Tag Archives: Daniel Craig

Spectre (2015) Retrospective Review

Time: 148 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser/Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Léa Seydoux as Dr. Madeleine Swann
Ben Whishaw as Q
Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny
Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx
Andrew Scott as Max Denbigh/C
Monica Bellucci as Lucia Sciarra
Ralph Fiennes as M
Rory Kinnear as Bill Tanner
Jesper Christensen as Mr. White
Director: Sam Mendes

A cryptic message from the past leads James Bond (Daniel Craig) to Mexico City and Rome, where he meets the beautiful widow (Monica Bellucci) of an infamous criminal. After infiltrating a secret meeting, 007 uncovers the existence of the sinister organization SPECTRE. Needing the help of the daughter of an old nemesis, he embarks on a mission to find her. As Bond ventures toward the heart of SPECTRE, he discovers a chilling connection between himself and the enemy (Christoph Waltz) he seeks.

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In my initial Spectre review, I called it a solid James Bond film with some problems holding it back quite a bit. I still like the movie but having seeing it a couple of times since then, even more problems are apparent to me, with regard to the balance of the usual Craig Bond stuff and the classic Bond elements, the painfully underwhelming third act and way too many issues to fit into one sentence.

Since I already did a spoiler free review of Spectre, I’m going to delve into some spoilers here. With Skyfall, director Sam Mendes managed to balance a lot of the modernised Bond elements with some classic Bond elements, to deliver one of the best films in the series. With Spectre he goes further with the latter aspect, with a clear cut Bond Girl, more gadgets, a fast car filled with gadgets and a lot of the classic Bond tropes. It’s even the first of the Daniel Craig James Bond films to open with the conventional gunbarrel opening scene that almost all of the Bond films have at the beginning of the movie. Unfortunately, the blend of the old and new didn’t quite work this time around. I actually like how Spectre tries to be a continuation of the Craig Era tone and rebooting the classic Bond villain organisation SPECTRE for this rendition of James Bond. The problem is that it also tries to homage some of the much earlier Bond films, with cartoonish humour and having action scenes that don’t challenge Bond (some Roger Moore era things unfortunately), and it really doesn’t fit together. In all the prior Daniel Craig Bond films, Bond is challenged to some degree. Despite all the personal connections that James Bond have to this story however, it feels like a typical run of the mill job for him. Nothing challenges him physically (aside from Dave Bautista), nor as a character mentally, psychologically or whatever. Spectre ties together all the previous Craig movies and while on paper I liked that idea, the way it was done really just didn’t work (I’ll go into that when I talk about Christoph Waltz and his character).

A lot of the things also don’t fit with the established tone of the newer movies, such as the humour. For example, early in the movie, Bond falls from a crumbling building onto a couch, which would work well in a Roger Moore Bond film but it comes across as too silly for Daniel Craig’s Bond. On another note there is also a subplot featuring Andrew Scott’s character trying to take over MI6 because he feels like it’s outdated and trying to replace agents with technology and surveillance. This plotline really falls flat, we’ve seen this happen in other movies, and we’ve seen it done better. It feels like it was pushed into Spectre just to appear somewhat relevant to today but it only just ends up slowing down the plot even more and makes things feel even more dull. I think it might’ve worked and be made more interesting if Andrew Scott’s character didn’t turn out to be a villain and this was only a red herring, however this is not the case. It feels like the movie kept cutting to this subplot because it would later be integral to the plot and it feels forced and distracts more than anything. The third act is both ridiculous yet really underwhelming and filled with a ton of problems, and considering the issues that Spectre has, that’s saying a lot. The film cuts between two things going on at the same time, James Bond with his ‘confrontation’ (in the loosest sense of the word) as well as M, Q and Moneypenny working to stop Andrew Scott, and it’s not that great. There are some implausible things like all the effort that Blofeld no doubt put into setting up things in the old destroyed MI6 building, placing pictures of Bond, Vesper, Silva, Le Chiffre, Greene, M and others throughout the place, writing on the walls and much more, which comes across as just unbelievable and funny considering the gritty tone that these movies have been having. Probably the most unrealistic and preposterous yet extremely underwhelming moment however is when James Bond shoots down a helicopter with a pistol while on a high speed boat in the complete dark, I don’t even think the previous Bond movies would attempt to do something like that and I don’t mean that as a compliment. The only thing going for the third act is that it looks good and the actors are trying, outside of that it’s borderline bad. It really brings down the movie a tremendous amount, some of the rushed things that happen come across as being really lazy, and leaves a bad taste in your mouth. The movie is long, about 2 hours and a half, and you really feel the length. There are some moments of drawn out nothingness happening, and a lot of the movie can feel rather uninteresting at times. It’s a shame really, because many of the scenes are actually well handled, and the movie has some ideas that had potential, but it doesn’t come togther well.

