“Carry On My Wayward Son/ There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done/ Lay Your Weary Head to Rest/ Don’t You Cry No More”

The Supernatural Series Finale

Yes, I said in the last post that I’d be taking a break for the holidays (because life gets nuts), but did you really expect that I wouldn’t say something about the end a beloved show?  The heart wrenching finale aired last night and I will mark spoilers. (And yes, I had to do that title)

I never expected to become a Supernatural fan, or part of the SPNFamily.  I did not watch it when it premiered; I probably wasn’t even aware it existed at that point.  I was still in high school; getting into Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, so definitely into the fantasy genre, but not horror.  I don’t do horror movies.  I remember seeing the DVD covers at my cousin’s and thinking, “I will never watch that.”  (Pretty sure it was the cover with a giant snake on Sam’s arm and thinking, “that must be a bad guy”…oh how wrong was I).  I think my friend in college mentioned it and I still resisted.  At that point I watched NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, and Castle.  Mainstream shows.

2015 rolls around; I’m working two part-time jobs, life is a bit nuts (when is it not, but there are phases), and my friend begins suggesting that I would like Supernatural.  My cousin chimes in (I should thank her for letting me borrow the series on DVD).  A guy friend offers that if I don’t like the show, I can come back and punch him.  So I give it a whirl…and I still don’t like the horror bits.  Then, I get hooked.  It becomes, how many episodes can I watch before I go to work?  Oh, let’s watch one in the evening.  Which then becomes, how many can I watch before I fall asleep?  The eleventh season was getting ready to air and I only had up through season nine on disc.  So I bought season ten to watch on Amazon, because I had to find out what happened.  (And this was just about the point that “binge” watching was becoming a thing). I know my friend got numerous texts from me as I watched, usually like “What!!” or “this just happened!”  I mean, it did take a little suspense away from the early seasons because hey, I knew they survived till season nine or whatever.

I utterly fell in love with Sam and Dean Winchester.  I fell in love with brothers who would do anything for each other.  They were tough guys, but they showed vulnerability around each other.  I wanted to wrap them up in hugs.  I also probably yelled at them for being stupid idiots.

And of course, I dived into the fandom and found it thriving.  And I discovered Jared’s “Always Keep Fighting” campaign.  And that helped.  Because life it hard sometimes.  I could look at Sam and Dean, and I could look at Jared and Jensen, and see strength, and see the love they have for each other.  Finding out that Jared and Jensen are like brothers in real life is heartwarming.  And if the Winchesters can face down death and demons and monsters, I can face down the dark thoughts in my head. 

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, as much as we wish this show could go on forever.  And these wonderful men have their own families they want to be with.  Even though I’ve never attended a convention, I’ve watched bits online and I think it is utterly wonderful that Jared and Jensen, and Misha, and all the rest have embraced the fandom so much.  I’m grateful for what we’ve had from this show.  And the fandom will never die.  Heck, look at Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings, all still going strong.  And I will certainly continue to re-watch and re-watch this show.

*SPOILER ALERT*  It didn’t really hit me that the show was ending until Castiel’s goodbye.  There have been sacrifices throughout the show; John for Dean, Dean for Sam, Sam for Dean.  But this was a final sacrifice.  We know there won’t be any coming back.  And Cas’s voice changes a bit.  It’s now Misha.  And he’s saying everything we know and feel about Dean.  And I have tears pouring down my face.  (I’m re-watching it and I still cry).  Cas says “I love you,” to Dean…which could run from and include friendship love to romantic love…and I’m okay with that.  Then Dean crying at the end of the episode, my heart breaks.  I had to sit for a minute and process everything once it ended.

The penultimate episode went differently than I expected.  I figured there would be a huge, bloody showdown.  There was, a little…then Chuck is de-powered and Jack is the new God.  And leaves the boys.  I cry a little, for the boys.  I felt it was a satisfying conclusion for Jack; in all, I think the finale was well thought and planned out.  I know there are shows that just suddenly end, or the writers quickly have to come up with a way to conclude everything and it’s rushed and it shows.  The montage at the end had me in tears and it almost wrapped up the series there.

I reiterate SPOILER ALERT: Going into the final episode, I had hope that maybe it would end happy; the boys live and have families, or just carry on doing their job.  Originally, I figured the show would end bloody.  And it had to be both boys going, together.  And I kind of wanted Jody and Donna and all the other alive characters to gather to say goodbye to the boys.  And all the ones in heaven to be gathered there to greet them.  Starting the interview portion with the musical episode rendition of Carry On Wayward Son had me in tears early.  Then the episode didn’t start with the original version and I was a bit confused.  I’m glad Dean has a dog (especially since both Jared and Jensen have dogs).  Masked bad guys are creepy, but we’re getting to the hunt a bit early.  I don’t really remember that girl from the earlier season.  Then Dean’s pinned.  And it’s only halfway through…and I’m sobbing into a pillow (I’m crying again). 

Because yes, Dean was always going to go out fighting.  Saying he’s proud of Sam, oh, there’s a stab in my heart.  Beautiful acting on Jensen’s part, the hitches in his breath.  And they echo from the pilot “I can’t do this alone. …  I don’t want to.”  And Dean will always be with us, and he urges all of us to keep fighting.  I’m just begging, “not without Sam.”  Like I mentioned, I figured they both had to go at the same time.  Dean just can’t leave Sam alone.  There was the single man tear…and sobbing alongside Sam.

Heaven was beautiful (I think the crew took the opportunity to showcase Canadian scenery) and yes, it was nice to see Bobby again.  And the car.  Carry On Wayward Son finally plays and Dean’s smiling and driving.  I’m still crying.  Sam gets a life, like Dean always wanted for him (I kind of wonder who he married).  Sam was weird looking as an old guy, and honestly, I expected him to pass in the car, though it was touching that his son told him it was okay.  And of course I’m happy Sam is back with Dean, where he belongs.  A final hug for us.  I can see how there may be a short run sequel or movie or something…Dean and Sam’s Adventures in Heaven or something.  So yes, satisfying.  And so heart wrenching.

Let’s all take a breath… (Spoilers are finished)

I know both guys have projects coming up soon; they’ve already started teasers for Walker, and I’ll record it and watch it.  Not sure I’ll try to get into The Boys, but I might find scenes with Jensen to watch.  Not sure I’m ready to see these boys in something other than Supernatural, as characters other than Sam and Dean.  I keep reminding myself of the Dr. Seuss quote that is very applicable now: Don’t cry because it’s over, Smile because it happened.  I will be forever grateful to this wonderful show (and to my friend for introducing me).  The fandom and the SPNFamily will live and carry on.  I’m sure there will be dissenting views on the ending, but hey, that’s what fanfiction is for.  A huge thank you to Jared and Jensen for these wonderful characters and all the cast and crew and writers for a show about love and family, even through dark times.

(Because we could all use some hugs right now)

Some Analysts are Good in the Field

Jack Ryan Wrap-Up

Clear and Present Danger follows Patriot Games and also stars Harrison Ford.  It involves drug cartels in South America [those, sadly, still exist], and the movie is quite frankly boring.  There’s no action until an hour into the movie.  It doesn’t get interesting until the last half hour.  Jack keeps getting sent into the field even though he’s only an analyst.  But he handles himself reasonably well in a fight.

There’s the threat of a political scandal reaching all the way to the President [and I have to stop and think, when this takes place, Nixon and Watergate were recent memory.]  But Jack is determined to do what is right; Admiral Greer’s final advice to Jack (he passes away from cancer in this film, so Jack has to do his job) is Jack took an oath to the people, not just the President. And Jack will not let the mess that happened stand.  And this is why I dislike politics; everyone is out to screw everyone else over.  One man takes it upon themselves, at the President’s quasi-orders, to start an unauthorized war in Colombia and of course there is corruption within the cartels and people will take advantage of a situation and innocent people end up getting hurt.  The first two Jack Ryan movies are much better.

Sum of All Fears came out in 2002 as a quasi-reboot and was not well received, particularly in my family.  It completely threw the book out the window.  We watched it once and refuse to ever watch it again.

Shadow Recruit is a more proper reboot from 2014 with an all-star cast.  Chris Pine is now Jack Ryan, Keira Knightley is his girlfriend, Cathy.  Kevin Costner is Jack’s handler, Harper, and Kenneth Branagh directs and plays the Russian villain.  It’s not based off of one of Clancy’s books; it re-imagines Jack post-9/11.  Actually, the film opens with the television report of the attack on the World Trade Center [bad timing, I managed to re-watch the film the evening of September 10th.]  Jack enlists and deploys to Afghanistan; there is a helicopter attack like the typical backstory and Jack meets Cathy during his physical therapy.  Harper recruits him because he notices patterns others miss.

It’s a good action film and continues to demonstrate that Jack Ryan is an analyst, not a field agent.  Of course, he survives and Chris Pine is an excellent leading man and handles action very well. Even watching the film more than once, it keeps the suspense.

There is a recent series titled Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan that airs on Amazon Prime.  I have not watched it (I think I’ll keep to my originals, thanks.  And I really don’t need another series to get involved in)

Next Time: After the holidays, we will return to Harrison Ford in Air Force One.  Never fear, I’m not going anywhere, just trying to make time for reading and my own writing; and balance a job.  I love action movies, so I definitely want to cover these…and we haven’t even hit the major movies that claimed my heart and soul!

Harrison Ford to the Rescue

Patriot Games

This is a favorite of mine and has a rockstar cast.  Harrison Ford has taken over as Jack Ryan.  Sean Bean (Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings) is the Irish Sean Miller.  James Fox, ironic that he’s Lord Holmes here since he was in Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes film.  There’s a young Samuel L. Jackson (before he was Nick Fury) as Robby and James Earl Jones reappears as Admiral Greer.

Jack is on vacation in London with his wife and daughter, though he does give a speech to the Royal Naval Academy.  He happens to be a passing bystander when an IRA splinter group makes an attack on the royal family (a cousin of the queen).  [Yeah, this takes place during the Troubles, a violent era between Ireland and England; lot of hate…boils down to the Irish want England out of Ireland]  Jack stops the group from shooting the royal family, disarms one man, shoots several others, and gets shot himself.  One of the men he shot was Sean Miller’s younger brother; you can see in Sean’s eyes that he would kill Jack for it.  Jack’s wife, Cathy, is a doctor and treats her husband at the scene; she’ll forgive him since he lived.  Jack is lauded as a hero and the royal, Lord Holmes, bestows the honor of Knight Commander of the Victorian Order.  Sean essentially vows revenge on Jack during the trial.

