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New Escapist Column! On the Understated Power of Pierce Brosan’s Bond…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine last week. With the release of No Time To Die pushed out, and St. Patrick’s Day relatively understated, I thought it was worth taking a look at Pierce Brosnan’s tenure playing James Bond.

Brosnan is often overlooked in assessments of the James Bond franchise, largely overshadowed by the (deserved) reappraisal of Timothy Dalton’s vulnerability in the role and the (deserved) celebration of the emotional complexity that Daniel Craig brought to the icon. This is a shame, because there’s a lot to like about Pierce Brosnan’s interpretation of the superspy. Most obviously, there’s a sense in which Brosnan’s interpretation of the character refused to be tormented and tortured by the work that he did. Brosnan played Bond as a man uniquely attuned to the demands of his job, an unchanging man in a rapidly changing world. The result is a character who seems unflinchingly brutal, but who also collapsed his patriotism into satisfaction of his more personal vices.

Whether intentional or not, Brosnan’s interpretation of the character makes the audience uncomfortable, particularly the joy that he takes in violence and the sense in which little really matters to him beyond satisfying his own urges. It’s a provocative approach to the character, one that stands in marked contrast to the more considered introspection of the the two performers either side of him. Brosnan’s Bond often seems to be challenging the audience, asking whether we enjoy the callous violence and detached brutality as much as the protagonist does, without offering us the “get out of jail free” card that Dalton and Craig’s more solemn portrayals afford viewers.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Our Man Bashir (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a look at the 1995 to 1996 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily Tuesday through Friday for the latest review.

Our Man Bashir is an underrated masterpiece.

It is possibly the best holodeck (or holosuite) episode in the history of the franchise; only Ship in a Bottle can really compete. A lot of this is down to the production value of the episode; Our Man Bashir looks and sounds beautiful, a delightfully detailed throwback to its source material. The production team on the Star Trek franchise seldom get enough credit for their skill at realising alien worlds and cultures from scratch, but their beautiful evocation of sixties design is breathtaking. Our Man Bashir is a clear forerunner to Trials and Tribble-ations, less than a year away.

"The name's Bashir, Julian Bashir..."

“The name’s Bashir, Julian Bashir…”

However, there is more to it than that. Like Little Green Men, Our Man Bashir succeeds as a (relatively) light-hearted run-around that never loses track of its characters. The first three seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine struggled with the character of Julian Bashir; audience members could wait entire seasons for a good Bashir episode. With the fourth season, three come along at once. Our Man Bashir might look light and fluffy – and it largely is – but it never loses sight of its core character dynamics in the midst of all the fun unfolding around them.

More than that, Our Man Bashir plays into the broader themes and strengths of the fourth season. The climax of the episode feels like Deep Space Nine is ruminating on its new-found place dictating the direction of the Star Trek canon. Bashir’s decision to “save the day by destroying the world” feels oddly prophetic. The fifth season of the show would find the writers destroying some of the most fundamental rules of the franchise in an effort to keep things vital.

Got some bottle...

Got some bottle…

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Non-Review Review: The Fast & The Furious 6

The ideal The Fast & The Furious film could only properly be summated with hand gestures and poorly improvised sound effects. “Rrrrrrr….” and then (wavy hand movement) and then “smack!” and then (index finger jams into opposite palm), followed a “bb’tccccch…” and (outward gesture of hand indicating explosion). Fast Five came close to being that perfect macho car chase film, one less concerned with plot and performance than a riveting high-octane spectacle treating its human cast as much like props as the vehicles they drive.

The Fast & The Furious 6 backs away a great deal from the charm of the previous film. There’s the same dumb action set pieces delivered in a charmingly intense manner by Justin Lin, but the script feels over-plotted. There are lots of big emotional moments between an ensemble that really wasn’t built to give those sorts of performances. There are lots of shocking revelations from events several films earlier. There are lots of personal conversations where Lin has no idea what to do with the camera but circle around his actors and hope that the audience doesn’t get too bored.

Not so fast...

Not so fast…

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A View to a Bond Baddie: Elektra King

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen (and the release of Skyfall), we’re going to take a look at the character and his films. We’ve already reviewed all the classic movies, so we’ll be looking at his iconic baddies, and even at the character himself.

Elektra King remains unique among Bond’s selection of big-screen baddies if only because she’ really the only major female villain. Of course, Bond villains have employed henchwomen before. Rosa Klebb was a major menace in From Russia With Love, even if she was answering to a mostly absent Blofeld. Largo employed the sinister Fiona in Thunderball, immune to the charms Bond used to seduce Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. A View to a Kill even gave us a female villain who wasn’t defined by her sexuality, with Mayday defined by her physical strength more than anything else. Still, it seemed like a villainess would never quite break the Bond movie glass ceiling, which makes Elektra such a fascinating character.

Of course, she’s trapped in a pretty terrible film.

It’s good to be the King…

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Non-Review Review: Never Say Never Again

Never Say Never Again has quite a lot weighing against it. Most obviously, there’s the fact that we already say this story at the height of the film franchise’s popularity, but there’s also a whole host of other issues that arise due to the attempts to distinguish this iteration of the character and story from the EON productions. There are times when the film can’t seem to decide if it is or isn’t Thunderball, just as there are times when it can’t decide if it wants to acknowledge the “other” Bond films, or ignore them completely. Despite that, there’s some good stuff on display here. The film famously opened against Octopussy, losing the box office battle. While neither is “vintage” Bond, I think that Never Say Never Again is the stronger of the two films. At least it serves as a better swan song for Sean Connery than Diamonds Are Forever.

The Bond who came in from the cold…

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The Six Faces of 007: Pierce Brosnan

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen (and the release of Skyfall), we’re going to take a look at the character and his films. We’ve already reviewed all the classic movies, so we’ll be looking at his iconic baddies, and even at the character himself.

I have a great deal of affection for Pierce Brosnan’s term as James Bond. I think the actor easily portrayed the most rounded James Bond since Connery, capable of being an angel or a killer as the script demanded it. His run got off to a solid start with (for my money) the most consistent two-fer in the franchise’s history. (Taken together, I’d argue that GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies are the perfect revision and update of the Bond mythos.) While the last two films of his tenure were awkward and uneven efforts, Brosnan never gave the role less than his all. He has gone on record as being disappointed that his term as James Bond didn’t last longer than four films and, despite the mess of Die Another Day, I can’t help but agree with him.

I was quite shaken by his departure…

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A View to a Bond Baddie: Alec Trevelyan

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen, we’re going to take a look at the character and his films. We’ve already reviewed all the classic movies, so we’ll be looking at his iconic baddies, and even at the character himself.

Alec Trevelyan stands out amongst Bond’s foes on the big screen because he’s really the first to be constructed explicitly to contrast with Bond. You could argue that many of the outings in the series are more preoccupied with the villain than with Bond himself, and GoldenEye stands out as one of the films most tightly focused on Bond himself. Alec Trevelyan, as such, exists as a more direct mirror to Bond than most of his foes. The bad guy even operates under the code name “Janus.” There are several implied reasons – his knack for treachery and betrayal, the scar on the side of his face. However, it also suggests that Bond and Trevelyan exist as two sides of the same coin.

Smart Alec?

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