Despite a lot of faults with the characters, the cast do the best they can with what they have. Daniel Craig is once again the best James Bond yet and does try his best here. In terms of performance however, I’d have to say this is Craig’s worst performance as Bond. I don’t fully blame this on him though, as I said despite some of the personal elements in play in the story, James Bond doesn’t feel conflicted or challenged throughout the entirety of the movie. There are plenty of moments when he should be really invested in what’s going on, but Craig doesn’t really react that much to them. While this might pass for a Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan James Bond performance, it doesn’t work for Daniel Craig who spent 3 movies being a rougher and grittier Bond set in some form of reality and an actual character instead of an archetype. It certainly doesn’t help that he has no clear arc through the movie like the other Craig Bond movies, save for some vague things from his past thrown in and a meaningless therapy session, even Quantum of Solace had a solid character arc. Lea Seydoux is good as another ‘Bond Girl’, unfortunately there’s not a ton of interesting things to her character, she basically only ends up doing two things over the course of the movie (despite being established at one point as being somewhat capable), and feels like she could’ve been played by basically anyone. The romance between her and Bond does come out of nowhere and it’s not really believable, however this could go for almost all of the Bond Girls in the Bond series. It’s only made worse by the ending, which seems to imply that she’s someone special now to Bond even though nothing in the entirety of the movie indicated that to be the case (hopefully No Time to Die fleshes that aspect out a lot more). Seydoux does her best though. Monica Bellucci is another Bond girl who shows up in the first act of the movie and essentially does nothing after like 5 minutes of being on screen. She does provide some exposition but that’s it, almost like you could’ve cast anyone in the role and not try to make them a Bond girl. Maybe that should’ve been done, because it would’ve at least removed the really bad love scene between her and Craig, which came across as being really awkward and creepy. The returning Bond supporting cast do a great job. Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw as Q and Ralph Fiennes as the new M are all great in their roles. It is nice seeing them get to do stuff and get involved with the plot (especially Whishaw’s Q) though they did feel a little out of place in the climax.

One of Spectre’s most notable problems (and that’s saying a lot) is that the movie doesn’t do great with the antagonists. First of all getting the minor antagonists out of the way, we have Andrew Scott and Dave Bautsista. The moment that Andrew Scott appears on screen, you can tell that he’s going to end up being a villain. Sure, it doesn’t help that he was already known for Moriarty in Sherlock, but the worst part is that he feels really unnecessary to the plot. As I said earlier, the whole plotline was really not needed and Andrew Scott was tied to it, so he really didn’t have much to work with. Scott definitely has talent but he doesn’t get much to do except to be a generic ‘surprise’ villain. Dave Bautista is a Spectre assassin who at times tries to kill James Bond. While he won’t rank among the best James Bond henchman, out of all the Bond villains in this movie he does his job the best, he served his purpose adequately. Of course the main villain however is Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser. Everyone speculated that with the movie being called Spectre, that Waltz would be playing the head of Spectre, Ernst Stravo Blofeld, who appeared in some of the older Bond movies. There was so much denial that this was the case but it was even more predictable than the villain name reveals for Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness and Talia al Ghul in The Dark Knight Rises. Having that name was so forced that they really shouldn’t have tried it, and if they really wanted to stick with that, they shouldn’t have tried to make a surprise twist. One of the many issues that Waltz has is that we don’t get enough of him, we see him once at the end of the first act, the end of the second act and then again in the third act. However, that’s not the only issue. Blofeld isn’t just the head of the Spectre organisation here, it’s revealed that he was also the adopted brother of Bond, who was involved with his father’s death and faked his own death after being jealous that his father liked James Bond. On top of that, everything that happened to Bond, Le Chiffre, Vesper’s death, Dominic Greene, Silva, M’s death, all that was planned by Blofeld… because of childish jealousy or whatever. Hearing all this, and hearing him talk about all this doesn’t make him sound crazy or psychopathic, it makes him sound petty and a little difficult to take seriously, it just sounds so ridiculous. There’s nothing more to his character, he’s not particularly interesting or entertaining and worst of all he’s forgettable. The thing is that he was supposed to be like a big deal, the ultimate villain to Daniel Craig’s James Bond, I mean they gave him the name of Blofeld, a classic Bond villain when they could’ve just kept the name of Franz Oberhauser. And so with all that hype, it really makes him work even less and fall even flatter. To his credit, Christoph Waltz does try his very best and he does add some menace to the character although he does play it like a lot of his other villain roles, really only Quentin Tarantino has manged to utilize Waltz as a villain excellently, in other villain roles he ends up playing rather cliched antagonists. On top of that, Waltz feels trapped in the role, like he’s just on autopilot through the whole thing. They keep his character alive at the end, and thankfully he gets another chance in the upcoming last Craig Bond movie.

