What SPECTRE’s song tells us about the Craig era of 007

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

Sam Smith’s title song for SPECTRE stirred strong reaction, from former 007 actor Sir Roger Moore giving it a big vote of approval while a number of fans on social media declared it to be “the worst Bond theme ever” with some even launching an instant petition drive to have the song moved to the end titles from the main titles.

All of that may be missing the forest for the trees. In some ways, the title song for the 24th James Bond film reflects the Daniel Craig era of 007 films.

Starting with 2006’s Casino Royale, this isn’t a Bond who always wins.

In Craig’s 007 debut, Bond won money from terrorism banker LeChiffre, only to see a mysterious organization steal it back. This never happened to the other fella. It was also a major deviation from Ian Fleming’s first novel.

In 2012’s Skyfall, Bond “failed” (Craig’s own words in a recent ESQUIRE INTERVIEW) when Judi Dench’s M dies at the end of the film. “That was a big decision,” Craig told Esquire.

And, of course, in all three Craig 007 films to date, the agent doesn’t get the girl at the end, formerly part of the Bond film formula.

Part of Smith’s “Writing’s On the Wall” evokes a similar mood. At one point, Smith (who’s singing from Bond’s point of view), tells us this:

A million shards of glass
That haunt me from my past
As the stars begin to gather
And the light begins to fade
When all hope begins to shatter
Know that I won’t be afraid


How do I live? How do I breathe?
When you’re not here I’m suffocating
I want to feel love, run through my blood
Tell me is this where I give it all up?

In other words, Smith singing as Bond evokes the struggles of Craig playing Bond. The song also appears to contain hints of SPECTRE’s story.

Here’s a non-spoiler example.Early in the song, Smith sings, “I feel like a storm is coming.” In the trailers, Mr. White, Bond’s nemesis from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, tells Bond the agent is “a kite dancing in a hurricane.”

Coincidence? We’ll see when the movie comes out — especially when the song is matched with Daniel Kleinman’s title design.

GUEST REVIEW: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

I never fully watched The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I wasn’t born when it was released and no DVDs (and few TV telecasts) where released in my country, at least in my teens.

As a Bond fan, of course, I enjoyed many rip-offs, from the funny ones like Get Smart, Johnny English and Kingsman: The Secret Service to the more realistic ones like Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible saga, the Harry Palmer films and a few modern-espionage films like The International.

Still, I barely knew about Napoleon Solo and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. except for the fact it was one of the many ingredients of the ‘60s spy phenomenon and the Ian Fleming connection with the character of Napoleon Solo. I was kind of interested, but I never ended up closely following the episodes as I did with Zorro, Batman, The Saint or other cult TV series.

So, what follows “review” of someone in the mid-20s who hasn’t properly watched the original TV series produced by Norman Felton but has an idea on it.

I had a free afternoon so I booked the tickets on a close theatre in my hometown in Buenos Aires. The screening was around 6:30 p.m. As I entered the theatre, all the seats were empty! I wondered if some of the negative reviews had such an impact on people that left Napoleon Solo a bit… “solo” (if you speak Spanish, you’ll get the word game).

A few minutes later, people appeared — not many, five or seven more, making around ten people if you count me. On a side note, I catched the SPECTRE teaser trailer before the film. I’ve always been unlucky in finding a Bond trailer on a screening, something that only happened before in 2002 when the Die Another Day trailer popped up before My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the movie my grandmother took me to watch.

And then, Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. filled the screen.

Overall, the film is enjoyable… enough to relax after a tough day at work, at least. It looks indeed as a movie set in the 1960s: a masterful work of the cinematographer, the costume designer, and Daniel Pemberton in the music department.

There’s a lot of humor like the one you’ll find in Kingsman: The Secret Service, but a lot less exaggerated, and more in the vein of the 1972 TV series The Persuaders. The Henry Cavill-Armie Hammer relationship onscreen is in a way very similar to the Roger Moore-Tony Curtis one.