The Ryans return home and Cathy discovers that she is pregnant.  In the meantime, Sean is being transferred, but there is still a mole somewhere; his transport is attacked and his fellow Irishmen get him out.  The CIA visits Jack at home to let him know that Sean has escaped, but feel it is unlikely that Sean would be able to get to Jack and his family in the states.  They do ask if he would like to return to the CIA; Jack turns them down and Cathy agrees with him.  The IRA faction leaves Ireland so they can train and Sean struggles with his thoughts of revenge, while his leaders want to focus on the goal of freeing Irish political prisoners.

We see Jack in his element, teaching history at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland [my brother, a naval officer, did teach at the Academy for a few years; it is beautiful and there is indeed a picture of Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan, listed as a former professor in the history department].  Robby presents his friend with the Purple Target for actions beyond the call of duty of a civilian: in hopes that “he will duck next time, lest he become a part of history, instead of a teacher of it.” [one of my favorite quotes, lol]  Catherine has also returned to her job.  And the CIA was wrong; Sean is in Annapolis, targeting Catherine and Sally.  There’s a young man waiting for Jack when he leaves the Academy out of Gate 3, to Hanover Street [it is known as the Jack Ryan gate now].  The man eventually pulls a gun, but Jack is prepared, sort of.  A guard shoots the man when he pulls the gun and Jack notices a Jeep following him as well.  He also realizes that it’s Sean after him and his wife and daughter may be in danger.  He tries to get a car call through to his wife, but has to wait for her to finish her call to work.  Sean’s van pulls alongside the car right after she hangs up with her husband and he opens fire.  They crash into a barrier.

Cathy and the baby are alright, but Sally is in critical condition for a day.  She will ultimately be okay, but Jack is perturbed at the IRA leader, Patty O’Neil denying that the IRA has anything to do with the incident.  Jack walks back into the CIA and gets put on the team investigating the splinter group.  He starts making connections and remembers seeing a red-haired woman at both attacks; in a car in London and in the Jeep in Annapolis.  If they find her, they’ll find the leader (Kevin), and they’ll find Sean.  Sean places a call to Jack at home, taunting him.  Cathy tells her husband to get the man, whatever it takes.  Jack decides it’s a good idea to provoke Patty O’Neil.  O’Neil may disagree with the actions of the faction, but he’ll never sell out a fellow Irishman.

The faction has relocated somewhere in North Africa and manage to keep out of the satellite sweeps for a most part, until Jack asks for them to be re-tasked.  It’s not great information they get, but it’s something.  O’Neil even passes along information to Jack; the woman is English, not Irish, so he’s not betraying his countryman.  Jack watches the hit made on the camp from a room inside the CIA; welcome to the new world.

Lord Holmes is making a visit to the U.S. and wants to stop by to see the Ryans and ends up invited to their welcome home celebration for Sally.  He presents a medal to Jack, then the lights go out.  They first think it’s the storm, but Jack has a feeling.  He can’t raise anyone on the radio, so he tells everyone to hide.  Indeed, Sean and his team are at the house, ready to invade.  Jack discovers that the secretary was the mole in Holmes’ staff.  The CIA gets word of the attack and sends back-up, but Jack fights off the team at the house first.  He gets everyone outside and heads to the boats.  He takes one and the team hurries to the other, Sean determined to follow him.  When Kevin protests, shouting that the royal is more important, Sean shoots him and the woman and continues his pursuit.  He jumps on to Jack’s boat and they struggle while the boat catches fire.  Jack eventually forces Sean back on the anchor and bails before the boat hits rocks and explodes.  It at least gives the rescue team an idea where he is.  He holds on to his wife and daughter during the aftermath and in the final scene, they’re about to find out what the gender of the new baby will be.  Well, Cathy knows.

Harrison Ford plays a great hero; he’s one who will always take a punch.  Then he comes back swinging.  It’s all very realistic.  I like seeing the Academy and I like the action at the beginning and the end of the film.  Research is understandably boring, but very necessary (never let anyone convince you it is glamorous).  Are Hunt and Patriot Games outdated since the Troubles are over and the Soviet Union disbanded?  Not to me.  I may not have been around during their heyday, but I remember the aftermath.  I’ve been to Belfast; I’ve seen a school that had metal coverings on the windows to protect the children from rocks being thrown.  There are murals mentioning Oliver Cromwell and his atrocities against the Irish.  And that was probably twenty years or so after the Troubles ended.  These are great action movies; yes, a bit dated due to the technology, but it’s advancing at such a rapid pace, it’s impossible for anything to stay current.

Next Time: A wrap up on Jack Ryan

Research Helps Save the Day

Hunt for Red October

The 1990 film based on the first and most famous novel by Tom Clancy.  The film stars Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan, Sean Connery (the original James Bond, we’ll see him in Last Crusade, early in his career he was in Darby O’Gill and the Little People [playing an Irishman, he even sings] and who sadly passed away on Halloween at the age of 90) as Marko Ramius, Sam Neill (he was Merlin in a short movie series, and Cardinal Wolsey in The Tudors; some of you may recognize him from Jurassic Park; I have not seen those movies) as Captain Borodin, James Earl Jones (Mufasa, Darth Vader; need I say more) as Admiral Greer.  Tim Curry (Wadsworth in Clue, he starred in the disturbing Rocky Horror Picture Show, Rooster in Annie, a wonderful Cardinal Richelieu in the 90’s Three Musketeers, and a plethora of voice roles, including the recent Clone Wars series) appears as Dr. Petrov and a young Stellan Skarsgård (Bootstrap Bill Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, part of the MCU as Erik Selvig, Mamma Mia)  as Captain Tupolev.  Gates McFadden (Dr. Beverly Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation) has a very brief appearance at the beginning of the film as Jack Ryan’s wife, Caroline.

Some interesting trivia bits:

Three main actors had prior military experience; Sean Connery joined the Royal Navy when he was fifteen and served onboard the aircraft carrier H.M.S. Formidable.  Scott Glenn (the captain of the U.S.S. Dallas) was  U.S. Marine, and James Earl Jones was an Officer in the U.S. Army.

The U.S. Naval Institute, a private, non-profit professional military association, located on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, has been publishing books and magazines related to Naval strategy and maritime history since 1874 (we see a copy of their monthly magazine, Proceedings in an opening scene).  In 1984, they published their first work of fiction, The Hunt for Red October.

Clancy, who passed away in 2013, is known for his thorough research.  My mother, who has read most all of his books (which are 600+ pages) remarked that when The Hunt for Red October was first released, Clancy had to prove that all of the information he included was available publically; officials were worried he had gotten a hold of classified information.  The Hunt for Red October is the only Clancy book I have read and I found it very good and would not be opposed to reading more (though they are very long and detailed).  I had to read it and a Cussler book in exchange for making my brother read Mists of Avalon.

Carrying on with the plot:

There is an opening scrawl explaining “In November of 1984, shortly before Gorbachev came to power [set during the Cold War], a typhoon-class Soviet Sub surfaced just south of the Grand Banks [Nova Scotia].  It then sank in deep water, apparently suffering a radiation problem.  Unconfirmed reports indicated some of the crew were rescued.”  According to the Soviet and American governments, none of what we are about to see ever happened.

We begin on a Soviet sub as it leaves its base in northern Russia [and I adore the theme for the movie; though if you listen to it a dozen times, you get Russian stuck in your head] and briefly meet Ramius and Borodin.  Next, we see a study full of books [pretty sure my brother, a naval historian, either owns or has read most of those books]; Dr. Jack Ryan is getting ready to leave and fly from England to the U.S.  He’s not fond of sleeping on flights, but it is imperative that he sees Admiral Greer of the CIA.  The Soviet sub, Red October has launched with Ramius as its captain.  The sub has odd doors on it and Ryan wants to discover what they are for.  Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the sonar team of the U.S.S. Dallas.

Onboard the Red October, the orders are opened.  They are to rendezvous with Captain Tupolev and run through drills to test the new sub.  Ramius has other intentions; he kills the political officer and passes it off as an accident.  He later announces to the crew that they will indeed test the new sub, but the Soviet fleet will be unsuspecting; they will also attempt to get through the American navy.  Ryan has also discovered that the doors on the Red October are for a caterpillar drive; the sub will run nearly silent [technically not true, but we don’t know enough about how subs run anyways that we’re honestly not going to know the difference].  The U.S.S. Dallas has found the Red October and begins tracking her.

In Russia, Ramius has sent a letter to Soviet command, resigning.  Russia now wants their sub back and sends their fleet after it; with orders to kill Ramius.  Dr. Ryan’s question is no longer simply research; he needs to brief the Joint Chiefs and the President’s Security Advisor.  The military feels the Red October is a threat and obviously, must shoot it.  Ryan ponders a little longer and realizes Ramius means to defect.  He has three days to find the Red October and determine if his hunch is correct.  Now, Ryan has to get out to the aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Enterprise.  Then hop over to the U.S.S. Dallas.

Ramius is indeed attempting to defect, along with the rest of the officers of the Red October.  They’re worried though, that the crew may mutiny and what sort of punishment they will face if they’re captured.  But Ramius has been teaching the submarine captains of the Soviet navy for forty years; he knows their tactics.  They just have to find the right American.  After they enter an underwater canyon, their caterpillar drive overheats and they have to shut it down; meaning they will no longer be running silent (sabotage from a crewmember onboard).  The U.S.S. Dallas already has gotten in position at the end of the canyon; their superb sonar man has figured out a way to listen for the Soviet sub.  Unfortunately, they have to surface to get Ryan onboard.  Then he has to convince the captain he’s not crazy.  Has Ramius done any Crazy Ivans (turning the sub to see if it’s being followed, meaning the sub tailing it {in this case, the Dallas} has to stop and hopefully not run into the enemy sub)?  Yes.  Ryan predicts he’ll do another one.  He’s right.  Well, let’s see if they can get a hold of the Red October.