Sam Mendes does a pretty good job at directing Spectre, though there are some elements in the technical aspects which hold the movie back (along with the story). The cinematography this time is by Hoyte van Hoyte, who has done the cinematography for such films as Dunkirk, Interstellar and Her, films that were shot truly fantastically. Spectre’s cinematography is still very good but some elements don’t work as well. For example most of the colour pallet is fine except whenever the film does to places like Mexico and Tangier, because it’s suddenly like they put a brown filter over everything. A lot of the action sequences are entertaining and fun, some of them are rather underwhelming. Yes, sometimes we have Bond in a plane chasing a bunch of cars in the snow, crashing through some houses, but as I said before, you don’t ever feel like he’s in a position where he could fail, he always seems on top of things. Fortunately with the editing, unlike Quantum of Solace, you can see what’s going on, but at least Quantum of Solace had some intensity and energy in all of their action scenes. There are a number of examples of the lack of intensity on Spectre’s action scenes, one is Bond’s escape from the Spectre base by simply shooting 3 people, shooting some pipes and the base just blowing up (escaping in less than a minute, really making the Spectre organisation look incompetent), as well as the aforementioned ridiculed shooting down of a helicopter with a peashooter scene. Despite a lot of the problems, it does have some genuinely greatly directed sequences. One for example is the opening sequence, which features a long tracking shot following James Bond through Mexico during the Day of the Dead parade and a fight inside a spinning helicopter, great way to open the movie. Also the fight scene on the train between Bond and Bautistia is good and probably has the most intensity of the action scenes in the movie. The music by Thomas Newman (returning to compose the score after Skyfall) is good but it is a little too similar to Skyfall’s, it actually makes things feel really jarring. Speaking of music, Sam Smith’s song “The Writing on the Wall” played in the opening credits have proved itself polarising to some. It’s not like a normal Bond song but I didn’t mind it personally. I also didn’t mind the opening credits scene.

I still like Spectre to a degree but it is filled with so many problems that brings it down a large amount. Whereas you can see why Quantum of Solace had its issues with the writer’s strike and an incomplete script, I just don’t know what happened with Spectre. Aside from some scenes that were actually really good, much of Spectre is just a slog and is consistently underwhelming, seemingly ranging from being quite good to flat average. Spectre can’t balance the older and newer aspects of Bond, it lacks a lot of the intensity from the prior movies, the story is generally a mixed bag and ends with a very disappointing third act. We can only hope that Daniel Craig’s last Bond film takes the lessons learned from the best and worst of his films to create a great movie.

Skyfall (2012) Review

Time: 143 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Judi Dench as M
Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva
Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory
Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny
Bérénice Lim Marlohe as Sévérine
Albert Finney as Kincade
Ben Whishaw as Q
Rory Kinnear as Bill Tanner
Director: Sam Mendes

When James Bond’s (Daniel Craig) latest assignment goes terribly wrong, it leads to a calamitous turn of events: Undercover agents around the world are exposed, and MI6 is attacked, forcing M (Judi Dench) to relocate the agency. With MI6 now compromised inside and out, M turns to the one man she can trust: Bond. Aided only by a field agent (Naomie Harris), Bond takes to the shadows and follows a trail to Silva (Javier Bardem), a man from M’s past who wants to settle an old score.

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After the disappointing Quantum of Solace, the next instalment of the James Bond series, Skyfall would be released in 2012, marking the 50th anniversary of the start of the James Bond series, which started with Dr No. I know that in recent years there have been some backlash against it, but I loved Skyfall when I first saw it in cinemas and I still really love it now. Watching it recently I was reminded about how fantastic it is. It is without a doubt in the top 2 best James Bond films.

Skyfall takes things back to some of the classic James Bond while being a very different kind of Bond film at the same time. It is a film which takes the story very seriously but it doesn’t mean that it’s devoid of any fun at the same time. It is very much set in reality with the tone and the story and yet we do get some of the things that we would expect in a typical Bond film, we get the gadgets (even if it’s just a gun that can read Bond’s handprint and a tracking device), we get Q and Moneypenny, we get a lot of little moments like that and it fits in well with the whole story. Like with the previous two Bond films, Skyfall is another personal story but not in the way that you’d initially expect. Yes we do get some of Craig’s version of Bond’s backstory (which by the way only elevates Daniel Craig’s Bond above others even more as he’s given more of a character than other James Bonds) but that’s not the focus, it’s actually on M and her connection with Silva, the main villain. It’s actually balanced out all very well, the emotion, the nostalgia, the entertainment, everything fits in together really well.

Daniel Craig is again great as James Bond, both in the action scenes and the drama scenes. Bond in this film is shown to be not at the top of his game as he once was. This is especially shown in the first act and it makes for an interesting new take for Bond, who usually always at least seems like he’s on top of everything. There’s a moment in the third act where he’s particularly great and it’s one of the only times that James Bond has truly shown emotion. With Skyfall, Judi Dench as M is more focussed on than any other James Bond movie with M in it and it was actually done really well, and Dench as usual absolutely delivers. While some of Bond’s backstory is shown in Skyfall, the story is more personally tied to M and the villain. Judi Dench’s M here is given much more to do than just being James Bond’s boss. The film did a great job sending off Judi Dench as M. Javier Bardem as Silva ranks among the best of the Bond villains. He really works as not just a Bond villain but as a movie villain in itself. He shows up halfway through the movie and yet makes a memorable first impression, is a force of nature and a real presence right up until the very end. He’s damaged, deranged and yet also has an understandable motive, one that’s not looking for money or for control. Silva is one of, if not the best Bond villain. Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny (it’s been 6 years so I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that her character all that time is secretly Moneypenny) is great and she kills it in her role. I almost want a spin off movie with her character, Harris has shown herself to be great and convincing in the role. Along with Moneypenny being brought to the Craig Era Bondverse we have the introduction of Q played by Ben Whishaw, a much younger Q especially compared to all the previous versions but it really works well, and Whishaw is really good. Ralph Fiennes is also a good addition to the movie (he would eventually take over as M in the next films). Bérénice Lim Marlohe is good in her scenes but isn’t really used enough in the movie, she’s really the only cast member who isn’t used to her fullest potential in their role in the movie.

