Bond: Sean Connery

⭐⭐⭐⭐ averaged across 6 films.

tl;dr: The original Bond and, arguably, still the face of the franchise.


James Bond

Dr No

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

I was not expecting this to hold up this well, but it's definitely showing some age. Everything is just less, from the pacing, to the action, to the plot twists. That's not necessarily a bad thing; on the contrary, I quite enjoyed a more grounded story and a Bond that's closer to being a detective than an invincible superhuman. But it does mean that not a huge amount happens. It's your basic thriller or crime novel: you find out clues and important details in tandem with the main character, so you're always getting nice little surprises, but there's nothing truly clever going on.

Still, most of the core of what makes Bond, well, Bond is here. He's bold, at least a little clever, very happy to exploit the smallest chink in his enemies' armour, and uses dry wit, confidence, and charm as his main weapons. He also gives a crap, although not enough to mourn the local CIA asset who gets burned alive unceremoniously 😬 On the other hand, whilst Connery's portrayal is known for being steeped in misogyny (of which there is some, but not as much as I feared), I do find it funny that the very first liaison in the film franchise is one where Bond is absolutely being used by a woman in complete control of him 😄

From a franchise perspective, we get a decent Bond girl in Honey, who at least shows that she's a capable survivor, even if some of her actions are a bit overly "damsel in distress", and the whole "I'm up to T in the encyclopedia" line was bizarre. M and Moneypenny are just already there, no back story necessary (for M this is fine, he's Bond's boss, but the whole flirtation with Moneypenny feels kinda fun that they don't bother explaining it), and I hadn't realised that Spectre would be introduced by name so quickly. I was also surprised that Felix (CIA) is a character, as I only knew him as someone in the Craig Bond franchise (where he is a much more interesting person). There are also fancy opening credits and, of course, the whole "Bond shoots down the barrel" at the start (where does this come from?), but no Q or clever gadgets, no car, no huge song at the start (just the one about coconuts repeated throughout the film as if it's the only piece of music still allowed 😂), and almost no big action, apart from the final explosion.

Indeed, whilst the villain is distinctly campy and classically "other", the actual villainous plot doesn't really seem that big. Yes, Dr. No does claim that his atomic radar will somehow allow him to take over the world, but it's not really clear how or why that is the case. I can chalk that up to the age of the film and the current geopolitical condition with fears about nuclear threats and new technologies being invented constantly, but it does seem quite quaint by modern standards. I was also surprised by how much Dr. No suffers the same issues as Remi Malek's most recent villain, in that he's barely given enough screen time to feel like a threat. Though here, at least, his actions and operatives (and disembodied voice) do lend a certain level of growing unease.

Overall, then Dr. No is a surprisingly decent first entry. It's not amazing, but I enjoyed it, the plot (largely) holds up, the characters have more depth and interest than I expected (even if this was a low bar), and I just had a lot of fun with a slightly slower-paced, more grounded Bond.

From Russia With Love

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Compared with the slower pacing and more detective-story Dr No, From Russia With Love is practically a different series, but it's undeniably a Bond film. Actually, I think it's one of the best Bond films I've seen. The plot is a little ridiculous, but in a fun way that means it's still internally coherent, and the characters are all interesting. I think it's funny just how powerful (and brash) Spectre have been made out to be, but their role is certainly being built on nicely after their previous introduction.

As for Bond, Connery keeps him feeling like the same character as the previous film entirely, whilst also embracing the slightly more action-packed plot well. He does perhaps push a few too many people into water, but when it's needed he's still as gritty as more modern incarnations. I still find it funny how much this earlier take on the character remains a genuinely nice person that clearly falls for women far more than he lets on, although, again, doesn't seem to mourn people's death much. Just like the first movie, his main accomplice and friend is suddenly (and predictably) killed, but at least it's actively brought up a couple of times later this time around.

Otherwise, I don't really have any complaints. The action is showing the age a little, but it's still a lot of fun; I thought the latest Bond girl was really well done, acted, and written; plus, the villains felt ominous and interesting, all at once. Solid marks all round!


Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

On the positive side, Thunderball continues what Goldfinger started, giving us a competent Bond working to prevent a surprisingly grounded and realistic terrorist plot, with some fun gadgets and decent action sequences layered on top. On the negative side, Thunderball continues what Goldfinger started, crowbarring liberal doses of product placement into the plot, ending with a slightly confusing twist that isn't really needed or well explained, and further reducing Bond into a character that should be less celebrated and more behind bars. His indifference to human life in the earlier films can at least be explained away as a coping mechanism for his job, but now he's regularly raping, blackmailing, and groping women, it feels more like he's just losing control of his humanity entirely.

