You may recall a while ago I wrote a retrospective of DAD in light of its 10th anniversary. You can find it here:
Having watched the film again, I became more curious about exploring Pierce Brosnan’s other outings as 007. So I recently re-watched the TWINE and was very impressed with what I saw overall. The one overwhelming factor I noticed when watching the film was quite how good Pierce was in the movie. It all made me begin to wonder whether Brosnan in fact offered the most definitive version of the character in that film.
Firstly, the actual movie itself is deeply underrated and I for one am shocked that we live on a planet where the below-par DAD is considered superior to TWINE. I mean, really? Surely now in a post-reboot/Daniel Craig-era we can finally appreciate TWINE as the forgotten and disregarded gem of the franchise.
The opening of the movie is tremendous, the scene in the Swiss bank is Bondian-to-the-max, but in particular Brosnan really displays a dark tinge to the character in those early moments. The way he coldly executes the men followed by that close-up snarl before grabbing the Banker by the scruff of the neck and forcing him to count to three at gunpoint. It’s a dark scene, plagued with black humour and works well because Pierce plays it’s so straight. But it’s here we get the first revelation towards a more gritty realistic take on the character. He’s a spy and he kills people, it’s all very glamorous but also extremely dangerous. The boat chase is a perfect end to a fantastic pre-title sequence (I think the best), there’s just something about seeing those boats race across the Thames. What is most exhilarating is the fact that we can actually see that it is Pierce in the boat, it really gives a heightened sense of danger and excitement to see our leading man actually taking part in the action. The Thames chase is really the statement piece of the movie and it works well in really establishing a “And We’re Back” feeling to the Bond world. It’s high-class, sexy and audacious, everything Bond should be.
Garbage’s title song is also on-point, but let down by Kleinman’s titles which just seem to slowly descend into a techno-coloured mess. His lowest point I dare say. So does TWINE live up to the promise it generates in its opening gambit? In short, yes.
Why? Well, that’s easy to answer: the central dynamic between Bond and Elektra is really what makes this film tick. Brosnan maintains the darker grittier approach he displayed in the title sequence throughout the movie, but he marries it with his suave sophisticated persona that he has become so associated with. When I see him seduce the Doctor (wearing some rather lovely underwear) I really believe that she wants to sleep with him, Brosnan literally oozes with charisma and has always handled this aspect of Bond’s character with ease. It is in the TWINE that he really brings the danger back to Bond having already demonstrated how well he can handle the lighter moments. It is then the Elektra relationship that really gives him the chance to shine and build upon the character.
While TWINE is a Bond film with all the trimmings, it is after all front-loaded with a large amount of absurd gadgets, girls, cars and exotic locales; but overall it feels less a servant to these elements than previous instalments. The film while offering the trappings of a Bond film and adhering to the formula is able to elevate above it somehow through exploring the central relationship with Bond the girl, this a Bond movie 'and some'. What Michael Apted has done is essentially make a more character-driven film which really lets Brosnan and Sophie Marceau fill the screen with a resounding amount of pathos. It’s their odd macabre relationship that keeps you hooked, the pair’s fling never feels forced and instead we are greeted with this delightfully interplay between the two which creates this rather twisted and interesting relationship. It’s made even more satisfying that Elektra is later revealed as the film’s villain, which boils down to that fantastic torture scene finale (one of the best scenes in any Bond film in my opinion). The twist is a really underrated moment in the film, which has been made more prevalent thanks to The Dark Knight Rises essentially ripping it off (Bane and Talia a poor man’s Renard and Elektra). Brosnan is at his best when he’s going toe-to-toe with Marceau, and the best scenes in the film feature the pair of them.
There is also a great vulnerability on show in Pierce’s Bond here. We see him really get hurt and take a beating. Often praise is lauded on Craig’s portrayal on drawing on this aspect, but Brosnan did it first and just as well. We know Bond is in a bad way because of his shoulder but Apted also opens him up psychologically by allowing Elektra to explore 007’s persona that little bit more than we are used to. Elektra break him down in such a way that no other woman before has, not even Tracy and she exploits him. Does Bond love her? I think so, and Elektra plays on this, almost taunting him for being so foolish.
The second act of the film doesn’t let off either , here Bond actually does some spying (something Roger Moore forgot to do) and the Kazakhstan segment of the film really cements the darker grittier Bond that Brosnan and Apted have carved. His first meeting with Renard is brooding and intense, I love the line “Cold-blooded murder is a filthy business” all while screwing on a silencer. Brosnan does, on occasion, have a tendency to slip slightly into the hammy, his reaction to Renard’s “No point in living...” is overacting at its best. So Brosnan’s acting can be slightly ‘loud’ at times, but if anything Pierce works better in those quieter moments when he doesn’t have to really make a case that he is ‘acting’ (think back to that great moment in the jacket bubble where Electra is having a panic attach or the final moment where he is holding her at gunpoint – quieter and more intense moments where he really shines).
Marceauis really stunning, she is truly the most beautiful Bond girl there has ever been. She is seamless at portraying both sides of Electra’s character and its undeniable that her role is the best part written for a woman in a Bond film to date. Everything to her hair, to jewellery to costume design is impeccable and all add to creating this wonderful exotic beauty who is very easy to fall in love with. Robert Carylise is also great, and the central premise of his character is pure Bond villainy at its best – a baddie who feels no pain- excellent. It’s a neat touch how he still holds mi6 responsible for his soon-to-be death, opposed to the bullet-in-the-brain merely being a jumping off point in carving a villainous characture. A lot has been said about Denise Richards, so I may loose credibility when I say that I’m really not that fussed about her. It’s not that Christmas really adds to the film, but she hardly detracts from it either. I think she works and is perfectly serviceable to the story.
The action is slightly excessive at points, and occasionally does feel rather staged. However, Brosnan is very good at it at and seeing him in action really adds to the excitement of the piece. Furthermore, the film is headed and tailed by two fine actions sequences, the submarine finale for me is up with some of the best, its vertigo-inducing at the same time as being pulse-pounding when delivering thrills. You can feel Apted’s documentarian soul coming across in the execution of the story, and the way it subtly deals with the politics of the oil world. Furthermore the photography of the movie is stunning, Adrian Biddle gives the film a really rustic lived-in feel, furthermore the sets are great with Elektra’s bedroom being a particularly stand-out. The only thing I really didn’t like where the last 2 minutes, M is apparently safe and sound in Scotland and Bond is having ‘Christmas in Turkey’ – talk about resorting to formula. It’s almost a default /screensaver ending and undoes a lot of the good work the film has done up to that point.
So in sum up, TWINE delivers all the Bond thrills and spills you have come to expect but with an added dimension of character and pathos. The central relationship between Bond and Elektra is really makes this film work. The movie also harnesses a very complete and intriguing revelation into the character’s persona, as it is here 007 is vulnerable and human but still as charismatic and suave as ever. This is made even more interesting by the darker and tougher shade displayed by the character throughout the movie.
The TWINE really does feel like the watershed before the DC era, it just seems a shame the more fantastical DAD strayed away from this path. So did Brosnan offer a definitive characterisation of 007? Well it may be a slightly bold claim, but at least the film had the guts to not rely and fall back on the forumla so readily and was willing to show those shades of grey in the character. What do we think?