Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

No Time To Die (2021)

© Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Eon Productions

No Time To Die – Film Review

Cast: Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ana de Armas, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes

Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga

Synopsis: After spending time living a peaceful, retired life, James Bond is brought back to the world of assassins and espionage when an old friend approaches him to request his help for a new mission…

Review: It has been a difficult journey for the 25th instalment of the James Bond franchise to make its way to the big screen. A planned November 2019 release date that never materialised due to creative differences, which led to initial director Danny Boyle to depart the project. The injury that star Daniel Craig suffered during its production. All of which were compounded by the multiple enforced delays to its planned release due to the COVID pandemic. It was beginning to feel like there was an unbreakable curse on this film, that would prevent it from ever seeing the light of a big cinema screen. For a film that was marketed as Daniel Craig’s final bow in this role, it has been an agonising wait for it to finally be unveiled to the public. Now at last, Craig’s Bond takes aim at his final mission, and it was worth the wait.

Following on from the events of Spectre, Bond and Madeleine (Seydoux) are living a peaceful, quiet life in picturesque Italy. However, it isn’t long before their romantic bubble is burst when some startling revelations about the past are uncovered, which threatens to tear their relationship apart. Determined to find some answers, Bond teams up with old ally Felix Leiter (Wright) who approaches Bond for his help with a mission that leads back to some familiar faces, whilst uncovering a deadly plot at the hands of the villainous Safin (Malek), that threatens to unleash global destruction.

For a time, it was very uncertain whether Craig would continue in the role due to some infamous comments that he once made when asked if he would return to the role. Right throughout his tenure, Craig has always thrown everything he’s got into the role, and it is fitting that his final turn as this iconic character is possibly his best performance. He’s a character who has been on quite the journey since we first met him back in Casino Royale. While he often exhibits the cold and stoic persona that would be demanded of a paid assassin, there is a substantial amount of emotion to his final portrayal of this character. Of the new cast members, the standout is easily Lashana Lynch’s Nomi, a new double 0 agent that Bond must work with on this mission. Ana de Armas as the CIA agent Paloma that Bond also teams up is also another delightful addition to this cast. Given that they worked together to wonderful effect in Knives Out, the chemistry between de Armas and Craig is perfect. Frustratingly, she’s given a scarce amount of screen time.

Following the tragic fate of Vesper Lynd, it would have seemed unlikely that any other woman would capture Bond’s heart. Yet, following on from her introduction in the previous film, Lea Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann proved otherwise, given it was her that prompted Bond’s decision to retire from the life of a double 0-agent. Her performance, and the relationship that she shares with Bond here very much represents the heart of the film. There’s been no shortage of memorable women in the history of this franchise, and when looking back at this era of the Bond franchise, it will be hard not to recognise her as one of the more noteworthy Bond ladies. While Craig and Seydoux are the heart and soul of the film, it would not be a Bond film without the supporting cast. The familiar faces of Naomie Harris’s Moneypenny, Ralph Fiennes as M, and especially Ben Whishaw’s Q are all once again excellent.

The Craig era has introduced us to some of the most iconic villains, from Le Chiffre and Silva in Casino and Skyfall respectively, Malek’s Safin is not quite as memorable as the aforementioned villains. Nevertheless, he is a calm, methodical antagonist who proves to be more than a match for 007. While he was not the first choice for the director’s gig, Cary Fukunaga proved to be the perfect director for the task of giving Craig’s Bond the send off that he deserved. Craig’s Bond era has set the benchmark for gripping opening action scenes. From the enthralling opening action scene, to every action scene that the film packs into is run time, there’s a grittiness and intensity that is consistent throughout all of the action that gets the adrenaline pumping, aided by an excellent score from the maestro that is Hans Zimmer.

At 2 hours and 43 minutes, this is the longest film in the franchise’s history. Fukunaga worked on the script alongside franchise regulars Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. As such, the film is filled with everything you have come to expect from a Bond film, as well as one of the best one-liners in this franchise’s history. One suspects that could be down to the script polishes that came courtesy of Phoebe Waller-Bridge. However, that run time does feel overly long as the film does suffer from pacing issues in a handful of places. The James Bond franchise is one that has endured over multiple decades and with five films across nearly 15 years in this role, Daniel Craig bows out of this franchise with a legacy that will live forever.

The expectations were enormous, and after an agonisingly long wait, Craig’s final bow has met those expectations in an enthralling and stylish manner. A fitting send off for one of the best actors to ever don Bond’s tuxedo.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review, London Film Festival 2019

Knives Out (2019)

Image is property of Lionsgate and Media Rights Capital

Knives Out – Film Review

Cast: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Christopher Plummer

Director: Rian Johnson

Synopsis: After a family patriarch dies in mysterious circumstances, a highly renowned private investigator is hired to lead the police inquiry…

Review: After making one of the most polarising blockbusters of all time in The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson would have been forgiven for taking a break from film-making, given the fierce, at times toxic, reaction that his Star Wars film generated. Yet, Johnson was having none of that and has wasted no time getting back into the game. After conceiving the idea of a murder mystery following the release of Looper, he takes obvious inspiration from the likes of Agatha Christie to give his own unique take on the “Whodunnit” genre, with extremely enthralling results.

