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Ebert On Bond (1987-2012)

8th August 2017

Take a look back at how legendary reviewer Roger Ebert responded to nine of 007's more recent adventures

MI6 logo By MI6 Staff
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Roger Ebert was a legend of film criticism, penning reviews for the Chicago Sun Times for 46 years. He's arguably America's most famous reviewer and made his profession into an art form. He lived the majority of his life in Illinois, attending University of Illinois as an early-entrance student, and later University of Chicago. He began publishing in the 1960s and was president of the U.S. Student Press Association. He joined the staff of the Chicago Sun Times in 1966, as a method of funding himself through graduate school. He continued his journalistic career, writing his first reviews in 1967, and by 1970, he was an author of a book (a history of the University of Illinois) and a screenplay, "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls". As he grew in prominence as a reviewer, Ebert quickly began awarding a best movie-type accolade to a single film each year. Films to get this nod include "Bonnie and Clyde", "The Godfather", "Apocalypse Now", "The Right Stuff", "Mississippi Burning", "Schindler's List", "Fargo", "Being John Malkovich" and "The Hurt Locker".

He suffered health challenges from 2002, when he was diagnosed with cancer. Several instances of surgery, 11 years and a long battle later, Ebert passed away on 4th April 2013. In his reviews he never attempted objectivity, he wanted to give readers a picture of the film as it might appeal to its target audience ­– attempting to compare like-with-like. He was forever putting himself in other people's shoes.

These are some highlights of his reviews of James Bond pictures. Despite reviewing pictures for much of the franchise's history, his views on them all are not recorded. He did however review consistently from 1987's 'The Living Daylights' to 2012's 'Skyfall' - he passed before the release of 'SPECTRE'.

'The Living Daylights' (2/4)
“Dalton is rugged, dark and saturnine, and speaks with a cool authority. We can halfway believe him in some of his scenes. And that's a problem, because the scenes are intended to be preposterous…. Bond films succeed or fail on the basis of their villains, and Joe Don Baker, as the arms-dealing Whitaker, is not one of the great Bond villains. He's a kooky phony general who plays with toy soldiers and never seems truly diabolical.”
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'Licence To Kill' (3.5/4)
“Both women are as beautiful as the historical Bond standard, but more modern - more competent, intelligent and capable, and not simply sex objects…. Compared to his previous films, 007 is practically chaste this time. On the basis of this second performance as Bond, Dalton can have the role as long as he enjoys it. He makes an effective Bond - lacking Sean Connery's grace and humor, and Roger Moore's suave self-mockery, but with a lean tension and a toughness that is possibly more contemporary."
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'GoldenEye' (3/4)
“This is the first Bond film that is self-aware, that has lost its innocence and the simplicity of its world view, and has some understanding of the absurdity and sadness of its hero…. As played by Pierce Brosnan, the fifth 007, he is somehow more sensitive, more vulnerable, more psychologically complete. I am not sure this is a good thing…. Watching the film, I got caught up in the special effects and the neat stunts, and I observed with a certain satisfaction Bond's belated entry into a more modern world.”
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'Tomorrow Never Dies' (3/4)
“In its 35th year, the long-running Bond series has settled into a dependable formula, based on gimmicks, high-tech toys, chases, elaborate stunts, and the battle to foil the madman's evil schemes…. I enjoyed Brosnan in the role, although this time I noticed fewer Bondian moments in which the trademarks of the series are relished…. There's a high gloss and some nice payoffs, but not quite as much humor as usual; Bond seems to be straying from his tongue-in-cheek origins into the realm of conventional techno-thrillers.”
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'The World Is Not Enough' (3.5/4)
“…Pierce Brosnan: The best except for Sean Connery. He knows that even the most outrageous double entendres are pronounced with a straight face. He is proud that a generation has grown up knowing the term "double entendre" only because of Bond movies. [The classic] elements are assembled by director Michael Apted and writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Bruce Feirstein into a Bond picture that for once doesn't seem like set pieces uneasily glued together… Carlyle's villain emerges as more three-dimensional and motivated, less of a caricature, than the evildoers in some of the Bond films.”
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'Die Another Day' (3/4)
“This movie has the usual impossible stunts, as when Bond surfs down the face of a glacier being melted by a laser beam from space. But it has just as many scenes that are lean and tough enough to fit in any modern action movie…. Die Another Day is still utterly absurd from one end to the other, of course, but in a slightly more understated way. And so it goes, Bond after Bond, as the most durable series in movie history heads for the half-century. There is no reason to believe this franchise will ever die. I suppose that is a blessing.”
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'Casino Royale' (4/4)
'Casino Royale' has the answers to all my complaints about the 45-year-old James Bond series, and some I hadn't even thought of. It's not that I didn't love some of the earlier films, like some, dislike others and so on, as that I was becoming less convinced that I ever had to see another one…. Daniel Craig makes a superb Bond: Leaner, more taciturn, less sex-obsessed, able to be hurt in body and soul, not giving a damn if his martini is shaken or stirred. Most of the chases and stunts in "Casino Royale" take place in something vaguely approximating real space and time. Recently, with the advent of portable cameras and computerized editing, action movies have substituted visual chaos for visual elegance.”
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'Quantum of Solace' (2/4)
“The chase, with Bond under constant machinegun fire, is so quickly cut and so obviously composed of incomprehensible CGI that we're essentially looking at bright colors bouncing off each other, intercut with Bond at the wheel and POV shots of approaching monster trucks. Let's all think together. When has an action hero ever, even once, been killed by machinegun fire, no matter how many hundreds of rounds? Daniel Craig remains a splendid Bond, one of the best. He is handsome, agile, muscular, dangerous. Everything but talkative. I didn't count, but I think M (Judi Dench) has more dialogue than 007.”
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'Skyfall' (4/4)
“This is a full-blooded, joyous, intelligent celebration of a beloved cultural icon, with Daniel Craig taking full possession of a role he earlier played well in "Casino Royale"…. M is not quite ready to retire, and "Skyfall" at last provides a role worthy of Judi Dench, one of the best actors of her generation. She is all but the co-star of the film, with a lot of screen time, poignant dialogue, and a character who is far more complex and sympathetic than we expect in this series. Just as Christopher Nolan gave rebirth to the Batman movies in "The Dark Knight," here is James Bond lifted up, dusted off, set back on his feet and ready for another 50 years.”
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