Sam Mendes was a great pick for a James Bond film, this movie is directed absolutely wonderfully. The cinematography by Roger Deakins is absolutely masterful as always, there are many shots and sequences that look absolutely beautiful. Skyfall is by far the best looking James Bond film and it might even be the best directed. The action scenes are all pretty great, they aren’t as outrageous and over the top as some other Bond films but they are really great. From the opening scene in Istanbul that has (a car chase, to a motorbike chase to a fight on top of a train), to the fiery climax, all of it is executed very well. For example, there is a fight scene taking place in a building in Shanghi and it looks absolutely wonderful with the silhouettes, the lighting and everything, one of the best directed James Bond scenes ever. I have to say, after watching Quantum of Solace not too long ago its very satisfying to watch a James Bond movie where the editing is at a level of quality where you can actually see what’s happening during action sequences. The titular song used during the opening credits by Adele was also great and really suited the movie. Speaking of music, Thomas Newman’s score for Skyfall is great, unlike some scores where it just accompanies the scenes well, it also elevated many of the scenes in Skyfall.

Skyfall is by far one of the best James Bond films, if not the best. It has a great personal story that is grounded in reality yet is fun to watch, it has one of the best Bond villains in Javier Bardem and is probably the best directed film in the series’s 50+ year run. Sam Mendes and the cast and crew did an excellent job in delivering an entertaining and emotionally satisfying experience. We can only hope that Daniel Craig’s last Bond film with No Time to Die will at least be at the level of either this or Casino Royale.

Layer Cake (2004) Review

Time: 105 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language, drug use and sex scenes
Cast:
Daniel Craig as XXXX
Colm Meaney as Gene
Kenneth Cranham as Jimmy Price
George Harris as Morty
Jamie Foreman as the Duke
Michael Gambon as Eddie Temple
Marcel Iureş as Slavo
Tom Hardy as Clarkie
Tamer Hassan as Terry
Ben Whishaw as Sidney
Burn Gorman as Gazza
Sally Hawkins as Slasher
Sienna Miller as Tammy
Director: Matthew Vaughn

An unnamed mid-level cocaine dealer (Daniel Craig) in London makes plans to step away from the criminal life. Before he can cut ties, the dealer’s supplier Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham) draws him into a complicated pair of jobs involving kidnapping the teenage daughter of a rival gangster (Michael Gambon) and brokering the purchase of a large shipment of ecstasy pills from a dealer known as “the Duke” (Jamie Foreman), leading to a series of elaborate double-crosses from all corners.

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Layer Cake was Matthew Vaughn’s first movie, before then he produced some of Guy Ritchie’s movies. It was very well received and put him on the map as a director to watch, with him very nearly directing the third X-Men movie afterwards. Although I saw it already years ago, I wanted to check it out again, since I was already rewatching some of Matthew Vaughn’s movies recently. It’s even better than what I remembered it being from my first viewing.

Layer Cake is written by J.J. Connelly, adapting his book of the same name for the big screen. It’s a pretty standard British crime thriller, albeit a very good one with some twists and turns. One could compare this to Guy Ritchie’s crime movies (especially seeing as how Vaughn was involved with Ritchie’s early movies), although there are some similarities, there are plenty of distinct differences between them, especially when it comes to the tone. Vaughn’s other R rated movies generally has a lot of dark comedy to it, Layer Cake on the other hand is more serious, more like a crime thriller and doesn’t have as much comedy. It for sure has some brief dark comedy at points however. It’s actually pretty riveting over the hour and 45 minutes runtime. I think the main reason that this all works really well together though is because of the lead character, which I’ll get into in a bit.

As good as a bunch of all this is, Layer Cake wouldn’t have been as great without Daniel Craig, who honestly makes this movie. Craig is outstanding as the unnamed lead character (not exactly sure why his name is never revealed), who in this movie is more of a businessman than a gangster, in fact he hates gangsters and violence. He also shows a very wide range of emotions as he’s thrown into so many situations that he’s struggling to keep alive in, and through his performance you can really root for the lead character. You can definitely tell why Daniel Craig was picked for James Bond, there’s a lot of Bond that you can see in his performance here. One of Craig’s best, if not his best performance. The rest of the cast also played their parts really well. The rest of the cast including Colm Meaney, George Harris, Michael Gambon, Tom Hardy, Ben Whishaw and Sienna Miller all play their roles very well. Gambon in particular was great as a ruthless and villainous sort of character, quite different from other roles that he’s had.

