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Tag: Daniel Craig

Editorials

The Changing Face of James Bond

October 12, 2020
Daniel Craig - James Bond
Spoiler Warning – there is a lot of discussion of previous Bond films but particularly around the Daniel Craig films.
Content Warning – The second half of this article deals with the subject of sex in Bond films with a particular reference to a character with a very traumatic past.

Is Tom Hardy the next James Bond? It does seem that “who is the next James Bond” is one of those perennial topics of discussion that never really goes away. With No Time To Die being Daniel Craig’s last Bond film (no, seriously this time) there has been a lot of talk who will replace him – Tom Hardy being the current front-runner.

I think this change really need to be used as an opportunity to change a lot in the franchise, much like there was a big change in tone when Craig became Bond. In my mind there are two things that happen a lot in Bond that need to be addressed – death and sex.

Death Part 1 – Amoral Killer

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) - Roger Moore
Roger Moore fighting (Credit: MGM / Eon Productions)

Is there any doubt to anyone than were James Bond born in Moscow in the Cold War he wouldn’t be killing capitalists for the KGB? The potentially world ending struggle between the West and the USSR made it easy for bond to automatically be the hero but that simplicity is long gone. Little time in Bond is ever spent on his own morality, what does he actually believe in? What is he fighting for? Often it seems that Bond likes killing people and he found a job where he will be rewarded for doing that. Despite the incredibly high stakes Bond constantly gives in to his vices, is murder just another vice? In the BBC sitcom The Trip to characters take turns impersonating Roger Moore’s Bond with the line, “When I kill I kill for Queen and Country, but I admit killing you would be a pleasure,” which while is not the right quote does sum up how we are meant to see Bond. If he kills people it is because it is necessary, because they are villains, but the portrayal often shows a Bond who does enjoy killing.

Death Part 2 – Licence To Kill

Daniel Craig in Casino Royale (Credit: MGM / Eon Productions)
Daniel Craig in Casino Royale (Credit: MGM / Eon Productions)

More useful to Bond than any gadget or weapon is that he literally has a licence to kill. Throughout the novels and films what this actually means in practice is not clear – certainly, Bond murders people at his discretion and his superiors seem fine with this. An article in Screenrant ( https://screenrant.com/james-bond-movies-007-kill-count-how-many/ ) put his total kills across his films as 597, but presumably, there is more off-camera. Some of these, like in Quantum of Solace, takes place when Bond is not actively working for the British government, but again, there are no consequences. Yet Bond is the good-guy but he seems to me to be Judge Dredd without the sense of justice and with a drinking problem. Can a person just be given that much power? Again to bring it back to Judge Dredd, that takes place in some nightmarish future nuclear-irradiated dystopia. In Casino Royale Bond murders a man and shoots up an embassy and gets a telling off from M. I say Bond needs to go one of two ways, embrace Judge Dredd or make it clear that Bond can’t just do whatever he wants.

These first two issues are somewhat connected and a lot of it could be could come down to whether Bond is a hero or an antihero, again the problem is that over the decades he has been both, a cold-blooded killer and gentleman adventurer. Casino Royale did much for modern Bond in eschewing most of the gadgets and silly gimmicks but they crept back in – Mr Hinx, the henchman villain of Spectre, had metal fingernails, which obviously as an assassin of an international criminal network you want as many distinguishing features as possible. I don’t think you can have gritty serious spy films and then have ejector seats – Bond needs to pick what it wants to be.

Sex

Sean Connery as James Bond (Credit: MGM / Eon Productions)
Sean Connery as James Bond (Credit: MGM / Eon Productions)

After killing, sex is probably the thing Bond spends most of his time and energy on. Skyfall does contain the suggestion that not all of Bond’s relationships have been heterosexual but certainly, in the films, he is only seen pursuing relationships with women. It should be made clear that James Bond’s behaviour towards women isn’t just appalling now, in 2020, it was always appalling. And again, it isn’t just how James Bond acts to women that is the problem, a character can be sexist without the film being sexist. The women in Bond, often referred to as “Bond girls”, are just about always seen as people Bond will sleep with, or will at least try to. In more recent years with Judy Dench playing M and Moneypenny being reinvented in Skyfall as a field agent female characters have somewhat stepped out for Bond’s shadow, and it’ll be interesting to see how new character Nomi, a new OO agent in No Time To Die will be developed.

The people making Bond now are very different to those in the 1960s and I am sure that starting from scratch a superspy character they created wouldn’t have this sexism (or at least this level of sexism) running through it. Filmmakers even now are still caught up in this image of Bond of a “ladies man” – which apparently means behaving terribly to women. The Bond film that did the most to move the character forward, Skyfall, was also guilty of one of the most awful examples of this obsession with sex. Bond encountered an associate of the villain, a woman named Severine. The audience quickly learnt that Severine was the victim of child sex-trafficking, the villain took her from that life but she was still very much a prisoner. Severine knew nothing about Bond other than that he was a dangerous man who intended to kill the villain. Within hours of meeting they sleep together – at the very least, this is a shocking insensitivity to the issues, the actual scene seems to show Bond actually surprising Severine in the shower. I cannot believe that a writer and director would think to include this in a film in 2012 were it not for the idea that Bond needs to sleep with every woman he meets.