A scene of Napoleon Solo (Cavill) comfortably drinking wine and having sandwiches while sitting in a truck as Russian agent Ilya Kuryakin (Hammer) gun fighting his enemies on a boat is particularly effective and funny for the inclusion of “Che Vuole Questa Musica Stasera” (sung by Peppino Gagliardi) as both events are taking place. This rivalry that slowly turns into friendship is akin to The Persuader’s pilot “Interlude.”

Other of the film’s pros is the backdrop created for the protagonists: Solo being an art thief working for the CIA on probation and Kuryakin having with anger management problems. The girls, Gaby (Alicia Vikander) and Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki), are in a way the stereotypical “good girls” and “bad girls” you’ll find in any retro spy series. They are not complex characters, but they fit very well into the film.

More into the 60s influence, the scene where Solo is tortured seems to have a small nod to the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale, where Le Chiffre (Orson Welles) provides a “mind torture” to Peter Sellers’ Evelyn Tremble, aka James Bond 007, when uncle Rudi shows a video of the Nazi “achievements” as the hero is tied to an electric chair.

A special mention is deserved by Hugh Grant as Waverly, whose presence itself is more than welcome and adds a special touch to the film with his comic quips.

There is, however, a big negative point in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: the editing. It tried to be artistic and it perhaps succeeded in the desired effect, but the fast camera shots, the flashbacks and the split-screen shots are very distracting. It happens, even in a more confusing way, the same that in the shakey cam shots of Quantum of Solace.

The film’s ending offers a nice cliffhanger, maybe predictable, but very similar to the current “reboot” movies where we see the inception of what has been established before. There is a word association to the last line said by Waverly to the relationship a character had with other, something that would probably get lost in translation for many non-English speaking countries.

Verdict: Love the ‘60s spy movies with lots of humor? Watch it!

The ‘Hunt’ for Bond — M:I connections to 007

Spoilers after second paragraph.

A Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation poster

A Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation poster

By Nicolas Suszczyk, Guest Writer

It is uncertain if Tom Cruise wanted to join the Bondwagon in 1996 when his first Mission: Impossible film debuted, one year after the successful return of James Bond to the big screen in GoldenEye.

But thing is certain: Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, the producer-star’s fifth movie based on the 1966-73 TV series, features a number of connections, intentional or not, with Bond films starring Daniel Craig.

Feel free to omit the over-hyped pre-titles scene of Cruise’s Ethan Hunt hanging of a plane on mid-air that reminds us of what Roger Moore (or one of his stunt doubles) did with Kamal Khan’s plane in Octopussy, or Hunt’s stylish exit shortly after when he activates the parachute attached to nerve gas tanks similar to Bond and Kara’s escape from the Hercules plane in The Living Daylights.

Moments later, a new character is introduced: Hunley, the CIA director played by Alec Baldwin, questioning the IMF’s procedures and asking to a Senate committee for the force’s disavowal. This character is somewhat reminiscent to Mallory, played by Ralph Fiennes in 2012’s Skyfall and now returning in SPECTRE.

Action moves to Vienna, to a performance of the opera Turandot. What is seen here could perfectly be a mash-up between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, with Hunt fighting one of his enemies and trying to prevent a sniper shooting the Austrian chancellor, all as the play ensues.

Not to mention the shots of Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) preparing her weapon hidden in a clarinet are very similar to those of Patrice doing the same at the Shanghai tower, before shooting his victim.

(Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation may also owe a debt of gratitude to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1956 The Man Who Knew Too Much, which featured an attempted assassination during a concert.)

M:I Rogue Nation composer Joe Kraemer’s music is somewhat close to “African Rundown,” composed by David Arnold for 2006’s Casino Royale, when a high-speed bike chase comes along between Hunt and Ilsa through the Moroccan roads.

The IMF agent is stopped in a unique way – the woman stands right in front of him. Ethan crashes and falls in order to avoid her, a bit similar to the way Eva Green’s Vesper was tied on the road to make Bond (Daniel Craig) crash his Aston Martin DBS.

