James Bond Review: Skyfall (dir. by Sam Mendes)


For almost a month, starting in mid-October and almost two weeks into November, we here at Through the Shattered Lens have watched and shared our reviews and thoughts on the 25 James Bond films (22 official EON productions with 3 non-official ones) which preceded this week’s release of the latest James Bond entry with Skyfall. We’ve shared which were our personal favorites of the series. Some preferred the Connery-era of the Bond franchise while some were in the Moore-era. What we here have all come to realize is just how timeless this franchise has become despite it having celebrated it’s 50th anniversary just last month.

The James Bond film franchise has gone beyond what Ian Fleming had imagined when he first came up with a literary character that would become a global pop icon and remain one of cinemas most successful franchises in history. There have been low points in the franchise (usually when the actor whohas been performing the role has outlived their stay) but then there have been some great highs. In the end, there’s always been one constant and that’s the character of James Bond — British secret agent 007 with a license to kill.

A franchise which began with on Sean Connery in the title role has now seen a return to prominence with the role now in the care of British actor Daniel Craig. The Craig-era began with the critically-acclaimed Casino Royalewhich also became popular with the mass audience. The sequel to this reboot would set the franchise back a step or two, but still became the second highest grossing Bond film in the franchise. We now come to the third Bond film in the Craig-era with 2012’s Skyfall and the question of whether the James Bond franchise can still remain relevant in this age of hyper-kinetic and ultra-violent action films remain to be answered.

Skyfall begins with Bond already in the middle of a mission to recover a computer hard-drive which stores the names of hundreds of NATO agents deep undercover within the many terrorist organizations around the world. Things are not going well for Bond and his fellow MI6 agents. He finds many of them already dead or dying and it’s up to him and another agent named Eve (played by Naomie Harris) to chase after the mercenary who has taken off with the hard-drive.

One thing we’ve come to expect with the more recent James Bond films (especially the Daniel Craig ones) are the action sequences which make up the opening section of the film. Even before we get to the recognizable Bond opening credit sequence this opening of the film using a very thrilling and elaborate action sequence tend to set the tone for the rest of the film. Skyfall was no different as Bond chases the mercenary Patrice through the rooftops of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar right up to a one-on-one fight on top of a moving train. Through an unfortunate stroke of luck and a command decision by “M” back in MI6 headquarters in London we segue ito the always popular opening credits sequence with Bond having been shot by accident and left for dead.

The plot of Skyfall was somewhat similar to Goldeneye which saw Pierce Brosnan introduced as the new James Bond. James Bond finds himself racing against time and a former MI6 agent who feels betrayed not just by the country and organization he loyally served but by “M” herself. Raoul Silva (played with a sociopathic flair and panache by Javier Bardem) knows the in’s and out’s of MI6 and this allows him to penetrate both their physical and cyber defenses which puts the entire national security of Great Britain and the Commonwealth in extreme peril. It also puts “M” on the proverbial political hot seat as civilian oversight committees look to find a scapegoat for dead MI6 agents and Silva’s continuing assault on Britain’s intelligence apparatus.

To say anymore about the plot of Skyfall would ruin the biggest joy about this film. Mendes would’ve been one of the last people I saw being picked to direct a James Bond film, but he proves himself more than just capable, but also brings his own character-driven narrative sensibilities to raise the bar for future James Bond film. His handling of the quieter moments during the film shows that particular skill of his that has made him an Academy Award-winning filmmaker. It was on the action scenes that Mendes’ skill as a filmmaker would remain in doubt, but with the help of second unit director Alexander Witt, Skyfall manages to create action scenes that weren’t created for the sake of putting action on the screen but to move the story forward.

