Book Review – TRIGGER MORTIS by Anthony Horowitz (2015)

TRIGGER MORTIS by ANTHONY HOROWITZ (2015, Orion, 320pp) ∗∗∗
      Blurb: James Bond is back. Anthony Horowitz’s new novel is a thrilling tour de force, sure to delight fans of the original 007 novels and new readers alike. It also features previously unseen material written by Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming. The story begins in the lethal world of Grand Prix with an attempt by the Russians to sabotage a race at Nürburgring, the most dangerous track in Europe. Bond is in the driving seat but events swiftly take an unexpected turn, pitching him into an entirely different race with implications that could change the world. Anthony Horowitz recreates the golden age of Bond, packed with speed, danger, strong women and fiendish villains, in this brilliantly authentic adventure.

Anthony Horowitz goes back to the period of Fleming’s novels and sets this latest extension to the James Bond literary canon days after Fleming’s Goldfinger (1959). This is a move which tries to establish some authenticity of this book within the Fleming timeline from the original novels. For the most part this works well in re-creating a James Bond from Fleming’s vision. However, the book is ultimately reminiscent of many of the films in that it links a series of action and dramatic set-pieces together around a standard Bond plot.

At the beginning of the book Bond is living with Pussy Galore – who in Fleming’s Goldfinger was the head of an all-lesbian organisation, based in Harlem, known as the Cement Mixers. Her relationship with Bond is resolved in the first part of the book. In the early stages there is also the set-piece (based on Fleming’s original notes) around the attempted sabotage of the motor race at Nürburgring. Here Bond is alerted to SMERSH activity with a mysterious Korean, known as Jason Sin. It is revealed Sin is haunted by American atrocities during the Korean War, which accounted for the loss of his family, and is using his hatred to fuel an attempt to strike back at the US by helping the Russians in sabotaging the space programme.

Horowitz sticks close to Fleming’s portrayal of Bond and this proves to be the main plus of the novel. He also retains some of Fleming’s more eccentric approach to the prose, including his almost obsessive attention to detail. The plot itself is hard to buy into and full of holes. However, Horowitz works his description of the action sequences well – notably for the motor racing sequence, which utilises Fleming material – and Jeopardy Lane is a good addition to the literary Bond girl roster. The book will therefore both satisfy and potentially irritate Bond and Fleming scholars.

Film Review – SPECTRE (2015)

Spectre (2015; UK; Colour; 148m) ∗∗∗½  d. Sam Mendes; w. John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth; ph. Hoyte van Hoytema; m. Thomas Newman.  Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Ben Whishaw, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Jesper Christensen, Stephanie Sigman. A cryptic message from James Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. Satisfying globe-trotting 007 action vehicle with all the expected ingredients and several nods to the series’ history. The most traditional and outlandish of Craig’s outings offers little that is new but will undoubtedly satisfy fans. Action scenes are well-staged if a little mechanical. Bellucci is wasted in small role as grieving widow. Sam Smith’s theme song is unmemorable. Based on characters created by Ian Fleming. [12]

Film Review Round-up – Three more Bonds – FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981); FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963) and GOLDENEYE (1995)

81947_largeFor Your Eyes Only (1981; UK; Technicolor; 127m) ∗∗∗½  d. John Glen; w. Richard Maibaum, Michael G. Wilson; ph. Alan Hume; m. Bill Conti; ed. John Grover.  Cast: Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet, Topol, Lois Maxwell, Lynn-Holly Johnson, Julian Glover, Jill Bennett, Desmond Llewelyn, Geoffrey Keen, Walter Gotell, Cassandra Harris, Michael Gothard, John Wyman, Jack Hedley, James Villiers. Agent 007 is assigned to hunt for a lost British encryption device and prevent it from falling into enemy hands. Take out the silly prologue and epilogue and this is the straightest Bond for quite some time – and all the better for it. There are occasional lapses in pace and Moore is beginning to look a little old for the part, but the action sequences deliver excellent thrills. Bill Conti’s score, though, is the weakest of the series. Based on the short stories “For Your Eyes Only” and “Risico” by Ian Fleming. [PG]

imagesFrom Russia with Love (1963; UK; Technicolor; 115m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Terence Young; w. Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood; ph. Ted Moore; m. John Barry; ed. Peter R. Hunt.  Cast: Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi, Pedro Armendáriz, Lotte Lenya, Robert Shaw, Bernard Lee, Eunice Gayson, Walter Gotell, Francis De Wolff, George Pastell, Nadja Regin, Lois Maxwell, Aliza Gur, Martine Beswick, Vladek Sheybal. James Bond willingly falls into an assassination ploy involving a naive Russian beauty in order to retrieve a Soviet encryption device that was stolen by SPECTRE. Second 007 film is a tense and well-made espionage thriller. The gadgets are still in the background here and Bond is left to his intelligence and his wits. Shaw makes an excellent heavy and Lenya is suitably creepy as Rosa Klebb. The production values are a notch up on DR. NO and the result is an exciting and action-packed adventure. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

download (4)GoldenEye (1995; UK/USA; Rankcolor; 130m) ∗∗∗½  d. Martin Campbell; w. Jeffrey Caine, Bruce Feirstein; ph. Phil Meheux; m. Eric Serra; ed. Terry Rawlings.  Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco, Famke Janssen, Joe Don Baker, Judi Dench, Robbie Coltrane, Gottfried John, Alan Cumming, Tchéky Karyo, Desmond Llewelyn, Samantha Bond, Michael Kitchen, Serena Gordon, Simon Kunz. James Bond teams up with the lone survivor of a destroyed Russian research centre to stop the hijacking of a nuclear space weapon by a fellow agent believed to be dead. The plot may misfire occasionally but Brosnan’s debut outing is the best Bond for years. Well directed and with some exceptional action set-pieces. Janssen is sexy and psychoytic, but Bean lacks charisma as the villain. Based on a story by Michael France. [12]

