Thursday, December 26, 2019

Bond Takes The Bridge To The New Millennium

Released worldwide between November 1999 and February 2000, The World Is Not Enough had some particularities in among the James Bond films. It was the first time the writing duo Neal Purvis & Robert Wade joined the series, the first time the immediacy of the internet played a pivotal role in the production of a Bond film and the first time the antagonist was a woman whom Bond fell for. At the same time, it was the last appearance of Desmond Llewelyn as Q and the last 007 adventure from the 20th century, the one before the 9-11 attacks.

It all began in November 1997 shortly before the release of the previous Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies. Producer Barbara Broccoli was flying to Miami and she saw a special on the Nightline TV show that focused on the oil production in the Central Asia regions, which would place those territories that were once part of the Soviet Union as one of the rising economies for the 21st century. 

Soon enough, this became the central idea for the plot for Bond 19. Someone would try to monopolize these valuable resources at any cost, even if that could kill a whole nation. On January 1998, screenwriters Neal Purvis & Robert Wade, known for the drama Let Him Have It, were hired to pen a treatment where they decided to try something unexplored before: the leading lady, romantically involved with Bond, would be an oil heiress marked for death by the terrorist who kidnapped her once, would turn out to be the mastermind who seduced his kidnapper to use him for her revenge and world domination plan.

Two inspirations for this movie came from the film On Her Majesty's Secret Service and its original novel by Ian Fleming: the first one was the character of Tracy Di Vicenzo, the only woman who marries Bond and is murdered shortly afterwards. The writing duo created the leading lady of this movie, Elektra, after what Tracy was in the movie: an adventurous, rich woman capable of taming Bond's heart with the secret agent compelled to protect her. But this woman is not only on the evil side but she planned everything from the beginning, so Bond feels morally and romantically betrayed. In the words of the screenwriters: "Bond thinks he has found Tracy, but he's really found Blofeld."

The other one is the film's title: "The World Is Not Enough", the motto of the Bond family, as mentioned in both the book and the film, which was George Lazenby's only outing in the role of 007.

Purvis and Wade also took situations from the literary James Bond: a gun hidden in a cane was used by villains in Casino Royale (1953) and Never Send Flowers (1993), while the kidnapping of M was a highlight of Kingsley Amis' Colonel Sun (1968).

British director Michael Apted was hired in August 1998 to direct the movie. He was known for giving relevance to the female characters of his movies, as was the case of the 1993 thriller Blink starring Madeleine Stowe, and this was precisely what this new and original Bond adventure needed: a strong enemy for 007 that would strike his heart and emotions as never before.

Showing her true colours, Elektra King (Sophie Marceau) kidnaps M (Judi Dench)

The objective of Purvis and Wade also aimed to take more advantage of Judi Dench's portrayal of M and made her a close acquaintance of this angel-turned-evil lady.

Michael Apted's then-wife, screenwriter Dana Stevens, retouched the script to rewrite Elektra to give more complexity to the character, as well as her relationship with M. The head of MI6 went to law school with oil tycoon Sir Robert King, they became good friends. King's daughter, Elektra, was kidnapped by Renard, a terrorist MI6 had on their sights for a long time. M told King not to pay the ransom to win time until one of his agents could kill this terrorist. Ultimately, King's daughter escapes captivity. Agent 009 finds Renard and shoots him in the head, but the terrorist survives the bullet and is slowly dying, losing all his feelings until he eventually reaches his inevitable doom.

Sometime later, Sir Robert is killed by a bomb set up by Renard on the MI6 Headquarters. This causes a lot of pain to M and she becomes maternal towards the defenseless Elektra, who has now inherited King Industries and is most likely on the terrorist's sights once again. M sends Bond to protect Elektra, also suggesting him to use her as a bait to find the terrorist and kill him for once and for all.

In a similar move to For Your Eyes Only (1981) and The Living Daylights (1987), someone is "framed" as the main antagonist until Bond –and the audience– finds out that he was holding the wrong side of the stick and the enemy was someone else. In The World Is Not Enough, Elektra is revealed as the one who was behind it all. She made a deal with her kidnapper when his father refused to pay the ransom, they both planned King's death and now they're after something bigger that could cause the destruction of Istanbul and King's monopoly of the oil business, literally annihilating the competence. The plan, of course, is rather reminiscent of Goldfinger (1964) and A View To A Kill (1985), only that love and betrayal would play a pivotal part in the story.

"Remember... pleasure?" Just as she did with Bond, Elektra King enchants Renard (Robert Carlyle), once her kidnapper, now her loyal acolyte.
As the first Bond girl who becomes the leading villainess, Elektra King was a unique character in the series. She is related to three men: Sir Robert King, Renard and Bond. Her father was her main "enemy", the reason why she triggered her revenge: "My father was nothing. The kingdom he stole from my mother, the kingdom I will rightly take back", she tells the horrified M. It is known that it was the family of her Azerbaijani mother who discovered oil in Baku when the city still belonged to the Soviet Union. British industrialist King married her and exploited her discoveries through his own company. Elektra is kidnapped in her teens by Renard and as she learns he needed "more time" to pay for her ransom, seduces his captor to plot her father's death. This leads to Bond's role in the story, who mistakenly thinks she may be the next target of the terrorist and is sent by M to protect her.

