Monday, May 5, 2014

Ranking every James Bond film

I feel like a spy. It’s ten to five in the morning, I am sitting in the desolate departure lounge of Glasgow Airport, and I am wearing my navy blue herringbone coat--a stereotypically British knee length spy coat. I am waiting for my flight that will take me soaring into the arms of my loving girlfriend in Belfast Airport, and from there we’ll drive to her family home, where I have been cordially invited for Christmas… The butterflies in my stomach are erupting with excitement, and my mind is whizzing round and round. I feel like a child again, but instead of running around pointing my fingers at random people whilst singing the Bond theme, I try to sit like Bond, Palmer, or Smily would have, looking cool, calm, and collected, and decide that a real spy would get on with his mission…

The problem is, am I safe to begin here? Are the fat elderly couple next to me really an old fat couple, or are they KGB? CIA maybe? Who knows, but after a look around I decide I can begin. I really couldn’t be a spy, though, as I can't wipe the huge ear to ear smile from my face.
I slowly and quietly pull out my laptop, opening it with an attempted cool flick that ends terribly. I open up the word processor, look around both of my shoulders, and then begin my mission. I have been asked by my senior officer… okay my editor, Jake, to write a best Bond films list. This mission is going to be tough, but then again, I have a cup of tea and the Guardian newspaper next to me; I am doing this for Queen and Country. 

I am going to start with the worst Bond film, (leaving out the two spin off films, Never Say Never, and the original Casino Royale) that way I can build up the suspense, like a proper spy film does, as I draw closer to the best Bond film.

23. Moonraker
Moonraker is by far the worst Bond film ever made, but then again, all of the Roger Moore era films are. This motion picture, however, quite frankly just takes the biscuit. Not only was Moore too old, too nice, and just in every way shape and form too wrong to play Bond by the time the film was made; he lumbers along like an unfit, posh neanderthal most of the time. The storyline was just completely absurd! By this point, if you have watched the films chronologically, SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion) has been destroyed.

They funded all of Bond’s previous enemies, and yet somehow, it appears that a random evil mastermind has made a ton of cash and funded his own space program… UNNOTICED! For goodness sake, he has a bloody space station soaring around up there in space, did no body else see that!? I guess that's American Intelligence for you. The film is full of quirky, childish gadgets, and the attempted double entendres by Moore were just out of character, out of place, and completely cringe worthy. If I were you, I wouldn’t waste the precious time we all have here on earth and skip this, and all of Moore’s Bond films for that matter.

22. A View to a Kill
WHY!!!!???!?!? Just why!? Moore’s final performance as Bond sees him battling yet another crazy American Capitalist, Max Zorin (played by Christopher Walken). Bond's mission in this film was to take out the psychotic microchip manufacturer before he could wipe out all of Silicon Valley… Basically, Bond has to destroy a shite venture capitalist who’s jealous of Silicon Valley’s success. I ask again… WHY!!?!?!?! It was bollocks, complete and utter bollocks, however I will leave you with this: good bye Roger Moore.

21. The Spy Who Loved Me
Never has a Bond film managed to get the essence of Bond so incredibly wrong. Let's face it, Bond has had many staple features throughout the series, from cars to gadgets to double entendres and British pride, with the Bond Girl topping it all off. The Spy Who Loved Me singlehandedly managed to reduce Bond to a smouldering piece of bad acting, ugly cars, and ridiculous gadgets within the space of two hours. Bond, played by Roger Moore yet again, is sent out to destroy a complete maniac, and by maniac I actually mean the absurd and brainless villain Karl Stromberg.

Stromberg plans to start WWIII, have West nuke East, and East nuke West, therefore leaving the planet uninhabitable for thousands of years. That’s a fantastic plan, but where would this genius mastermind live? Well, he plans to build an underwater civilisation and create a utopia, a wonderful dictatorship styled utopia… Hell’s Bells. Again I will advise you to skip this film, that way you won’t have to witness a crap Lotus, a Bond Girl who can’t act for toffee, and more importantly, a storyline that was clearly taken from a sample of one of the screenwriters loo roll scraps.