For a debut, Matthew Vaughn did a great job, it doesn’t look like his first movie at all. It’s all filmed and edited very well, the music choices were also perfect, he’s got a real great handle over the whole movie.

Layer Cake is an outstanding directorial debut from Matthew Vaughn, a well written and directed crime thriller, with Daniel Craig’s great lead performance really making the movie. It’s an underrated little flick that definitely deserves a lot more praise and really worth a watch if you haven’t seen it already.

Knives Out (2019) Review

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Daniel Craig as Detective Benoit Blanc
Chris Evans as Hugh “Ransom” Drysdale
Ana de Armas as Marta Cabrera
Jamie Lee Curtis as Linda Drysdale
Michael Shannon as Walter “Walt” Thrombey
Don Johnson as Richard Drysdale
Toni Collette as Joni Thrombey
Lakeith Stanfield as Detective Lieutenant Elliot
Katherine Langford as Megan “Meg” Thrombey
Jaeden Martell as Jacob Thrombey
Christopher Plummer as Harlan Thrombey
Noah Segan as Trooper Wagner
Director: Rian Johnson

When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead at his estate just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is mysteriously enlisted to investigate. From Harlan’s dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Harlan’s untimely death.

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Knives Out was one of my most anticipated films of 2019. I’m always interested in seeing what writer/director Rian Johnson does next, and with him going from Star Wars to a much smaller movie and especially a whodunit, I was already on board. However, you add on top of that an insane cast that includes Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon and more, and I’m absolutely going to be excited for it. Knives Out is not only one of the biggest crowd-pleasers of the year, it’s one of the best films from the year too.

Rian Johnson’s script is nothing short of fantastic. Talking about how and why much of it works so well is quite difficult without revealing important things, so don’t go in knowing too much. Even the non spoilerish aspects are best experienced for yourself. Thankfully the trailers do a good job at not revealing too much about the movie beyond the premise and setup. What I can say is that Knives Out is quite different from what you’d initially expect it to be at first. What Johnson did with the noire genre in Brick, he does with the whodunit here, modernising it, and adding some twists on it. I will need to watch it again to see if much of the reveals still hold up, but on first viewing I’m more than satisfied with where he took the story and characters. I genuinely was surprised at some of the twists that happened. It’s also a hilarious movie, with some great and memorable dialogue. At 2 hours and 10 minutes long, it has your attention from start to finish. Early on I can see people wondering where this movie is going. However, at a certain point, I think most audiences are going to be locked into the plot.

As previously mentioned, the cast is massive and they played their roles really well. Daniel Craig is instantly iconic as Detective Benoit Blanc, a private detective investigating the murder. His performance is definitely over the top, especially with the southern accent, he’s playing on detectives like Hercule Poriot. With this and Logan Lucky, Craig has been really showing that he has a solid comedic side to him that we don’t get to see often. There have been talks about having more movies featuring the character of Blanc, and I’d definitely like to see that. However one of the biggest surprises is that Craig isn’t even the main character. When I say that Knives Out is Ana de Armas’s movie, I’m not just saying that because she steals much of the movie, even though she does that. Her character of Marta is at the centre of the film, and without revealing too much of the movie, she’s ultimately Knives Out’s secret weapon, she’s going to take a lot of people by surprise. The cast making up the rich family at the centre of the mystery with Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell and Christopher Plummer are all great, and have plenty of moments to show off. They work well at both the dramatic and comedic parts. Some of them get to do more than others, like Martell out of them is really only noticed in a few scenes, but the rest of them do well to make themselves known. Out of them however, I’d say that Evans is the standout. Plummer as the murder victim at the centre doesn’t get a massive amount of screentime but he’s nonetheless a major part and is a presence felt throughout. Additionally Lakeith Stanfield and Noah Segan also work well in supporting roles as a detective and a police officer investing the murder along with Blanc, though I did want to see a little more from Stanfield.

Rian Johnson’s direction is still on point, and he’s got a fantastic handle on the whole film. When the first trailers came out from Knives Out, I noticed some people commenting that it looks like a tv show rather than an actual film. I can say that sitting in a theatre and watching the movie begin, that couldn’t be further from the truth, it was stunning to look at. It’s very much stylised, and like with Johnson’s debut with Brick, it throws back to the movies of the same genre that its clearly inspired by (in Knives Out’s case that of course being the whodunit).

With Knives Out, Rian Johnson shows once again that he’s one of the most unique and exciting filmmakers working together. It’s very well directed, and the script is outstanding, with some effective twists, fleshed out characters, and is much more than what you’d expect it to be at first. Add on top of that a fantastic cast who perform excellently (highlights being Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas and Chris Evans), and you have one of the best (and most entertaining) movies of the year. Definitely don’t miss it at the cinema.

Quantum of Solace (2008) Review

Time: 106 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Olga Kurylenko as Camille Montes
Mathieu Amalric as Dominic Greene
Judi Dench as M
Gemma Arterton as Strawberry Fields
Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter
Director: Marc Forster

Following the death of Vesper Lynd, James Bond (Daniel Craig) makes his next mission personal. The hunt for those who blackmailed his lover leads him to ruthless businessman Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a key player in the organization which coerced Vesper. Bond learns that Greene is plotting to gain total control of a vital natural resource, and he must navigate a minefield of danger and treachery to foil the plan.