By this point, the Russian ambassador (played by Joss Ackland, who has appeared in the Mighty Ducks movie and the 90’s Miracle on 34th Street) asks the White House for assistance in “rescuing” a “lost” sub.  While the Red October is no longer silent, one of the Russian planes searching for it detects it and drops a torpedo in the water.  Ramius holds his position longer than normal in the canyon, moving at the last possible second so the torpedo hits an underwater mountain.  After this, the Russian ambassador has to admit that Ramius has gone crazy and intends to fire missiles on America, causing a war (this is a lie; but Soviet naval command won’t want the truth getting out).  So now the ambassador is asking for American help to find and kill Ramius.

The Dallas and Red October have found each other and weapons are aimed at each other.  They don’t fire.  Instead, they both go to periscope depth to take a peek.  Dallas signals Red October, betting that Ramius will be at the scope; does he want to defect?  He sends a signal, yes.  Very well, meet them due south in a deep trench.  When Red October arrives at the location, the radiation alarm goes off in the nuclear reactor.  Ramius surfaces the sub and evacuates his men.  He sends the doctor (who is not in on the plan) with the men.  Ramius and the officers will go back down with the sub and fend off an impending American “attack.”  A torpedo is dropped, but Admiral Greer makes sure it detonates early.  Ryan, the captain and sonar guy from the Dallas make their way over to the Red October.  Ryan luckily speaks a little Russian and endears himself to Ramius.  Ramius officially presents the Red October to the Americans and declares that he and his officers wish to defect.   Before they can get too friendly, another torpedo comes through the water.  Not American, Russian.  Captain Tupolev has found Red October and will follow orders and sink her.

Ryan is in a spot of trouble; he’s a former Marine helicopter pilot, not a naval officer, he doesn’t know how to operate a sub.  He now writes history books for the CIA.  But he’ll follow Ramius orders to turn into the path of the torpedo.  The torpedo breaks apart on the hull; they closed the distance so the torpedo wasn’t armed yet.  But the next one will be.  On the surface, the Russian crew believes that their captain is fighting the Americans.  Tupolev’s next torpedo locks on to Red October.  Dallas dives to the rescue and distracts the torpedo long enough to turn it back on to Tupolev, blowing him up.  They have to surface quickly, again, making the Russians believe their captain is winning; until they see an explosion.

After that, the saboteur shows his face, attempting to shoot Ramius.  Borodin pushes his captain out of the way and is shot.  Ramius and Ryan go after the shooter while the Dallas captain pilots the sub.  The saboteur?  A cook.  He runs towards the missile bay, most likely to blow up the ship.  Ramius warns Ryan after Ramius is nicked, be careful where he shoots.  Ryan corners the guy and fires.  Ryan suggests the Red October head towards Maine; they can sail it up the river, far from any naval station and far from where people are going to look.  The Russian ambassador now has to admit they have lost another sub (Tupolev’s).  As the theme plays again, Ryan is on a flight back to his wife and daughter, accompanied by teddy bear brother for the daughter’s bear.  And he actually manages to sleep.

The movie is very faithful to the book.  While not as non-stop action as some other classics, or even later Jack Ryan films, I like that it can show “enemies” getting along.  And even professors can be heroes.  Let’s give a cheer for research and history!  [Am I the only one cheering?  Oh well, may just be me then, lol].  It’s great to see some of these famous actors a little younger, like Alec Baldwin, and even Sam Neill and Tim Curry.  And who do they get to play a Russian submarine captain?  Sean Connery, complete with Scottish accent; but it’s Sean Connery, so we’re okay with it.  He’s a quiet, but firm lead and Alec Baldwin is kind of adorable in a dorky way; a professor a little bit out of his comfort zone.  This movie has grown on me over the years; as a kid, I thought it was boring.  Now, older and wiser, hey, these things make sense!

Up Next: Patriot Games

A Tribute to Sean Connery:

Alec Baldwin reported to Rolling Stones on Saturday, October 31, that Connery wasn’t chatty, “he was there to work.  But he was happy to help you get the job done.  He’d been through what I [Baldwin] was going through.”  To Alec, “Sean was always the most impressive combination of actor and star that I’ve ever seen.”  “Connery had that trifecta dynamic of knowing where masculinity, sensitivity, and intelligence intersected.  You gotta be emotive, you gotta be tough, you gotta be smart.”

Sean’s successor to Bond, Daniel Craig noted to Variety that Connery “defined and era and a style…he helped create the modern blockbuster.  He will continue to influence actors and film-makers alike for years to come.”  The Bond producers made the statement “Connery was and shall always be remembered as the original James Bond whose indelible entrance into cinema history began when he announced those unforgettable words, ‘The name’s Bond…James Bond.'”  Pierce Brosnan also commented that Sean Connery was “my greatest James Bond as a boy….You cast a long shadow of cinematic splendor that will live on forever.”  Of the Bond role, Brosnan also wrote on Instagram, “you led the way for us all who followed in your iconic footsteps.  Each man in his turn looked to you with reverence and admiration as we forged ahead with our own interpretations of the role.  You were mighty in every way, as an actor and as a man, and will remain so till the end of time.”

Harrison Ford made the comment “‘You don’t know pleasure until someone pays you to take Sean Connery for a ride in the side car of a Russian motorcycle bouncing along a bumpy, twisty mountain trail and getting to watch him squirm.  God, we had fun – if he’s in heaven, I hope they have gold courses.  Rest in peace, dear friend.'”

“I also have a mortgage, and two cats to feed.”

Spectre

The most recent Bond film and this is the first movie in my blog series that I have not previously watched.  I enjoyed this more than I thought I would.  Of course, Daniel Craig is back as James Bond, Ralph Fiennes as M, Ben Whishaw as Q, and Naomie Harris as Moneypenny.  Andrew Scott (Moriarty in Sherlock) slinks through as C, Dave Bautista (such a surprise to see Drax of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy) as the mostly silently and basically never named Hinx.  We briefly see Léa Seydoux, who plays Madeleine Swann in this film, in Robin Hood as Isabella of Angoulême.  Christoph Waltz (Richelieu in the newer Three Musketeers film; making him the second Bond villain to come out of that movie; Mads Mikkelsen was Le Chiffre in Casino Royale before he was Rochefort) is creepy as Blofeld.

This is the first of Craig’s Bond films to open with the gun barrel sequence.  It opens properly on a Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico and everyone is walking around wearing skeleton masks…off to a creepy start.  The camera follows one man in a skeleton suit, he follows a woman to her room and removes his mask to reveal Bond.  Except he has more important things to do that bed an all too willing woman.  He just causally walks along the roof’s edge to set up an assassination shot.  The building ends up blowing (though I’m not certain that was caused by Bond) and crumbles towards him.  A well placed sofa saves him from breaking bones when he falls.  He then pursues his target through the parade towards the city’s square.  A helicopter is waiting for the bad guy.  Bond jumps in after him and there is a terrifying fight between the two men; terrifying because it causes a helicopter to spin wildly over a crowd of people.  Bond manages to kick his target out of the helicopter, then the pilot, and regain control of the helicopter and steers it safely away from the crowd [because it’s hard to view the main character as a hero if he kills loads of innocent people just to get his man, ten minutes into the film.]

The opening credits continue the creepy vibe by featuring an octopus.  There are flashbacks to Silva, Vesper, M, and Chiffre (and I will admit, Daniel Craig does not look too bad shirtless).  In London, Bond is in trouble with M again.  His mission to Mexico was not sanctioned and it does not help the situation that MI6 is merging with MI5, calling the double-0 program into question.  Bond is introduced to the man overseeing the change, Max Denbigh, whom Bond refers to as C.  Denbigh’s brilliant plan is that human agents are no longer needed; drones can gather all the intelligence they need (continuing the debate from Skyfall).  Bond has Moneypenny bring his personal effects from Skyfall to his sparse apartment.  And he trusts her enough to reveal that his mission is a dying request from the previous M.  A video had arrived in his mail shortly after her death, instructing him to hunt down a man and attend his funeral.  Moneypenny agrees to help cover for Bond and do some research for him on “the Pale King.”  In the personal effects, we see a copy of temporary guardianship paperwork for a young James Bond, along with a photograph.

Tanner fills Bond in further on C’s new plans.  The old MI6 building will be demolished and an impersonal glass skyscraper has been erected to house C’s surveillance.  He wants to get the whole world in on it and give access to those countries.  Q has set up shop away from prying eyes.  He implants nanotechnology to keep track of Bond, per M’s orders.  Oh, there’s a new car, but not for Bond.  Q is working on rebuilding the vintage Aston Martin, but Bond misunderstood his instruction to bring the car back in one piece, not bring back one piece of the car.  Q has a new watch for Bond; it tells time.  Bond asks Q for a favor; make him disappear, for forty-eight hours.  [And yes, Bond is totally flirting with Q; Q gets flustered; and it’s rather adorable.  And a bit hilarious]  Q returns to his bunker later in the evening to discover the new Aston Martin gone. 

Bond jets off to Rome to observe the funeral as M instructed.  He saves the widow’s life and seduces her to get information on her husband.  He was part of a dangerous organization that is now meeting.  Bond takes the man’s ring as his ticket into the meeting.  The bad guys have organized and are reporting how their criminal activities are progressing.  The leader remains in the shadows and they are all silent as a henchman kills a member for the honor of going after “the Pale King.”  The leader is aware that Bond is present and welcomes him.  Bond gets out, but the silent henchman follows him in an equally fancy sports car.  The gadgets aren’t all quite installed, but the rear flame throwers at least work.  And the ejector seat (so Bond lets a brand new shiny car just sink into the river).  He calls up Moneypenny while he’s driving and she reports that Bond has run into the Pale King before; he was known as Quantum, or Mr. White.  Bond has a new direction, but he needs Moneypenny to also look up Franz Oberhauser, someone presumed dead.

Back in London, C is getting closer to success with his goal.  Q lies to M to cover for Bond.  Bond jets off to Austria and finds Mr. White.  The old man is already dying, but he’ll let Bond protect his daughter in order to lead him to the organization he’s searching for.  Then commits suicide to cut short his agonizing death.  Bond meets up with Madeleine Swann, though she has no desire to be involved with her deceased father’s life.  Q also shows up, with orders to bring Bond in.  Bond hands off the ring and goes after Swann’s kidnappers, led by the silent Rome guy.  Q is almost nabbed, but escapes in a crowd and Bond utterly crashes a small airplane (bit by bit, losing wings, then the tail).  Swann finally agrees to go with Bond.  Q fills them in that Bond was right; there is something to this ring.  All of his previous enemies, Greene, Chiffre, Silva, are all connected to Oberhauser, the head of the villainous organization Spectre.