In the past, James Bond films rarely moved into introspection on it’s main character’s personal and professional motivations. This began to change when Daniel Craig was picked to help reboot the franchise. The first two films with Craig as Bond showed a much grittier and emotionally complex 007 than in years past. We also got a Bond who was still new to the role of being a 00-agent so we saw the character grow into the role. With Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace we got a Bond who moved from newly minted secret agent then to an agent going off the reservation and following his emotions to finish a mission (both official and personal). The one thing those two films didn’t do was give us a Bond that was fully capable and confident in his abilities to get the job done through the biggest odds. But before we finally get that Bond in Skyfall we see him go through personal doubts about whether he still has the skill to be 007 in a world that sees him and his kind of espionage a relic of the Cold War. By the time the film finishes to a close we find ourselves seeing this new modern, complex Bond finally meeting the old-school traditional Bond who delighted our parents and grandparents in the past.

There’s so much more to be said about this film which brings to the table the best of 50 years this franchise has been on the silver screen. The film pays homage to it’s cinematic history, but not so much that the film becomes a “Can you spot a past Bond reference” exercise. Each and every reference seemed to flow naturally into every scene it showed up in and some even got a nice ovation and reaction (classic Aston Martin DB for example). We even got to see the film poke a bit of cheeky fun at some of the franchises more over-the-top plot devices and all of it in good fun.

Then even with a strong story, great performances from the film’s principal cast members there’s still the question that always get asked whenever a new Bond film hits the screen. That question being how were the latest new Bond Girls.

While Naomie Harris’ Eve was a nice partner to Craig’s Bond their chemistry just didn’t flare up like most of the classic pairings in the franchise. That honor goes to Bond’s short, brief time with the character Severine (played by the ridiculously beautiful Bérénice Lim Marlohe). The scenes the two share in the Macau gambling house was one of the highlights of the film with Marlohe conveying both the femme fatale and damsel in distress in the same scene with the most subtle of acting touches. There’s a good chance that whenever “best of…” lists about Bond girls get made each and every year Marlohe as Severine would be on the top of most lists.

It took two films and six years of exploring, deconstructing and analyzing the character of James Bond through the performance of Daniel Craig. Through that time we’ve gotten to see a new side to James Bond without dismissing and forgetting about the character’s suave and deadly efficiency of past Bond films. While I still lean towards Sean Connery as the gold standard of all James Bond performances after seeing Craig as Bond for the third time in Skyfall the gap has shrunk considerably and I wouldn’t argue if some have Craig matching and/or surpassing Connery in the role. It’s a title that would be well-earned and with how the film ends a chance to see how Craig moves forward as Bond not just in the updated modern sense but the traditional that has made the character one of the most iconic figures in cinema history.

A last note, we get a return to old-school James Bond songs with Adele performing the film’s song which actually has the film’s title in it. The song also harkens back to the days of Shirley Bassey and If I had a choice in the matter I would just let Adele sing all future Bond songs for as long as she wants to.

Thus end Through the Shattered Lens’ retrospective on the James Bond franchise both past and present. It’s been a great ride and all thanks to the drive and organization of co-founder Lisa Marie Bowman who styles herself as the site’s resident Bond Girl.

James Bond Review: Quantum of Solace (dir. by Marc Foster)


So, here we are at the end of all things.

About 22 days ago, The Shattered Lens started a project to cover all of the Bond Films in order leading up to the release of the 23rd film, Skyfall. Spearheaded by Lisa Marie and Arleigh, It’s been a fun ride seeing everyone’s thoughts on James Bond over the movies and it’s cool to know that after 50 years, they still (well, most of them) hold their own. Today, we cover the second Daniel Craig film, Quantum of Solace.

Quantum of Solace reunites the same writing team from Casino Royale – Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis (Academy Award Winner for 2006’s Crash), and brings on Monster’s Ball director Marc Foster for filming duties. As far as I can tell, it seems to be the first 007 film to start not far from the previous film ended. Literally, there could be a 20 minute difference between the end events of Casino Royale and the opening sequence here. The movie veers away from the classic gun barrel sequence and gets the audience right into the action with Bond avoiding villains in his Aston Martin DBS. The chase leads into a quarry, where he manages to get rid of his opponents. It’s only when he arrives in an unknown location within Siena, Italy that we find he’s had Mr. White in the trunk of his car the entire time. Mr. White was the individual that Bond wounded and introduced himself at the end of Casino Royale.

