Friday, November 2, 2012

Top 5 James Bond Sequences


Next Friday, James Bond fans will finally get the chance to see Skyfall, the 23rd official installment in the franchise. Expectations are high for the third entry for current star Daniel Craig, who's brought a hard edge to the franchise. Sam Mendes takes charge as the director of the highly anticipated film that brings back some of the signature Bond elements. Looking back at the history of the series, I've decided to list some of the best sequences from the five guys who've played the famous role. This list includes one example from each actor that embodies his time in the part. While it's impossible to say exactly what are truly the "best" sequences, these are some of my favorites. To avoid focusing too much of one time period, I've limited myself to just a single choice for each former actor. No honorable mentions! Let's take a look and see what made the ultimate cut from all the options from the past 50 years.


5. Brosnan - The Opening Sequence of Goldeneye (1995)
The tenure of Pierce Brosnan arrived with plenty of fanfare and led to a new blockbuster era for the Bond franchise. While Timothy Dalton's movies had done well overseas, they hadn't drawn the crowds in the U.S. There was no guarantee that Goldeneye would be a sure-fire hit. Right from the start, it's clear that Director Martin Campbell is going for a different approach to the series. The perfect way to show that change is with an explosive opening sequence. The stunning bunjee jump was filmed at the Contra Dam in Ticino, Switzerland, and it sets the tone for Brosnan's entire run. These are action films where the spy work takes a back seat to high-flying thrills. At the end of the scene, Brosnan "flies" towards a plane and narrowly steers it past a mountain to survive. It's a ridiculous moment that perfectly summarizes the changes with this '90s version of Bond. Brosnan's four movies are exciting and fun, but they also get so outlandish that it's hard to take them seriously.


4. Lazenby - The Sad Ending to On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
Sitting right in the middle of Sean Connery's run is a strange detour with one-time star George Lazenby with On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The result is a surprising movie that comes closest to directly adapting one of Ian Fleming's novels. It gives a more believable love story where Bond completely falls for Tracy, played well by Diana Rigg. Their marriage is short-lived and produces the biggest gut punch in the history of the series. The only close companion is the death of Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, but that comes in the middle of a huge action scene. This simple moment has Tracy being shot by Blofeld and Irma Bunt as she rides away with Bond from their wedding. The moment is so underplayed that it's even more tragic. Lazenby plays the confusion and sadness from the usually stoic hero just right. His vulnerability shows a different approach to Bond that didn't work for everyone but is a fascinating counterpoint to Connery. Unfortunately, the follow-up Diamonds are Forever is one of the silliest entries and doesn't build on the success of this remarkable film.


3. Moore - The Ridiculous Ski Chase in For Your Eyes Only (1981)
While it has its share of silly moments, For Your Eyes Only was a return to form after the over-the-top excesses of Moonraker. Roger Moore reminds us that he can still play Bond without all the crazy gadgets and one-liners. It's far from a dull affair, however. The middle of the story includes one of the more outlandish chase scenes in franchise history. Bond is chased around a ski lodge by guys on motorcycles in a pursuit that takes him down a bobsled track, over a cabin, and all over the snowy landscape. The result is arguably the best action scene in Moore's career. The combination of silliness and thrills was a hallmark of his tenure as Bond. Another great example is the equally complicated pursuit in The Spy Who Love Me that involves cars, a helicopter, and even a car transforming into a sub. That's my favorite Moore outing, but I give the slight edge to this inspired sequence. Both examples show the mix of fun and thrills that were the epitome of Moore's tenure. Unlike some of Brosnan's ridiculous scenes, however, they still fit within the confines of the story.


2. Dalton - The Tanker Truck Sequence in License to Kill (1989)
I've been outspoken in my support of License to Kill, Timothy Dalton's second outing. His two-year run is divisive among fans because it was such a change from his predecessor. That's especially the case with this movie, which sends Bond on a revenge quest against the vicious drug lord Franz Sanchez. Robert Davi is brilliant as the nasty villain who values loyalty over money. Their conflict leads to a stunning tanker-truck chase that ranks among the best of the series. Unlike the crazier CGI action of the Brosnan years, this is all excellent practical effects. Beyond the stunts, it works because the stakes are high for Bond. He's more interested in killing Sanchez than stopping the drug deal. This personal connection is what makes Dalton's films so intriguing. Some might consider them boring, but there's a much greater impact because we're engaged with Bond's motivations. He takes an emotional and physical beating in this movie, which makes the resolution a lot more satisfying in the end.


1. Connery - The Showdown with Grant in From Russia with Love (1963)
From Russia with Love is a classic spy thriller that differs considerably from even the films that immediately followed it. The story takes its time as the Russians in Spectre set up a frame job to take down Bond. It's a brilliant plan that nearly works and pits the hero against an efficient killer. Robert Shaw plays Donald "Red" Grant, who's been trained specifically to kill Bond. They meet on a train and ultimately engage in a brutal hand-to-hand fight. Grant masquerades as a British agent sent to help, and the ruse nearly works. Connery brings a casual grace to this intriguing movie that rewards your patience during its last act. The entire train sequence ranks among the best in the series. It shows how Connery could sell the one-liners but also played the spy moments better than anyone. The story ends with an explosive boat chase, but it's the more intimate fight between the two guys that remains the film's highlight. It's easy to forget where the character started during the early days. He relied more on intelligence and with than gadgets, and Connery sold it all.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about this list and you favorite Bond scenes. Are you upset that I missed the goofy space dance in Moonraker or the invisible car sliding along the ice in Die Another Day? You should also check out past Top 5 Lists if you've missed them. Last year, I listed my Top 5 James Bond films; you should take a look and give your favorites!