The L’Americain that White mentioned is not a person, Swann reveals, but a hotel in Tangier.  She resists Bond’s advances, but insists on accompanying him.  Bond discovers a secret room (and a tape of Vesper Lynd’s interrogation…even after this time, he still mourns her).  He and Swann are now off to the desert.  Back in London, C is continuing to succeed with his intelligence data plan.  M points out, just like Bond did in Skyfall, that a  man on the ground is the only way to make the decision whether someone needs to die or not.  Unfortunately, C has managed to shut down the double-0 program.  C mocks M, calling him the past.  M retorts that C is a cocky little bastard.  Q and Moneypenny go to M with information on Bond, but he orders them to hide it.  C is watching MI6 agents; they’ll just lead him to Bond.  They must abandon him (even though Bond is a pain in the butt, M still protects him).

Rome guy attacks Swann and Bond on their train and Bond almost loses.  Madeleine luckily knows how to use a gun (side effect of her father that she dislikes) and rescues Bond.  He manages to get Rome guy off the train.  What to do now?  Why have sex, of course.  The pair eventually make it to a complex in the middle of the desert.  And their host is playing mind games, leaving personal pictures in their rooms.  Blofeld, the leader of Spectre is their host and his complex houses intelligence gathering; C is one of his stooges…meaning if C’s program goes online, Spectre will have further access, spelling trouble for governments.  While Bond has come to kill Blofeld, Blofeld has brought Bond to his complex to die.  He is the author of Bond’s pain; he is behind the villains Bond has faced recently.  He is ultimately responsible for Vesper’s death, and M’s death.  “You interfered in my world; I destroyed yours,” Blofeld comments.  Blofeld also turns out to be Franz Oberhauser.  His father was awarded guardianship of Bond and asked Franz to be the orphan’s brother.  Franz disliked the notion and arranged to kill his father and has spent his life seeking revenge on Bond by destroying all he loves (cause that makes a whole lot of sense).

He knocks Bond out and straps him into a chair.  Swann will watch as Blofeld probes Bond’s mind, ultimately killing him.  Yeah, those drills are disturbing.  While Blofeld monologues to Madeleine, Bond removes his watch.  Madeleine comes over to whisper she loves Bond when they figure Blofeld’s next move will be the killing one.  Bond hands Swann the watch and it starts an explosion in the complex.  Bond escapes, with Swann.  Explosions ramp up until the whole complex is engulfed in flames (this set the Guinness world record for the world’s largest film stunt explosion ever).

But it’s not the end.  Bond meets with M, Q, Tanner, and Moneypenny.  They’re going after C.  Q will hack in and stop C’s program.  But Bond is taken hostage on the drive over; M escapes and joins up with the other three (Madeleine has decided she cannot be part of this life and leaves…dangerous move).  Bond is  taken to the old MI6 building, which is rigged with explosives and escapes his captors, but follows the arrows down into the depths of the building [by the way, that trick with the zip-tie cuffs; you can legitimately escape that way {it’s even explained in The Official MacGyver Survival Manual}].  M continues with the plan and confronts C (who sounds so much like Moriarty…can we push him off a building yet?).  M gets the upper hand and Q is finally successful in shutting down C’s program.  M and C struggle for the gun and C falls down several floors.  Pictures of those who have died around Bond are posted to mess with his head and Bond discovers Blofeld isn’t dead yet.  Scarred, yes, over one eye, but not dead.  And he has Madeleine.  Will Bond choose to save himself and live with the regret, or die trying to save the woman who may understand him, being the daughter of an assassin?  Of course, Bond races after Madeleine, the three minute countdown on.  He rescues her, but they only have seconds.  They jump through the floor, caught by a net.  Blofeld and the four MI6 agents watch as the old building collapses.  Bond and Swann escape by boat and chase after Blofeld.  Bond brings down the helicopter and strides towards Blofeld who is crawling from the wreckage.  M watches at one end, and Swann at the other.  Bond does not shoot.  He chooses Swann, tossing his gun.  M makes the arrest.

Bond visits Q one last time, to retrieve his original Aston Martin.  Swann is in the passenger seat.  The Bond theme plays as Bond smiles and drives off.  So, did Bond just retire?  According to press released on the upcoming twenty-fifth Bond film, No Time to Die [why is it that “die” features in a lot of Bond titles?], Bond did indeed retire.  The new film will take place several years after the events of Spectre.  Blofeld and Madeleine Swann will both return and Rami Malek is slated to portray the villain.  I do hope the movie makes its November release; after watching Spectre, I am geared up to watch what is possibly Daniel Craig’s final Bond film.

I enjoyed this film more than I thought I would, but I still consider it creepy.  I’m not as likely to watch this one over and over like I do with Skyfall.  So, Pierce versus Daniel?  Pierce is the classic James Bond to me; suave, charming.  His Bond has the highest body count, but there’s an elegant style.  Daniel; they just like to beat him up.  And there’s lots of action, lots and lots of action.  Chase scenes within chase scenes.  But I prefer the storylines from Daniel’s time, despite being darker than Pierce’s.  That may have to do with how movies have changed over twenty years or so. 

As mentioned, Skyfall is my favorite Bond film (a bit to my mother’s disappointment, I believe).  I do like the direction they’ve taken Moneypenny and Q; making them more active.  Samantha Bond and Pierce Brosnan had excellent flirt chemistry and that Moneypenny certainly wanted to sleep with Bond, despite his reputation.  Naomie Harris’s Moneypenny is an action girl, a good pairing with Bond.  And Ben Whishaw as Q is adorable.  [And I certainly subscribe to the fan notion that he is the third Holmes brother; his resemblance to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is uncanny.]  Judi Dench is the primary M I know and she played it marvelously.  She was more ruthless with Daniel Craig, but you saw how much Bond cared for M in Skyfall.  I have determined that Bond needs someone to protect.  That is how he operates.  And I love that about the character; I think I love that in a character period (the Winchester brothers, Hiccup in How to Train Your Dragon…characters who will throw themselves into danger to protect someone).

I haven’t quite decided with the reboot if it changes the notion that James Bond is a bit like Doctor Who: the Doctor has many faces, but they are all the Doctor.  So mayhaps, James Bond is a codename.  Skyfall insinuates that this is the true James Bond.

As just mentioned; I hold to the idea that Q is a Holmes.  And there are several fanfiction authors who have written brilliant pieces.  And warning; they often pair the new Q with Bond.  I’m okay with that.

I highly recommend ktwontwo’s series starting with Brothers Three.

A Wandering Minstrel has several good oneshots

And I recently discovered over on AO3, White_Noise’s series The Other Life of Quentin Holmes, Quartermaster

Also on AO3, Beginte has a wonderful Work and Play series, amongst other oneshots.

Threshold by AtoTheBean is a wonderful Spetre fix-it where Q is actually the one who gets kidnapped by Blofeld.

And I have utterly fallen in love with Only­_1_Truth’s stories.  The Chaos and Logic Chronicles are delicious at times and are apparently a play off of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods book [which I have not read, but I now might be interested in].  I’ll Be Your Light, Your Match, Your Burning Sun is rather good, as is Alley-Cat Quartermaster.

Next Time: Another film series based on bestselling books; these by Tom Clancy, starting with Hunt for Red October

Put Your Back Into It

Skyfall

My favorite Bond film; also commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the first James Bond film and includes several call backs.  Daniel Craig returns as Bond, Judi Dench returns as M.  Naomie Harris (her voice gives her away at times as Tia Dalma from Pirates of the Caribbean) joins the cast as Eve (we find out at the last minute her surname is Moneypenny!) and Ben Whishaw (Richard II in The Hollow Crown [he’s brilliant, check it out], grown up Michael Banks in Mary Poppins Returns) is the new Q.  Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort, the Duke in The Duchess) is Gareth Mallory and Albert Finney (the reformed pastor in Amazing Grace and Daddy Warbucks in the 1982 musical film Annie…a bit hard to believe) appears as Kincade [this was his last role].  The opening song is performed by Adele.

The opening involves several chases throughout Istanbul (Craig’s Bond does a lot of chasing) [this also influenced a scene I intend to include in my eventual fantasy series, though there will be no motorcycles or trains involved].  M orders Bond and his fellow agent, Eve to reacquire a very important list.  It leads Bond to fight with their prey on top of a moving train (Craig did his own stunts) and Bond even gets shot in the shoulder, though he rather cleverly uses a construction vehicle as both a shield and a method to hold the train together for a few minutes.  Eve follows in the car and eventually sets up to take a shot.  But she warns M it won’t be clean.  M orders her to take it anyway and Eve shoots Bond by mistake.  He falls over a waterfall and is presumed dead.  The opening credits foreshadow a large home with stags in front, as well as a graveyard.

M works on Bond’s obituary, then has to meet with Mallory, who is the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee.  She has to answer for the muck-up that is the list of undercover NATO agents falling into enemy hands.  Mallory states the Committee wants her to honorably retire.  M sees it as them firing her; she’ll leave when the job is done.  On her way back to the office a message comes through her computer and traffic stops just before the MI6 office building blows.

Never fear, Bond is actually alive, hiding out on a remote beach.  But he hears the news of the MI6 bombing.  He sneaks back home to London and into M’s house (again; he did that in Casino Royale).  “Where the hell have you been?” M demands.  “Enjoying death,” he responds, looking worse for wear.  But 007 is reporting for duty.  He also admonishes M, that she should have trusted Bond to finish his job.  MI6 is under attack; they need Bond.  But he must pass the tests to be reinstated to active service.  They are now stationed in underground bunkers, leftover from Churchill during the Second World War.  Tanner fills Bond in as Bond preps for his evaluations.  But we see the tremor in Bond; he’s not quite back to full capacity.  His shoulder still aches and he struggles with the shooting test.  Then walks out of the psych eval when the word “skyfall” is mentioned.  Afterwards, Bond digs the bullet fragments out of his shoulder and orders they are for “her eyes only” (a reference to an earlier film starring Roger Moore).