Just like in Skyfall, London is also used prominently in the film, including the last action scene that features Jens Hultén, who played one of Silva’s henchmen in the 2012 film. Solomon Lane himself, the villain played by Sean Harris, has a loose connection with Silva by being also a former British agent.

In another scene, the prime minister (actually Ethan Hunt in disguise) menaces MI6’s head Attle (Simon McBurney) with an enquiry, a situation Judi Dench’s M faced in Skyfall, too.

A big wink to the first Sam Mendes’ James Bond film is given right before the closing credits: Hunley, admitting his mistake, asks for the reactivation of the IMF. As the committee reinstates the force, Brandt (Jeremy Renner) addresses him as “secretary,” very much like Mallory becoming M at the end of Skyfall.

FWIW: Daily Mail claims Daniel Craig rewriting SPECTRE

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

Presented strictly for entertainment value: The U.K. Daily Mail IN A GOSSIP COLUMN BY SEBASTIAN SHAKESPEARE posted June 19, claims that SPECTRE star Daniel Craig has been doing some personal rewriting of SPECTRE’s script.

Here’s an excerpt:

I hear that the 47-year-old actor has been rewriting the script of 007’s latest outing, Spectre, even though filming has been going on since December.
‘The script is still all over the place, to the extent that Daniel himself has had a bash at rewriting it,’ says my man with the vodka martinis. ‘It’s total creative turmoil.’

To be clear, the Daily Mail has a journalistic reputation that would be tactfully described as uneven. However, the U.K. publication has published a number of 007 scoops proven to be correct. On the other hand, most of those were written by Baz Bamigboye, who has been MIA (as far as 007 stories are concerned) since SPECTRE went into production Dec. 8.

The only reason we mention this is because SPECTRE has had a dicey scripting process. The first writer was John Logan. Because of the Sony hacking, it’s now known Logan’s initial efforts contained some questionable ideas.

Logan was replaced by 007 veterans Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (something that Bamigboye originally reported last year), with some polishes by playwright by Jez Butterworth.

Also, it should be noted that Craig said in 2011 he and director Marc Forster did uncredited rewrites for 2008’s Quantum of Solace.

Alan J. Porter discusses his James Bond Lexicon project

Promo for The James Bond Lexicon

Promo for The James Bond Lexicon

Writer Alan J. Porter is coming out with a new reference work, The James Bond Lexicon. He’s also at work on a similar project concerning The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Porter discussed both projects in an e-mail interview. The Bond project is further along and within a few months of being published.

QUESTION: Please describe the format and organization of The James Bond Lexicon and The Lexicon Affair about U.N.C.L.E. About when will each be published?

PORTER: The Lexicon series from Hasslein Books (http://www.hassleinbooks.com) are encyclopedia style references guides related to various pop-culture franchises. They already have volumes on The Planet of the Apes, Back to the Future, and Red Dwarf. My wife, Gill, and I will be adding volumes on James Bond and U.N.C.L.E.

First up will be “The James Bond Lexicon” which will cover the world of 007 across all media, movies, novels, TV, and comics. The manuscript is currently with the publishers for copy-editing, and given it’s size (about 700 pages in total) we are discussing the possibility that it will be published as a two-volume set. Publication is slated for end of September, early October this year — around the same time that SPECTRE hits the movie screens.

While the Bond book is in production we have started writing “The Lexicon Affair: A Guide to the world of U.N.C.L.E.” This will cover both Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Girl from U,N.C.L.E. in TV, movies, novels, short stories, and comics. As we are relatively early in the writing stage we don’t have a publication date set just yet.

QUESTION: What do The James Bond Lexicon and The Lexicon Affair bring to the table compared with other books such as Raymond Benson’s James Bond Bedside Companion or Jon Heitland’s Man From U.N.C.L.E. Book or Cynthia W. Walker’s Work/Text Investigating The Man From U.N.C.L.E.?

