Tag Archives: James Bond

Bond is Back!

‘Spectre’ double-O dazzles with derring-do, action & emotional depth  

Spectre

Spectre

Starring Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz and Lèa Seydoux

Directed by Sam Mendes

PG-13

 

James Bond, with his iconic “license to kill,” has never been a stranger to death. And in Spectre, the latest adventure of the world’s most famous secret agent, the prospect of mortality looms especially large. “The dead are alive,” a cryptic sentence, is the very first thing you see on the screen, just before the face of a gigantic skeleton in a Day of the Dead parade.

But as Bond (Daniel Craig) notes at one point, “Death and dying—it’s all a matter of perspective.” Spectre, the 24th movie since Dr. No began the Bond franchise in 1962, may reflect on the past and even gaze into the grave, but it’s vibrantly, expressively, emotionally alive and very much in step with today. Reuniting Craig with director Sam Mendes—his partner in the snap, crackle and pop of Skyfall in 2012—it begins with Bond going off the grid to wrap up some unfinished business just as the “double-O” espionage program headed by his boss, M (Ralph Fiennes), is in danger of being scrapped back in London.

Daniel CraigA crusading young British intelligence officer, C (Andrew Scott, Moriarty on TV’s Sherlock), wants to replace Bond and his “prehistoric” stalk-and-shoot derring-do with a new multi-national initiative, using global surveillance and drones to keep track of criminals—as well as everyone else.

“It’s the future,” C tells M. “And you’re not.”

M smells a big, worldwide rat, and so does Bond—and off he goes to track it down, to Mexico, Rome, Austria and the desert of North Africa, setting up some thrilling set pieces that up the ante on cinematic Bond moments. A dazzling 15-minute beaut of an opener begins as one ludicrously long, unbroken tracking shot (filmed by a drone!) down a street and into an alley, up and out of an elevator, into a hotel room, through a window and onto a rooftop—before climaxing in a building-toppling explosion, a frantic foot chase and a brutal hand-to-hand fight in an out-of-control helicopter dipping and diving over a crowded plaza filled with thousands of people.

Wow!

There’s a sleek nighttime car chase, an alpine pursuit with an airplane that becomes both a bobsled and a battering ram, and a brawl in a train so slam-bang intense you expect it to cause a derailment.

Christoph Waltz (left) and Leå Seydoux in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions’ action adventure SPECTRE.

Christoph Waltz

Christoph Waltz plays a nefarious über-villain with a deep-rooted evil secret that haunts—and hurts—Bond in more ways that one. Former pro wrestler Dave Bautista (so memorable as the red-tattooed Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy) is a hulking wall of sneering, leering bad news—and only one teeny, tiny two-word line of dialogue.

Lea Seydoux

Lèa Seydoux

As the latest “Bond girl,” French actress Lèa Seydoux gives Bond pause for something “more important” than the sometime-vicious necessities of his job. Ben Whitslaw returns as nerdy gadget master Q, and Naomie Harris is back as Moneypenny, the office assistant who’s now become an invaluable assignment aide.

Will this, Craig’s fourth outing as James Bond, be his last, as rumored? Time will tell. Other spies come and go, but Bond—whoever portrays him—has been the standard for more than 50 years, and Spectre finds him in fine, full, clever, super-stylish, ultra-cool, death-dodging form, very much alive and well.

“It’s good to have you back, 007,” M tells him at one point, welcoming him home. Yes, it bloody well double-O is!

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Super(cool) Spies

‘Kingsman’ makes other spy flicks look old, slow and tame

KSS-012_rgb

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Starring Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson & Michael Caine

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

R

Move over, James Bond—or get blown off the road. Some new supercool spy guys—and gals—have just laid claim to the multiplex, and they make just about everything that came before them look old, slow, tame and even lazy.

Kingsman: The Secret Service, based on a 2012 Marvel Comics-distributed series, takes the spy game to wildly adventurous, dizzily fun-tastic new heights of both homage and spoofery. Colin Firth, the Oscar-winning British actor best known for his roles in dignified historical dramas (The Kings Speech; A Single Man; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) makes his smashing “action-lead” debut as Harry Hart, the top agent in this international intelligence agency of high-ranking, impeccably dressed, lethally trained gents organized in the mid-1850s as a latter-day Knights of the Round Table to “preserve peace and protect life.”

KSS_JB_D22_02210_rgb

Taron Egerton & Colin Firth

Newcomer Taron Egerton is “Eggsy” Unwin, the streetwise London lad whose fate leads him into the ranks of the Kingsman elite. And Samuel L. Jackson plays, well, basically Samuel L. Jackson, as an evil, lisp-y philanthropist billionaire whose altruistic façade hides a super-sinister plan of global domination.

Michael Caine is aboard as the Kingsmen’s top dog; Mark Strong has a key role as his senior officer; and Algerian-born dancer Sofia Boutella makes a memorable impression as the high-hopping villainess Gazelle, who slices and dices foes to ribbons with her razor-sharp prosthetic feet. Mark “Luke Skywalker” Hamill—of Stars Wars fame—plays a college professor appearance is a bit of an inside joke that will delight readers of the comic book, which featured a character with the actor’s name.

The action is frenetic, super-stylized and sometimes gleefully hyper-violent. During fight scenes and other adrenaline-pumping moments, director Matthew Vaughn (Snatch; Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) and cinematographer George Richmond keep the camera moving, zooming, sweeping, bobbing and weaving, then speeding up and slowing down the film to increase the visual intensity.

KSS_JB_D59_05292_R_rgb

Sofia Boutella & Samuel L. Jackson

The fan-boy comic-book crowd will lap it up, but mainstream audiences will find plenty to like about Kingsman, too—its nonstop plot is full of cheeky British humor, meta spy-movie satire, and jabs at politics, government, celebrities and everyone’s greed for the latest with-it technology. But be warned: It definitely earns its R rating—especially in its final moments, when it dives into a particularly randy joke. It may be just to cap off its playful naughtiness with a real zinger, or perhaps it’s seeking something more profound, a profane parody statement about how spy movies have always “debased” their female characters.

KSS_JB_D69_06371_rgbSpy movies have also always been about gadgets and secret-agent do-daddery, and here Kingsman goes all-out: Bulletproof umbrellas, exploding cigarette lighters, shiv-toed shoes, holographic eyeglasses, lethal fountain pens, electrocution signet rings. And the suits! When it comes to fashion, the Kingsmen are the coolest cats around—and, in one of the most extensive merchandise marketing tie-ins of any movie ever, almost anything you see onscreen (suits, ties, shoes and—yes—umbrellas) can be purchased in special Kingsman product lines.

See the movie, buy the suit—and get me one of those indestructible umbrellas!

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,