Elektra emerges later as the powerful woman in the story, causing the death of one of the three men she was involved with and using the other two for his objectives: one to be the armed force of her plan, the other to plot her revenge against M, who advised her father not to pay the ransom. "No one can resist me", she tells the captive Bond.

There is also an interesting triangle in the story formed by Bond, Renard and Elektra, which triggers the actions. Both Bond and the villain have a quest for Elektra's body throughout the film, as it happened in Live And Let Die where Bond's conquest of Solitaire led to the demise of the villain, who wanted to use the girl for her clairvoyance (linked to her virginity) only to be taken out by him when he considered it was the appropriate time.

In The World Is Not Enough, Bond protects (and uses) Elektra to get to Renard. They both end up falling for each other. Later, we learn that she was in league with the villain all the time. Elektra at one moment, after lovemaking with Renard, believes Bond has died and he notes her disappointment, wondering if Bond was a good lover. "What would you think? I wouldn't feel anything?" she replies, obviously dissatisfied with the villain's insensitivity. In this movie, we have Live And Let Die done the other way around: Bond and the villain fight for the possession of the girl, but the girl is the one who possesses them both in a way or another.

Pierce Brosnan was thrilled to explore the inner feelings of James Bond much more, something he expressed as he complained that Tomorrow Never Dies was loaded with action and gave little time for a dramatic portrayal of the secret agent. Still, the script focused too much on Elektra and M that the scenes with Bond needed a retouch to give the protagonist more presence in the story. Bruce Feirstein, who previously worked in GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies, was hired again to rewrite Bond's persona.

To counterpart Elektra's evilness (or to assure a happy romantic "warrior's rest" to the hero), there was a character named Christmas Jones. At first, she was a Polynesian insurance investigator working for Lloyd's bank that joined Bond on his quest against Renard, but given that MGM's The Thomas Crown Affair remake set for the same year already coupled Pierce Brosnan with an insurance investigator played by Rene Russo, the studio asked for a chance to avoid connections. And so, Christmas Jones became a nuclear physicist.

By the beginning of 1999, the cast was assembled: popular American actress Denise Richards was cast as Christmas Jones, while French actress Sophie Marceau was announced as Elektra King. Days later, Robert Carlyle, known for The Full Monty, was cast as Renard. Joining the list were several European actors like Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Ulrich Thomsen and Claude Oliver-Rudolph. Robbie Coltrane returned once more for a final appearance as GoldenEye's Valentin Zukovsky, former KGB agent and current murky businessman.

James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) drives his "fully loaded" silver BMW Z8 through the oil fields of Baku, captail of Azerbaidjan.

The locations of The World Is Not Enough probably make the film the most Eurasian adventure of Pierce Brosnan in the role of 007: the action moves from Spain to London, Scotland, Azerbaijan, France and Turkey, with some of these countries doubling for scenes taking place in Kazakhstan or the Caucasus. It was also the first one to deliver a major action sequence in London where Bond chases a female assassin (Maria Grazia Cuccinotta's character) through the Thames River using the mini boat Q built for fishing during his retirement days. This would initiate a tradition to give London, which was usually a "transit" city in the stories, more relevance as a high scale battle scenario in the following Bond movies, except for Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008). Notably, there is the fight at the Blades club in Die Another Day (2002), a chase through the city's Metro in Skyfall (2012) and a chase culminating in the Westminster Bridge in SPECTRE (2015).

Cinematographer Adrian Biddle brought wonderful visuals to these locations, mostly with panoramic shots of the oil fields of Baku or the walkways of the Caspian Sea at night. David Arnold accurately used Middle Eastern instruments like the qanun to enhance the mood of these shots, while he went full techno for the action scenes.

Cigar Girl (Maria Grazia Cucinotta) avoids James Bond through the Thames River, proving that 007 would have some time to spend on his hometown from now on...

Lyricist Don Black returned twenty-five years after The Man With The Golden Gun to write another title song for the film, using the title and the voice of Shirley Manson of Garbage to perform it. The theme song is written from the viewpoint of a woman who "knows when to kiss and when to kill" and incites a loved one to "take the world apart", surely an ode to the female mastermind of this movie. At the same time, Black also wrote lyrics to an instrumental theme Arnold composed for the film. It was titled "Only Myself To Blame" and was intended to the end credits until it was replaced for a more upbeat version of the James Bond Theme. This song was written from the viewpoint of a reflexive Bond thinking of his love life and was only available in the film's soundtrack.

No James Bond film would be complete without an impressive poster campaign. Graphic artist Diane Reynolds-Nash designed the American teaser and theatrical posters for The World Is Not Enough: the first one strikingly placed a flaming silhouette of a woman against the black silhouette of Bond, and the second had a more inclusive explosive artwork in which a ready-for-action Pierce Brosnan was surrounded by Denise Richards, Sophie Marceau and Robert Carlyle as Renard watched from the shadows in a modern blend of white, yellow and blue palettes. For the international market, the Soho-based FEREF publicity agency produced an artwork showing 007 escorted by the leading ladies embedded in a hi-tech world map that hinted some of the secondary characters and scenes from the film. 