Severine was later murdered by the villain and the trope of women Bond cares about, or at least sexual partners, being murdered by the villain appears throughout the franchise. The four most recent films: Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and Spectre – all feature women who sleep with Bond and then are killed by the antagonist. Many things have changed in the Bond films over the years and certainly, the dismissive way Connery-era Bond speaks to women has gone (in Goldfinger Bond actually tells a woman to leave by telling her it’s time for “man talk”) but drastic work needs to be done.

There are a handful of franchises that are continually successful across decades and all have issues with not simply being a nostalgic relic but genuinely modern entertainment. Bond has changed over the decades and it should continue to do so.

Also Read: The Movie Villains Who Nailed It (And Those Who Didn’t) – [James Bond]

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Reviews

Review: Knives Out

November 30, 2019

2019 is certainly the year of playing games. We already participate in a round of hide and seek in the Ready or Not from directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett. Now writer/director Rian Johnson (Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, Looper) brings a twisted game of Cluedo to the big screen in Knives Out. A game that’s played by a superb cast, brought to life by sublime cinematography and packed with humour. Are you ready to solve the puzzle? Let’s do this!

That game is afoot

That death can take over life in a heartbeat is being cruelly proven to the Thrombey family. The day after celebrating the 85th birthday of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), he’s found dead. As a father and grandfather, he will be missed by everyone of his family. Although, not by everyone it seems, as his death might not be suicide as initially thought. It could be a grim murder instead and because of that, detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) starts to look into this case. He’s not only investigating that tragic night but also the entire family. What a family it is!

It doesn’t take long before we find out that every family member has some dark secrets behind the innocent and grieving façade. The main suspect is Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), the help who was the last person who saw Harlan alive. Was it maybe one of the family members such as his daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), his son Walt (Michael Shannon) or one of the inlaws such as Harlan’s third child’s widow Joni (Toni Collette) or son-in-law Richard (Don Johnson)? Probably not because the dogs barked and so it certainly must be a stranger? Maybe it’s the long lost Ransom (Chris Evans), who has a nasty relationship with the rest of his family? The further his investigation takes him, the bigger the mystery becomes. Who will be the evilest family member and will be able to solve the murder?

Noah Segan ( Trooper Wagner), LaKeith Stanfield ( Lieutenant Elliott) and
Benoit Blanc (Danie Craig) in Knives Out (source: MovieWeb)

A brilliant A-list cast and impressive upcoming talent

So many questions and so little answers. Throughout the film, more clues about the dead come to the surface. By the end of Knives Out, you will not only have become the next Sherlock Holmes but you’ve also seen a thrilling, electrifying, humourist and stunningly performed film.

There’s absolutely no shortage of incredible talent in Knives Out. He already did spy work in multiple James Bond films and solving mysterious is what Graig (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Spectre) is superior in. In Knives Out, he steps up his game even more as the clever, witty and humouristic private detective. Even his Southern accent is spot-on. The “I’m talking to myself” scenes are such a joy to watch and the big revelation scene is certainly the highlight of this movie. As the grieving daughter, Curtis (Halloween, An Acceptable Loss) never overplays or underplays the emotions and gives her character a lot of flair and confidence. She brings a lot of humour and memorable moments to Knives Out.

It was halfway through the movie that we got a glimpse of Evans (Avengers: Endgame, Gifted) for the first time but the wait was worth it. With his contagious laughter and fabulous performance, he brings out the arrogant, underhanded and secretive characteristics of Ransom. It’s not only the established actors giving it their best shot but also upcoming talent such as de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, War Dogs). She puts on a thrilling, emotional, funny and joyful performance which is both dark and lively at the same time.

Spectacular setting and bombastic score

Another element of why this movie feels like a big game of Cluedo is the colossal mansion with many different and spacious rooms. All the rooms are filled with possible murder/suicide weapons such as the many antiques, paintings or even that magnificent masterpiece full of knives. Is there one knife missing by any chance? Congratulations are definitely in order for the location management department and the set decorator.

A film like this, that’s full of suspense, betrayal and mystery elements, needs to have an on-point score and that’s exactly what Knives Out has. It doesn’t take long before the sharp violins, heavily beating drums and bombastic music take over this film. The score gives this movie such a powerful effect.

A devious whodunnit with a superb cast

After being screened at the BFI London Film Festival, Knives Out is now now coming back to UK cinemas. If you want to see a gorgeous, enigmatic, compelling and entertaining whodunnit that’s brought to life by stunning performances, grandiose score and bags of humour then Knives Out is the perfect film.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Also Read: The Irishman (Review)

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