We basically find James Bond dealing with the loss of Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), and though she never makes any kind of appearance in the film, her presence (or lack thereof) is certainly felt. While Quantum of Solace has some remarkable scenes, for me it suffered from at least one major problem early on. Near the beginning of the film, after the credits, there is a chase between Bond and a villian, as always. At the same time, we’re given shots of a bullfight that’s occurring. While I understand that we’re supposed to see the similarities between both actions, I felt as if I was being pulled away from the story at hand. Foster does this a number of times, including one in the middle of an opera scene. That seemed really strange to me, though others may appreciate it.

Bond is told by M (Dame Judi Dench), after securing Mr. White that she has a lead on Vesper’s boyfriend, but also believes that he’s not quite dead. She asks Bond to leave it alone, but being someone who sees things through, he takes a copy of his photograph. It’s revealed that Mr. White is part of a larger group called Quantum, similar to SPECTRE in some respects. Although Bond loses Mr. White, he gets a clue that leads him to Haiti.

The Haiti sequences were done prior to the earthquake that happened there, and it makes Quantum of Solace one of the last films to show how that area looked before the devastation. 007 is able to find his suspect, but in the course of fighting, he kills him. This becomes something of a thread in Quantum of Solace. Just about anyone that Bond encounters is either killed by him or because of him and at some point, restraint needs to be made. At some point, it goes so far that it becomes something of a “Bond Goes Rogue” tale in the vein of License to Kill. There’s a slight reference to The Spy Who Loved Me with a rooftop fall that’s interesting, as well as a great one for the movie Goldfinger. The Craig Bond stories seem to want to make sure they remind us of all the films before it, though it’s hardly the first 007 story to do so.

The Bond Girls in Quantum of Solace are Olga Kurlyenko and Gemma Arterton. Kurlyenko’s Camille has a mission of her own, as she’s trying to avenge the death of her mother. Arterton’s character, Miss Fields (who’s first name I believe may be Strawberry, but don’t quote me on that) is send in by MI6 to bring Bond back in for debriefing (as he’s been avoiding M’s requests). The actual villain of the movie is played by Mathieu Amalric (Munich), who is more of a hands-off baddie with tons of henchmen at his side.

The problem I had with Quantum of Solace is that it seemed like the Vesper angle was a side note. Yes, we know Quantum is out there, and we learn there’s a plot to control the water of a small area, but outside of all that, it didn’t seem like much of a revenge story. This is unless, of course, it wasn’t meant to be. I’m not a big fan of Quantum of Solace overall. It’s not as bad as Die Another Day (which a number of people consider to be one of the worst) by a longshot, but after what we were given in Casino Royale, it almost seems like it builds on things in the wrong direction.

This weekend, Skyfall is out, and by the time the weekend is up, we’ll have a review for it. We leave you the theme song to Quantum of Solace, “Another Way to Die” by Jack White and Alicia Keys. The Instrumental version of this song is actually really good, though the actual song itself was just a little off.

James Bond Review: Octopussy (dir. by John Glen)


 

We’re at the home stretch in the Roger Moore-era of Ian Fleming’s James Bond film series. During his time in the role as Britain’s super spy extraordinaire we’ve seen him put his own personal stamp on the role. It was a daunting task seeing the role had been played by Sean Connery early in the film series and had done such a great job of making the character such a cultural icon that anyone following him would forever be compared. Moore doesn’t just hold his own, but has built such a loayl following in the role that many consider his portrayal of Agent 007 as the best in the series.

His Bond when compared to Connery’s portrayal was more the witty charmer who tried to use his wits and brains to solve problematic (usually dangerous ones) situations he finds himself in. Connery’s Bond was more the physical type whose charm belied a much darker personality streak that Moore’s portrayal could never pull off no matter how the writers tried.

