Bond Week: Countdown to “Skyfall”

James Bond is one of the longest running and most prolific franchises in cinema. The spy has been featured in 25 feature films since 1962 and, for the most part, they’ve ranged from average to great.

With the latest film, “Skyfall,” being released today in the U.S., I have been counting down the last week or so with some of the best in the series. In order to rank the top 5, I took a consensus of what most people consider to be the best 5 Bond films and watched them this week (With the exception of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” Thanks for not carrying it Best Buy!)

5. “Licence to Kill” (1989)

Timothy Dalton may not have been part of the franchise for very long (his credits are this film and “The Living Daylights”), but both of his films are quality entries. I chose “Licence to Kill” because it features Bond out for vengeance and going rogue in order to take down a drug lord. While 007 is often disobedient to his employer, he takes it an extra step here.

Dalton does well with the Bond character, although he does lack most of the charm others have portrayed throughout the years. Fortunately this film is more about action and revenge, so the difference is barely noticeable. A smart script, good action scenes and some decent acting make for a good Bond film.

Bonus: Frank McRae, a lesser-known actor (and former NFL player) from the city I’m currently writing from, makes a small appearance here as one of Bond’s friends, Sharkey. Also, a young Benicio Del Toro gives a couple of the good guys a beating.

4. “Dr. No” (1962)

The one that really started it all. Having been raised on the Pierce Brosnan films (I know, I know), I’ve never had the pleasure of watching these early installments. Until now, that is.

People have always told me there has never been an actor to match Sean Connery when it comes to this character and now I know why. Connery plays the part with intelligence and suave, all the while enjoying the occasional corny joke.

“Dr. No” introduces us to the character of James Bond and plays like your average film on espionage. While it might feel a little slow compared to today’s films, it moves along just fine for what it is. Best of all, it doesn’t treat its audience like children. I do wish we could see more of Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) and less of the overrated Honey Rider (Ursula Andress), but maybe that’s just me.

3. “Goldfinger” (1964)

The third film in the franchise is a very strong addition with a quality villain to boot. Bond investigates gold magnate Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) and uncovers a plot to attack Fort Knox.

Well-known characters like Oddjob and Pussy Galore are found in here and make the film especially interesting. There are also bigger gadgets like a car that has machine guns, oil slicks and other tricks. Iconic images from the franchise include a laser beam threatening to cut Connery’s Bond in half as well as a woman who has been coated in gold from head to toe.

“Goldfinger” slumps a little in the middle of the film but overall its easily one of the best Bond films.

2. “From Russia With Love” (1963)

My favorite from the Sean Connery films. In “Dr. No” we learned about the evil organization SPECTRE and this film expands on the idea of an international terrorist network. We get to see behind the scenes of how they plan their attacks and what they’re capable of. It’s one of my favorite things in the series.

Connery makes the trip enjoyable as usual and the gadgets haven’t gotten too over the top at this point. “From Russia With Love” is the most masterfully crafted of the 20th-century Bond films. It has the finesse of “Dr. No” and “Goldfinger,” but the added component of SPECTRE’s behind the scenes work pushes the film ahead of those two installments.

When Bond isn’t busy picking up clues and killing bad guys, Grant, an assassin from SPECTRE, is doing everything he can to follow Bond throughout the film. This culminates in a fight between the two men that is one of the better scenes in the franchise.

All in all, a great spy film and definitely worth watching.

1. “Casino Royale” (2006)

Maybe I’m just a sucker for the new technology and fancy shooting style, but I love this reinvention of Bond.

Daniel Craig gives the best performance of Bond seen yet (the book purists can feel free to correct me). It is very layered and more intriguing than the playboy action hero we’re used to. Not to mention the action scenes have little competition from any other film in the series.

Vesper (Eva Green) is one of the best Bond girls there’s ever been. While Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) isn’t the most powerful Bond villain out there, he gets the job done. What really makes the film interesting is that we get to see more from Bond than usual. The mask comes off and we get a glimpse of who he is. Some people may not like that, but it made the film much better in my opinion.

Though it may be riding off the good fortune of being made when it was, “Casino Royale” was able to turn the franchise around after the horrible “Die Another Day.” Great action scenes, strong performances and a good story make this the best of the Bond series in my eyes.

If you feel like I’ve missed out on your favorite Bond film, let me know in the comments below. Now, let’s all go and enjoy the latest 007 outing, “Skyfall.”

Happy viewing.

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