20. Octopussy
No… Just no. Roger Moore go away, and Albert R. Broccoli bring us a better Bond another day.

19. Die Another Day
Die Another Day was made to celebrate forty years of agent 007, James Bond on screen, and what an abysmal job it did too represent such a brilliant British creation. The best parts of this film were the reintroduction of the Aston Martin as Bond's signature car and Pierce Brosnan’s final performance as Bond. Again Bond had been cast appallingly, Brosnan’s portrayal of 007 was too mature, too nice, and too healthy. He was too suave and too gentle and just didn’t have the roguish behaviour that Bond in the books was all too keen to display at every opportune moment. Luckily for Bond diehards, this was his last film, but Hell’s Horses, why was it the 40th anniversary!?

Die Another Day depicts Bond trying to stop the rebellious son of a North Korean general, Tan-Sun Moon (played by Toby Stephens) from dealing in dirty diamonds… because we all know that the worst thing North Korea are doing is dealing dirty diamonds. As the beginning sequence ends it appears Bond has killed Moon; he hasn’t! And gets captured in the process and imprisoned by the North Koreans. Long story short, he is released, goes on a vengeance mission, and finally comes to the realisation that that Tan-Sun Moon has had his DNA altered to a white man's; enter Toby Stephens as a Korean man, and under his new disguise has built a giant laser to wipe out the demilitarised zone, and unite Korea by force… where is my cyanide pill? We all know the outcome obviously, it’s James Bond, he wins and stops this lunatic's plans for world… well, Korean domination really, and gets the girl. Did I mention the Bond girl was Halle Berry? Oh yes, adding a touch of pure acting class to this otherwise poor film.

18. The Man with the Golden Gun
A trained assassin who goes by the name of Francisco Scaramanga (played by Christopher Lee) uses a golden gun to “remove” people who are a problem. However, he charges a million a shot and therefore is minted. Bond is sent to kill Scaramanger as he has built an incredibly large solar plant that he’ll sell to the highest bidder. This scares the West, as it contains the power to control the Sun's rays that could be used to burn the powerhouses of the Western world to the ground. So off Bond goes to collect another kill. Havoc ensues, Bond kills Scaramanga, and he locks a midget in a suitcase which he then throws overboard. Hilarious but also quite cruel. Moore's second Bond film was just daft because of the sidekick midget and the unimpressive storyline. 

17. The World Is Not Enough 
Brosnan’s second to last film celebrated the turn of the Millennium, it showed off new technologies, a hairdresser's BMW, and a lacklustre performance… again. I will admit though, the story is pretty bloody good. Bond is sent to protect a heiress’ oil pipeline that is under attack from an ex-KGB agent turned terrorist, Renard (played by Robert Carlyle) While in the process of completing his mission, Bond discovers that he is protecting a morally bankrupt daddy's girl who is in league with Renard. Together they have planed to destroy Istanbul and the competing Russian pipeline with a nuclear bomb leaving her pipeline as the only one in Europe, therefore making her filthy rich. Bond manages to kill both villains and saves the day. There you have it, a cool storyline, especially for the new Millennium, but still Brosnan and the Bond Girl, Christmas Jones (played by Denise Richards) let it down.

16. Live and Let Die
This was Roger Moore's debut… THIS!? Live and Let Die is simply Bond killing a group of black drug dealers who believe in Voodoo… yes, this is what James Bond turned into in the '70s.

15. For Your Eyes Only
In Roger Moore's fifth Bond film, Bond is tasked with retrieving a British submarine's automatic targeting attack communicator, as this important piece of equipment allows the Ministry of Defence to communicate with British subs and control the launch of British ballistic missiles. The Russians hear of Bond's mission and decide to attempt a retrieval themselves. Now as a premise, this is fantastic in all honesty, but as it was a Moore era Bond film, his shabby acting and face-palming one liners just kill it. Not only is it Moore’s fifth poor performance in a row that lets the film down, it is also the diabolical side story that involves Greek mobsters that are linked to the Bond Girl. I will admit though, for a Moore era film, the storyline is at least more believable and therefore I can bear watching it on Boxing Day.

14. Tomorrow Never Dies
Considering this was the second appearance of Bond for most of my generation, all I can say about it is it’s an appalling example of the character and culture of Bond. Pierce Brosnan’s watered down version of Bond is lazy, boring, and too straight edge, finding pleasure in, well, nothing at all. Brosnan’s Bond has gone Banker Wanker, and he doesn’t attempt to give his character an edge, especially when he drives the worst cars that have ever appeared in a set of Bond films: a BMW.