Q (Desmond Llewelyn) shares a last laugh with Bond before his retirement. A retirement that, involuntarily, would coincide with the actor's death on December 1999.
The World Is Not Enough still stands as one of the most interesting James Bond films to date. The arrival of new technologies changed the dynamics of a Bond promotion, forcing an official word on every week of shooting as rumours began to make their way all over the world at light speed. This, of course, led to many rumours and fan creations like posters often getting mistaken with the real promotional items, causing EON to rectify them through their official communication channels such as the site, things we are very used to these days.

Perhaps the film does not represent a change of era per se, but the truth is that the James Bond films became somewhat different from Die Another Day on. Violence became stronger, the inner feelings of 007 played a major role in the plot, and, of course, we had to get used that John Cleese or Ben Whishaw could do their best to replace the irreplaceable Desmond Llewelyn as Q, whose cinematic farewell to James Bond –advising him to "never let them see him bleed" and "always have an escape plan"– had sadly become a reality one month after the release of the film when the Welsh actor died on a car crash.

The World Is Not Enough resulted in a bridge to a different, more globalized era, proving James Bond could still be a hero to battle the many threats of a more aggressive world in the 21st century while still retaining his essence as conceived by Ian Fleming in the books or as the cultural icon made famous by producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman decades ago, right in the half of the 20th century.

Nicolás Suszczyk

*All stills and artwork copyright 1999 MGM/Danjaq.
**Read more of this subject in The Bond of The Millennium, written by the same author and available on the Amazon store.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Explore the James Bond film trailers with 'A View To A Thirll', out now

The James Bond films have been entertaining audiences from all over the world for nearly six decades, and 2020 will see the return of agent 007 once more when No Time To Die hits theatres in April. Just like Ian Fleming’s character has been adapted to different audiences, different marketing approaches were made through the years to sell each one of the 25 official films and other two unofficial productions. A View To A Thrill focuses on the trailers of each James Bond film and analyses how these promotional features had presented radical changes over the years, from the old times when a narrator shouted that James Bond was back in action to the present day where a fast-paced editing of action scenes and dialogues gives the potential viewer a thrilling look to an upcoming 007 adventure.


Nicolás Suszczyk became a James Bond fan when he first watched GoldenEye at the age of 7 on his native Buenos Aires. He has contributed on many publications related to the world of James Bond and film entertainment, besides running the websites The GoldenEye Dossier and The Secret Agent Lair, which he co-admins with Jack Walter Christian. In 2019 he published the books The World of GoldenEye and The Bond of The Millennium, also available on Amazon stores.

To purchase the book, please visit the official site. You can also get updates on the book's Facebook and Instagram pages.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

'OSS 117: Red Alert in Black Africa' Goes Into Production

The last time we've seen Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath - better known by his codename OSS 117 - in action was ten years ago where he scavenged across and the outskirts of Rio to track down a microfilm containing the names of Nazi collaborators and their numbered Swiss bank accounts, while attempting to adapt to an ever-changing modern world and maintaining his self-appointed wisecrack attitude at the same time.

A perfect parody of the sixties James Bond films and EuroSpy pictures, along with taking inspirations from the respective eras of each period piece, a character originally created in a serious series of thriller novels by Jean Bruce is revived as a comedic spy thirteen years ago by writer Jean-François Halin and director Michel Hazanavicius. Along with actor Jean Dujardin in the lead role, these men forever immortalized Bruce's fictional secret agent albeit with a twist, fully reinventing him as a Frenchman working for DGSE rather than an American OSS operative of French descent as conceived in the books. But, despite all the wait and anticipation of a third film, the project has been in development hell for quite a few years now.

This year, however, proved rather successful for this production, having Dujardin and Halin set to reprise their roles as lead actor and writer, respectively. Hazanavicius, on the other hand, opted out of directing due to creative differences and was replaced with Nicolas Bedos. The film received the title OSS 117: Alerte Rouge en Afrique Noire (Red Alert in Black Africa in English), only this time its sets the period in the 1980s, skipping a decade as the last one took place in the sixties, and its predecessor in the fifties. What was reported originally by French outlets was that the original plan was to age the French spy which Halin refused to do, keeping the character forever young in possibly a floating timeline akin to the pre-reboot Bond films.

Yesterday, Dujardin and director Nicolas Bedos posted on their Instagram social media accounts that the film has officially started production and the cameras rolled in. This was an exciting news that fans of the franchise never thought would see after ten years too many when the character went absent from the screen. Actors Wladimir Yordanoff and Pierre Niney joined the cast as the new head of French Intelligence and the rookie agent to be tutored by Hubert, respectively. Filming will continue in France till the end of the year before moving to Kenya early next year.

But, before we delve away from the subject, can we also expect the return of Ken Samuels as CIA field officer Bill Tremendous? It would feel very empty without him!