Film Review Round-up – Three Bonds – DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971), DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002), DR. NO (1962)

poster_conceptDiamonds Are Forever (1971; UK; Technicolor; 120m) ∗∗∗  d. Guy Hamilton; w. Richard Maibaum, Tom Mankiewicz; ph. Ted Moore; m. John Barry; ed. Bert Bates, John W. Holmes.  Cast: Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Charles Gray, Lana Wood, Jimmy Dean, Bruce Cabot, Putter Smith, Bruce Glover, Norman Burton, Joseph Fürst, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Leonard Barr, Lois Maxwell, Margaret Lacey. A diamond smuggling investigation leads James Bond to Las Vegas, where he uncovers an extortion plot headed by his nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Connery returns as Bond and the humour is played up at the expense of suspense. The film introduces a cartoonish feel that would dominate the series for more than a decade. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

Die-Another-Day-Movie-Poster-LargeDie Another Day (2002; UK/USA; Colour; 133m) ∗∗  d. Lee Tamahori; w. Neal Purvis, Robert Wade; ph. David Tattersall; m. David Arnold; ed. Andrew MacRitchie, Christian Wagner.  Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, Judi Dench, John Cleese, Michael Madsen, Will Yun Lee, Kenneth Tsang, Emilio Echevarría, Mikhail Gorevoy, Lawrence Makoare, Colin Salmon, Samantha Bond, Madonna. James Bond is sent to investigate the connection between a North Korean terrorist and a diamond mogul who is funding the development of an international space weapon. After a very strong first half this descends into some of the worst excesses seen in a Bond film since MOONRAKER. Berry is the films main asset in a lively turn, but some appalling CGI and a weak premise ultimately sink the film. [12]

dr-noDr. No (1962; UK; Technicolor; 110m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Terence Young; w. Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, Berkely Mather; ph. Ted Moore; m. Monty Norman; ed. Peter R. Hunt.  Cast: Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Lord, Bernard Lee, Anthony Dawson, Zena Marshall, John Kitzmiller, Eunice Gayson, Lois Maxwell, Peter Burton. James Bond’s investigation of a missing colleague in Jamaica leads him to the island of the mysterious Dr. No and a scheme to end the US space program. First 007 film is a colourful adventure, if a little slow-moving by today’s standards. Connery eases into the role with style and Andress is stunning as the first Bond girl. Many of the elements are set here, but there is a simplicity to the production that remains endearing compared to later entries in the series. Great set designs by Ken Adam. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]

Film Review – ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969)

My second Christmas film choice was a James Bond classic…

ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1969, United Artists, USA, 142 mins, Technicolor, 2.35:1, Mono, Cert: PG, Spy Action Thriller) ∗∗∗∗∗
      Starring: George Lazenby (James Bond), Diana Rigg (Tracy), Telly Savalas (Blofeld), Gabriele Ferzetti (Draco), Ilse Steppat (Irma Bunt), Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny), George Baker (Sir Hilary Bray), Bernard Lee (‘M’), Bernard Horsfall (Campbell), Desmond Llewelyn (‘Q’), Yuri Borienko (Grunther), Virginia North (Olympe), Geoffrey Cheshire (Toussaint), Irvin Allen (Che Che), Terence Mountain (Raphael).
      Producer: Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman; Director: Peter R. Hunt; Writer: Richard Maibaum (Based on the novel by Ian Fleming); Director of Photography: Michael Reed; Music: John Barry; Film Editor: John Glen; Production Designer: Syd Cain; Art Director: Robert W. Laing; Set Decorator: Peter Lamont; Costume Designer: Marjory Cornelius

On Her Majesty's Secret Service 1969The first Bond film not to feature Sean Connery proved to be a return to basics, eschewing the smirking humour and excessive scope and gadgetry that had sneaked into the last entry in the series, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. Here, James Bond (Lazenby) woos a mob boss’s daughter (Rigg) and goes undercover to uncover the true reason for Blofeld’s allergy research in the Swiss Alps that involves beautiful women from around the world.

This Bond film has an emotional centre and it stands out as the most authentic adaptation of Ian Fleming’s source material in the whole series. Much has been made of Lazenby’s debut by critics, but they overlook the fact that it is by using Lazenby the makers have managed to capture the true essence of Fleming’s story. The film simply would not have been as successful had Connery remained in the role. That is not to say Lazenby is a better actor or a better Bond, merely that Connery had become so closely identified with the part, he would not have been able to add the vulnerability and sensitivity required without audiences becoming suspicious.

Diana Rigg is excellent as Tracy, the girl who Bond wants to spend the rest of his life with. Savalas’ Blofeld has more charisma than Donald Pleasance displayed in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. The photography in the Swiss Alps is stunning and John Barry provides his best score of the series. The ski scenes are well shot and dramatically played. The heart-breaking finale is unforgettable.

The result is possibly the best Bond film of all and one that deserves re-appraisal. It is a shame Lazenby did not continue in the role as the producers shied away from authenticity and went for self-parody in Connery’s comeback, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER – an approach that would dog the Bond films for more than a decade.