Tomorrow Never Dies just annoys me because it follows in the same vein as Moore’s films: bland, boring, full of ridiculous gadgets, and poor acting. Though it features all of this rubbish, I do however love the villain and the storyline of the film. Elliot Carver (Jonathan Price) owns a media company and makes all his money from journalism, so to expand his readership he decides to start a war between the UK and China, and plans to be the first to report on all the stories; this is because he is secretly stirring the pot by making attacks on both sides. It is slightly genius and Price is a fantastic villain. It’s watchable just for that.

13 - Diamonds Are Forever
Worst Sean Connery film! Diamond Laser Beam Death Ray and world domination. I won’t waste your time or my brain power on this fine Sunday afternoon. The one thing I will say is I am sad Connery finished on such a low.

12. GoldenEye
The best part about this film is Sean Bean, but the worst part about this film is the lack of Sean Bean’s natural Yorkshire accent. Okay, I will admit there is one other very cool part about this film, the reference to the famous British/Soviet spy Kim Philby. Philby was part of the Cambridge Spy ring, a group of young communists hailing from Cambridge University who decided to fight fascism during the early thirties, when the establishment simply appeased it. This led him to side with the Soviets and therefore spy against his own United Kingdom, but in Philby’s mind this was for the greater good of the UK.

Have you found the reference yet? Yes, Sean Bean’s character (Alex Trevelyan) was a British spy who decided that Britain had lost its way, and therefore defected to Russia. As an underlying storyline it’s fantastic, in fact if it had just been a hunt for the spy who went into the cold, it would have been brilliant. Sadly though, there is the added satellite and laser beam of death story arc, which to me is like pouring liquid shite all over your ice-cream and strawberries instead of chocolate sauce. Oh well, it was only a Brosnan film.

11. License to Kill
The only Bond film to receive a 15 rating, or R rating in America. Timothy Dalton’s second film playing 007 is a gritty, dirty, harsh, and ruthless masterpiece that shows Bond on a bloodthirsty rampage. The film begins with James Bond and Felix Leiter (Bond's CIA mate) nabbing a Colombian drug lord, Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi) and sending him off to be prosecuted by the DEA. It’s a good day at the office, and it’s only going to get better. The bust has been made, Bond and Felix are heroes, and now awaiting them is Leiter’s Wedding Day. The wedding is full of merriment, drink, and love; crackin’ wedding.

When Bond leaves the happy couple at the end of the day, everything takes a turn for the worse. Firstly Felix and his wife are captured by the escaped Sanchez, and second, Felix is fed to a shark and his wife is raped and killed. Bond finds them both the next day. At least Felix is alive, but he’s missing a leg. Bond then spends the rest of the film unleashing a hellish rampage on anyone and everyone associated with Sanchez; by the way, at this point in the film Bond has been removed from service by M, and is now doing this Ronin style... Bad Bond.

Finally, after putting a young Benicio del Toro through a cocaine mincing machine and chasing Sanchez’s drug convoy in a lorry, Bond finally douses Sanchez in petrol and burns him alive. Now this is how roguish Bond was meant to be! And this is why Dalton was incredible as Bond! He was cold, ruthless, egotistic, and full of an adolescent devil may care attitude. He was nice, yes, and he spied for Queen and Country, yes, but that doesn’t mean he was an angel; he simply fought for their side. License to Kill was the third Bond film I was sat down in front of, and at the ripe old age of seven, I loved it. Though it’s one of my favourites, it does have a very ordinary story line that just reminds me, ever so slightly, of a brainless, American Hollywood action film. Still, it’s a good’n.

10. You Only Live Twice
Bond dies! Don’t worry, it isn’t a spoiler, it happens in the first scene and it’s planned. Bond dies so that he may live! He fakes his death so he can bring down the evil SPECTRE and finally kill their leader, Blofeld. Set in Japan, Bond learns that Blofeld and SPECTRE hold a base inside a volcano, they’ve captured both American and Russian spacecraft in order to flare up the tensions between the two nations, and plan to cause a full scale war, thus wiping out the two nations and leaving them to rule the world. Bond’s job, then, is to destroy the volcano base, the two spacecraft, and kill Blofeld. He manages to blow up the rockets, destroy the volcano, but fails to kill Blofeld. However he does get the girl, so it wasn’t a total loss, and there is always next time to nab the bad guy. Not a bad idea, and the film is very classic Bond. The storyline is cool, but then again, this is the first film where the gadgets started to get out of hand and become idiotic, so for me that takes away from the film.

