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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.

Non-Review Review: A Long Way Down

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2014.

A Long Way Down is never anywhere near as irreverent as it thinks it is. The story of four people who attempted suicide on “the most popular suicide spot on the most popular night for suicides” has a pretty effective basic premise. There’s a lot of material for a pitch black comedy here, particularly with Pierce Brosnan playing a former television presenter who has been convicted of having sex with a minor. (The BBC co-production credit makes this plot point feel particularly awkward.)

Instead, A Long Way Down pitches itself as a generic feel-good yearn about how people are nowhere near as cynical as they might initially claim to be. Ironically, this ends up making A Long Way Down feel particularly cynical.

alongwaydown2

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Non-Review Review: The World’s End

The World’s End feels curiously nostalgic. Not just in the way that lead character Gary King tries to recapture his old youth by roping four childhood friends into revisiting their old home town to complete a pub crawl they started upon leaving school, nor in the way the sound track includes such hits of yesteryear as Loaded by Primal Scream and Kylie Minogue’s Step Back in Time, and not even in the fact that the school reunion includes a trip to a literal school disco.

Instead, it feels like a belated criticism of a recent chapter in British history, a reflection on the era of “the special relationship”, and mournful retrospective on what might be perceived as the erosion of British culture by the relentless assault of American influence. The World’s End is an invasion story, but it’s a conscious reversal of the second wave “Britpop” invasion of the nineties (an era the movie evokes nostalgically). This isn’t a hostile occupation. It is, to quote one of the characters, “peaceful indoctrination.”

They've got him Pegged...

They’ve got him Pegged…

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My 12 for ’12: Skyfall & Balancing Bonds…

I’m counting down my top twelve films of the year between now and January, starting at #12 and heading to #1. I expect the list to be a little bit predictable, a little bit surprising, a little bit of everything. All films released in the UK and Ireland in 2012 qualify. Sound off below, and let me know if I’m on the money, or if I’m completely off the radar. And let me know your own picks or recommendations.

This is #11

The wonderful thing about a pop culture commodity like James Bond is the flexibility that the character affords those looking to tell stories using the iconic character. Want to tell a story about high-stakes gambling? We can do that. What about averting a war between China and Great Britain? We’ve got it covered. Want to knock off Star Wars? Why not? How about pitching the character against Fu Manchu? We’re way ahead of you. Bond is flexible, and it’s one of the strengths of the character. Don’t like Roger Moore’s interpretation? Here’s Timothy Dalton. Tiring of Pierce Brosnan? Daniel Craig will be along to kick things into action.

While this makes for a fascinating study of the flexibility and adaptability of a cultural touchstone, it does create a bit of a dilemma when trying to celebrate his fiftieth anniversary. Given that Bond is so many things to so many people, can he be everything at once? Skyfall does an impressive job balancing the old and new, while managing to focus on the character at the heart of one of the most enduring cinematic franchises.

skyfall15

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The Six Faces of 007: Daniel Craig

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.

The Daniel Craig iteration of James Bond is the first time that a change of actor has been explicitly confirmed as a new character, rather than a continuation of the same character. (Unless you count Lazenby’s ad-libbed “this never happened to the other fella” bit.) Going back to the first of Fleming’s novels for his first film, Casino Royale, there was a conscious effort to bring the character back to basics, but also an effort to humanise him considerably. The result has been somewhat contentious, but I think Craig has managed to put his own stamp on the role and to define it in his own terms that are respectful to his five predecessors, but also define the character as his own.

All-time high?

Note: As a look at Daniel Craig’s take on the iconic character, this article contains spoilers for Skyfall. Consider yourself warned.

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The Six Faces of 007: Roger Moore

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 always feel a little bit guilty when I concede that I am not too fond of Roger Moore’s time as James Bond. After all, Roger Moore seems like a truly wonderful person, and a great ambassador for the franchise. Of all the actors to play the role, he’s the one most likely to appear on television or in print to share stories or anecdotes about he time in the role, to defend the latest lead actor to come under fire, or even just to make some wonderfully wittily self-deprecating remarks. My Word is My Bond is a great deal of fun for any fan of the character and the films. So, to be clear, I love Roger Moore. I just don’t really like him as James Bond.

What’s not to love?

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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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