Bond meets Mallory and M informs him that he has passed his tests and is ready for the field.  Mallory does question Bond whether he wants to continue in the spy game; he had the perfect way out.  Why not just remain dead?  M defends Bond.  Mallory tells her later that she is sentimental about Bond (this film really seems to delve into that mother/son bond that M and Bond possibly have.  Just in Quantum of Solace, Bond remarks to Camille that M likes to think she is Bond’s mother, and Pierce Brosnan has remarked on it in interviews).  And in actuality, M reveals to Tanner, Bond did not pass his tests.

The shell casings lead MI6 to an assassin for hire and leads Bond to Shanghai.  First he meets the new Q, a young nerdy-looking man [regularly referred to in fandom as a “boffin;” a British slang term for a scientist or engineer, though the fandom uses it with endearment].  Bond is not impressed at first.  “Age is no guarantee of efficiency,” Q informs the agent when the older man questions his competency.  “And youth is no guarantee of innovation,” Bond fires back.  Q hands him a gun coded to his palm print, and a radio transmitter.  Sorry Bond, no exploding pen (like in GoldenEye).  Bond tracks his adversary to a glass skyscraper in Shanghai where he watches him execute a man in another building, then attacks.  The man falls to his death without revealing who he’s working for, but Bond finds a chip in the case for a casino in Macau.  Eve joins Bond and he finally fully cleans up, clean-shaven and in a tux.  Eve even spiffs up to assist him in an evening gown.  Bond meets a woman he recognizes from the assassination; she’s connected to the man behind the operation and Bond offers to protect her.  First, he has to get by the guards.  He joins the woman in her shower afterwards.

They sail to a deserted small island and Bond is led away.  The slightly creepy Raoul Silva introduces himself; he once worked for MI6 and is upset with M.  He was once her favorite in Hong Kong between 1986 and 1997 (about how long of a hiatus the films took between Licence to Kill in 1989 and GoldenEye in 1995).  He also has Bond’s file and tries to get Bond to distrust M, revealing that he did not pass and M sent him into the lion’s den.  He also attempts to hit on Bond.  Carrying on, Silva holds the view that technology has changed the game; Q and Bond hit on it when they met: Q can accomplish quite a lot in his pajamas than Bond can in the field in a year.  But someone will still have to pull the trigger; or not. “It’s hard to tell in your pajamas.”  Nevertheless, Silva takes Bond outside and improvises a William Tell-like shooting competition with the girl.  Bond can’t, or doesn’t make the shot.  “Is there any of the old 007?” Silva whines, then shoots the girl.  Waste of good Scotch, Bond huffs.  Then has no problem taking out Silva’s goons.  The cavalry arrives (and the Bond theme), thanks to the latest from Q branch, a radio.

M visits Silva alongside Bond.  The man in the glass case has a lot of issues with M; he was tortured for five months and she didn’t lift a finger to retrieve him.  He tried his cyanide capsule, but it didn’t work properly, he didn’t die (his mouth is a bit deformed [creepy as all get out], which he hides).  M flatly tells him “soon your past will be as nonexistent as your future,” his name will be struck from the memorial wall.  M clarifies to Bond that Silva had overstepped his bounds in China and was going to cause them problems.  [If we recall, M has issues similar to this with Pierce’s Bond; in their first encounter, she assured him that she had no problem sending a man to his death, but it would not be on a whim.  And in Die Another Day, Bond himself is held prisoner and tortured for fourteen months and does not break.  And is actually angry that M made the trade for him; he understood the risks…just proves to me that Bond is stronger than Silva]

M continues to face an inquiry and Q tries to hack into Silva’s laptop.  Bond helps see a key in the code, which unfortunately backfires on them and frees Silva.  Bond chases after him into the tube system (some wonderful banter between Q and Bond…love it), deducing that Silva is going after M.  He indeed enters the building and begins shooting.  M, meanwhile, puts the inquiry in their place, with support from Mallory.  The shadows of the world are still evident and that is where the bad guys hide and that is where her people operate.  This new world they are in frightens her; Britain’s enemies are no longer visible and known, they are no longer a nation.  They are individuals and a lot harder to spot.  She quotes Tennyson: “We are not now that strength which in old days/ moved earth and heave; that which we are, we are/ one equal temper of heroic hearts/ made weak by time and fate, but strong in will/ to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”  As she ends, Silva bursts in.  Mallory pulls M down and gets a shot to the shoulder.  Bond to the rescue!  As well as Eve and even Mallory picks up a gun to cover Tanner getting M out.  But Bond is a step ahead; he drives off with M in the car.  If Silva wants her, he’ll have to come and get her. 

It’ll just be him and M and they’ll finally get a step ahead of Silva.  Bond calls Q for some tech help, then switches cars with M to a classic silver Aston Martin (along with the Bond theme).  It even has the ejector seat, which Bond threatens M with if she continues complaining.  They’re going back in time, Bond remarks.  Mallory checks in with Tanner and Q and even gives them the go-ahead with their plan.  Bond and M head north to Scotland [I adore the Scottish landscape; while Italy and the Med would be beautiful to visit, I want to live in Scotland].  M knows Bond’s story and again comments that orphans make the best agents (recalling conversations from GoldenEye and Casino Royale).  They arrive at Skyfall, Bond’s childhood home (flanked by a stag statue) [it’s a gorgeous home, I’d love to restore it].  The old groundskeeper, Kincade is still there (originally written with Sean Connery in mind, but the director ultimately decided that it would detract from the story).  The three of them set about MacGyvering ways to defend the house.  While they’re at it, Bond assures M that she did her job correctly.

Troops arrive.  Bond is hiding in his car and uses machine guns to take out some.  Their tricks inside the house help; Kincade greets them with a shot and “welcome to Scotland” [I laugh out loud].  A helicopter finally arrives and shoots up the house [poor house].  Silva exits with more men and throws grenades into the house, starting a fire.  Bond sends Kincade with M through the priests’ passage to the church (Bond had hid in there for two days after the death of his parents).  M is wounded, despite her assuring Bond she was fine, so the going is a little slow.  Silva blows up the Aston Martin, which pisses Bond off, so he blows tanks in the house, catching the helicopter, which finally destroys the rest of the house [did they really have to blow those up?], though Bond grumbles “I always hated this place,” as he takes cover, diving out of the shockwave in the tunnel.

Silva spots the flashlight from Kincade on the moors and goes after M.  Bond takes out the last two men, after a dip in the frozen lake.  Silva makes it to the chapel first and motions Kincade to not interfere.  He’s saddened that M was hurt, against his orders, and asks her for a quick death for both of them, holding his gun to her head so it would go through both of them.  Bond throws a knife into Silva’s back and finishes the man.  He catches M as she collapses and holds her.  “At least I got one thing right,” and she dies in his arms.  Bond sheds tears [as do we.  Except I would have cried more if Pierce’s one idea had been followed through; he felt he should have been with M when she died].

We end in London, Bond looking at the skyline (Sherlock echoes this in a later season).  Eve presents Bond with a final gift from M, her British bulldog figurine, and reveals her last name to Bond: Moneypenny.  Bond greets Mallory, the new M (in rooms that recall the original Bond films and alongside the theme).  There is a folder for 007: Top Secret.  M remarks there is lots to do, is Bond ready to get back to work?  With pleasure.  And the gun barrel sequence.

This is a  more cohesive story that Craig’s prior Bond films and I utterly adore the bits in Scotland.  And all the little bits thrown in calling back to the old Bond films make me actually want to watch them.  Silva is creepy as all get out, because even when he’s gentile, we can tell it’s a mask, there is something sinister lurking beneath the surface.  And yes, technology helped in the film: Q tracking Bond and Silva, but it does boil down to hands-on work, Bond versus the villain.  As M points out, the world may be changing, but it’s still dangerous and MI6 still has a use and work to do.

Up Next: Finishing the current Bond movies with Spectre

“Cry God, for Harry, England, and St. George!”

Partaking in something that satisfies both the historian in me and the English major: Shakespeare.  Now, I believe I have mentioned before that I am not a dutiful English major; I don’t like Shakespeare, well, I don’t like reading Shakespeare.  It’s boring and most teachers pound it into our skulls by analyzing it to death.  I hate that.  But, BBC put together a phenomenal cast and put Shakespeare’s histories on screen (which I am aware has been done before, heck, I tried to watch a version of Macbeth starring Patrick Stewart and couldn’t make it through it.  Now, there was a slightly modern version of Hamlet done with David Tennant that was fantastic).  They timed the first arc to coincide with the 2012 London Olympics; this arc included Richard II, Henry IV parts I and II, and Henry V.  Their second arc included Henry VI and Richard III in 2016.

Gut reactions?  Richard II was a bit odd.  Henry IV was wonderful to see and Henry V is utterly magnificent.  Henry VI is simply everyone changing sides and the start of the War of the Roses and is interesting to see from this perspective.  As for Richard III; I remember doing a segment on the historical accuracy of the play in a British history course in college and I can certainly see the Tudor propaganda in the play (oh, they all cut out and condense history, but then, these are plays, not true histories…actually, I’d like to see historical documentaries on these people), yet I now see what all the hype is about.

Above all, these are a veritable who’s who in British acting.

Richard II stars Ben Whishaw (Q in Craig’s James Bond and Michael Banks in Mary Poppins Returns) as the king.  Opposite him is Rory Kinnear (also appears with Whishaw in Skyfall, and Spectre as Bill Tanner, which he briefly played in Quantum of Solace as well) as Bolingbroke, who goes on to be crowned Henry IV.  The great Patrick Stewart appears as John of Gaunt.  If Thomas Mowbray, who argues with Bolingbroke, looks familiar, that’s because he’s played by James Purefoy, who portrays Colville aka Edward, the Black Prince of Wales in A Knight’s Tale [making this a bit funny to a historian, because Edward, the Black Prince of Wales was Richard II’s father: his father was King Edward III, but he died before his father did and so thus, his son inherited the throne].  David Morrissey appears as the Earl of Northumberland.  He’s also been the Duke of Norfolk in The Other Boleyn Girl [uncle to Anne], and has appeared in a 2008 episode of Doctor Who, “The Next Doctor”.  We briefly see David Bradley (Filch in Harry Potter and Walter Frey in Game of Thrones) as the gardener and Lindsay Duncan (also appeared in a 2009 episode of Doctor Who, “Water of Mars,” she was the mother in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, a queen in two episodes of Merlin, and Lady Smallwood in several episodes of Sherlock) as the Duchess of York.