"Sacre Hubert! Toujours le mot pour rire!"
For those who don't know much about the OSS 117 franchise, as we've covered before, its roots trace all the way back to 1949 when author Jean Bruce published his first book featuring the secret agent, who, since then, appeared in over 250 novels up until 1992. After Bruce's death, his wife took over the writing duties, who herself was succeeded by their daughter and her husband. Very few of them were translated to English and most of them only exist in their native language form - French.

The first film adaptation starring the character was released in 1956, played by Ivan Desny in OSS 117 is Not Dead, characterized as a detective-like intelligence officer on the trail of a conspiracy plot. Unfortunately, the film is very rare to find and copies hardly exist anywhere. The second production of an OSS 117 film launched a brief series produced by Paul Cadeac and most of them were directed by Andre Hunebelle. Just as when the James Bond film series started changing the concept of spy fiction on film, as well as the public view of a secret agent, OSS 117 is Unleashed was released in 1963, followed by OSS 117: Shadow of Evil a year later, both of which starred Kerwin Matthews as the titular character.
Frederick Stafford with co-star Marina Vlady in a still
from OSS 117: From Tokyo with Love

Changing leads with the next film, inexperienced but surprisingly talented Frederick Stafford took over the role of OSS 117, debuting a year later in OSS 117: Mission for a Killer, which was also set in Rio (the 2009 parody film even went as far to reuse some of the footage from its 1965 predecessor). At this point, when there were numerous Italian imitations of the Bond films, thus creating the subgenre EuroSpy, this series fell under that label, as well. Stafford received a lot of comparisons with Sean Connery and even looked the part of what could be "France's equivalent of James Bond".

The next film was the first not to be based on any of an existing material, but instead brought an original story on board penned by three-time Bond director Terence Young. A film which would later inspire both You Only Live Twice and The Spy who Loved Me. Stafford returned as the suave French secret agent in OSS 117: From Tokyo with Love, sharpening his skills as an actor, his performance was even better received than before. It is also the only film in this series not to be directed by Hunebelle.

John Gavin with co-star Margaret Lee in
a still from OSS 117: Double Agent
OSS 117: Double Agent saw another change of actors as Stafford was unavailable to reprise his role, having been noticed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring in his spy drama, Topaz. John Gavin replaced Stafford as OSS 117, and Hunebelle was once again at the helm. This film featured many Bond alumnus, including Luciana Paluzzi (Thunderball) and Curt Jurgens (The Spy who Loved Me), as well as using plot devices that were both considered and used in the Bond film that was to come out a year later, bearing many similarities and coincidental events that parallel with that of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, one of which had submitted OSS 117 to "plastic surgery" to explain the change of actors. An element that was actually considered but dropped at the last minute to explain the transition from Sean Connery to George Lazenby. Another parallel scene had the spy rescue a dame from assailants at a beach, even going as far to using a similar time setting and clothing. Too much coincidence. This film also had Gavin come to producer Albert R. Broccoli's attention who considered casting him as Bond in Diamonds Are Forever when the series was touted to be Americanized. Thankfully, that didn't happen.

The Cadeac/Hunebelle series of OSS 117 films stopped producing further installments when the rights were sold to Pierre Kalfon, whose only production starring the character proved to be an unsuccessful film. Another effort to bring the character back to the screen, albeit for television, was made with the intention of starting a TV series which lasted only for a pilot episode. The rest is history as we know, when three decades later the franchise was reinvented as a clever spy comedy series of films, starting in 2006 with the successful OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies and followed by 2009's OSS 117: Lost in Rio. Now, after years of waiting, we'll finally be getting our well-deserved third film. Here's hoping time goes rather fast, because one can hardly wait for it.

OSS 117 will return...
An official premise of OSS 117: Red Alert in Black Africa is yet to be issued to the public. The film will be released in France on the 3rd of February 2021. Though, it is unknown at this point when would it be coming out in North America and the rest of the world. Let's hope it's very soon!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

'I.G.I. - Origins' Gets A Teaser Trailer

A career in government intelligence requires a proper level of violence, a talent for discretion, and an aptitude for war. Exceptional performances in expectation with the finest weapons and our newest technology. Our greatest secrets are in your hands.

Eight months after the game was officially announced with a brief first-look trailer, publisher Toadman Interactive released a teaser trailer for I.G.I. - Origins that gives us a peek at the heart of the game that serves as a prequel to the franchise.

The trailer depicts a mission set in Poland on the 10th of March 1980, an operative only known by his codename "Regent" in service of MI-6 on active duty is seen maneuvering behind enemy lines and military bases, engaging in firefights and maintaining stealth at the same time, crossing borders as well as hacking computers, all of which are absolute reminiscent of the original installments. However, as it is set at the beginning of the eighties, it's safe to say Regent is in no way David Jones - the protagonist of the first two video games - as he happened to be a rookie during the events of the first entry, which was set in 2000 - the year it was released. The official synopsis states the following:
The prequel to 2000's Project I.G.I.: Experience a high octane thrill ride through a spy fantasy world of gadgets and guns against the vivid, sumptuous backdrop of the 1980s. Unravel a mystery that threatens to plunge the world into a new era of nuclear annihilation. You're going in.
The game also promises to offer an extravagant experience of unthreading mysterious twists and turns where the player's actions will determine the place of friends and enemies. A globetrotting adventure in what the official website describes as a "dramatic, filmic experience" that will eventually explore the origins of Institute for Geotactical Intelligence - otherwise known by its acronym, I.G.I. - as Regent seeks to uncover the truth behind events leading to world-shattering ramifications.

