James Bond Retrospective: Part Three
James Bond Retrospective
David Carpenter

We here at Review to Be Named love James Bond. We love him so much that we will be dedicating the whole of this week's Review to Be Named podcast to discussing Skyfall and Bond as a whole. A few weeks ago, Jordan did a count down of the greatest Bond theme songs of all time, and time permitting, we had hoped to provide a lot more content to celebrate Bond's 50th anniversary.
Enter David Carpenter, an old classmate of Jordan's and long time reader who has spent the last 10 months on a retrospective journey through the entirety of the Bond series. Over the next three days, leading up to the release of Skyfall, David will take us through each and every installment in the James Bond franchise, reminding us of the series' highs and lows on the way. In this final part, David will discuss the second the three films with Daniel Craig at their center, the "modern era" of the franchise, beginning with 2006's Casino Royale and concluding with Skyfall, released nationally today. SPOILER ALERT is in effect for the Skyfall portion, so beware if you have yet to see the film.
Check out part one here and part two here
Casino Royale (Dir. Martin Campbell, 2006)

On June 15th, 2005, Warner Bros. released Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins to critical acclaim; the film rebooted the Batman film series following 1998's ill-received Batman & Robin, severing all narrative ties with its cinematic history and starting the series anew. Over a year later came Casino Royale, a reboot of the Bond film series drawing (at least theoretical) inspiration from Batman Begins, ignoring all twenty of the series' entries for over four decades. The entire recurring cast of the Brosnan films was replaced, save Judi Dench as M; Daniel Craig replaces Brosnan as James Bond. Whereas GoldenEye had previously represented the series' modernization, Casino Royale is an even starker break; by updating the series' Cold War backdrop to a post-9/11 one, it establishes a relevancy not seen since the Connery films. The Bond series' reboot is even more successful than the film it drew inspiration from; by drawing from the strongest elements of its predecessors, Casino Royale is a stronger beginning to the new rebooted series than even Dr. No was over four decades prior, and the strongest film since On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

MI6 is investigating the financing of a global network of terrorists groups; newly promoted 00 agent James Bond follows a trail to associates of terrorist banker Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), preventing a terrorist attack against a Skyfleet S570 prototype aircraft at Miami International Airport. Just prior to the foiled attack, an unknown party had sold a over a $100,000,000 of Skyfleet; following the attack, Le Chiffre sets up a high-stakes, winner-takes-all poker game at Casino Royale in Montenegro. Concluding Le Chiffre to had used his client's funds during the attempted short and the poker game to be an attempt to recoup the funds, M sends Bond, MI6's best player, to defeat Le Chiffre and offer him sanctuary in return for information on his terrorist contacts. Despite Bond's success, Le Chiffre is killed by an assassin sent by an unknown third party, (Jesper Christensen); Bond successfully captures him during the final minutes of the film.

Craig combines elements from each of his predecessor's performances in his portrayal of the newly minted 007, but takes the character in a direction not seen before. He's a brutal killer, somewhat recalling Dalton's portrayal of Bond as a living weapon in The Living Daylights; M even calls him a "blunt instrument." It's a dramatically different portrayal of Bond than any of his predecessors'. Bond's appeal to woman is less charm and more danger. The relationship between him and British Financial Action Task Force International Liaison Officer Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) recalls the one from On Her Majesty's Secret Service; Craig's portrayal derives aspects from Lazenby's here. Lynd is the strongest Bond girl since The Spy Who Loved Me's Anya Amasova; she's particularly memorable, recalling Diana Rigg's Tracy from On Her Majesty's Secret Service; like Tracy, Bond falls in love with her only to have her die before his eyes. Le Chiffre is one of the series' stronger villains; his sophistication is greatest strength. Giancarlo Giannini portrays Bond's contact in Montenegro, René Mathis; he recalls For Your Eyes Only's Milos Columbo, and is the strongest of Bond's allies since. Felix Leiter returns as the CIA's participant in Le Chiffre's poker game, this time portrayed by Jeffrey Wright; he's somewhere in the middle, though weaker than the last actor to portray Leiter, David Hedison. Judi Dench's M is even stronger than she was in GoldenEye; she portrays M as a stern, maternal character.

Casino Royale takes the strengths of the series' beginnings and updates it for a contemporary audience; the series hasn't felt fresher or more relevant since Connery's early films. Casino Royale eschews baccarat in favor of Texas hold 'em poker; the rules of Texas hold 'em, ascendant in popularity during the mid-2000s, are more comprehensible for a contemporary audience. It's stronger for doing so, as even in GoldenEye baccarat was archaic. It's also obvious that the shadowy organization associated with Le Chiffre is an updated version of SPECTRE; it serves as a compelling hook for future installments.