The Roger Moore-era also redefined the franchise as more more about action and less and less thriller with each new film. This culminates in Moore’s most action-packed film in the role with the 13th Bond film (produced by EON) in Octopussy.

The film begins with one of the more impressive opening sequences in the series as we find Bond in the middle of an undercover mission in Cuba. This intro’s stunt work with Bond piloting a mini-plane in and around Cuban airspace to escape and, at the same time, fulfill his mission remains a highlight in the series where each new film tries to raise the bar in terms of well-choreographed and very complicated action scenes.

Octopussy sees Bond traveling to India, East and West Germany to halt the nuclear and warmongering ambitions of a Soviet general who sees his country’s nuclear disarmament talks with the West as inviting defeat for the Soviet Union. We also have the theft of priceless Russian treasures like the Faberge Eggs being used to finance this general’s plan to complicate bond’s main mission. The plot for Octopussy is a reminder of the time it was filmed in. Reagan and Thatcher had a strong control of the West and their confrontational attitudes towards the Soviet Union and it’s satellite states made people believe that the world was on the brink of war. This public sentiment affected the fiction and entertainment of the time with Cold War thrillers becoming ascendant once more.

As much as the basic outline of the film’s plot looked to be impressive on the face of it the way the story unfolded was quite a hit-and-miss affair. I put some of this on the shoulders of it’s director John Glen who seemed more interested in moving the story from one action scene to the next while paying just the minimum of lip-service to the quieter scenes that occur in-between.

This being Moore’s sixth Bond film we pretty much know how his Bond operates. So, it falls to fleshing out his rivals and enemies to help create a much more interesting film beyond the extravagant action scenes. We learn about the agendas and personalities of Bond’s rivals through too much exposition info dumps. Even the title’ character of Octopussy (played by Maud Adams) we don’t get to learn much of other than a brief personal history dialogue she has with Bond the first time we meet. Of Bond’s two enemies in the film one is the warmongering General Orlov (played by Steven Berkoff) who comes off like an over-the-top caricature with a distinct speech pattern to match. The other is the exiled Afghan prince Kamal Khan who comes off a bit more fleshed out as Octopussy’s covetous partner-in-crime. Louis Jourdan as Kamal Khan plays the role with a sense of panache and joie de vivre that at times he’s able to match Moore’s Bond in the charisma department whenever the two share the screen together.

What should interest people about Octopussy are the very action scenes I spoke about earlier. From the opening sequence in Cuba to a thrilling race against time that traverses from East Germany to West Germany to stop a nuclear weapon from detonating it’s no wonder some people consider Octopussy as a favorite. I enjoyed the film for these very sequences despite missteps in the overall execution of the plot and inconsistencies in the performances of the cast. Yet, the film had the DNA to be much better and after repeated viewings one could see that in the hands of a different filmmaker and changes in the cast this sixth Moore-era Bond film had the potential to be one of the best.

Octopussy would mark the start of the franchise’s decline in the face of much more violent and action-packed action films of the 80’s. The film tried to keep up with this rising trend in action filmmaking during the 80’s. It was able to succeed in a fashion in making the series much more action-packed (though quite bloodless in comparison to what was about to come out of Hollywood in the coming years), but in doing so the film’s storyline and characters suffered that the film doesn’t hold up the test of time unlike some of the early Connery and Moore films.

On a side note, the film did have one of my favorite Bond song’s with Rita Coolidge singing “All Time High” in the intro sequence. A song title that was quite ironic considering that the film definitely didn’t hit an all time high.

James Bond Review: For Your Eyes Only (dir. by John Glen)


For Your Eyes Only marks a few changes in the way EON Productions wanted to go with James Bond.  With Moonraker being so over the top, the producers decided to go a little more low key and practical. After working on the 2nd unit for Moonraker and a few other Bond Films, John Glen would step up to the plate as the director for this and every 007 film leading up to Goldeneye. Instead of John Barry working on the music, Bill Conti would take over here, which ended up being a very different kind of sound for the film, one fitting of the early 80s.

