It’s mid-October, so we are merely weeks away from what will likely (hopefully?) be one of the greatest Bond movies, SPECTRE.
Don’t count my chickens before they hatch, you say?
Let’s start counting anyway! You have Daniel Craig, the best 007 (don’t crucify me for that, just because Sean Connery played James Bond 1st, doesn’t automatically make him the best), director Sam Mendes hot off Skyfall, and Academy Award Winning villain actor Javier Bardem replaced by an equally (if not more) enjoyable double Oscar Winner Christoph Waltz. What could go wrong? Hell, SPECTRE has Dave Bautista of Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy fame playing a very classic feeling henchman with some flavor.
Again, I’m counting unhatched Indominus Rexs… err… chickens before they hatch. But at least I have these seven hatch-lings: The 7 Best 007 movies from Dr. No through Skyfall.
In order to keep this post a manageable length, we’ll cover my 7th favorite through 4th.
The very 1st 007 film, Dr. No sets most the pieces in place for a franchise that has gone strong (mostly… mostly) for 50 years. Sean Connery clearly establishes the tone for all the James Bond actors that followed (even Daniel Craig’s less-sophisticated, more “blunt instrument” portrayal).
Dr. No‘s real strength is showing us the super-spy/detective side of 007, with less gadgets but a perfect Bond Girl in name and body – Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder – as well as a villain that sets the tone of all the SPECTRE and SMERSH eccentric agents that follow – Joseph Wiseman as the title character, Dr. No.
The focus on 007’s skills as a spy and detective aren’t featured as front-and-center again until Casino Royale. My favorite scene, which really sets up Bond’s skill-set, comes when he places a hair on the door to his hotel room, allowing him to tell if his room was entered and tampered with. No film that follows has shown cool spy techniques in the same way as Dr. No, instead focusing on faster paced stories with more action, gadgets, and sexy women.
The franchise is still finding it’s footing at this point, almost a rough draft of the franchise before Goldfinger established the franchise’s more popular and enduring elements.
I know, I know, Quantum of Solace is a pretty dumb Bond movie when it comes to the writing and overall plot; nearly a phoned in 007 film like all but one of Pierce Brosnan’s adventures. I blame the writer’s strike for that, though the film is still enjoyable as hell, even with its faults.
I argue Quantum of Solace is the perfect companion piece to Casino Royale; the latter serving as a slower story re-introducing the character and his origin with Vesper (Eva Green) and the former balancing it out with full-on action in every scene and the continuation of whatever Mr. White’s organization was in Casino Royale. Quantum is also one of the only “direct-sequels” that references and builds off the previous Bond film, giving it an extra element of intrigue. That means we also get more character/actor carryover from one film to the next with Jesper Christensen back as the aforementioned Mr. White, Jeffrey Wright back as Felix Leiter, and even Giancarlo Giannini as Rene Mathis.
Spoiler Alert (not), the shady organization is called Quantum (hence one of the franchise’s worst titles) and will eventually become SPECTRE (the studio making 007 films didn’t have the rights to the name SPECTRE at the time). I love the set-up for this organization that has infiltrated every government, starting with Mr. White escaping and continuing with the reveal of Quantum at the Opera (one of the franchise’s most artistic scenes).
Mathieu Amalric as Dominic Greene (yes, apparently all Quantum agents have colorful last names… literally) is an underrated villain with his eccentricities and role within the Quantum organization. The final action scene is the film’s 2nd best, with Greene showing the rodent he is in the sloppy/angry battle with 007 that has him slicing his own foot with an axe. Plus, there was something weird going on between him and his #1 henchman, that was never unnecessarily explained.
Goldfinger is the 1st Bond film to have ALL the elements in place. Q-branch gadgets like a car with an ejector seat. A Bond girl with a not-so-subtle name, Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). Another title super-villain – Gert Fröbe as Auric Goldfinger, with a strange obsession with gold, a laser, and a ridiculously amazing evil-plan. The 1st amazing henchman, Oddjob (Harold Sakata), who throws a sharp hat (no, not a shoe… that was Random Task in Austin Powers). And that classic dialogue.
“Do you expect me to talk?”
“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”
Everything we’ve watched for the last 50 years that wasn’t established in Dr. No, was put in place by Goldfinger; the ultimate Bond formula to stick to.
Those Goldfinger Fans looking forward to SPECTRE will likely recognize Daniel Craig’s new getup on the poster is borrowed from Sean Connery in the above photo.
4. From Russia With Love
From Russia With Love has one of the greatest SPECTRE agents 007 has ever faced, Robert Shaw (of Jaws fame) playing Grant, 007’s perfect doppelganger. And there is not archetype of villain I enjoy more than a doppelganger; a villain that reflects the hero in nearly every way. Robert Shaw’s character really is the opposite side of the Sean Connery coin. Dashing, brutal, and just serving his “country” (or, rather, organization).
No scene in the film sticks out in my mind like the train sequence between Sean Connery and Robert Shaw, one of the most classic showdowns in 007’s history.
So that’s a start; my 4th through 7th favorite 007 films.