Casino Royale is a triumphant return to form for the series. It combines the sophistication and intrigue of the early Connery films, the humanity of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, the lean storytelling construction of For Your Eyes Only, and the focus on modernization of GoldenEye. Craig's Bond, while working in strengths from his predecessors, is a departure from them; it's a bold new direction for Bond. Casino Royale succeeds even more than GoldenEye did in modernizing the series and takes its place as the most essential film since From Russia with Love. It's an excellent beginning to the revamped series, the strongest film in almost four decades, and one of the best films in the series.

Quantum of Solace (Dir. Marc Forster, 2008)

Bond, having captured Mr. White during the closing moments of Casino Royale, brings him to an MI6 safe house in Siena, Italy for interrogation; after taunting M on how little information she has on his organization, M's bodyguard Craig Mitchell (Glenn Foster) pulls his gun and attempts to shoot both M and Bond. In the ensuing chaos, White escapes and Bond kills Mitchell. When examining Mitchell's effects, MI6 finds a tagged banknote MI6 had introduced into Le Chiffre's money-laundering operation; just prior, a number of banknotes from the same series were deposited into an account in Port-au-Prince. Bond follows the trail to environmental philanthropist Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), uncovering a plot by Quantum, the shadowy organization behind Greene and White, to use their clout to secure international support for a military coup d'état by exiled Bolivian General Madrano (Joaquín Cosío) in exchange for land rights to a seemingly barren piece of desert; in reality, Quantum will gain control of over 60% of Bolivia's water supply. Quantum of Solace is a direct follow up to the excellent Casino Royale, and the first direct sequel for the series since the Connery films.

Daniel Craig builds on his portrayal of Bond in Casino Royale; it's no stretch to say he's better Quantum of Solace, a quality that eluded both Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. He's even more brutal than he was in the previous film; in Quantum of Solace, Bond is in the midst of a murderous vendetta sparked by the death of Vesper Lynd, channeling it against any associates of Quantum. The film's Bond girl, Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko), tells Bond "there's something horribly efficient about you." Kurylenko's Camille, whose parents were murdered by Madrano, operates as the flip side of a coin to Bond; her deadly vendetta against Madrano echoes his against Quantum. After she avenges her family's death, she tells Bond "I wish I could set you free." She's one of the stronger Bond girls of the series. Greene is another villain in the mold of Le Chiffre; a contemporary villain that could easily blend in with society. He's capable, though forgettable; the film's true villain is the faceless Quantum. Cosío's Madrano, on the other hand, never comes across as believable in his role, and Quantum of Solace is worse off for it. Mathis returns after being falsely accused of betraying Bond in Casino Royale; he's overall weaker than in his last appearance, though serves out the role of prodding Bond to come to terms with the nature of Vesper's betrayal and death. During their initial reunion, he tells Bond "I was sorry to hear about Vesper. I think she loved you.," Bond responds "Right up until she betrayed me.;" Mathis flatly tells Bond "She died for you." His death is one of the more poignant scenes in the film, reflecting Vesper's in Casino Royale, at least until Bond unceremoniously drops his body into a dumpster. Jeffrey Wright, returning as Leiter, is stronger than his initial appearance in Casino Royale; it's refreshing to see the role not recast as it had been through the series' history. Judi Dench, like Craig, turns in a better performance in Quantum of Solace, establishing an even stronger maternal relationship with Bond.

The greatest strength of Quantum of Solace, as it was in Connery's early films, is its narrative consistency with its predecessor. It's the most direct sequel to a previous installment in series history, even more so than From Russia with Love was to Dr. No. All the major characters return from Casino Royale, and the events of the past film are referenced throughout the film. Despite these strengths, there are a number of continuity hiccups, MI6, which in the previous film appeared as a classic government office, is now a high-tech digital command center; as Quantum of Solace takes place directly following the finale of Casino Royale, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense how this came to pass. Villiers (Tobias Menzies), M's secretary in the previous film has also conspicuously vanished, being replaced by Bill Tanner (Rory Kinnear); it doesn't make a whole lot of sense either. During the film's opening car chase, Bond is driving an Aston Martin DBS with Mr. White in the trunk; it's not clear where this car came from, as there was a Jaguar XJ8 parked in White's driveway at the end of Casino Royale.