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I had been meaning to re-watch Quantum of Solace for some time, with Daniel Craig’s last James Bond movie coming out next year (or at least it was before it was delayed). Some people really hated the movie, and I didn’t really know why. Many years ago I did watch Quantum of Solace but I don’t remember much of the movie, so I decided to rewatch it to see how I would find it. While I don’t think it’s terrible, I can see why a lot of people don’t really like it. Quantum of Solace has some high points but his significantly held back by an average script and action scenes with bad editing.

One of the biggest flaws with Quantum of Solace is the script by Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, which really isn’t good. From what I can tell, director Mark Forster wanted to make the political circumstances in the story to be more realistic. That is why the film focussed on the global issue of the environment. While that concept might work for a political thriller, I’m not quite sure if it would quite work for Bond, and I’m someone who’s in favour for the Bond franchise to do new things in order to keep things fresh. I will give credit to them however for trying something new instead of having another Generic Evil Mastermind tries to take over world and instead trying to further set it into reality. It might’ve actually worked but taking a huge risk like this with a character and franchise like James Bond, it needs to be done in the right way to make it work, but the way it’s done here just falls flat. Odd direction of story aside, the main reason that the script has so many problems was the writer’s strike. Apparently at the time, they had a bare bones of a script and they couldn’t hire writers to finish it because of the writer’s strike, so Daniel Craig and Marc Forster had to work on it and do rewrites themselves during filming. Even Craig said that the film shouldn’t have started filming until the script was completed. Knowing all that after watching Quantum of Solace, everything makes sense now. As previously mentioned, the story is not that interesting, you don’t really care much about the characters or the story. The characters are particularly underdeveloped, the initial ideas of the characters were a good starting point but not good characters in the final product. It’s also not entirely easy to follow either, Bond films are almost always easy to follow but I got lost many times. In the end I just gave up on trying to figure out what entirely is going on. The film does bring up and ties up the Vesper and boyfriend storyline from Casino Royale (until Spectre brought it back up yet again) but it really didn’t feel necessary bringing that plotline back in the first place. The first movie seemingly tied up the plotline but most of all, that plotline is only slightly relevant to the plot in Quantum of Solace, like the main plot wasn’t going to bring up Vesper and all that as much originally but they added it in later on (with all the rewrites that’s entirely possible). This movie is actually short for a Daniel Craig Bond film, at about an hour 40 minutes long but it feels about 2 hours long. The length isn’t really an issue though, the writing itself was more the issue.

The best part about the movie is Daniel Craig, who once again gives it his all as James Bond, whether that be with the action scenes or the acting. With that said, there are some aspects of Bond here which feel lacking as a character (writing related). That can be said for pretty much all the characters. Olga Kuryenlko plays the “Bond Girl” in the movie and was decent enough in her role. She has a plotline about getting revenge on another character (which clearly parallels what’s happening with Bond after the events of Casino Royale) that works fine enough but wasn’t anything great. The villain Dominic Greene played by Mathieu Amalric is rather weak and not that good. Well, nothing about him is bad per se. It’s just that he’s not menacing, he’s not interesting, he’s not threatening, but most of all he’s forgettable. Even if he was annoying at least he would’ve been somewhat memorable, but you don’t really have any emotional feeling towards him at all. His plot and him as a character isn’t terrible but it feels like he’s a character from a different film that somehow ended up in a Bond film. Amalric does at least try his best with his role and out of all the main Daniel Craig Bond villains, he’s the only one so far who does physically take him on. Aside from that, there’s not much about Greene that works as a villain in a James Bond film. I think if he at least had a henchman who was an actual threat to Bond, that would’ve made up for it. With all that being said, rewatching the movie recently however, he does actually feel like a real character and while he wasn’t the best villain for Bond to be paired with, he was alright, albeit underwhelming. Amalric also does put everything he can into his role. Maybe it’s just rewatching Spectre that makes me appreciate Greene a lot more. Returning actors Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini and Jeffrey Wright are pretty good in their returning roles, though Wright as Felix Leiter does seem out of place as he doesn’t really do much (apparently early in the script he was meant to have a much bigger role but the re-writes cut down his role immensely). Other actors like Gemma Arteton and David Harbour are fine in their roles but they don’t really get to do much.

Marc Forster is a solid director, giving us movies like Monster’s Ball and The Kite Runner, and with Quantum of Solace… the outcome was quite mixed. A lot of the movie is well filmed, it looks good, the locations are great and the setups to the action sequences look good. Interesting side note is that it really ups the violence, making it one of the most violent movies in the franchise (it’s between this and Licence to Kill). With all that potential, it would’ve been even better if we could’ve actually properly seen these action sequences. However, the hyperactive editing absolutely ruins these scenes, making some sequences that would otherwise be great, at times unwatchable. The only action scene not affected by this is a plane action sequence, which had the perfect editing for that scene and wasn’t jarring in the slightest. With a lot of the action scenes however, I couldn’t watch it for too long because sometimes it literally hurt to try to watch it. You just couldn’t tell what was happening a lot of the time. While the writer’s strike definitely affected the movie negatively, I’m not sure what happened with the editing. The editing for the rest of the movie was fine.