As with all entertainment that centres on a murder mystery, it pays to know as little as possible about any plot details before diving head first into the madness. Therefore, vagueness is the name of the game from this point onwards. As he celebrates his 85th birthday party with his family, a family patriarch dies. Sensing something suspicious about the circumstances of the death, an official investigation is opened. As the tagline reads: “Hell, any of them could have done it.” As such, with everyone who attended the party a suspect, the detectives must interview the family members, and use those “little grey cells” in a bid to piece together the clues and to try and crack the case.

The most attractive group of suspects you’ll maybe ever see…

With such a stacked, A-list, ensemble cast, to give everyone their moment to shine would be extremely difficult. However, with a sharp and brilliantly witty script, Johnson does exactly that, and it enables him to get excellent performances out of everyone. Every member of this family is given fascinating, fleshed out back stories, which enables the audience to try and establish their potential motivations. Though, like all great murder mysteries, the audience is kept on their toes. Though, to go into too much detail about who gives the best performances is running the risk of getting into spoiler territory. With that in mind, let’s just say that, apart from Daniel Craig’s brilliant turn as the lead detective channelling his inner Poirot (if Poirot ever became a gruff Southern sleuth), the characters who wind up being at the centre of this investigation, are the best of a truly outstanding bunch.

There’s some ingenious subtext to the story that could have been a massive turn-off. However, it’s written so cleverly into the plot that makes it relevant and extremely entertaining. With every line of dialogue, Johnson’s passion for the genre comes across effortlessly, and he proves that he is a master of his craft. There’s also the distinct possibility that with some of the lines that these characters spit venomously at each other, that it’s Johnson’s subtle way of firing back, following the vitriol that was aimed in his direction following his Star Wars venture. For a film that centres on a murder investigation, it seems absurd that there’d be so many hilarious moments throughout. They are plentiful and they never feel out of place as the jokes keep the plot moving along at such a thrilling, kinetic pace. It ensures that not a single moment of the film’s run-time is wasted.

Bolstered by some immaculate, very colourful production design, this was the perfect film for Johnson to “bounce back” from the endless mire of the The Last Jedi backlash. It proves, if it were somehow ever in doubt that, Johnson’s mastery of the craft remains intact, and that he’s at the very top of his game as a writer and a director. Furthermore, it’s evident from every frame, that the cast are having a blast with this script, and there’s a good chance that this feeling will be reciprocal for the audience. It will make them want to grab their deerstalker hat and magnifying glass, and strive to  solve the riddle at the centre of this enthralling mystery.

A razor sharp, ingenious screenplay, backed by an impeccable ensemble cast ensures that Johnson’s modern update on the Whodunnit genre is an audacious, riveting spectacle. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Skyfall (2012)

skyfall
Image is property of Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Sony Pictures and Columbia Pictures

Skyfall – Film Review

Cast: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Naomi Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Bérénice Marlohe

Director: Sam Mendes

Synopsis: When MI6 comes under attack from an unknown threat, Bond finds his loyalty to the organisation and M, put under extreme pressure. Shaken from a near death experience, Bond must put aside questions and hunt down the ominous threat looming over MI6.

Review: Dr No, the first time a suave and charismatic agent known as James Bond came onto screens and audiences got their first look at what has since become an iconic character and franchise. In those fifty years, 23 films arrived, and on the fiftieth anniversary of the franchise, the 23rd film in this remarkable franchise blasted its way onto our screens and in doing so with Daniel Craig’s third outing as 007 cemented itself as one of the best the series has ever seen in its long and illustrious history, and for Craig to once again reinforce himself as one of the finest actors to ever don the 007 tuxedo and hold that license to kill.

In this latest adventure, Mr 007 has been through some trouble and in a brilliant opening chase sequence, is after an important piece of hardware that has some top secret information on it (as par the norm with Bond!) Yet when things go awry and it is only due to desperate need that he returns to espionage duty when a large threat is hanging over the British Secret Service. Yet he is not in the best of shape and must get back into the game. As per the course, we have our usual Bond elements, beautiful women, gadgets, and the so on. However what Skyfall does so brilliantly is make Bond a human being and a man with layers to him. He is not a superhero, he is mortal and at his heart he’s a very wounded man. You really feel Bond’s mortality in this story, he could very easily die and credit for that must go to screenwriters Robert Wade, Neal Purvis and John Logan.