Overall, Quantum of Solace breaks the cycle of lackluster follow-ups to excellent Bond-introductory films; it's the first film since The Man with the Golden Gun to not be significantly weaker than its predecessor. Craig is even better than he was in Casino Royale, unlike Dalton in Licence to Kill and Brosnan in Tomorrow Never Dies. Quantum of Solace 's narrative consistency is it's key strength, and it's effect in keeping the series' renaissance strong. It's a bit of a modern Thunderball in that despite its strengths, it's not a particularly memorable film. Still, by introducing Quantum, it keeps the series' intrigue alive, just as SPECTRE did for Connery's films. While Quantum of Solace falls short of classic, it's a worthy follow up to Casino Royale, and one of the stronger films of the series.
Skyfall (Dir. Sam Mendes, 2012)

Once again, SPOILER ALERT to all that follows. Now that that's out of the way"¦
In Istanbul, mercenary Patrice (Ola Rapace) kills MI6 agent Ronson (Bill Buckhurst) and steals a hard drive containing the names of every NATO agent embedded in terrorist cells across the globe; while trying to recover the drive, Bond is accidentally shot from afar by MI6 agent Eve (Naomie Harris) on orders from M. Presumed dead, Bond takes the chance to retire from MI6, subsequently falling out of shape, into depression, and becoming addicted to alcohol and painkillers. Three months later, the hard drive is accessed from M's computer within MI6; moments later, an explosion rocks MI6, killing eight employees. Soon after, the identities of five embedded MI6 agents are posted online, with a promise to release another five within a week; the agents are killed before they can withdraw. Bond returns from the dead, offering to take the lead in the investigation; he follows a trail from Patrice to Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a former MI6 agent who had worked under M while she ran operations in Hong Kong. Silva, while under M's command, became increasingly unstable, hacking the Chinese without authorization. With the Chinese onto Silva and the transfer of Hong Kong's sovereignty from Britain to China rapidly approaching on July 1st, 1997, M gave Silva up, ensuring a peaceful transition; Silva, having survived five months of brutal torture, swore revenge. Bond, in no condition to return to active duty, resolves to protect M from Silva at all costs. Skyfall, released 50 years after Dr. No is a dark, brooding thriller, unique among its predecessors; it's also one of the series' best. Skyfall is an incredible addition to the canon, serving as not only a deconstruction of the Bond mythos, but as a powerful argument for the series itself as it moves into its next 50 years.

Daniel Craig has aged drastically in the past four years; Craig no longer not looks the part of the young, headstrong agent of his first two outings. Craig's age is addressed directly; this is an aging Bond suffering under the weight of years of service to MI6. Upon Bond's return, M tells him that "You and I have been at this for quite awhile." Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) tells Bond "You don't need to be out in the field to see the obvious. It's a young man's game." When Bond is first introduced to MI6's new Quartermaster (Ben Whishaw) in an art gallery, he remarks upon one of the paintings, saying "It makes me feel melancholy. A grand old warship being hauled away from scrap." During a tension-filled scene where Eve (revealed, at film's end, to be Moneypenny) shaves off Bond's scruff, she tells him "You look the part now.;" when Bond inquires "And what part is that?," she quips "Old dog, new tricks." Bond fails his MI6 evaluations; not only does he collapse after a physical fitness test, but he can't even hit a stationary target in the firing range. When tailing Patrice in Shanghai, Bond can barely hang on the underside of an elevator as it ascends up a skyscraper; after successfully disarming Patrice, Bond doesn't even have the strength to keep him from falling to his death.

Javier Bardem's Raoul Silva is one of the all-time greatest Bond villains; only series stalwarts Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Auric Goldfinger top him. Silva is a chilling, flamboyant psychopath; despite not appearing on-screen until well over an hour into the film, the character is built up through his actions off-screen. When Bond confronts Sévérine (Bérénice Lim Marlohe), Silva's agent and lover, she begins trembling at the mere mention of Silva; she asks Bond "How much do you know about fear?" Bond retorts "All there is.;" she flatly responds "Not like this. Not like him." When Silva finally makes his appearance, he immediately establishes himself; there's absolutely no daylight. Judi Dench is incredible in her final appearance as M; her maternal influence, stronger than ever with Bond, is effectively warped with Silva. When she dies from her wounds at the end of the film, Bond's devastation is comparable to a son losing his mother. Time will tell if Mallory can stand up to her. Naomie Harris' Moneypenny is the best since Lois Maxwell; her chemistry with Bond is excellent, and hopefully she remains with the series for as long as Craig does. Whinshaw's Q never manages to match Desmond Llewelyn, though he does leave a stronger impression than John Cleese.

Skyfall is an incredible film to mark the 50th anniversary of the Bond film series. It joins its predecessor Casino Royale in the highest echelon Bond of films; it is taut, dark, and powerful. Daniel Craig is once again in top form, defying his age; there's something to be said that with only three outings as Bond, two of Craig's films rank in my top four of the entire series. Javier Bardem's chilling Raoul Silva is one of the best villains in the history of the franchise. Judi Dench gives an excellent final portrayal as M; her tragic death ranks with Tracy Bond's in On Her Majesty's Secret Service and Vesper Lynd's in Casino Royale. Happy 50th anniversary, 007; there's no doubt in my mind that once again, James Bond will return.