For Your Eyes Only opens with an interesting start, having Bond visit the grave of his wife, Tracy, who was killed during the events in Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Bond is informed that his helicopter is ready, but when he climbs inside, he finds that it’s under the control of someone with a serious grudge, and though we can’t see his face, we’re to assume he could be Ernst Starvo Blofeld. Supposedly, the scene, which ends with Bond reclaiming control of the helicopter and dropping the would be Blofeld into a chimney pipe, was a jab at writer Kevin McClory. Over the years, the Thunderball lawsuit caused some rifts between McClory and EON Productions. The statement made with For Your Eyes Only was that EON could come up with plenty of great stories without having to use a signature villain like Blofeld. They’d been successful with two movies back to back using Richard Kiel as the henchman Jaws, and probably felt they were doing pretty well. In reponse, McClory would give the Thunderball another try in the bond film Never Say Never Again (which isn’t part of the EON produced Bond films, and won’t be found in any of their Bond Blu-Ray / DVD compilations.

Similar to Tomorrow Never Dies, the story starts with a boat being attacked and sunk. Bond is asked to retrieve a targeting system from the ship and return it to Britain before the Russians do the same. One of the great things about the time period is that since it was pretty much the Cold War, everything was a black ops -sneak in, sneak out – scenario to avoid World War III and nukes being fired by both sides.

The Bond Girl for this film is Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet), who I really liked here. After her parents are gunned down on their boat, she picks up a bow and arrow to take revenge. As a result, she manages to run into Bond on a number of occasions and had a real sense of calm to her (or as calm as one could be when facing a giant fellow in a scuba suit). The villain of the story, Kristatos was played by Julian Glover, who I enjoyed in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and currently on Game of Thrones. I didn’t care much for him in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as Hagrid’s pet spider, Aragog. One thing to note about Glover is that at one point, he was approached to actually play Bond after Connery left. An interesting casting choice if you notice him is Charles Dance as one of the henchmen and Fiddler On the Roof’s Topol, who played a former business partner of Kristatos’. I found that kind of fun, that you could see these actors here in 1981 that people are familiar with to some degree. The year this came out, Liam Neeson was in Excalibur, for example.

The story features a number of good moments, particularly a great snow skiing chase, a mountain climb as well as a fight between Bond and some hockey players. There’s even a well filmed underwater sequence. Of the Roger Moore Bond films, I always thought of this one and The Spy Who Loved Me as two of his best. With the mission being as small as it is, there wasn’t a lot of room for anything as wild as Moonraker. It’s a pretty tight, practical film that doesn’t rely too much on the gadgetry of the other films. It should also be pointed out that like The Spy Who Loved Me, the signature car for Moore’s Bond is still a Lotus, as I don’t believe the Aston Martins made an appearance until The Living Daylights. That was a little of a letdown for me, but otherwise, the film is beautiful.

Tomorrow, The Shattered Lens takes on Octopussy, a film that showcases just how deadly the circus can be when James Bond is involved. We’ll leave you with the theme song to For Your Eyes Only, sung by Sheena Easton.

James Bond Review: Live and Let Die (dir. by Guy Hamilton)


One year and one day ago the very first James Bond film to star Sir Roger Moore, Live and Let Die, in the title role was reviewed by Lisa Marie, and now it’s time to revisit the eight official film in the series.

With the previous Bond entry, Diamonds Are Forever, we finally see Sean Connery run out of gas when it came to playing the title role of James Bond. Yet, despite the obvious boredom Connery was having in the film the producers of the series were still wanting him to come back for another Bond film. Maybe it was his experience during the production of Diamonds Are Forever or Connery finally decided it was truly time to go the series’ producers didn’t get their wish and were in a rush to find someone new to wear the mantle o Agent 007.

They finally found their new James Bond in the form of English-actor Roger Moore and production on Live and Let Die began soon after.