PORTER: I believe that these will be the first books to comprehensively cover the franchises in detail across the full range of media. Plus they will be as up to date as possible. For instance the Bond Lexicon includes entries from the recent Stephen Cole authored Young Bond novel, Shoot to Kill.

The U.N.C.L.E. book will cover the upcoming movie reboot along with the classic series. The book style is more of an encyclopedia reference rather than a critical review style, although there will be a few supporting essays touching on items such as series continuity (or lack of) and the enduring popularity of the two franchises.

QUESTION: Did your encounter any surprises while researching each book?

PORTER: I think the biggest surprise from working on the Bond Lexicon was just how many different officially sanctioned interpretations of James Bond there has been over the years. I’m not talking about between actors, but distinctly different back-stories, ways of operating, time periods etc.

We grouped various Bonds together by loose continuity; for instance we considered that the Connery-Lazenby-Moore-Dalton-Brosnan Bond was a single Bond, while the Craig Bond was a completely new Bond.

Similarly, we counted the Fleming, Gardner, Benson Bonds as being three separate incarnations and so on. In the end we counted 18 different James Bonds. And I’m sure not everyone will agree with the way we defined those different Bonds either.

It’s early days on the U.N.C.L.E work so I can’t say that we’ve discovered any major surprises yet (although I’m sure we will). One initial observation is the appalling lack of consistency, often even within the same story. It’s making for some interesting discussions around how, and where, certain entries will go in the book.

QUESTION: What are the similarities, as you see them, between James Bond and Napoleon Solo? The differences?

PORTER: It’s often been stated that Ian Fleming designed Solo to be “Bond for the small screen” with the same basic traits and attitudes of a “suave sophisticated secret agent” with an eye for the ladies. But I think it’s fair to say that beyond that superficial description the two characters clearly diverged over the years.

Bond has that rougher edge, the underlying truth that he is a violent man, a “blunt instrument,” out to do a dirty job. In many ways Bond is the archetype lone stranger who arrives, sorts out the problem, and leaves.

Solo (ironically given his name) became the opposite of that, he is a team player, and part of double act where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Solo is less of the blunt instrument and more of the protector.

QUESTION: Who were you a fan of first? Bond or Solo? How did you become a fan of each? (Or are you a fan of each?)

PORTER: I can clearly date the start of my interest in Bond to the winter of 1965 and playing the Thunderball board game at a friends house, but with U.N.C.L.E. it’s always been more of a case of general awareness that probably started around the same time. I had both the Corgi Aston-Martin DB5 and the THRUSH buster toys, read Bond comics in the newspapers and U.N.C.L.E. comics in TV Tornado each week. Obviously U.N.C.L.E. faded into the background and Bond became more prominent because of the franchise’s continuing presence in the public eye, but I never forgot the guys in the secret headquarters behind the tailor’s shop.

QUESTION: Both Bond and Solo will have a film adventure in 2015, SPECTRE and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. What are you looking for from each one? What needs to happen for each film to be considered a success?

PORTER: Wow – the answer to that could be an essay all of its own.

I will say I was disappointed that they actually used SPECTRE as the title of the next Bond movie. I would have much preferred that the revelation about the return of SPECTRE would have come from the plot and been a surprise (much like the fate of M in Skyfall). Having said that, like most people I believe, I’m hoping for a return to some of the good old classic Bond movie tropes we’ve been missing for a while. The end of Skyfall hinted at it, I just hope they follow through with something that has the same vibe as movies like From Russia With Love, or On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

With the U.N.C.L.E. movie my underlying hope is that they respect the source material, unlike certain recent Hollywood abominations (Green Hornet for instance). It looks like they have the tone and period right from what we’ve seen in the trailer so far although I was disappointed not to hear the classic TV show theme used. My fingers are crossed that it will be a fun ride and one that reinvigorates interest in the franchise bringing more people back to discovering the TV show. Then maybe I can wear my U.N.C.L.E. logo t-shirt without people asking me what it stands for.