Developed by Antimatter Games for publisher Toadman Interactive, the engine is seemingly that of Unreal Engine 4, as the company's name was listed in the credits that appear in the trailer. A release date is still unclear apart from the previously stated 2021 as the year the game will be available to purchase. It also isn't clear whether it will be available on optical discs, but Valve Corporation's Steam online video game service will provide a digital release of the title at an unspecified date.

A first look at our protagonist codenamed "Regent", armed with a suppressed Browning Hi-Power
While it retains the features the original fans embraced, the latest entry is sure to deliver an experience that will introduce the franchise to a new generation of fans. Stealth fans as well as those enjoying Ubisoft's Tom Clancy titles - Splinter Cell in particular - shouldn't shy away from giving this video game a try. It is something Hitman fans themselves would also enjoy, provided it is of a very similar format, albeit played from first-person perspective.

“Think your way in. Shoot your way out.”
For more information, visit the official website.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

'No Time To Die' - Teaser Poster revealed

EON Productions has revealed today the official teaser poster artwork for the 25th James Bond film, No Time To Die. The poster, which can be seen in full on the official James Bond site here, features a photograph of Daniel Craig in tuxedo as agent 007 taken by photographer Greg Williams, who has collaborated with the series since 2002's Die Another Day with the exception of SPECTRE in 2015. Over this image of Bond against the turquoise wall of a place known as Palacio Velázquez in Cuba (we have yet to see what relevance has this scene into the movie), the film's logo is overimposed. The logo, created by Empire Design using the 1929 typography Futura Black, is notably huge in the US one sheet versions. International variations show it considerably smaller, with the title translation assigned to each location.

No Time To Die will be released worldwide from April 3, 2020. Directed by Cary Fukunaga, the film will include Rami Malek, Ana De Armas, Billy Magnussen, David Dencik and Lashana Lynch. Coming from previous Bond films are Léa Seydoux, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes  Rory Kinnear and Jeffrey Wright playing CIA agent Felix Leiter for the third time.

Friday, October 4, 2019

On The Lookout for the Perfect James Bond Video Game

We haven't had a James Bond video game since 2012, if we don't count the James Bond: World of Espionage mobile game fiasco from 2015. Lately, everyone agrees that no 007 video game could beat the uniqueness of GoldenEye 007 and maybe the original stories Nightfire and Everything or Nothing came quite close to let us live in the world of Bond and being more than just a guy with a gun shooting enemies.

I've been asked lately what could make a video game that makes justice to the Bond legacy and, while I'm not a programming expert and I'm not properly a "gamer", I had a few ideas that I hope however comes after Activision takes into account. It would be quite complicated, I admit, and probably a developer would let me know I'm idealizing things way too much, but either way, after studying most of the Bond games for my book The Bond of The Millennium and their reviews I made a few conclusions based on what critics and gamers seemed to hope for a Bond game.

My first idea would be some kind of a mash-up between GoldenEye 007, Nightfire and Everything or Nothing with the free-world feeling of the Grand Theft Auto series by Rockstar. In a way or another, these three games let us live in the world of James Bond, but the Nintendo 64 classic was limited to the action missions and the other two were too scripted and linear, making us feel inside an interactive movie. The point is: we have to live in the world of James Bond - in that vast and luxurious world that includes shootouts, gambling, fast cars and seduction - but with a little bit of more freedom.

Why if, instead of being given a "movie" where we know who the villain is, as well as the good girl or the bad girl, we discover the story as we go along? Better still, we "make" the story. We are thrown with a mission and we interact with our world. Anyone could be the girl. Anyone could be the villain. Anyone could be an ally. Anyone could betray us and we have to "think Bond" and know that by ourselves.

I know of some games that give you the chance of interacting with dialogues. We could be given three possible replies, one of them could lead us to our objective, another one gets us in trouble and we are blown. Remember how important the dialogues are in Bond films. In On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Bond is discovered by Blofeld when he (posing as Sir Hillary Bray from the College of Arms) mistakenly points out that the Bleuchamp tombs are in Ausberg instead of St. Anna Kirsch. In Tomorrow Never Dies, he provokes Carver by slipping up he has doubts of the "global positioning" of his satellites. That makes Carver send a few goons to "soften him up" yet he discovers the Media Mogul wasn't innocent. Just like in GoldenEye 007, we are given the option to complete the mission as we want with different techniques and by interacting with different people: one of the allies may die or may not, the main villain may meet his end in different ways, etc.

Imagine having the freedom of driving the Aston Martin DB5 throughout the streets, but using the gadgets or speeding may cause us trouble with the law, compromise the mission and affect our reputation with MI6. We can also talk and seduce any woman, who may or may not be relevant to the mission and/or the job in hand. That could cause us an important waste of time or a huge advance in gathering information to foil the enemy plan. 

