Action – 7
“It’s mostly dull routine of course, but every now and then you get to sail on a beautiful evening like this and sometimes work with a decadent agent of a corrupt Western power.”
No longer content with simply reporting the news, a media mogul (Jonathan Pryce) sets out to create the events that will drive ratings to his channels, magazines and newspapers. His efforts are directly to blame for the deaths of hundreds of servicemen so James Bond steps in to end his life and his empire.
Roger Spottiswoode takes the helm here, and the result is a solid follow-up to Brosnan’s debut. There are some strong action scenes including a car/motorcycle chase, and the presence of Michelle Yeoh as the ass-kicking Bond girl is a fantastic move. Pryce’s villain is a bit of a mixed bag in that he’s incredibly fun and exuberant, but he’s also less threatening because of it.
The World Is Not Enough (1999)
Villain – 6, Girls – 5, Gadgets – 6, Action – 6
“Remember, shadows stay in front or behind. Never on top.”
A businessman is killed within the walls of MI6 headquarters, and the assassination leads James Bond to a nuclear threat and a villain who can feel no pain (Robert Carlyle).
The series takes a chance on its first oddball choice for director here with Michael Apted, and he delivers another mostly solid installment for Brosnan. I say mostly because while the first hour is exciting thanks to a thrilling opening boat chase and a fun ski chase, the second half gets a feval pie in the face with the arrival of Dr Christmas Jones (Denise Richards). Her lack of sexiness, style and beauty is balanced by Sophie Marceau, but the damage is irreparable. From that point forward the movie feels dumber and looks just as bad thanks to same late in the game (and terrible) digital effects.
Die Another Day (2002)
Villain – 4, Girls – 5, Gadgets – 3, Action – 4
“I know all about you. Sex for dinner, death for breakfast.”
James Bond is captured inside North Korean and held captive for over a year, but when he’s finally released as part of a prisoner swap he discovers that both MI6 and the CIA believes he gave up sensitive information. He’s forced to go rogue to stop both a terrorist and a diamond mogul bent on terrorizing the world from space.
Welcome to the worst Bond film of all time.The opening action sequence on hovercrafts is good fun (even if it does feel like they’re not going very fast at times), and similarly, it’s nice to see Brosnan go the rogue route previously enjoyed by Dalton even if he never actually feels all that bad. But good god is this movie terrible. Director Lee Tamahori knows how to point a camera, but he’s so far out of his depths here that it’s embarrassing. Halle Berry famously mimics Andress’ ocean exit from Dr. No here while her character, Jinx, manages to be one of the rare Bond girls to hold her own in the action department, but she talks way too much. Add to that some weak plotting, stupidity like the invisible car and some spectacularly bad effects and logic during the whole Iceland segment and you have the Bond film that even managed to break Brian Salisbury.
Casino Royale (2006)
Villain – 5, Girls – 7, Gadgets – 5, Action – 8
“I knew M was a randomly assigned letter, but I had no idea it stood for…”
James Bond (Daniel Craig) is promoted to double O status, and his first mission sees him targeting Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a banker for terrorists, during a poker tournament at the Casino Royale in Montenegro. The mission seems fairly routine, but events spiral out of control as new details emerge.
From the worst Bond film to the best, Craig’s first foray as Bond starts the character off fresh and more than a little hard edged, and the result is the most dramatic and exciting film in the series. He’s quicker to action and far more likely to act on visceral emotion, and he’s believable in every action he makes. He also benefits from the return of director Martin Campbell who previously reinvigorated the franchise with Brosnan’s debut, Goldeneye. Eva Green classes up the joint too as an MI6 accountant who accompanies Bond on the mission and brings both beauty and emotional heft to the film. The movie also delivers on the action front including an incredibly fun foot chase that opens the film and a spectacular setpiece involving a building crumbling into the Venice canals. This is really as close to perfect as Bond has ever been.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Villain – 5, Girls – 7, Gadgets – 4, Action – 7
“It’d be a pretty cold bastard who didn’t want revenge for the death of someone he loved.”
Picking up shortly after the dramatic conclusion to Casino Royale, Bond’s latest adventure sees him on a path of revenge. His quest brings a new criminal organization to MI6′s attention as well as a pseudo environmentalist (Mathieu Amalric) manipulating third world countries for their resources.
Let’s just get this out of the way right now… I’m a huge fan of this film. I know it’s viewed as a massive misfire by many, and while some of the criticisms make sense most don’t. Yes it’s too short and yes the stand alone story is slim by comparison, but I think of it as a dark coda to Craig’s first film, a piece tailor made to watch immediately after Casino Royale, and it works brilliantly for me. To be honest, I’m also a sucker for Olga Kurylenko. The addition of a Bond girl who manages to be sexy and capable while also featuring more depth than all previous gals combined is something special. The action scenes are solid, including the opening car chase that while edited a bit too tightly is still entertaining, and Bond’s character arc gets a nice denouement as well. It deserves a re-evaluation.
The Bond 50 Blu-ray set comes packaged in an exterior case holding two sturdy “books” which break the 22 films into the two previously mentioned halves. Each page holds two movies, each in their own sleeve, and final page includes a bonus disc as well as a space for Skyfall (which will be released to Blu-ray sometime next year).
The films look and sound amazingly good for their age with only some minor wear and tear visible on the older titles. The films that have already seen a previous Blu-ray release have simply been ported over with new cover artwork, and the ones that are new to the format will see individual releases in the coming months as well. The extra features are monumental, and even though the vast majority of them have been previously available they’re still an invaluable resource for Bond-related information and minutiae.
The latter half of the set is a bit less impressive than the first though because the awesome “Inside…” featurettes disappear after the first several films. And in an act of laziness the Quantum of Solace disc is the same one that’s been available already including the same menu. That’s a cheap and lame move since it now stands apart from every other film in the set.
Going into this Disc Spotlight I had seen only a handful of James Bond films beyond the two Daniel Craig entries. My opinion of the pre-Craig era was not a good one, instead seeing the series as pure fluff playing to viewers with low standards. Having watched all 22 films in a row though I’m happy to admit how wrong I’ve been. My tastes still don’t align with the masses… Goldfinger is a laughably bad movie people… but I found far more to love than to laugh at.
For the record, my favorite Bond and Bond film remain Craig and Casino Royale, but thanks to this set I’ve discovered a great affection for Dr. No, Live and Let Die, Licence to Kill and Goldeneye too. And while the latest film, Skyfall (my review), has some flaws it’s still a tremendous entertainment and a great sign that James Bond is here to stay.
Buy Bond 50 on Blu-ray from Amazon