The very gifted Jeremy Irons (Scar in The Lion King [the animated classic], Tiberius in Kingdom of Heaven, Brom in Eragon, Aramis in The Man in the Iron Mask, and Alfred in several of DC’s newer Batman movies) takes over as the older Henry IV.  Tom Hiddleston (we love him as Loki in the MCU) shines as Prince Hal.  Julie Walters (Mrs. Wealsey in Harry Potter and Rosie in both Mamma Mia movies) is Mistress Quickly, Robert Pugh (he’s Craster in Game of Thrones, amongst other roles in Kingdom of Heaven, The White Queen [which also depicts the War of the Roses], and Master and Commander) is Owain Glyndŵr [that is the proper spelling, IMDB lists him as Owen Glendower; a real Welsh rebel that I’ve got a book on].  Oh hey, there’s Michelle Dockery (Mary in Downton Abbey) as Kate Percy, and Harry Lloyd (Baines in 2007’s Doctor Who “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood,” Will Scarlett in BBC’s Robin Hood, and insane Viserys Targaryen in Game of Thrones) is Mortimer, and Joe Armstrong (Allan a Dale in Robin Hood) is Hotspur.  His father, Alum Armstrong (he’s had roles in Van Helsing, Braveheart, and Patriot Games amongst others) plays Hotspur’s father Northumberland, and Iain Glen (Jorah Mormont in Game of Thrones, Sir Richard Carlisle in Downton Abbey, and 2010’s Doctor Who “The Time of Angels” and “Flash and Stone”) pops up as Warwick.

Of course, Prince Hal graduates to King Henry V in the next installment.  This was the bit that makes me almost like Shakespeare.  Tom Hiddleston delivers some of the best known speeches with such quiet passion.  “Once more unto the breach,” stirs my blood, and he got the role of Henry V with “St. Crispin’s day,” which includes that famous line: “we few/ we happy few/ we band of brothers.”  One almost cries.  And his wooing of Katherine…if a dashing man ever said those words to me, I’d be weak-kneed.  I remember rehearsals for faire, male cast members are encouraged to woo female patrons (worked on me when I was a patron), and so they practiced on female cast members; I was just happy some guy was saying nice words to me, I didn’t really care what he was saying.

If Corporal Nym [grrr, I hate his name’s “Nym,” because I want to use it for a headstrong female character in my saga] looks familiar, he’s Tom Brooke and he’s appeared briefly in a few Sherlock episodes.  And look, there’s Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dursely in Harry Potter, King George in On Stranger Tides) as the Duke of Burgundy [this was one of his last roles].  The ever talented John Hurt (the dragon Kilgarah in Merlin, the War Doctor of Doctor Who, Ollivander in Harry Potter, Professor Oxley in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Montrose in Rob Roy, and other roles going back to the 60’s)  acts as the chorus [and he just passed away in 2017].  Some other familiar faces join us in Henry V; Anton Lesser (Qyburn in Game of Thrones, an episode of The Musketeers, Harold Warne in Miss Potter, and other roles) as Exeter [he’ll stay on through Henry VI and Richard III] and Owen Teale (part of some older Doctor Who episodes, The Last Legion, and the Headmaster in Tolkien, but I’m sure we recognize him as Thorne in Game of Thrones ) as Captain Fluellen.

Tom Sturridge takes up the mantle of Henry VI.  Sophie Okonedo (Liz Ten in “The Beast Below” and “The Pandorica Opens” in 2010’s Doctor Who) joins him as Margaret of Anjou, and Hugh Bonneville (Robert Crawley in Downton Abbey, Monuments Men, several episodes of Doctor Who as a pirate captain, he was even in Tomorrow Never Dies) is so encouraging as Gloucester.  Michael Gambon (Dumbledore in Harry Potter, Lord Charles Fox in Amazing Grace, and he’s even appeared in Doctor Who 2010’s “A Christmas Carol”) briefly appears as Mortimer.

In the second part, Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange, Sherlock, Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness, amongst other roles) pops up as the Duke of York [called Plantagenet in Shakespeare as a claimant to the old royal dynasty]’s son Richard.  Phoebe Fox (the Duchess of Savoy in The Musketeers) is Anne Neville.  James Fleet as Hastings has been in several period pieces.  And say hello to the appearance of Andrew Scott (C in Spectre and Moriarty in Sherlock) as King Louis of France.  Somerset is played by Ben Miles (Peter Townsend in The Crown), and George, the Duke of Clarence is played by Sam Troughton (Much in BBC’s Robin Hood).

Benedict takes center stage in Richard III.  He is brilliant in the role.  I dislike the character of Richard, but Benedict delivers exquisitely.  Let me go on a little historical accuracy rant: historical evidence proves that Richard was not a hunchback; he may have had a slight difference in shoulder height, but is regarded to have been a tall, broad-shouldered man.  Nor was he the “Machiavellian villain” Shakespeare depicts him as, at least, no more than any other man of that time.  Shakespeare wrote him as a villain to please the Elizabethan court in order to paint her grandfather as a benevolent conqueror.  As another historian pointed out to me, if Richard had the princes of the tower in his custody, he could have produced them in order to throw suspicion off himself.  We also get the addition of Judi Dench as Richard’s mother, Cecily.

Historical note: there are several “Duke of Gloucester” throughout the plays and throughout history, because it is a title, typically a relative of the monarch.  Same as the Duke of York, and Mortimer is a title (which I got confused a bit, seeing a Mortimer in Henry IV and one in Henry VI.)  I swear, one needs a family tree to reference when watching these histories.  I’ll try to explain the central plot of the War of the Roses as best I can.  Edward III had several sons, the eldest of which was Edward, the Black Prince of Wales.  His third son (his second died young-ish) was John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, his fourth son was Edmund, holding the title Duke of York, and his fifth son was Thomas, the Duke of Gloucester.  The Black Prince’s son was Richard II.  The way that Bolingbroke claimed the throne was that he had a right to it as the son of Edward’s third son (hence, Richard and Bolingbroke were cousins and until Bolingbroke’s exile, they were close).  Bolingbroke became Henry IV [Lancaster], who has at least four sons, the eldest of whom became Henry V.  Henry V died tragically young and his son, Henry VI, assumed the throne incredibly young, only nine months old.  England was ruled by the Lord Protector, his uncle, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (one of Henry V’s brothers).

Then along comes Richard, Duke of York (the great-great-grandson of the Edward III’s second son by way of Lionel, Duke of Clarence’s daughter, then grandson, then great-granddaughter).  Just like Bolingbroke challenged Richard II for the throne due to ineptitude, the Duke of York [white rose] challenged Henry VI [followers wore a red rose].  The Duke of York’s son, Edward took the throne, becoming King Edward IV.  He had three children with Elizabeth Woodville; Elizabeth of York, Edward (briefly Edward V), and Richard (also holding the title Duke of York).   Edward IV has several younger brothers, including George, the Duke of Clarence, and Richard, the Duke of Gloucester.  Once Edward IV and George were dead, Richard declared Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville unlawful, making his offspring with her illegitimate.  He took the throne as Richard III.  There’s the York contingent.

But back with John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, his second marriage produced several generations, to John Beaufort, the Earl of Somerset, then his son John, then his daughter Margaret Beaufort, who married Edmund Tudor, the Earl of Richmond, and then had Henry, who in Shakespeare was called Richmond, thus making him the Lancastrian claimant.  [Edmund Tudor was the son of Owen Tudor (a Welshman), who married the widowed Katherine (wife of Henry V)…as for Henry V’s claim of “I am Welsh, as you know,”…well, he was Prince of Wales and born there, but not actually Welsh by blood; I would guess it was a line Shakespeare inserted to play to Queen Elizabeth’s Welsh ancestry].  Henry Tudor became Henry VII and he married Elizabeth of York (remember, Edward IV’s eldest daughter) and uniting the Lancastrians and Yorkists and ending the War of the Roses  From here, we should know how things go from there for a bit.

This is the sort of stuff that fascinates me as a historian; how the different lines come together and play out.  And I understand Shakespeare’s language a bit better watching it performed, more of a dialogue rather than verse.

On a different note: I highly recommend Netflix’s Enola Holmes film.  Millie Bobby Brown is precisely the female heroine we need; smart and not afraid of action.  Henry Cavill is a calmer Sherlock Holmes, but I greatly desire to see more of these characters.  I may just check out the novels the film was based on.

Dead Ends

Quantum of Solace

Craig’s second outing as Bond.  Gemma Arterton (Tamina in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time) briefly appears as Strawberry Fields [homage to the Beatles perhaps] and there’s a brief appearance at the end by Stana Katic (Kate Beckett opposite Nathan Fillion in Castle [loved that show; and there was mention in an early episode of Richard Castle potentially ghostwriting James Bond books, lol], and Simone Renoir in The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice [we’ll be covering those soon]).  This is a direct sequel to Casino Royale, picking up within twenty-four hours of the previous tale ending.  Oddly, it starts silent with a fast car chase, until the sound drops in and you have to rush to turn down the volume.  I almost thought they were going to wreck an Aston Martin within the first five minutes; it loses a door and is certainly scraped up, but still drivable at the end.  Bond naturally dispatches with his pursuers and pulls Mr. White out of his trunk to face interrogation.  M is clearly worried about Bond before they go in to interrogate Mr. White.

But he holds a card up his sleeve, so to speak; his organization has so far stayed off MI6’s radar and they have people everywhere, including M’s own bodyguard to her surprise.  Bond chases him and ends up shooting him (after causing destruction along the way in typical Bond fashion).  When he returns, Mr. White is gone.  M is angry with the turn of events and frustrated to learn that Mr. White was correct; how does an organization like that exist and MI6 doesn’t know about them?  How did one of their people get to be her personal bodyguard for several years and not get flagged?  MI6 does manage to track tagged money used by Le Chiffre to pay off associates.  Bond heads to Haiti to hopefully pick up a new contact.  But a fight breaks out easily in the man’s hotel room and Bond kills him in self defense.  He then takes the man’s briefcase and meets a young woman named Camille.  Inside the briefcase is her picture and gun, so she throws Bond out of the car.  But he pursues her and discovers that her boyfriend, Dominic Greene had arranged for her to be killed.  Well, that didn’t work, so he passes her along to an old enemy to cement a deal he’s working in Bolivia.  Bond goes after the girl again, ending in a high speed boat chase (they still like to beat this Bond up; apparently Daniel Craig was injured three times filming this movie).