Film Ranking
23) Die Another Day (2002)
22) Moonraker (1979)
21) A View to a Kill (1985)
20) You Only Live Twice (1967)
19) Licence to Kill (1989)
18) Live and Let Die (1973)
17) Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
16) Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
15) The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
14) The World is Not Enough (1999)
13) Quantum of Solace (2008)
12) Octopussy (1983)
11) Thunderball (1965)
10) Dr. No (1962)
9) Goldfinger (1964)
8) The Living Daylights (1987)
7) The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
6) GoldenEye (1995)
5) For Your Eyes Only (1981)
4) Skyfall (2012)
3) Casino Royale (2006)
2) From Russia with Love (1963)
1) On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
Villain Ranking
24) Gustav Graves (Die Another Day)
23) Hugo Drax (Moonraker)
22) Brad Whitaker (The Living Daylights)
21) General Orlov (Octopussy)
20) General Georgi Koskov (The Living Daylights)
19) Dominic Greene (Quantum of Solace)
18) Franz Sanchez (Licence to Kill)
17) Renard (The World is Not Enough)
16) Le Chiffre (Casino Royale)
15) Dr. Kananga (Live and Let Die)
14) Elliot Carver (Tomorrow Never Dies)
13) Kamal Khan (Octopussy)
12) Emilio Largo (Thunderball)
11) Dr. Julius No (Dr. No)
10) Elektra King (The World is Not Enough)
9) Aris Kristatos (For Your Eyes Only)
8) Max Zorin (A View to a Kill)
7) Karl Stromberg (The Spy Who Loved Me)
6) Alec Trevelyan (GoldenEye)
5) Francisco Scaramanga (The Man with the Golden Gun)
4) Rosa Klebb (From Russia with Love)
3) Raoul Silva (Skyfall)
2) Auric Goldfinger (Goldfinger)
1) Ernst Stavro Blofeld (From Russia with Love)

Bond Girl Ranking
23) Jinx (Die Another Day)
22) Dr. Christmas Jones (The World is Not Enough)
21) Stacey Sutton (A View to a Kill)
20) Kissy Suzuki (You Only Live Twice)
19) Tiffany Case (Diamonds Are Forever)
18) Mary Goodnight (The Man with the Golden Gun)
17) Pam Bouvier (Licence to Kill)
16) Holly Goodhead (Moonraker)
15) Solitaire (Live and Let Die)
14) Kara Milovy (The Living Daylights)
13) Camille Montes (Quantum of Solace)
12) Octopussy (Octopussy)
11) Domino Derval (Thunderball)
10) Wai Lin (Tomorrow Never Dies)
9) Natalya Simonova (GoldenEye)
8) Sylvia Trench (Dr. No)
7) Melina Havelock (For Your Eyes Only)
6) Anya Amasova (The Spy Who Loved Me)
5) Vesper Lynd (Casino Royale)
4) Pussy Galore (Goldfinger)
3) Tatiana Romanova (From Russia with Love)
2) Honey Rider (Dr. No)
1) Tracy di Vincenzo (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)

Henchman Ranking
21) Chang (Moonraker)
20) Miranda Frost (Die Another Day)
19) Zao (Die Another Day)
18) Professor Dent (Dr. No)
17) Baron Samedi (Live and Let Die)
16) Erich Kreigler (For Your Eyes Only)
15) Dario (Licence to Kill)
14) Mischka & Grischska (Octopussy)
13) Necros (The Living Daylights)
12) Stamper (Tomorrow Never Dies)
11) May Day (A View to a Kill)
10) Gobinda (Octopussy)
9) Tee Hee Johnson (Live and Let Die[/i])
8) Irma Bunt ([On Her Majesty's Secret Service)
7) Mr. Wint & Mr. Kidd (Diamonds Are Forever)
6) Nick Nack (The Man with the Golden Gun)
5) Xenia Onatopp (GoldenEye)
4) Fiona Volpe (Thunderball)
3) Oddjob (Goldfinger[)
2) Jaws (The Spy Who Loved Me)
1) Red Grant (From Russia with Love)

Ally Ranking
16) Sharkey (Licence to Kill)
15) Quarrel Jr. (Live and Let Die)
14) Tiger Tanaka (You Only Live Twice)
13) Vijay (Octopussy)
12) Sir Godfrey Tibbett (A View to a Kill)
11) Lieutenant Hip (The Man with the Golden Gun)
10) Jack Wade (GoldenEye)
9) Commander Carter (The Spy Who Loved Me)
8) Kamran Shah (The Living Daylights)
7) Valentin Zukovsky (The World is Not Enough)
6) Quarrel (Dr. No)
5) Felix Leiter (Dr. No)
4) René Mathis (Casino Royale)
3) Marc-Ange Draco (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)
2) Milos Columbo (For Your Eyes Only)
1) Kerim Bey (From Russia with Love)
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