Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The music of 'No Time To Die': title song by Billie Eilish, soundtrack by Hans Zimmer


It was confirmed today that Californian singer Billie Eilish will perform the main title song for the upcoming James Bond film, No Time To Die, which will be released in April. The motion picture soundtrack will be in charge of legendary composer Hans Zimmer after the silent departure of Dan Romer due to "creative differences".

There are no more details regarding No Time To Die's title song, only that it was written by Eilish's brother FINNEAS, nominated for five Grammy awards. Eilish is, at 18 years of age, the youngest Bond main title performer in history.

It is understood that Zimmer has been working on the score of the film for weeks before his  official announcement. In 2020, the German composer will also work on the soundtrack for Top Gun: Maverick and Wonder Woman 1984. In 2000 he composed the soundtrack for Mission: Impossible II.

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 JamesBond.com 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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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.