9. The Living Daylights
My first Bond film, Timothy Dalton's first appearance as 007, and a Bond theme composed by A-ha… I still have a soft spot for this fantastic film. The Living Daylights deals with the Afghan-Soviet War and the Eastern block of the 1980s. Bond is sent to Austria to pick up a defecting KGB agent, General Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbe) and bring him to the UK for questioning. The mission goes well, but once home in Blighty, Koskov is captured and taken back to the Eastern Block, leaving 007 with no choice but to chase him. After a chase across Eastern Europe, the destruction of a beautiful Aston Martin, and the shooting of a cello, 007 learns that Koskov wasn’t captured, but simply gave himself up so he could feed false information to the West. With the West distracted, Koskov planned to fund the Soviet army using opium trading so he could lead a Soviet victory in the Afghan War. As a Bond film, the story line is incredible, as is the acting, and the cultural references of the times; Bond helps the Mujahideen... oh the irony. 

8. Thunderball
I love this film, not just because Connery was portraying 007, not just because the fashion of the early '60s was classy, but because this film features one of the UK’s most famous jet aircraft, and one of my favourite planes, the Avro Vulcan. Bond has to retrieve a NATO nuclear warhead that is stowed upon an RAF Vulcan that crashes suspiciously in the Caribbean. Upon his arrival, Bond learns that the aircraft has been downed by SPECTRE, and their agent Emilio Largo has the plane under his protection at the crash site. Bond soon locates the crash site underwater and leads a U.S. Coast Guard team in a battle against the SPECTRE agents, where Bond kills Largo and retrieves the warhead… oh, and of course steals Largo’s mistress in the process. I love this Bond film because it was the first Bond book I read, so it will always have a soft spot in my heart. It is Connery's fifth film, and he is still as brilliant as he was when he first said, “Bond, James Bond.” The storyline is brilliant, the gadgets are minimal, and the acting is classic. Plus is features an Avro Vulcan and the good old Aston Martin DB5. Did I also mention you see an Avro Vulcan in this film?

7. Quantum of Solace
Daniel Craig’s incredible portrayal of agent 007 James Bond is flawless, and in his second appearance as the British secret agent, he staples his name to the part and will forever be remembered for it. I personally liked Quantum of Solace because it continues the story started in Casino Royale, and yes it’s action packed, but it’s not the first Bond film to do that. The Bond series has always followed a pattern of one thriller-esque, spy film, followed by an explosion filled, gun battling flick where Bond destroys everything in his sights. Granted, the films may not always follow one another in that pattern, but there is always a variation on it. I loved Quantum anyway, not only because Craig nailed the character of Bond, but because the film itself was just pure and utter mayhem, which isn’t bad. Every and now and again it’s always nice to just get lost in complete and utter revenge, and watch Bond dishing out good old fashioned beatings and bullets to the heads of his enemies, it makes a Saturday night telly fun.

6. Goldfinger
Connery, what can you say about Connery? Well he was the first Bond, and the best until Craig came along, but Connery, well he is just the classic Bond and for that you just cat go wrong, especially when it comes to Goldfinger. The third Bond film ever made, Goldfinger set the bar in everything! You had the best suits, the introduction of the Aston Martin DB5 (the best car), the best Bond girls, both in terms of looks but also in terms of spirit and personality, and you had a great villain… Auric Goldfinger, oh and of course the introduction of the first Bond innuendo… Pussy Galore. The plot was fantastic, consisting of Goldfinger trying to fund SPECTRE with a marvellous money grabbing scheme: “Hey let's break into Fort Knox, irradiate the gold, deeming it useless of course, which in turn will send the price of our gold soaring.” Genius! But Bond stops him for Queen and Country using only a radio, a gun, and a beautiful, classic Aston Martin. Now that is a formula for a classic Bond film.

5. From Russia with Love
This is a proper spy film, no flare, no gimmicks, just intelligence through and through. From Russia with Love’s plot is quite simple, yet so classic that I adore it. You have a double agent working for the USSR and SPECTRE, they want Bond dead, not only because he poses a threat to Soviet agents, but more importantly, because he’s stumbled upon SPECTRE and their plans. The agent, Rosa Klebb, decides to give away Soviet intelligence through agent, Tatiana Romanova, leading Bond into a trap where he can be assassinated, but also leading the West into having stolen Soviet intelligence, which would end in war between East and West.