Roger Moore, for me, has always been the start of the less serious, but much more fun era of the James Bond franchise. His films still had the intrigue and action of the Connery-era, but the writers and producers of the series put in more one-liners and humor in the story. We begin to see the start of this in the previous Bond film (not handled as well and came off as awkward at times), but it was in Live and Let Die and in Roger Moore that this change in the series’ tone finally hit it’s stride.

The film dials back the global domination attempts by the series of villians both SPECTRE and not. This time around Bond must investigate the deaths of three MI6 agents who had been investigating one Dr. Kananga, the despot of the fictitious Caribbean island of San Monique. Kananga (played by Yaphet Kotto) also has an alter-ego in the form of Mr. Big who runs a series of soul food restaurants as a front for his drug business. Every Bond film always tries to out-elaborate the previous one with it’s villains plans. There’s no attempts by Kananga/Big to dominate the world. His plans are pretty capitalistic in a ruthless sort of way. He wants to corner the drug market in the US by flooding the illegal drug market with his own heroin which he plans to give away for free thus bankrupting the other crime lords and drug dealers.

This plan by Kananga actually looks to be very sound and it helps that he has the beautiful seer Solitaire (played by a young and beautiful Jane Seymour) to help him outwit ad stay ahead of his competitors and the law. His plan would’ve succeeded if not for the meddling of one British super-spy named James Bond.

Live and Let Die might not have been as serious about it’s story as the early Connery films, but it definitely had a much more faster pace with more action to distinguish Moore from Connery. One particular famous action sequence involves Bond escaping from Kananga’s drug farm in the Louisiana Bayou country being chased not just by Kananga’s henchmen but by the local police in the form of Sheriff J.W. Pepper who plays the role of fool and comedy relief in the film. Even the smaller action scenes in the film had more life and fun to them like Bond escaping a gator pit by timing a run across the backs of a line of gators to safety.

Where the previous bond film’s attempt at injecting humor and more action into the story were more failures than successes in this film Roger Moore Bond film they worked in due part to Moore’s playful delivery of the one-liners and bon mots the role has become known for of late. Any trepidation that audiences and producers might have had about  Moore taking on the role that had been made famous by Connery  soon went away as this film played out.

Live and Let Die still remains my favorite of all the Roger Moore Bond films and saw it as the highlight of his time playing the character. While the follow-up films were good in their own right it was this initial Moore entry in the series where the writers, Moore and veteran Bond filmmaker Guy Hamilton were able to find the perfect balance of thrilling action and humor that the rest of the Moore-era films couldn’t replicate.

Next up for James Bond…The Man with the Golden Gun.

James Bond Review: Diamonds Are Forever (dir. by Guy Hamilton)


I think it’s a well-known fact that the Austin Powers series was spoofing the spy film of the 60’s and 70’s with it’s main target for laughs being the iconic James Bond character and his international adventures of action and intrigue. The James Bond films with each successive entry became more and more fantastic as the megalomania of each new villain became more and more cartoonish and over-the-top and the gadgets themselves started entering the realm of science-fiction (for that time and era, at least) and back-of-the-comic-book ingenuity. I think the tipping point for the series that took James Bond from action thriller to spoofing it’s own past was with Sean Connery’s last official film as James Bond with Diamonds Are Forever.

To say that Sean Connery was truly getting tired and bored with playing the character James Bond on the big screen would be an understatement. His previous Bond entry with You Only Live Twice showed him pretty much disinterested with the role and one would almost think he was phoning in his performance. After that film Connery had announced his retirement from playing Bond, but after George Lazenby also retired from the role after just one film Connery was soon back for one more ride on the James Bond train.

Diamonds Are Forever once again pits James Bond against his arch-nemesis, the leader of SPECTRE and feline connoisseur, Ernst Blofeld. This time around the role of Blofeld was played by the actor Charles Gray and the film does a good job in explaining why the character has been played by so many different actors in each entry he appeared in. It is in this early sequence in the film that we begin to see that this latest James Bond entry had jumped the shark when it came to trying to keep things even remotely believable. It’s the film’s biggest flaw an, at the same time, what made it such an interesting, fun ride.