Bond is a sharp dresser and he knows what to wear depending on the occasion. Why don't we explore that a little bit? Knowing how to dress is part of "being Bond", what a Bond video game is meant to offer us. From Russia With Love by Electronic Arts allowed us that, although it was pure "make up" and the way we dressed Bond had little to no relevance in the game. Anyway, suppose you have to go to a casino or a party or the opera. You are not allowed to enter until you change into a dinner jacket. You get your debriefing at MI6, and a disclaimer reminds you to go properly dressed, then you go and pick a business suit. Same if you infiltrate an organization or the enemy troops as Bond does in Moonraker, wearing the yellow jumpsuits of Drax's forces. Picking up a disguise on a sticky situation may even help you to avoid the pursuers for a while, as Bond did with the clown suit in Octopussy.

The gambling section is another chapter. A Bond gamer should know (or learn during the game) how to play card games such as Blackjack, Baccarat, Poker Hold'Em or the Roulette. As in Casino Royale, part of your job would be beating a villain on a casino table to hurt his finances and his image before his superiors. Now, what if you beat him and then decide to keep playing and spending your money. You may win a fortune trying your luck or you can lose it all and compromise MI6. In Ian Fleming's novel Diamonds Are Forever, Bond infiltrated the Spangled Mob organization and for his diamond smuggling job he was paid by betting a certain number on the boss' casino. After winning the arragned amout, he decided to try his luck and kept betting, doubling his money. That, however, aroused suspicion on the enemy side. But still, that could be yet another "live like Bond" offer.

On a few Bond games, pulling out your gun in public endangered the mission. That should be kept in mind for future Bond games - the player should be wise enough to know when he should pull his gun out and shoot an enemy down and when he shouldn't. That's something Mission: Impossible for Nintendo 64 did brilliantly (remember what happened if you neutralized that woman on the red dress that was sent to kill you in the middle of a party at the Embassy?).

Most gamers don't pay attention to the FMV sequences, but what if you have important details there? You are posing as Mr. Robert Sterling from Universal Exports, but you introduce yourself as James Bond or by any other name while on a mission. That jeopardizes the assignament. Or not. Remember how 007 ditched the "Arlington Beech, professional gambler" masquerade in Casino Royale and for a good reason? Bottom line: you never fail the mission until the mastermind succeeds with his plan and there's nothing else you can do.

Most people would probably tell me this is extremely unlikely to happen. Either way, those were some ideas for the next publisher, developer or screenwriter of a future and (yet unexistant) James Bond game many of us would like to play and would hook us for hours. We don't have to just live in Bond's world. We need to be free on it.

Nicolás Suszczyk

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

OFFICIAL: Bond 25 title confirmed as 'No Time To Die'


James Bond Producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli today released the official title of the 25th James Bond adventure, No Time To Die. The film, from Albert R. Broccoli’s EON Productions, Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios (MGM), and Universal Pictures International is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation, True Detective) and stars Daniel Craig, who returns for his fifth film as Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007. Written by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade (SPECTRE, Skyfall), Cary Joji Fukunaga, Scott Z. Burns (Contagion, The Bourne Ultimatum) and Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Killing Eve, Fleabag) No Time To Die is currently in production. The film will be released globally from April 3, 2020 in the UK through Universal Pictures International and in the US on April 8, from MGM via their United Artists Releasing banner.

No Time To Die also stars Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Billy Magnussen, Ana de Armas, Rory Kinnear, David Dencik, Dali Benssalah with Jeffrey Wright and Ralph Fiennes.

In No Time To Die, Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology. 

Other members of the creative team are; Composer Dan Romer, Director of Photography Linus Sandgren, Editors Tom Cross and Elliot Graham, Production Designer Mark Tildesley, Costume Designer Suttirat Larlarb, Hair and Make up Designer Daniel Phillips, Supervising Stunt Coordinator Olivier Schneider, Stunt Coordinator Lee Morrison and Visual Effects Supervisor Charlie Noble. Returning members to the team are; 2nd Unit Director Alexander Witt, Special Effects and Action Vehicles Supervisor Chris Corbould and Casting Director Debbie McWilliams.

Friday, August 16, 2019

'The Bond of The Millennium', a book covering Pierce Brosnan's James Bond adventures, is released

For many of us, Pierce Brosnan was our first James Bond. We loved all of his big-screen adventures long before we heard that four actors have previously portrayed the secret agent and that 16 films have preceded GoldenEye, the 1995 blockbuster that placed agent 007 once again as a popular action hero as critics thought he was no match for the modern action heroes. Nicolás Suszczyk was one of those kids that grew up with Brosnan's Bond and he dedicates this book to defend this era, making a thorough exploration of these four films by analyzing the characters and the sociopolitical background of the time in which these productions were released, much as he did with The World of GoldenEye back in June. There is also a chapter focused on the video game adaptations of the Brosnan films, particularly the three original adventures developed by Electronic Arts: 007 Racing, 007 Nightfire and Everything or Nothing. As you wait for the 25th James Bond adventure to arrive, this may be a good reading to remember such an important era in the timeless world of James Bond.

