Words About Bond: Part VII

We've reached, for now, the penultimate installment of my reviews(with spoilers) of the various James Bond films:

* * *

Words About Bond, 1-3
Words About Bond, 4-6
Words About Bond, 7-9
Words About Bond, 10-12
Words About Bond, 13-15
Words About Bond, 16-18

19Licence to Kill
Bond: Timothy Dalton
Villain: Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi)
Bond Girls: Pam Bouvier, Lupe Lamora
Henchman: Dario (Benicio del Toro)

When I saw Licence to Kill on television many years ago when I was still in college, I liked it. When I watched it again on DVD about a month ago, in context with the rest of the series, I loved it. One of the characters in particular had more significance, Bond's friend and American CIA counterpart Felix Leiter. Originally played by Jack Lord in Dr. No, Felix has been portrayed by a different actor in every subsequent film, with the exception of Licence to Kill. David Hedison played Felix in Live and Let Die, another of my favorites, and reprised his role on a more personal note.

The film opens as Felix, now a DEA agent, is about to get married. On a somewhat lighter note, after Bond and Leiter run a mission to apprehend the drug lord Sanchez, they parachute down in time for the wedding. Afterwards, the happy couple present the best man, James, with a gift, a lighter with their names inscribed on it. Leiter's wife asks her new husband why James is so somber as he walks off, and Felix simply explains, “He was married once,” a reference to the tragic events of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Meanwhile, Sanchez escapes custody and seeks revenge. Sanchez's top henchman Dario, played by a young Benicio del Toro, attacks the newlyweds along with the rest of his gang. Felix' wife is raped and killed, while he is taken prisoner and lowered in to a shark tank. Bond finds their bloody bodies in their honeymoon suite, and Felix is barely alive. His best friend losing his wife as well is too much for 007, and he flies off in a rage, sending the rogue agent who helped Sanchez escape into the shark tank. M revokes Bond's licence to kill and takes him into custody for acting outside his jurisdiction. James escapes and goes rogue, infiltrating Sanchez' organization with help from another CIA agent, Pam Bouvier. While on the move he also gets help from Q, who independently supplies Bond with equipment unbeknownst to their superiors.

The film has an amazing climax in which Bond tries to stop an illegal drug shipment and reveals his duplicity. Sanchez leaves him on a conveyor belt to be ground up by massive blades used to crush cocaine. Bouvier shows up to save him and after a struggle with Dario, it is Dario that meets a bloody end in the grinder. James pursues Sanchez, moving the cocaine in a gasoline tanker to conceal it. In the ensuing fight a gasoline soaked Sanchez gets the better of Bond and beats him to a pulp. As he clutches the British agent, 007 has one final card to play. As Sanchez condemns him for his betrayal, Bond shouts, “Don't you want to know why?” and shows him the inscribed lighter, moments before setting his foe on fire. The defeat of Sanchez is the most personal since that of Blofeld, and though I think Davi's portrayal of a drug lord is cliché at times, I liked him as a catalyst for a revenge story, a nice change of pace from the series' formula.

20 GoldenEye
Bond: Pierce Brosnan
Villains: Alec Trevelyan, 006 (Sean Bean), Valentin Dmitrovich Zukovsky (Robbie Coltrane)
Bond Girl: Natalya Simonova
Henchmen: Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen), Boris Grishenko (Alan Cumming)

When Dalton opted to get out of his contract and not play Bond a third time, the producers turned to another person long in consideration for the role, and the former star of Remington Steele. Brosnan was a bit of a pretty boy as Bond, but with six years between Licence to Kill and GoldenEye, it was good that someone was taking up the mantle. The film features not one but two X-men stars, in far less respectable roles. Alan Cumming plays a comic relief computer whiz, Grishenko, who helps a rogue Russian general take over a space-based satellite weapon. Famke Janssen plays the deadly Xenia Onatopp, who kills her victims by crushing them between her thighs. Bond survives her deadly sex attack twice, the second time finishing her off by shooting down a helicopter she had rappelled down from. The chopper crashes, pulling her off Bond and crushing her between the limbs of a tree.

With help from Coltrane's Zukovsky, Bond eventually learns who is behind the rogue Russian general. Years ago on a mission, Sean Bean's 006 faked his death at the hands of that general. He didn't escape unscathed, because to cover their escape Bond had set the timer on an explosive for less time than 006 expected. The rogue agent blamed Bond for his scarring. Bond teams up with Simonova, another programmer who survived Grishenko's betrayal and the destruction of the facility where they both worked. With her aid, Bond stops the firing of a second satellite blast that would destroy London. He struggles with 006 on a radio telescope, and sends the traitor to the dish below, where he ridiculously survives the massive fall. Moments later when the antenna detonates, the falling debris complete the job. Grishenko meets an equally, albeit intentionally, comic fate when in the midst of cheering “I am invincible!”, he is frozen in place when vats of liquid nitrogen bursts behind him.

This film also marked the first appearances of a new, tough female M, played by Judy Dench, and a feistier Moneypenny, played by Samantha Bond(no relation). Joe Don Baker, last seen as a villain in The Living Daylights, now plays Jack Wade, Bond's CIA contact for this and the subsequent film. Overall, Brosnan's first outing proved entertaining and offered a balance between lighter moments and the darker tones from the Dalton era, but it's not one of the better films in the series.

21 Tomorrow Never Dies
Bond: Pierce Brosnan
Villain: Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce)
Bond Girls: Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh), Paris Carver (Teri Hatcher)
Henchman: Mr. Stamper

Tomorrow Never Dies has one of the worst motivations for a villain. Pryce's Carver is a powerful media mogul who decides to create disasters so he can be the first to report them. Samantha Bond rounds out her Moneypenny in this film, proving a match for 007. When she calls him to report back to base while he's in the midst of making love to a language tutor, she quips that he's a “cunning linguist”. Bond finishes his “lesson” and reports in, where he is asked to use his connection to Carver's wife, played by Teri Hatcher, to get him close to the Carver and discover his plans. Paris Carver slaps her former lover for leaving years earlier, but they end up in bed together. For her betrayal, Carver's wife is murdered by one of his sadistic doctors, played by the late, great Vincent Schiavelli. After finding her body, Bond gets the better of the doctor and shoots him in the head at point blank range.

Despite the laughable plot, the film does have some high points. Yeoh plays Wai Lin, an undercover Chinese agent working to prevent a war between China and England due to Carver's manipulations. There's an amazing chase sequence in which Bond and Wai Lin are handcuffed and evade their pursuers on a motorcycle. The choreography is truly impressive in this scene. Eventually, the duo make their way onboard Carver's floating base, and Bond positions Carver in front of a drill used to sink a British vessel in Chinese waters earlier in the film. “You forgot the first rule of mass media, Elliot!” shouts Bond, “GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT!” He then steps aside as Pryce laughably throws up his hands and screams, rather than also move out of the way.

The first film made after the demise of longtime producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, Tomorrow Never Dies proved even more disappointing to me than GoldenEye. Perhaps it was because, at the time, I only knew Pryce from automobile commercials and was not yet familiar with his legitimate roles, especially Brazil. I hated that the villain was a spokesman with a stupid plan. I think I was also disappointed that Teri Hatcher, whom I'd suffered withdrawal from since the cancellation of Lois and Clark, gave such a rigid performance for the ten minutes or so she was actually in the movie. Ten years later, I didn't enjoy the movie any more, even seeing it in context of the rest of the series or knowing Pryce's resume. Would the Brosnan films get any better? In many ways, they would...

* * *

Words About Bond will return!



Post a Comment

<< Home