Unfortunately, unlike Goldfinger, Thunderball fails to paper over these cracks with its story. There's nothing overly wrong with the plot or the villain, but neither are that interesting, and the pacing is all over the place; it just feels half baked. Worse still, whilst I understand that the film broke boundaries in terms of underwater filming, good lord they don't half overuse it. There's something almost comical about the slow-motion, floaty final fight sequence, though the choreography holds it together fine at first, but it just doesn't end. Add on top some slightly flimsy and under-explained excuses for the whole fight and it just becomes boring. I mean, why are they attacking Miami? Aren't they blackmailing the UK? And haven't they been paid? Plus, how will nuking a US city help Spectre, surely it just sends the message that there isn't any point giving in to ransom demands, because they're just going to be evil and do the thing anyway? And that's before you begin to question why Spectre are even going to all of this trouble for £1million when earlier in the film they mention that their control of the US narcotics trade is netting them ten times that annually. It just feels a bit silly in that context. Also, killing off the local contact now being a disturbing trope aside, if you're going to do it you should at least give that contact more than a half-dozen lines. I wasn't even sure who she was when she was kidnapped, so why bother having her at all?

On the other hand, Domino is a decent enough Bond girl; I thought the villain's lair was pretty great; the shark tunnel sequence was surprisingly well done and tense; and, again, the actual core plot (right up until the end) was a good one, they just spent too long focusing on the wrong parts.

You Only Live Twice

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Diamonds Are Forever

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.


Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Ah, so we almost had a trilogy of only slight-awful Bond, but I see the ego has finally caught up with the character. In fact, it feels like Goldfinger is the moment when the parodied version of Bond was born: hyper-obvious product placements; Bond cars; quirky gadgets; tuxedos underneath diving gear (😂); and, of course, deeply problematic (bordering contemptuous) portrayals of women. To be fair, it feels like Pussy Galore was at least an attempt at a strong female character, but then Bond rapes her (😬) and magically bewitches her (or something) and she sees the error of her ways. I guess all it took was a strong, righteous man (and a good shagging), or something.

Honestly, the whole "I guess I appealed to her maternal instinct" double-cross is such lazy storytelling it almost ruins an otherwise excellent final act. Because here's the slightly terrifying thing: Goldfinger's plot is actually good. No, it's great! The villain is interesting, the evil plan is actually pretty solid (and reasonably realistic), and they retain the upper hand against Bond for most of the run time by genuinely being one step ahead. There's no deus ex machina or sudden reveals/twists that don't really hold up with hindsight, nor does the plot rely on happenchance or Bond being a twit. Nope, here we have a Bond who is genuinely competent at spycraft, following up on leads and genuine clues, and a villain/scheme that moves forward regardless of what the good guys do. And this is a Bond film? Would have guessed it! 😏

Which is why that stupid double-cross is so annoying. There are dozens of ways to have a redemption arc for Galore, but honestly the script almost makes it feel like this was a last-minute change. We know that Goldfinger likes clearing up loose ends. Dude literally offs half of the crime families in the US just because they individually know fragments of the plan, and here's Pussy and her pilots knowing the entire thing. Why not just have a moment when Bond or Pussy catch him rigging the planes to explode or something, allowing Pussy to turn on him in order to save her found family. That would make the whole "maternal instinct" nonsense at least coherent, rather than just sexist, so it feels like this may have been the intent and some meddling exec decided it would be sexier to just have Bond screw her straight 🤦‍♂️

But of course, the female characters aren't the only parts which have aged poorly. It's a real shame what they've done to Bond: taken an (at least partially) emotionally nuanced character and reduced him to ego and lust. Not least of all because it's slightly hard to care about a rapist being the hero of the story, but because it just makes everything more interesting. I find it funny how bad the one-liners are as well; half of them are groan-inducing, and the other half literally don't make sense.

That said, overall, this has to be one of the best Bond films ever made. I'd actually kinda love a modern remake that cuts out the awful parts, because it's so close to being a genuinely excellent film, but I doubt we'll ever see that. Still, with a genuinely interesting plot, excellent characters, and spot-on pacing, this will be hard to beat.

Made By Me, But Made Possible By:


Build: Gatsby

Deployment: GitHub

Hosting: Netlify

Connect With Me:

Twitter Twitter

Instagram Instragram

500px 500px

GitHub GitHub

Keep Up To Date:

All Posts RSS feed.

Articles RSS feed.

Journal RSS feed.

Notes RSS feed.