Few if any Bond films are perfect. Most of the best have their moments that cause me to cringe, and the silliest still have a cool moment or two or three. But, what I want to address here are the ones that are great for the first hour or more (or less) and then turn to crap, or have a great mid-section but is bookeneded by schmaltz. This is frustrating as Hell. That feeling of almost having another one of the greats, but then everything goes horribly wrong. I want to take these films and chop them down to half hour or hour-long mini-movies. I apologize if this post is covering old ground.
I’m not including THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH. I think that despite temporarily going off the rails when Denise Richards shows up, and the seemingly endless and schlocky scene in the caviar plant, it corrects course fairly quickly and still manages to end up being a very good Bond film.
This is my personal list, and I’d like to hear about other people’s opinions as to which Bond films fall into this category and why. I have five: (from most to least offensive)
1. DIE ANOTHER DAY - I usually rank this as my least favorite Bond film, but for the first 29 minutes it is an EXCELLENT Bond film. Great pre-title sequence and (though it’s taken me awhile to warm up to Madonna’s song) a great title sequence. For the first time we get to see Bond tortured and facing death in a very human way. Brosnan is never better in the role. The scene where he is traded for Zao, and the implication that he is going to be executed leading up to it, are some of the most intense moments in the series. But after the half hour mark it becomes a cacophony of bad Halle Berry, bad puns, bad dialogue, the invisible car, CGI stunts (which is what I find to be the unforgivable sin of this picture, Bond has a rich history of awe-inspiring stunts which put real human beings in danger), super-villains and Madonna. We do get a great sword fight thrown in there, but that’s about it. It’s a shame.
2. TOMORROW NEVER DIES – Almost exactly one half of a very good Bond film. At the 58-minute mark something goes dreadfully wrong. Wonderful moments like Bond waiting for Teri Hatcher with the gun and vodka or the confrontation with Dr. Kaufman, and much more, give way to nearly incessant automatic gunfire and cheesy overly choreographed martial arts scenes that carry no humanity underneath. And the chemistry between Bond and Michelle Yeoh is pretty much non-existent. She’s an able enough actress, but being required to use unfamiliar English phrases and make innuendos in her second language comes off forced and stiff. She would have been better served to use expressions that were more comfortable and natural to her. The whole last twenty minutes or so are a total wreck. Very disappointing.
3. FORYOUR EYES ONLY – Much as I wanted to see Blofeld return, except for Bond visiting Tracy’s grave, that pre-title was a joke. Then we are treated to the most down to earth, gritty Bond film of Moore’s reign. Aside from some extremely dopey bits (the fricking talking parrot who gives away Kristotos’ location, the hockey rink and Bebe) this is a tough Bond. After not seeing him shoot his PPK once in MOONRAKER, it was great seeing him use it like an appendage here. We see Bond in some real danger and he actually gets bloodied up pretty good. And picking up lost bits from previous books like LIVE AND LET DIE was a nice touch for us fans of Fleming. Then we get the horrible, unbelievably goofy finale with the faux Thatcher. It almost ruins the entire picture and stops me from ranking FYEO among my favorites.
4. THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS – I still count this among the better Bond films, it fluctuates between number 9 and 12 in my rankings. For about two-thirds it is a fantastic Bond film (hate the theme song and opening credits, though). Sure, a few bits go too far over the top, such as the Russian plant manager being distracted from all off the alarms going off by having his head shoved between the full-figured gal’s boobs and the Aston Martin’s rockets, but it’s generally right on the ball. I love the pre-title sequence and I was overjoyed that the short story which the film is based on is kept pretty much intact. And Necros is the only post-Red Grant tall blond henchman that I actually like. But once we go to Afghanistan the film just dies. It becomes slow and even ridiculous at times. The confrontation with Whitaker is decent, but why doesn’t Bond just shoot him in the chest or stomach or legs when he’s bragging about that inane body armor. Could have been a top 7 or 8, but nope.
5. SKYFALL – I actually think SKYFALL is a pretty cool Bond film, almost great up until about at the 1:45 mark. The set up is wonderful and Craig finally seems to be completely at ease as Bond. Great villain, great locations and enough of a foot in tradition to make me shiver at times. Also, as has been mentioned on these boards multiple times, possibly the best looking of the Bond films. Where the movie dies for me is when the story moves to Scotland. I find the action from that point on to be monotonous and uninspiring. Aside from the scene on the frozen lake I feel (or initially felt) no tension or suspense in this section of the film. Add to that the whole Bond back-story/Wayne Manor/ Alfred crap, and this segment really cuts into all of the good will that SKYFALL has built up to that point. Luckily, we come back to London for one of the finest closing eight minutes in the franchise.
That’s all. Thoughts? Additions? Disagreements?