Even the plot of the film owes more to the spoofs of the Blofeld character by way of the Austin Powers films as Bond must try to stop SPECTRE from using smuggled South African diamonds from being used to create  weaponized satellite with a massive “laser” that SPECTRE will use to destroy the nuclear arsenal of every superpower then auction off the rights to be the only nuclear power to the highest bidding country. It’s pretty much the the basic foundation of what would be the plot for the first Austin Powers, but with this film filmmaker Guy Hamilton still tried to treat the script as something that was of the serious Bond when it was more 60’s camp through and through.

Diamonds Are Forever may be the weakest of all the Connery Bond films, but it’s groovy sensibilities that celebrated the 60’s (despite the film having been made in 1971) psychedelic, swinging lifestyle poked fun at Bond’s predilection as a suave and charismatic womanizer that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a 60’s love-in. Even the action sequences was something that looked more humorous than thrilling whether it was Bond escaping SPECTRE henchmen on a moon buggy to the inept duo assassins Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd looked more at home in an action comedy than a series that was known for serious action.

I would be remiss to not mention that this was the only time the Bond series had a redhead as a Bond Girl in the vivacious form of Jill St. John as Tiffany Case. I would also like to think that the other Bond Girl in the film, played by Lana Wood (Natalie Wood’s younger sister), was also a redhead but I’m not entirely sure since most audiences probably didn’t pay too close attention to Plenty O’Toole’s hair color. Either way this would be the only Bond film that would cast what fellow writer Lisa Marie calls the 2%.

Diamonds Are Forever might not have been the sort of return Sean Connery envisioned for himself when he agreed to return as James Bond after taking a film off, but then again this wouldn’t be the first time he would retire from the role only to come back again. Yet, despite all it’s flaws (there were many of them) the film does entertain though probably not in the way it’s filmmakers hoped it would. I do believe that it was this film that finally brought in Roger Moore as the next Bond, but also convinced the film’s producers to tailor the Bond films using some of the humorous aspect of Diamonds Are Forever but tempered to accompany the action in the story.

James Bond will soon return in Live And Let Die….

James Bond Review – Goldfinger (dir. by Guy Hamilton)


The Shattered Lens continues the Bond Marathon leading up to the release of Skyfall with 1964’s Goldfinger. Normally, one would figure that the third film in a series is the one with the most danger of ruining everything. You’ve already had two successful stories and you’re asking audiences to come back for yet another round. Yet Goldfinger manages to be considered a favorite by many, and even managed to be the first 007 film to win an Academy Award (for Sound Effects). It does this by expanding on what was already done.

Building on the format that From Russia With Love started, Goldfinger opens with the gun barrel animation and Bond already on a mission. As he reaches what looks like an oil field under the cover of night, he manages to sabotage it (with a little help from C4 or possibly C3, given the time) and arrive back in a neighboring town before it explodes. Heading to his hotel room, he finds a young lady waiting for him who tries to capture his attentions before he catches sight of a thug in the reflection of her eyes. In the fight that ensues, Bond’s quick thinking and a bathtub full of water makes all of the difference. This prologue will become commonplace in all of the EON Production Bond films save for Dr. No (of course) and Quantum of Solace, which gives you the gun barrel at the end of that film.

Sean Connery reprises his role as MI6’s best agent, finding himself in Miami, where he interrupts the card game of one Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), cheating with the help of Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton). When Bond is caught off guard and knocked out, he wakes up to find Jill dead in her bed, covered in gold paint. The scene actually sparked a number of rumors that Eaton had died in the process of filming it, and as it was mentioned in the film, without leaving a free space near the base of the spine, the actress suffered “skin asphyxiation”. This was later tested on the Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters, and while skin doesn’t “breathe” the way Fleming wrote, your sweat can’t get out of clogged pores. You end up dying of heat stroke. Guess my science teachers were right there, to a degree. The image is so popular, it was even referenced by Quantum of Solace, though Oil was the substance of choice used there.