The first time Pierce Brosnan went to the cinema, aged 11, he watched a James Bond film. At the age of 27, he married a James Bond girl. He had the chance of playing James Bond himself at the age of 33 but lost the role due to contractual obligations. He was 41 when he was formally announced as the fifth actor to play James Bond on June 8, 1994, playing the role for a decade in four productions and three original video games. One could say that it was written that at some point of his life Brosnan would play Ian Fleming’s secret agent, and this happened during a particular time where the world was going through many cultural, technological and political changes.

Featuring interviews with stunt performers Sarah Donohue (The World Is Not Enough) and Jean Pierre-Goy (Tomorrow Never Dies), actor Daz Crawford (The World Is Not Enough), screenwriter Danny Bilson (007 Nightfire, Everything or Nothing) and percussionist Pete Lockett (Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day), among many others, this book offers an in-depth look to the era that took the franchise to new heights from the 1990s to the first years of the new millennium, remarking the importance that Pierce Brosnan’s portrayal of James Bond has had to guarantee the continued success of 007 into the 21st century.

Nicolás Suszczyk became a James Bond fan when he first watched GoldenEye at the age of 7 on his native Buenos Aires. As a freelance writer he has contributed in magazines like MI6 Confidential and Le Bond and sites like Ultimate Action Movie Club, From Sweden With Love, Archivo 007 and The Spy Command. He is the editor of the web sites The GoldenEye Dossier, Bond En Argentina and The Secret Agent Lair, which he co-admins with Jack Walter Christian. In 2019 he published his first book, The World of GoldenEye, also available on Amazon stores.

The Bond of The Millennium is now available on Paperback and Kindle formats on the Amazon store.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

'The Russia House': love in the time of glasnost

Based on a 1989 novel by John Le Carré, The Russia House was directed by Fred Schepisi and released on Christmas Day, 1990. It was, along with Red Heat, the last film to be shot before the dissolution of the Soviet Union in August 1991. The cast had great names: Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer as the leading couple, and supporting actors like Klaus Maria Brandauer, James Fox, Michael Kitchen and Nicholas Woodeson.

It deals heavily with politics, ideals and (of course) espionage, all in the brink of the glasnost led by Mikhail Gorbachov's government in the Soviet Union. Barley Scott Blair (Sean Connery), a British rusophile editor, meets with Dante (Klaus Maria Brandauer) during a writers reunion in Russia, where both agree on the same ideals for world peace, openness and discontent for governments. Some time later, a woman known as Katya Orlova (Michelle Pfeiffer), tries to find Barley to deliver him one of three manuscripts containing sensitive information including nuclear secrets from the USSR. She fails to meet Barley, but hands it in to an associate of him, who -also unable to find him and concerned about the content of the papers- resorts to the British Intelligence. The British find Barley exiled in Lisbon. They convince him to travel to Russia and make contact with Katya in order to get to Dante, verify the information and get the other manuscripts. Barley reluctantly agrees, however things will turn dangerous when he begins to fall in love with Katya.

However, the key of the story relies heavily on love. "Unselfish love, grown up love. Mature, absolute, thrilling love," in the words Barley uses to declare his feelings to Katya. Their story is beautifully written and their love really feels natural, without a sense of adventure or the usual oversexualization that movies have nowadays. In fact, their only sex scene is shown offscreen and both are dressed when they get horizontal. Despite the 28-year difference between Connery and Pfeiffer and not taking advantage of the fact that the Scottish actor was looking impressively good at 60, all the scenes between Barley and Katya have this sense of warmness and caring which gives a sense of authenticity to everything.

Sean Connery convincingly plays the bohemian Barley, an idealist, somewhat anarchist intellectual and jazz lover. The kind of man you would find in a literary club or a library, who enjoys a simple and modest life and has complete disregard for politics or money: "If there is to be hope, we must all betray our countries. We have to save each other, because all victims are equal. And none is more equal than others." Michelle Pfeiffer also did a perfect job portraying a working-class Russian woman, with three children to care for, discreetly dressed and with more sweetness than sex appeal. Likewise, her Russian accent is incredibly convincing and there are a good number of scenes where she talks (dialogue is a big part of the film), so that's an effort deserving a proper recognition. Richard Macdonald's sets for Katya's home showcase how modest her life is: a rather urbane flat with a shower that isn't working properly and she has to fix with a hammer. Those little details also sum up to give a good reflection of the late 1980s Russia which was starting to slowly leave Communism behind. "They just want to be like us," Barley admits to the British agents controlling him.

The Palace Square in St. Petersburg (then known as Leningrad), was one of the scenarios of the film, and director of photography Ian Baker takes full advantage of the wideness of the square and the details of the monuments and statues surrounding the place as Barley meets Dante, another role brilliantly played by Klaus Maria Brandauer who reunites with Connery seven years after the unofficial Bond film Never Say Never Again. "You are wearing grey today, Barley. My father was sent to prison by grey men. He was murdered by men who wore grey uniforms. Grey men ruined my beautiful profession, and take care, or they will ruin you too," the hopeless Dante tells Barley concerned that he might been used by politicians and civil servants, which he doesn't trust at all when it comes to delivering the manuscript, and hopes that Barley can make this information be published on his own without spies and governments in the middle.