Quantum of Solace is a very mixed bag. On one hand, the setups to the action scenes are good, some of the story had some potential, some scenes are good and Daniel Craig is still great as James Bond. On the other hand, the action scenes don’t pay off because of the bad editing and the script is lacklustre and doesn’t feel complete. They really shouldn’t have gone ahead with filming until they absolutely nailed down the script beforehand. It’s disappointing that this movie didn’t turn out as well as it should’ve, it’s just not that memorable unfortunately. Still, I don’t think it’s bad but it’s not really a movie I will be revisiting (or remembering for that matter) any time soon.

Spectre (2015) Review

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Spectre

Time: 148 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser
Léa Seydoux as Madeleine Swann
Ben Whishaw as Q
Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny
Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx
Andrew Scott as Max Denbigh
Monica Bellucci as Lucia Sciarra
Ralph Fiennes as M
Director: Sam Mendes

A cryptic message from James Bond’s (Daniel Craig) past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M (Ralph Fiennes) battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

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Spectre has been one of my most anticipated movies of the year, with Skyfall director Sam Mendes returning to deliver another Bond film. However, Spectre has been getting some pretty mixed reviews. I’ve watched the film and I can say that it is good and is worth seeing but it has some problems. The action and production value is great, as well as the performances, however there are quite a lot of problems in the script, it’s not as investing as the previous films and it doesn’t feel complete. With that said, it’s still a good movie and it’s still worth watching.

Daniel Craig stars as James Bond in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions’ action adventure SPECTRE.

Story wise this movie works but it does have some problems. Without diving too deep into spoilers, Spectre has ties to the previous Bond films, a lot of it is quite personal to Bond but I felt that it didn’t impact him as much as it should have. One of the notable things about this movie is the fact that tonally, it moved away from more of the character driven Bond films like Skyfall and moved onto the more classic Bond films. I felt that it worked for the movie and it’s nice to see a change of tone but I do think it would’ve been better to have a mix between the two tones. I felt that this movie was a little too predictable, there are two twists involving the villains that I saw coming from a mile away. The biggest issue that this film has was actually the way it dealt with its villains, which I’ll get to later. Also the climax felt a little underwhelming and rushed, it didn’t feel complete and it needed something extra to make it stand out. The plot had me interested but I wasn’t as invested as I should have been. Overall the story is decent enough but it could’ve been done better.

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Daniel Craig as always is a great James Bond. I also liked Lea Seydoux as the Bond girl, she shared good chemistry with Craig. It was nice to see some of the classic Bond team do stuff like Ralph Fiennes as M, Naomi Harris as Moneypenny, Ben Wishaw as Q. Christoph Waltz is good in the movie as the villain but I don’t think the film handled him as well as they should have. First of all we only see him in like 5 scenes and he didn’t feel as big of a threat as he should, especially when you find out how significant he is. One villain that I felt was handled better was Dave Bautista, who acted like the Jaws character, appearing every so often to cause problems for Bond.

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On a technical level, I think that this film is the same level as Skyfall. The cinematography is gorgeous as expected, the opening shot of the movie is incredible, it’s a 2 minute long tracking shot and it’s actually worth watching the movie, even just for that scene. Skyfall composer Thomas Newman’s score also was quite good and added to this film quite a bit. Although I was initially unsure about how I felt about Sam Smith’s bond song “Writing on the Wall” I’m starting to like it.

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Spectre is not one of the best Bond films but it is still a good one. I feel like there’s room for Daniel Craig to do one more film before he passes the role onto someone else, it definitely felt like it, when considering how the film ends (not spoiling anything). Casino Royale and Skyfall set the standard of Bond films so high so when this film doesn’t match that level, it’s going to be looked down upon. It’s still better than Quantum of Solace but it still feels a little disappointing, although it’s still a good movie, just not great.

Casino Royale (2006)

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Casino Royale

Time: 144 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Daniel Craig as James Bond
Eva Green as Vesper Lynd
Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre
Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter
Judi Dench as M
Director: Martin Campbell

Promoted to 00 status, James Bond (Daniel Craig) goes on his first mission where he must face Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a private banker to the world’s terrorists. Le Chiffre set up a poker game a Montenegro to receive a large sum of money. The head of M16, M (Judi Dench) sends Bond, along with Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) to attend this game and stop Le Chiffre from winning.

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To me Casino Royale is the Batman Begins of James Bond. It took the series in a more realistic direction and ultimately, the best direction it could go in. Casino Royale reboots the franchise with its new tone, a new Bond and a fresh start. This is one of, if not the best James Bond movie made.