Bond asks MI6 about Dominic Greene and M checks with the CIA.  They claim to not know anything; in fact, they’re tracking the man and he’s even getting on a private jet with them.  They make the deal to ignore the upcoming regime change in Bolivia in return for oil.  M orders Bond to follow them, but please avoid killing every possible lead.  Bond winds up at a party, sneaking into a tux and getting a hold of an earpiece.  He overhears a business deal amongst the wealthy and interrupts them.  Several of the key players leave and he snaps photos, then goes after Greene.  It’s still a bit of a mess and M tries to restrict Bond’s movement; Bond responds by staying in Italy and looking up Mathis.  He was found innocent of betrayal from the previous movie and agrees to accompany Bond to Bolivia.  The pretty Miss Fields is waiting for him with orders to return directly to London.  Bond insists in his usual manner on staying.  He quickly charms Miss Fields (and she hates herself for it) and they’re invited to Dominic Greene’s charity gala.  Camille shows up to confront Dominic and Bond gets her out.  Miss Fields helps by tripping Greene’s bodyguard.

The police, who are supposed to be on Bond’s side, stop him.  Greene’s already gotten to them.  Mathis is discovered in the back of the car, beaten.  He’s then mortally shot and Bond consents to stay with the man as he dies.  Mathis’s final words to Bond are to forgive Vesper, who truly loved him, and for Bond to forgive himself.  Bond then takes Camille into the desert to look into Greene’s property.  A fighter plane chases them after they get a plane of their own.  Bond forces it into a cliff, but they have to dodge a helicopter.  They jump out of their plane with one parachute and discover once they land that Greene has dammed the water, creating a drought.  There is no oil.  The pair manages to get back to Bond’s hotel.  He meets with M and finds out that Miss Fields was killed; she’s lying on his bed covered in oil (an homage to Goldfinger).  M has already been told by the higher ups that they are fine with dealing with Greene; there is no evidence of foul play and they need the oil.  Bond is running wild and may have been turned; the Americans have orders to kill him.  She suspends Bond from duty and he seems to go quietly.  Until they’re in the elevator and he escapes.  He assures M that he is good.  M knows he’s on to something and she’ll protect her agent, to hell with the CIA.

We see Greene’s deal, handling the regime change and he confesses that the Quantum organization now controls over sixty percent of the water in Bolivia; the new leader will have to use them for utilities.  If he doesn’t comply, they will simply find a new leader.  Camille moves in on the general, who murdered her family and burned down her house.  They fight and Camille manages to kill the man, but a huge fire has started, thanks to Bond trying to take Greene, trapping her in the room.  Greene and Bond fight as explosions rock around them.  Bond makes the choice to save Camille, rather than killing Greene there.  The worm crawls away.  Camille is terrified by the fire and Bond is willing to shoot them before the fire takes them, but at the last minute, causes another explosion to create an opening out of the room.  He picks up Greene, gets his information, and leaves the man in the middle of the desert.  Camille returns to Bolivia to help in the wake of recent events.  Bond’s next stop is Russia.  He has tracked down Vesper’s boyfriend; who is not in danger and already has another girlfriend [Hello, Stana].  She is Canadian intelligence and Bond advises her to report to her agency that they have a leak; the boyfriend will get captured and she will be blackmailed for information…just like Vesper.  Bond does leave him alive, to M’s surprise.  She’s squared the situation with the U.S.  “Bond, I need you back.”  “I never left.”

This film is very disjointed.  A reason for that may be that it came about during the writers’ strike and the script was finished by Craig and the director.  The villain is bland and at least Bond doesn’t sleep with the main girl this time (though he sleeps with Strawberry Fields and bad things happen).  Admittedly, we do see Bond risk his life to save the girl and he tries to not leave destruction everywhere he goes; it’s just the side effect of him doing his job.  Yet, it’s still not a well like movie.

Up Next: My favorite Bond film, Skyfall

I apologize for the brief absence; between work and a well-deserved vacation, I haven’t been on my computer often.  But I’ve got the next batch of posts already drafted up to the point I tend to take a holiday hiatus.  Plan seems to be to finish off James Bond (and the latest movie release date still seems up in the air…I’d really like to see it!) then round up the Tom Clancy Jack Ryan films.  At that point, it will be hiatus time, but I’ve got the next several months planned out after that (yes, most likely will only be one post a week so I can maintain some other writing and reading projects.  But I love these action films, so I will not abandon them).

Besides, I went on a bit of a Shakespeare stint for a few days off, so you get a bonus post today.  I guess it would fall under the “Random Fandom” label, though it’s not a fandom I tend to fall into.

Speaking of fandoms: the final seven episodes of Supernatural begin airing this week and I am…looking forward in a way to see what will happen.  I may share some thoughts on the end.  The new MacGyver has been renewed for a fifth season, but no word on when it will air because I don’t think they’ve even started filming yet.

A Difference in Dinner Jackets

Casino Royale

Daniel Craig’s premiere as the latest James Bond (he’s appeared in The Golden Compass and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) and he had the support of all the previous Bonds when he took over the role.  Eva Green (the recent Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which looks peculiar; Morgan in the brief Camelot TV series, and she was Sibylla in Kingdom of Heaven opposite Orlando Bloom) appears alongside him as Vesper Lynd.  Mads Mikkelsen (a magnificent actor who has been Galen Erso in Rogue One, Kaecilius in Doctor Strange, Rochefort in the most recent Three Musketeers film with Orlando Bloom, Tristan in the King Arthur film with Ioan Gruffudd and Keira Knightley)  is the villainous Le Chiffre.  Dame Judi Dench returns as M; and if her assistant appears familiar, it’s Tobias Menzies (most famous now as Frank and Black Jack Randall in Outlander; he’s also been Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh in The Crown and Edmure Tully in Game of Thrones).

This was a reboot of the Bond franchise, which I was not aware of when I first watched the movie, causing me some confusion (particularly when they retain Judi Dench as M, though she is awesome), and a bit of a prequel.  The film starts in black and white, in Prague.  Bond has not yet gained his double-0 status, as the mysterious man points out; it requires two kills.  Well, Bond has already taken care of one of the man’s henchmen, then puts a bullet in his head, cutting off his response.  The opening credits confirm his upgrade in status and is one of the few openings that does not feature naked women.  Next, we’re in Uganda where a warlord gives a European man his money to finance his terroristic operations.  Bond’s on his next mission in Madagascar and a rookie agent causes the mission to go sideways so Bond has to chase his prey though the city, a la parkour at times.  He follows him onto an embassy then causes an explosion at the end, but he gets the guy’s cell phone.  And is caught on camera, causing M to sit through meetings with bureaucrats.  She misses the Cold War right about now.

She discovers Bond in her home, where he’s been using her computer and access to research where the dead guy’s message originated.  M and Bond have a discussion about his recent actions; he violated the one absolute rule of international relations by going into the embassy.  Perhaps she promoted him too early.  Well, 00’s are known to have a short life expectancy.  What M needs is a man who can put aside his ego and get the job done; any thug with a gun can kill.  Arrogance and self awareness rarely go hand in hand.  (She refers to Bond as a blunt instrument, which Miranda Frost brought up n Die Another Day).  For now, Bond is to stick his head in the sand and ponder his future.

Which he does, by going to Nassau in the Bahamas, to the Ocean Club, where the phone call originated.  Bond discovers his target and seduces his wife in order to follow him.  He takes him out, but the clue has left already and Bond has a new target.  Who tries to blow up a prototype large airplane, but Bond prevents it (causing destruction along the way).  M flies down to the Bahamas to officially give Bond the case to go after Le Chiffre.  The villain gambles with his client’s money, investing in stocks that he’ll make sure go under; he lost a lot of money betting on the prototype plane blowing up – something similar had apparently happened in conjunction with 9/11.  To make up his money, he is hosting a large poker tournament at the Casino Royale in Montenegro with a $10 million buy in.  Bond’s mission is to capture Le Chiffre, alive.  They need his information.  Bond is apparently the best poker player in MI6, and the outfit him with a tracking chip.

On the way to Montenegro [which is gorgeous], Bond meets Vesper Lynd, who remarks to Bond “I’m the money.”  “Every penny of it,” he quips back (a play on the character-not-appearing-in-this-film, Moneypenny).  They read each other’s backgrounds and snark at each other, which is rather humorous.  Vesper will keep a close eye on the money, but she has also observed Bond’s remarkable backside.  Bond receives his new car, stocked with gadgets (sadly, no Q in sight), his back story with Vesper, and a contact: Mathis.  There is a rather humorous scene where Bond gives Vesper a show-stopping dress and she in turns gives him a tailored tux instead of a dinner jacket.

The poker game begins (which I will not explain the intricacies of, because I do not understand them).  Bond creates his signature cocktail.  When a break comes four hours in, the angry Ugandans from the beginning come after Le Chiffre; they stumble on to Bond and Vesper and Bond dispatches them.  Vesper is shaken, but they must continue.  Bond cleans up and later comforts Vesper in the shower (a sensual scene, not a sexual one).  In the game, Bond follows Le Chiffre with putting all in, then loses the hand.  Vesper believes his ego got in the way, so won’t authorize the buy in.  Bond is upset and goes after Le Chiffre with a table knife, until another player stops him; a CIA agent.  The U.S. wants Le Chiffre too and the agent is not nearly as good at poker as Bond; he will give Bond the money if Bond will win so the U.S. can go after Le Chiffre.

