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Friday, November 14, 2008

Who is the real James Bond?

by May

With Quantum of Solace about to release in the U.S., the time is right to ask: Who is the real James Bond? Classic Bond, new Bond, Bond wannabe, Bond competitor, Bond parody… We all love to debate who’s best. So is the “new Bond” in Quantum or in another series altogether? Here’s my pick of thrilling secret-agent espionage on Jinni over time in the Bond series and beyond.

Dr. No (1962)

Sean Connery, considered by many to be the best Bond so far, stars in the very first Bond adventure. Featuring the unforgettable Ursula Andress in a white bikini, this movie practically launched the secret agent sub-genre, and introduced many of the familiar Bond themes we learned to love, such as the gun-sight opening shot, the theme music and the Bond girls.

The Ipcress File (1965)

Way back in 1965, this excellent Michael Caine thriller offered a more realistic, less glamorized view of the spy business than the Bond films. Caine plays Harry Palmer, a soldier who reluctantly chose to become a spy instead of going to prison. He’s investigating the disappearance of several scientists only to realize he was chosen to do everyone else’s dirty work.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Poor George Lazenby only had one chance as Bond, replacing the retiring Connery. Some say Lazenby quit, convinced the series would become anachronistic in the next decade. Right… So Connery came to the rescue (in more than one way…) for Diamonds are Forever. Lazenby’s take is the second part in the villainous Blofeld Trilogy (played by 3 different actors, rivaled by 2 different Bonds…). This film shares with Casino Royale a rare element in the series: Bond allows himself to fall in love and tragically loses his loved one.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

There is of course great debate among James Bond fans who is the best Bond. Although Connery usually takes the lead, Roger Moore’s Bond is really not that far behind him, and was even Ian Fleming’s favorite. In this film, considered Moore’s best Bond, our agent is matched with a Russian rival agent to track stolen submarines. But the film is memorable for the introduction of the gigantic steel-mouthed Jaws (Richard Kiel).

Licence to Kill (1989)

Timothy Dalton’s turn as the glamorous spy wasn’t glamorous at all. He can take comfort in the fact that he did twice as many Bond films as Lazenby… Licence to Kill, the better of Dalton’s attempts, plays on Bond’s sometimes ambivalent feelings towards his organization and is centered on a quest for revenge outside the Secret Service. Perhaps the darkest of the 007 films, Licence to Kill shows a previously unseen side of James Bond. Maniacal at times, ex-agent 007 detonates everything in his way on the road to revenge.

GoldenEye (1995)

The first Bond movie to star Pierce Brosnan was a success both critically and financially. The film makes the transition to a more modern image for the series. Bond’s out-of-date womanizing is presented with a feminist challenge from the newly casted Judi Dench as impenetrable M, and Samantha Bond as a wiser Moneypenny.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

The Bond series is so successful, it was bound to be mocked: from 1967’s Casino Royale to Rowan Atkinson’s Johnny English and Steve Carell’s Get Smart. But the most notable, funniest, and successful attempt that spawned a series of its own is of course the Austin Powers Trilogy - beginning with this film, in which Mike Myers makes sure not to skip any possible joke, served with his familiar crude style.

XXX (2002)

Vin Diesel was regarded briefly as James Bond – the next generation. James Bond on speed could also be a good description. Like Michael Caine, Diesel is forced to choose between being a convict or a spy. Successful enough to be followed by a (bad) sequel, this rebellious-nihilist-secret agent effort isn’t really in the same league as Bond, though it has the basic components –master villain, biochemical threat, hi-tech gadgets, cynicism, and falling for the seductive villain’s girl. However, as a stand alone, it delivers an effective 2-hour thrill ride.

Casino Royale (2006)

The most recent before Quantum of Solace, this film rebooted the entire story, and started all over again, with a different style, tone and character, arguably more suited to the contemporary environment. Following the controversy, the movie went on to be a huge critical success and the highest grossing Bond to date. Will Quantum of Solace – the first direct sequel to its predecessor - rise to expectations?

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

One of the most heated debates these days centers on who is the superior secret agent: Jason Bourne or James Bond. Some even say Quantum of Solace is a Bourne wannabe. Audiences, however, embrace both interpretations of the secret agent thriller: the slick and glamorous Bond, and the rough and rugged Bourne. The Bourne Ultimatum, the grand finale of the Bourne series, finds Bourne once again racing around the globe, desperate to uncover the secrets of his identity. His search for answers is now fueled by a desire for closure and revenge.