Composed by Jerry Goldsmith, the film's soundtrack is a character on itself. A beautiful mix of piano, strings, floute and saxophone which gives the story a special gravitas. In fact, given that there is much talking going on the movie and that at times the pace is quite slow, it is Goldsmith's score that saves it. The main motif of the score, which in the soundtrack album serves for "Alone In The World", performed by Patti Austin (lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman), works beautifully during a scene where Barley takes a train from Moscow to Leningrad and different panoramas of Russia are shown through the window, from the city itself to rural regions and other sights. 

The biggest flaw in The Russia House is perhaps the pacing and structure. There is too much talking and so many words generate confussion. Other things aren't quite clear: the "Russia House" is the informal name of the section of the British Secret Service devoted to watch the actions taking place in the country, basically to spy them, but there is never a satisfactory explaination of this. However, considering the overall beauty of the movie, this can be forgiven. If you want to watch a meaningful romantic movie with elements of espionage and Russian politics involved, this one is certainly recommended.

Nicolás Suszczyk 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Goodbye, Felix - remembering David Hedison (1927-2019)

The week has started on a sad note for many James Bond fans, and for those who spent entire afternoons watching many TV series. We learnt that, at the age of 92, David Hedison passed away. He was the fifth actor to play Felix Leiter in the James Bond films.

Described by Ian Fleming as “the Texan with whom he had shared so many adventures”, Hedison portrayed this idea perfectly in Live And Let Die and Licence To Kill. With his appearance in Bond 25, Jeffrey Wright will break the record playing the role for the third time after Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, but Hedison concluded his life being the only actor who could express that friendly link with James Bond that went beyond work with two different actors that played the same role: Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton.

He was also the one who had to represent one of the tensest moments written by Fleming on his second Bond novel, Live And Let Die, when Leiter is thrown to a pool full of hungry sharks that mutilate two of his extremities, something dramatically adapted in Licence To Kill and the catalyst of 007’s desire of revenge that would take him to resign to the Secret Service to avenge his friend and his wife Della, killed by the assailants that were after him.

A descendant of Armenians, Ara David Hedistian was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on 20 May 1927. He initiated his artistic career under the name Al Hedison on a number of TV series before reaching fame after playing the mutant star of The Fly in 1958. He later had a role in the original 1960 version of The Lost World and in The Greatest Story Ever Told in 1965, as he played important roles on TV series of that decade like Voyage To The Bottom of The Sea, playing Captain Crane, and the episode ‘Luella’ of The Saint, forming his first friendship bond with Roger Moore.

After an occasional encounter with director Guy Hamilton, the role of Felix Leiter was proposed to him for Live And Let Die, where his friend would be Bond for the first time. There was instantaneous chemistry: Hedison was the Felix who assisted Bond after a “little problem” (the mysterious and surprising assassination of his chauffeur) and had to tolerate the name-calling of the furious Mr Bleeker when Bond destroyed his aeroplane to evade Kananga’s hitmen. He was also the Felix Leiter who shared a tragic destiny who was similar to those of 007: due to the disgraceful consequences of his profession as a CIA and DEA agent, his wife is killed hours after the wedding.

“He was married once, but it was a long time ago”, he had told Della when she was surprised when Bond disregards references to a possible second marriage in a future.

Stripped of one of his legs, bruised and solace-less, Leiter manages to raise a smile when listening to his friend on the phone to inform him that he’ll recover his job at MI6, even after his rebellious attitude of hunting down drug kingpin Sánchez and his criminal empire without the proper authorization, when the US justice didn’t dare to confront him.

Besides his participation in series like Wonder Woman, Charlie’s Angels and Perry Mason, Hedison teamed up with his friend Moore in the films North Sea Hijack and The Naked Face. In 2018 he wrote the foreword for the new edition of The 007 Diaries, which the new Bond had written in 1973 and remained out of print for years: “Roger welcomed me into the wonderful fold of his life. He hosted my life for Christmas in Switzerland and summer in the South of France, always eager to share the spoils of his stardom yet never one to act with exception or snobbery,” he said remembering the actor who passed away on 23 May 2017, the day Hedison turned 90.

We just have to hope both of them are enjoying two Sazeracs watching a choir of angels playing a version of that Paul McCartney song that marked a generation and attracted an even bigger audience to that 1973 film, where Bond was turning into the field of comedy but wasn’t becoming less popular just for that. “Where’s your sense of adventure, James? This is Heaven, relax!” he would say.

Those who have met him, like actor Robert Davi, talked about his sympathy and sense of humour. There are others who didn’t share that luck, but it just takes watching a few seconds of any of his performances to perceive that warmth and kindness that went through the screen. He made us feel that, besides being a friend of James Bond, he was almost a friend of ours. Maybe this is why, despite his advanced age, we are still surprised and saddened for his departure.

So long, great man!

Goodbye, Felix.

Nicolás Suszczyk