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It has been argued by some die hard James Bond fans that this movie didn’t feel like a James Bond movie. It should be known that Casino Royale is the first James Bond novel written by Ian Fleming, in many ways this is a prequel to previous and later Bond movies being released. There aren’t any gadgets being used in this movie as much as previous Bond films did. Also a good thing to know is that you don’t have to have watched any of the previous Bond films to love this one, as the formula of the film is different from previous James Bond movies. Fans of the other Bond movies need to keep in mind that this is really the first James Bond; there were no gadgets, there were no one liners; this is Bond, before he really was Bond. The story’s pacing is done right, it isn’t the same as other Bond films but it was done well and was structured out well.

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This movie’s tone was grittier than previous movies so it required an actor who could portray James Bond’s new characterisation; Craig does that here and also manages to have a naturalistic feeling as him. Each actor who has played Bond has their own take on him and in Casino Royale, he is a much more ruthless and cold-blooded character than how some of the other actors portrayed him. Daniel Craig’s performance is one that I can buy as being realistic. The supporting cast was also great especially Mads Mikkelsen as the film’s main antagonist, Le Chiffre. He was a Bond villain that managed to feel grounded in reality instead of being like some of the over-the-top villains in the franchise, as well as having a realistic motive unlike some others (like Hugo Drax from Moonraker). Eva Green plays Vesper Lynd who is a love interest to James Bond and shares great chemistry with Craig. In my opinion, her character is one of the best bond girls as she managed to actually make an impact on Bond, unlike many of the others the James would later come across (that were in the previous movies). Judi Dench returns for the 5th time as M and also stole the scenes that she was in.

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The action in this movie is filmed well; it helps that this movie is under the direction of Martin Campbell, the man behind Goldeneye which was another great Bond Movie. The stunt work is also really good, especially a scene earlier in the film when Bond is in Madagascar. Casino Royale takes place in many locations and the cinematography is done very well in those many locations. The soundtrack also is very Bond-esque and gets the mood set up at the right moments.

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Casino Royale and Skyfall are my two favourite James Bond movies. I still don’t know what I prefer but either way, because of Casino Royale, the series introduced a tone that I liked more than some of the other films had. I’m glad that the Bond franchise is going in this direction. With a new type of Bond, a story that is really good and action scenes that are really entertaining, Casino Royale gave me what I wanted in a good Bond film and overall, a good film.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Time: 158 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Acts of cruelty & rape, sexual violence & offensive language
Cast:
Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomvist
Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander
Christopher Plummer as Henrik Vanger
Stellan Skarsgard as Martin Vanger
Steven Berkoff as Dirch Frode
Robin Wright as Erika Berger
Yorick van Wageningen as Nils Bjurman
Joely Richardson as Anita Vanger
Director: David Fincher

After being successfully sued for libel by a wealthy industrialist, investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) leaves his magazine Millennium and accepts an offer from Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to write the Vanger family history. What Henrik is most interested in learning however is what happened to his niece, Harriet Vanger, who he is certain was murdered by a member of his family in the summer of 1966. Mikael takes on the task and moves into a small cottage on the Vanger estate. Blomkvist eventually believes that her disappearance might have something to do with some serial killings that took place 20 years before she disappeared. He begins to decipher some of the clues Harriet has left behind and decides to get an assistant, computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), the woman who did the very thorough background check on him for Vanger. Together, they learn of some of the Vangers deep, violent secrets.

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I haven’t read the novels by Stieg Larsson or watched the original movies, but just from watching this movie, I should get around to looking at them sometime because of how much I loved this movie. David Fincher was the perfect director for this film, creating a chilling atmosphere and overall, a film that is always captivating and interesting with never a dull moment.

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Starting with a sleek, stylistic and dark opening animation which is accompanied with Trent Reznor and Karen O’s cover of Immigrant Song (Originally by Led Zeppelin) the film never lets up in being completely interesting. When you go into this movie, expect a dialogue driven movie, like Zodiac (another Fincher movie) but yet it is much more captivating. It is also worth knowing that this is a mystery movie that has a lot of details to take in. The film also mostly jumps between the perspectives of Lisbeth and Mikael before they meet about halfway into the movie. Despite the film being a bit long at 2 hours and 40 minutes I still was interested throughout the entire runtime. The film also concludes with a fitting ending that has me itching for the sequels.

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Rooney Mara was absolutely fantastic in this movie. From her performance alone, I can see that her character is extremely hard to portray but somehow, she pulls it off. Mara managed to really transform herself to become Lisbeth and on screen, she lives and breathes her. She has successfully managed personifies one of the most complex and interesting characters I have watched on screen. Daniel Craig is also really good here who also has great chemistry with Rooney Mara. Other actors like Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgard are also really good in their roles.

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David Fincher’s films always look great and this movie is no exception. The locations in Sweden are well made and the film looks downright beautiful when it takes place in winter. Incredibly, some of scenes used CGI, when all of the film looked like it was filmed with none of that. The score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is also really good and sets the mood for the location, particularly in the snow.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo proves again that David Fincher knows what he is doing behind the camera. It may not be the most pleasant film to watch but it is always eye catching with beautiful cinematography, a captivating tone and brilliant performances, mostly notable that being of Rooney Mara’s. It’s extremely hard for me to find any flaws in the movie and I’m looking forward to the sequels and I hope they get made.
9/10