Bond is given the mission to track Goldfinger and figure out what he’s up, but not without a quick visit to Q Branch. It’s here where we find James’ new car, the Aston Martin DB5, and are introduced to one of longest professional relationships between an automotive company and a production one. Aston Martin would go on to cover nearly every Bond film save for a few (Goldeneye quickly comes to mind), but I’ll profile that relationship in a separate article. The car is outfitted with machine guns, oil slicks, smoke screens and even an ejector seat, believe it or not. Among the gadgets he’s given are two trackers (one large and one small). In terms of the overall series, this is the point where 007 seemingly becomes more of a gadget hound than relying on his actual abilities. I always felt that the ones in From Russia With Love supported him just when he needed it. In Goldfinger, they come across as utility belt like items, though functional all the same.

One of the other standouts in the film is Goldfinger’s henchman, OddJob (Harold Sakata). With a bowler hat that served as a razor disc, he’s one of the most iconic villains in the series, perhaps second only to Richard Kiel’s Jaws. Tomorrow Never Dies and even Goldeneye went on to use henchmen (or henchwomen in Famke Jassen’s case) to great effect.

In going after Goldfinger, Bond runs into Tilly Masterson (Tania Mallet), who mistakenly tries to kill him. They’re eventually caught an in classic 007 Fashion, Bond is placed in a situation that causes one to ask why no one has ever tried to kill him outright. The laser scene that has Bond tied to a table features one of the most famous lines in Goldfinger. When Bond asks Auric if he expects him to talk because of the laser that’s due to cut him in two, Goldfinger stops, turns to face him and exclaims, “No, Mister Bond! I expect you to die!” Needless to say, Goldfinger changes his mind after Bond mentions “Operation Grand Slam”, a plot to seemingly rob Fort Knox. It’s only later that we find that Goldfinger isn’t out to rob the reserve, he’s planning on detonating a nuclear weapon in it that would make all of the nation’s gold radioactive (and all of his gold worth billions, as a result). This is all showcased in a grand sequence involving Pussy Galore’s flight team and some knockout gas. As a kid, I loved it.

Finally, what Bond film would be complete without a Bond Girl? For Goldfinger, we have Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore. In doing some research on this, I found that according to an article in Empire Magazine, in order to get the name by the American censors, the movie producers took them out to dinner. They decided to not interfere with the name, but it was never exactly listed in any of the US marketing promos. I’d always wondered about that, myself.

As a Bond Girl, Pussy was great in that she handled herself well with both weapons and hand to hand combat. Honor Blackman was well versed in Judo, so her action scenes with Sean Connery were easy to make. Cold and to the point, Pussy Galore wasn’t the “crying over a broken nail” type, but this being the 60’s, they still had the character succumb to Bond’s advances. Personally, I’m not exactly cool with that, but understand that given the time period and possibly the audience, it had to be written as such. Future Bond Girls would make up for it. At least it was good to see that there was a Bond Girl who could stand toe to toe with Bond.

Regarding the casting, one thing that’s also interesting to note that Gert Frobe, who played Goldfinger had a heavy German accent, so heavy in fact that his lines had to be dubbed by someone else. All of the Bond regulars from previous films make a return – Desmond Llewelyn as Q, Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny, in particular. Felix Leiter would be played by a different actor (my favorite being David Hedison from License to Kill).

The impact of Goldfinger has been huge over the years. It’s one of the films everyone usually recalls, and even famed Video Game creator Hideo Kojima pays homage to the film by way of the theme song used in it’s game “Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater”, as the game takes place in the same time period as Goldfinger.

Overall, Goldfinger remains one of the strongest parts of the 007 saga. Tomorrow, the Shattered Lens takes on Thunderball, the Fourth Connery film and the controversy surrounding it. I’ll leave you with Shirley Bassey’s iconic theme to the film.