Run time: 98 mins
In Theaters: Friday 5th October 2012
Distributed by: EPIX
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
IMDB: 7.6 / 10
Director: Stevan Riley
Producer: John Battsek, Simon Chinn
Assembled in the style of a Bond film, this lively doc is an entertaining race through 50 years of the 007 franchise. The fast-paced narrative skips over a few things here and there, but focusses nicely on the relationships that have sustained the films over the decades even when it looked like it was about to fall apart.
James Bond was created as a bit of wish-fulfilment for author Ian Fleming, a reaction to his desk-bound job in intelligence during WWII. After the Cold War sparked interest in the novels, the film rights were sold to producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. To make the first movie, 1962's Dr No, they broke every rule in the book, casting an unknown Scottish actor as Bond and redesigning the look and feel of spy movies from the ground up. Of course, it was a sensation, sparking the longest-running movie franchise of all time. Although it certainly hasn't been a smooth ride.
The central focus here is on the bromance between Cubby and Harry, which has lingered into the next generation. Today, Barbara Broccoli and her stepbrother Michael Wilson keep the films current, relevant and faithful to Fleming's original creation, which is a tricky balancing act. In this documentary, we get lucid first-hand accounts of the crises that nearly sank the franchise, including the panic of Connery's decision to leave the role, the legal wranglings around Thunderball (and its unofficial remake Never Say Never Again) and Brosnan's first false start as Bond. And then there were the world-changing events of 9/11, which spurred the producers to completely reinvent Bond as a grittier, more emotionally resonant figure.
Oddly, some of the films and events are completely ignored, including 1967's all-star comedy version of Casino Royale (we do see scenes from a 1954 TV version). But filmmaker Riley cleverly uses clips from the movies to illustrate the producers' story, along with home movies, glimpses behind the scenes and new interviews with a range of cast, crew and family members. Yes, this does feel like an extended extra for the Skyfall DVD. But while none of this is particularly new information, we've never seen it assembled into such a comprehensive, enjoyable narrative before.