QUESTION: Daniel Craig is now filming his fourth Bond film. What is your analysis of his tenure?

PORTER: I’ll be honest I’m still not sure. I thought Casino Royale was great, and loved his portrayal of Bond in that, although he was too old to be a Double-O at the start of his career. Hated Quantum of Solace, but I think that was more to do with the weak story and the frantic style of direction.

Skyfall left me conflicted, loved it at first but on each rewatch I dislike it more and more. Craig definitely plays the aging agent well, but, to put it bluntly, his Bond in Skyfall is simply incompetent. I’m looking forward to SPECTRE being the movie when the Craig era redeems itself in my eyes.

QUESTION: Henry Cavill, the new Solo, lost out to Craig to play Bond. How do you think he may do as Solo? (Right now, all we have to go on is a trailer.)

PORTER: From the short glimpses of him in the trailer he looks well suited to the part (much more so than he is to the Superman role). He’s an actor I’ve enjoyed watching over the years, although I’m not sure he would have worked as Bond either, and hopefully Solo will be his breakout franchise role.

QUESTION: A book is always hard work, but has either, or both, been fun to do?

PORTER: There is always a point about midway through any book project where you think, “What the hell am I doing this for.” The Bond Lexicon turned out to be a much bigger project than we first thought and ended up taking about three years to find everything and do the research. There was a point when we never wanted to look at anything Bond related again, but it didn’t last long. We’ve had so much support and interest from friends and fellow fans in the Bond community that it’s been a wonderful experience. We can’t wait to share the results of all that work later this year.

The U.N.C.L.E. book is great fun to do, and as we haven’t seen most of the material in decades, and in some cases this is the first time we’ve read many of the spin-off stories, it’s like rediscovering the franchise all over again.

For more about The James Bond Lexicon, CLICK HERE. For more about The Lexicon Affair, CLICK HERE. For Alan J. Porter’s website, CLICK HERE.


SPECTRE by the numbers (and not just 007)

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE is starting production in Rome, for a five-week shoot, including a car chase, that will cost almost as much (if not more) than some movies.

So, here’s a breakdown of the kind of spending that’s known about the 24th James Bond film. We’ll assume a total production budget of $300 million.

According to information from hacked Sony documents, the budget was on pace to well exceed that, but there were also efforts to rein it in. We’ll assume the trends cancel themselves out so we’ll go with a nice round number with $300 million.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll assume a 30-week shooting schedule. Principal photography began on Dec. 8 and is supposed to run seven months. Actual total may run a week or two less than 30 weeks, but some filming was done before principal photography began. So, again, we’ll use a round number.

Cost per week, total: $10 million.

Cost per week, Rome shoot: $12 million (five weeks, $60 million, according to figures reported by Variety.com)


Dr. No: $1 million

From Russia With Love: $2 million

Goldfinger: $3 million

You Only Live Twice: $9.5 million (Ken Adam’s volcano set alone cost more than Dr. No)

The Spy Who Loved Me: $14 million

Moonraker: $31 million to $34 million, depending on estimate (Initial plan was to keep it close to Spy’s budget but it was evident that wouldn’t hold)

Tomorrow Never Dies: $110 million (first to exceed $100 million)

Quantum of Solace: $230 million (first to exceed $200 million)

SPECTRE: $300 million (first to reach $300 million).

One week’s shooting on SPECTRE costs more than You Only Live Twice, which had the one set that cost more than Dr. No.

Put another way, each day’s shooting on SPECTRE costs more than Dr. No. At $10 million a week, if you shot seven days a week, equals $1.43 million daily.


Taken 3: $48 million

Kingsman: The Secret Service: $81 million

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: $75 million

To be fair, none of this takes into account 50 years of inflation. At the same time, this exercise is also a reminder that studios don’t play with Monopoly money. Studios don’t get to spend, or receive, inflation-adjusted dollars.


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