Le Chiffre’s girlfriend sends Bond a poisoned drink [why she’s loyal to the guy who almost got her killed, I don’t know, she’s an idiot].  Bond stumbles out of the game to his car to call MI6 for help; they talk him through an injection and a defibrillator to keep his heart going, but the lead comes unattached.  He passes out, but Vesper comes in the nick of time to help.  And he goes back in to finish the game.  He goes all in again, but it pays off this time, literally.  Bond wins over $100 million.  He treats himself and Vesper to a nice dinner.  He gets concerned when Vesper leaves and races after her to discover she’s being kidnapped.  There is a brief car chase before Bond’s beautiful Aston Martin flips like it’s in Nascar.  He and Vesper are captured by Le Chiffre, who wants the account number and password between the couple so he can claim the money.  He tortures Bond, who is tied naked to a chair (this guy cannot catch a break!  He’s been beaten up like half a dozen times so far).  By now, Bond suspects Mathis and Le Chiffre even hints that Mathis is working for him.  Bond hears gunshots and a man comes in to shoot Le Chiffre.  Vesper and Bond are left alive, but Bond must recover from his injuries. 

Two men drag Mathis away and Vesper and Bond fall in love (it’s rather sweet and the scenery is utterly breathtaking).  Bond is so in love with Vesper, he is willing to quit MI6 and sail around the world with her.  He sends M a resignation e-mail and their first stop is Italy.  Come morning, Vesper must leave their bed to withdraw money from the bank.  M calls Bond and he realizes that Vesper is stealing the money; it’s never been deposited into the British Treasury.  He races after her and discovers her handing over a briefcase to a man.  There is a final shootout in an old Italian building that Bond causes to sink.  The bad guys are all killed, but Vesper is locked in the old elevator.  Even after she’s betrayed him, Bond still tries to rescue her.  She lets herself drown, hoping that Bond will let himself rise to the surface.  He manages to bring her body up, but she’s already dead.  The same man in the suit who shot Le Chiffre takes the suitcase with the money.

M calls Bond again; Vesper was being blackmailed for the money, her boyfriend was being held hostage.  She remarks “sometimes we’re so focused on our enemies, that we forget to watch our friends” [I would say they should have learned that from Die Another Day, but in this continuity, that hasn’t happened yet.  Which could mean they should have learned by Die Another Day.  However, it is touching to see how compassionate M is being, without being overt about it].  And Bond has learned his lesson, don’t trust anyone.  Even though Vesper has been proven guilty, it doesn’t prove Mathis innocent.  Vesper has left one final thing for Bond: her cell phone with the final message: Mr. White, and a phone number.  Bond tracks down Mr. White and shoots his leg.  The final line: “the name is Bond.  James Bond.”  And cue the Bond theme.  Bond is back!

This Bond is a bit rougher, maybe demonstrating as a prequel that Bond hasn’t refined his polish yet to the spy we all love.  It’s full of action, but I think we see great depths in Daniel Craig.  He plays cards coolly, flirts with Vesper, and is not at all afraid to get his hands dirty.  A good first outing.

Up Next: Quantum of Solace

Dreams Can Kill You

Die Another Day

Brosnan’s last Bond film, sadly.  Also features Halle Berry (Storm in the early 2000’s X-Men) as Jinx, Toby Stephens (Prince John in BBC’s Robin Hood…oh, and I found out…he’s Dame Maggie Smith’s son!) as Gustav Graves, Rosamund Pike (very odd to watch her in this role after getting accustomed to the serene Jane in Pride and Prejudice, but she is a marvelous actress and this was her feature film debut) as Miranda Frost.  And if the one henchman, Kill looks familiar, he’s a Kiwi and did several bit parts in Lord of the Rings and Hobbit.  Young Colonel Moon is played by Wil Yun Lee who occasionally showed up in the rebooted Hawaii Five-0 as Sang Min.  Madonna performed the opening song (in good company with Sir Paul McCartney who did Only the Good Die Young), and made a cameo in the film as Verity, the fencing instructor.

We begin in North Korea, still a hotspot, though Bond oddly surfs in (because you don’t really think of Bond surfing) and takes over a meeting with two young Koreans; a general’s son, Colonel Moon and his bodyguard, Zao, over diamonds.  But he’s found out and tries to escape.  The C-4 he planted into the briefcase explodes, shooting diamonds into Zao.  Bond then chases Colonel Moon over a minefield in a hovercraft (Mythbusters did prove that this was plausible). Moon goes over a waterfall and Bond escapes, only to be captured by General Moon then tortured for fourteen months during the opening credits (the scorpions are creepy).

The general returns, hoping one last time to turn Bond on his former employers, who left him to rot and denied his existence.  General Moon also knows that there is a Western agent who flipped his son; he had hoped that  Western education would have been a bridge for his country, but he betrayed his country.  The general wants to know who; they most likely betrayed Bond as well.  But Bond doesn’t know and won’t tell.  He figures he will face a firing squad, but is instead part of a prisoner exchange with Zao.  He’s taken to medical before he can ask any questions.  M finally shows up and discusses the situation with him.  If she had had her way, Bond would still be a captive; his freedom came at too high a price – Zao.  The Americans fear that Bond was a leak in the prison, giving up secrets and they had to get him out.  But Bond had not broken.  He understood the danger every agent faces; they get caught, they’re on their own, there is no rescue.  But M can’t be entirely sure; with the drugs in his system, Bond may not have known if he was giving up information.  Bond insists someone else betrayed him.  “You’re no use to anyone now,” M remarks as she leaves.  Which simply encourages Bond to escape by lowering his heart rate, then springing into action.  He jumps ship and walks into the Hong Kong Yacht Club.

The manager knows him, even with the beard, and sets him up with a suite, food, and clothes.  Then sends a masseuse.  Bond knows it’s a trap and reveals that the manager works for Chinese Intelligence, but won’t rat him out, if he continues to help him.  Zao is a threat to them as well.  He’s pointed to Cuba, specifically a gene therapy clinic.  In Cuba, Bond meets a young woman as she emerges from the water (a throwback to the first Bond girl in Dr. No), Jinx.  The two flirt then hop in bed with one another (because it’s Bond).  Jinx is gone come morning, already heading into the clinic.  Bond sneaks in and discovers Zao.  They get in a fight and Jinx kills the head doctor and uses his computer to look up Zao.  A fire breaks out and then the building blows up, courtesy of Jinx.  Both Bond and Jinx chase Zao, but he gets away in a helicopter.  Bond did get a necklace he was wearing and discovers diamonds in it.  His contact informs him they are laser-etched in the signature of Gustav Graves, yet they have the chemical makeup of African conflict diamonds; just like the ones that Bond blew up at the beginning of the film [note, it is not that easy to simply tell where a diamond is from, and they do not travel in briefcases like in the beginning].

Bond knows he must return to Britain and meet this Gustav Graves (he parachutes into media meetings).  Graves is due to unveil his latest project, the Icarus Space Program.  Bond meets the man face-to-face at a fencing club and the two men try to one-up each other in sword fighting, under the guise of playing for a diamond, starting with foils and moving up to broadswords (it’s not great sword work, but still a bit flashy and makes you wonder who will bleed first).  Bond wins, but Graves’ assistant, Miranda Frost has to break them apart.  Graves invites Bond to his gala in Iceland.  Bond receives a key as he leaves and uses it in a backdoor.  He trades information with M, though he’s not officially reinstated.  Q goes over his new gadgets, including virtual reality simulation glasses, a car that uses mirrors to appear invisible, a ring to break glass, and his twentieth watch (a nod to this being the twentieth Bond film).  We see M briefly speak to Miranda Frost; apparently an MI6 agent whose three month assignment has been to get close to Graves.  Frost determines he is clean and reports she is wise enough to not get involved with Bond.

An Ice Palace has been created for Graves’ event in Iceland.  He continues to get his thrills by driving a high-speed ice car.  We also note that Jinx has arrived for the gala and Bond tries to flirt with Frost (not knowing she is MI6) and gets nowhere.  Zao also happily greets Graves.  Graves introduces his Icarus Project as a seeming “second sun,” with use to grow crops year-round and bring light to darkness.  Later, it seems that Icarus has been modified for Graves’ use, and Jinx has wandered off.  Frost gives herself away as MI6 to Bond by kissing him as a distraction and telling him she told M she didn’t want him there.  They bed each other to continue the charade as lovers, but Bond leaves to take care of the situation.  Jinx in the meantime has snuck into Graves’ lab and is captured by his henchman.  His henchman wants to use the lasers to kill Jinx, but Bond stumbles upon her and rescues her. 

Bond then confronts Graves, who has lived to die another day – Graves used gene therapy to change his face from Colonel Moon.  Miranda arrives, and betrays Bond…again.  She was the agent who sided with Moon and got Bond captured.  Bond uses his ring to break glass to escape, then drives away in Graves’ ice car.  Graves uses Icarus as a laser to chase Bond, but Bond skis out of trouble (with noticeable CGI).  Then Zao drives his own car after Bond in his gadget car.  Bond crashes into the Ice Palace to rescue Jinx, who will soon drown in a melting Palace that Graves hit with his laser.  Zao is also killed in a crash in the Palace.

Jinx and Bond head to South Korea; Jinx is an American NSA agent and they are formally teaming up to take down Graves.  The two agents manage to get on Graves’ plane as the Americans attempt to blow up Icarus, which does not work out.  Graves/Moon reveals himself to his father, expecting him to be proud, but General Moon is not (seems he has more honor than his son).  He’s killed and a hole is blown into the airplane, causing massive suction.  Frost (in a ridiculous skimpy outfit for no good reason) takes on Jinx with a sword.  Jinx has set the plane to fly into Icarus.  Bond takes on Graves; Graves electrocutes Bond, then takes the last parachute, but Bond opens it early, dragging the man into the engine.  The plane is falling apart, Jinx manages to stab Frost, and the good guys have to use Graves’ fancy helicopter to escape (which luckily has the diamonds inside).  They put those diamonds to “good” use when they snuggle up with each other in a remote cottage.

I’m not thrilled with Jinx as a Bond girl; I will admit, they at least give her some action and motivation, but barely and she gets captured and stuck twice, to be rescued by Bond.  Frost, meanwhile, is far more intriguing.  Jinx was too easy.  It’s a bit of a trend with some of the Bond films I’ve just watched.  Christmas Jones was practically useless in the last movie and Elektra had far more development.  Natalya in GoldenEye was more compelling and Bond did not instantly fall into bed with Onatop.  Wai Lin struck a happy medium and got a better fight scene, though she too fell easily into Bond’ arms.

Up Next: Casino Royale