As well as making Bond a very wounded and human character, the screen-writing team also deliver an astounding script with a very good story that keeps you engaged. With each passing film Craig cements himself as the perfect actor to play Bond. In addition, Dame Judi Dench as M probably gives the best performance she ever has in the role. She has dark secrets that she has been keeping from Bond and it really tests the relationship she has with him. With our heroes in place, a good villain is paramount and an essential ingredient of any Bond movie. Enter Oscar winner Javier Bardem as the ruthless, cold, Raoul Silva, a former MI6 agent who threatens to unleash chaos on the world. A brilliant and masterful portrayal from the man who chilled everybody to the bone in No Country For Old Men. Here he delivers another wounded performance that is certainly up there with the very best villains that this franchise has ever seen.  Another stellar addition to the cast is the addition of a youthful Q, played by the brilliant Ben Whishaw, who provides some sharp and witty banter with Bond when presenting him with his innovative new gadgets. The cast all play their roles exceptionally well.

With the addition of Roger Deakins as cinematography, the film is visually beautiful with some remarkable shots of astounding beauty and brilliance. In addition to this Sam Mendes did a masterful job behind the camera with some breathtaking direction.  With Thomas Newman’s top notch score to boot, all of the elements mesh perfectly to create a brilliant, exhilarating and enthralling adventure that  ticks all the boxes a Bond film should have but adds darker elements in there with the traditional, to brilliant results. What’s more, the film has an Oscar winning theme song to boot! Vodka Martini shaken and stirred to perfection Mr Bond!

Visually magnificent, with some expert directing, some great acting, particularly from Craig, Dench and Bardem, Bond celebrated his 50th birthday with an almighty bang! 

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Casino Royale (2006)

Casino Royale
Image is property of Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Columbia Pictures

Casino Royale – Film Review

Cast: Daniel Craig, Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Judi Dench, Tobias Menzies, Jeffrey Wright

Director: Martin Campbell

Synopsis: Having recently acquired his double 0 status, Bond is tasked with the mission taking down a terrorist funder, which may involve a high stakes poker game at Casino Royale, with several millions on the table.

Review: So for the 21st film in this remarkable franchise, we go back to the beginning, to the very first novel that Ian Fleming’s literary career. A fresh take on the character for the 21st century audience. With this reboot, came a new face into the iconic role, that of Mr Daniel Craig and a script by frequent Bond screenwriters Robert Wade and Neal Purvis, with the addition of Paul Haggis, with the director of Goldeneye Martin Campbell on board, these combinations were a match made in Double O Heaven! The usual elements come into the mix, of stunts, exotic and beautiful locations, women, cars and exhilarating action scenes that truly get the heart pumping. It’s the perfect mix of classic old school Bond, fused with modern elements.

Having recently obtained his Double 0 agent status, in a rather explosive intro scene, Bond is ultimately tasked with bringing down a man who provides funding for international terrorists. The introduction sets the pace going immediately and the action is fast paced but it is not relentless. There are moments to let him catch his breath and fall in love with another seductive and sexy Bond lady, played by the gorgeous Eva Green. Like many Bond ladies, she’s charming and beautiful but she is a woman of mystery with some secrets of her own. The chemistry between the two of them is fascinating and great to watch them exchange banter whilst falling deeply in love, and Green’s performance certainly puts her up with there with the very best of the Bond ladies of the past.

Facing Bond is the terrorist banker Le Chiffre, played by an electric Mads Mikkelsen. This man is the cold and manipulative villain who while displaying ruthless villainous traits shows a sense of vulnerability, which centres around his own beautiful and lethal lady friend. As the financer for the world’s terrorists, he is forever looking his own shoulder and in many ways you almost feel for him. Mikkelsen gives a tremendous performance and while not quite being the best villain the franchise has ever seen, he more than holds his own. Of course Judi Dench provides a stern and authoritative, yet compassionate turn as M once again.

When Craig was cast, he was met with a little bit of backlash from the fans, with some threatening to boycott the film in protest over his casting. However, with film this he certainly proved he was more than capable of holding his own in the role and he has since established himself as among the very best of the actors who have had the honour of donning the dinner jacket, firmly silencing the doubters. He also shows he’s capable of handling the action scenes, pulling off his best Tom Cruise with his running style. While there are some slow scenes for sure, it allows the audience to catch its breath. The poker scenes are brilliantly filmed, with tension filled moments a plenty.

The directing, score and cinematography are all excellent and this film proved to be the much needed reinvention of the franchise after the disappointment that was Die Another Day. The perfect start for Craig, and reinforcement of Martin Campbell’s credentials as a Bond film maker, having successfully launched the careers of both Craig and Pierce Brosnan in the role as the suave agent with Goldeneye. Bond was back, and his accuracy was on point, and aren’t we all glad it was?

The perfect reinvention for the franchise with some incredible action, intriguing and tension filled dialogue with Craig proving himself in the role and a tremendous showing from Eva Green, the perfect start for Craig. 

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