Obviously there are a few gadgets in this film, but they were real spy gadgets that were used during the Second World War, so for instance you had a briefcase that carried ammunition, a folding sniper rife, money, a knife, and a special tear gas canister that exploded if you opened it incorrectly. From Russia with Love is a spy nerd's dream, because it wasn’t full of big explosions and action. Instead it was a thriller, where a movement in the shadows was more extravagant than a crashing helicopter; the film does feature a crashing helicopter, but it’s used as a grand finale. From Russia with Love also had little nods to the book, so it featured Bond’s car from the books, a Bentley, and Connery was just superb in this film, only his second time playing 007 and he had it down to a tee.

4. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
The only Bond film that will make you sob uncontrollably every time. I am not giving anything away for this film, so just watch it, trust me, just watch it. 

3. Casino Royale
This film was the best regeneration of Bond to date. Craig has, by far, mastered the portrayal of 007 and does a brilliant job of bringing the Bond from the books to life. He takes Bond back to how he should be: cruel, cold, and spoiled, with an adolescent touch thrown in there too--he truly is Bond.  However, what in god’s name were they thinking making 007 blonde? It is clearly stated in Casino Royale (the book of course) that Bond looks like Hoagy Carmichael: "Bond reminds me rather of Hoagy Carmichael, but there is something cold and ruthless.” Still, though it pains me to say it, I can overlook this foolish inaccuracy because Craig can act so well, though Craig isn’t the only incredible addition to the reboot. Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green, was a perfect choice for the film's Bond Girl; she was what a good Bond girl should be--strong-willed, confident, and sexy, but still classy and ladylike. The villain Le Chiffre, played by Mads Mikkelsen, was your classic Bond Villain; smart, cruel, and egotistic, this character was spot on and you hated him. Does anyone remember the torture scene?

Casino Royale has been the only Bond film to follow its book almost perfectly, the plot was almost identical and all the characters were there with no idiotic additions; I’ll admit it had the occasional modernisation in there too, just to date it and make it relatable for modern audiences, but you can’t hold that against the writers. All in all the film was superb; there wasn’t anything I really hated about it. It was true to the book, and so I was happy. The one criticism I really have, and it was taking the piss a bit, was the famous gun barrel sequence. I’ll be honest and say the new one is “cool”, but still, bugger that, I wanted the classic gun barrel sequence, there was no need to alter that.

2. Skyfall
This film was just awe inspiring. It was a homage to every classic moment of the 007 series, and it made ever person in the UK, even if just for a second, think “Oh yes, we’re that good.” I don’t need to say anything more, other than, Bond. James Bond is going back to being classic again.

1. Dr. No
Duh, duh, duhduh, duhduh, duuuuuuuh! Bond. James Bond. The first time the world saw agent 007, James Bond, on screen was just sublime… Wait, no, it was in fact, cool. Dr. No brought Bond to life and we got to witness one of the UK’s best exports, incredible cinema, and a hard bastard leading the way. This film was all spy thriller and no explosive killer, having only one action scene at the climax of the film, and even then it’s tame for a Bond film. This film was what started it all and Connery set the bar so high for Bond that it took four actors in between Craig and the original himself, to finally find someone as good, or better, as I’d say. The film features no gadgets, it features no cheap thrills, no outdated and childish pens that go boom, but instead simply uses brains and Britishness to defeat the villain… oh, and Bond’s Walther PPK of course.

Behind the explosive pens, the beautiful women, the incredible cars, and the spying, Bond is the UK, he is an integral part of our island and will forever represent our style. Bond is the representation of Boxing Day, classic cars, Saturday nights in watching the telly with the family, and playing pretend spies in the street with your mates on those long Summer days. The UK is Bond and the UK is he, we raised the super spy, we produced his creator, Ian Fleming, and forged him through our bravery and steadfastness during the Second World War. Agent 007, James Bond, will always be there on those long winter nights, foiling SPECTRE and racing through country roads in his beautiful Aston. Every boy longs to be him, and everyone gets in a tiff about who the next Bond should be, and who was the best. Bond is every moment in the UK's history and so everyone in the isles is Bond, James Bond.