14 comments:

  1. Awesome list! I have always felt that License to Kill is one of the best Bond entries. The last half hour of the film sees one of the most exciting and edge-of-your-seat climaxes to a Bond film.

    A highlight for me: the moment when Bond dispatches the firey jeep over the cliff edge only to have it miss Pam Bouvier's prop plane by inches is a deliciously manipulative bit of direction and in-camera trickery.

    And I love Michael Kamen's score - often derided undeservedly.

    An awesome swan song for director John Glen and (sadly) Tim Dalton, who (with the possible exception of George Lazenby) is the most underrated Bond actor. At least Lazenby married and was widowed in his film - it makes it notable. Dalton is often written off completely, which is a sin.

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    1. Thanks! I definitely agree about License to Kill, which is also one of my favorite Bond films. That moment with the jeep is great and just one of many during that chase. I've actually read that Dalton would have played Bond again without all the financial troubles of the studio at the time. Once it dragged on for a while, he decided to back out. It's really too bad. It would have been really interesting to see where he went with more films.

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  2. Oh - and your complete lack of mentioning the mind-numbing idiocy of the "BOND SURFS A TSUNAMI" sequence in Die Another Day offends me. ;) Truly a low point.

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    1. Ha! I figure that it's best not to say too much about the second half of Die Another Day, especially that scene. That movie is such a mess, so I'd end up derailing my post on a long rant about it.

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  3. Excellent list, Dan. LOVE that opening to Goldeneye, I had no idea what to expect there – really thrilling stuff.

    From Russia with Love is my favorite Bond film, loved seeing it take the top spot here.

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    1. Thanks Alex. I agree with both of your comments. I do think that Goldeneye holds up that well now, but it was a great opening for Brosnan as the new Bond. From Russia with Love sits around five or six on my list of films, but I can't argue with it at the top.

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  4. Great list, Dan!! I'm beyond thrilled to see to see Licence to Kill getting a lot of love this week, what with the LAMB mtom and stuff, as you know I voted for it to win of course! That truck stunt is incredible, as you said the stake is high for Bond here and he's just relentless!! I mean people think the chase in the beginning of Casino Royale is bad ass, obviously those people haven't seen LTK. Did you hear the place they're filming was haunted? The special features of LTK is one of the best of the Bond films IMO.

    I quite like the ski scene in FYEO, yes ridiculous but so much fun! Moore's Bond flicks are guilty pleasures for me.

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    1. Ruth, it's hard to compare the chase scenes in License to Kill with Casino Royale because it was such a different era for action films. The newer sequence is more high-flying, but there seems to be a lot more at stake in the earlier film like you say. I watched the extras a while back on the DVD, but it's been a while. I'm planning to check them out again before Sunday's LAMBcast recording. I'm expecting that everyone won't share my high opinion of the film.

      I grew up with the Roger Moore films, so I'm right with you on enjoying the silliness. Thanks!

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  5. Nice list, Dan. I really need to see On Her Majesty's Secret Service and For Your Eyes Only though.

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    1. Josh, I think both are worth checking out for sure. On Her Majesty's Secret Service is the better film, but For Your Eyes Only is a lot of fun too.

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  6. Count me as another person who liked Dalton as Bond. In fact, a lot of the praise being heaped on Craig was first being heaped on Dalton (i.e. "bringing some much needed seriousness and emotion to the role.")

    For Moore I'd also pick a skiing moment, but as fun as the one you picked was, I'd go with the opening of The Spy Who Loved Me. It has lost some of its impact nowadays with the popularity of sky surfing and BASE jumping, but at the time it was mind blowing.

    After a long chase on skis Bond seems like he has no way out because a cliff is coming up. It then cuts to a long shot of the cliff and we see Bond come over it. He falls. One ski comes off. He falls. Another ski comes off. He falls. Then all of a sudden, a parachute opens, complete with Union Jack on it, and the Bond theme kicks in. Back when this movie came out it was a completely unexpected twist. It might be my all time favorite opening of any movie.

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    1. Chip, that opening scene of The Spy Who Loved Me was right there for me with Moore. It's a great sequence, and the stunt work involved with making that work is just amazing. No CGI like it would be today!

      If I was listing my favorite Roger Moore film, it would easily be The Spy Who Loved Me. When I thought about the sequence that really embodied his work, I felt like the chase from For Your Eyes Only was the best one to use. Even so, those two were neck and neck for sure.

      With Dalton, we just recorded an interesting LAMBcast this week on License to Kill with a lot of different opinions on his work. I definitely agree that the comments about Craig are very similar to Dalton, especially when people say he's "closest to Ian Fleming's original Bond".

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  7. It's a great list, and I'm with you on most of the choices, though we disagree on a couple of things in a big way (I'm an OHMSS hater, and I think FYEO IS slow and boring).

    Definitely great representation of the Bonds here, though. I might have chosen the Goldfinger laser scene perhaps, but aside from that, I'm right there with you! :D

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    1. Thanks Fogs. At some point, we'll have to talk about OHMSS and why you're wrong about it. For Your Eyes Only isn't perfect, and there are some awkward scenes. But it's an interesting change of pace after Moonraker. The Goldfinger laser scene is great, but since I only picked one from each Bond, it fell just short for me.

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