Bond Does Ibsen

         After sitting through Joseph Losey's 1973 version of A Doll's House, I had to wonder what I would make of Patrick Garland's version, made released in the same year. All I knew was that Anthony Hopkins was in it and that I really did not like the other version with Jane Fonda, which was enough to have my fingers crossed with a bit more hope. What I did not know was the other people involved in the production. While Hopkins (who plays Torvald Helmer in the film) has played iconic hero Zorro (in Martin Campbell's 1998 The Mask of Zorro), the music was by none other than the guy notorious for his scores on that of another iconic hero: his name is Barry... John Barry. If you did not catch on, this composer is the guy who composed James Bond films, twelve in all.

         His last work was on The Living Daylights in that series, but his work here proves his versatility and skill. One fact is that the Bond films themselves often go to different places and require different styles as such, though this happened more when Roger Moore got on board, and the espionage took a backseat to the exotic locales and stunts. I am a big Bond fan, but I do miss the style back when Sean Connery was still Bond (my favorite being the 1963 film From Russia with Love, and my least favorite just might be 2002's Die Another Day), though this is just a fan's reminiscing. The real point is that John Barry's work in A Doll's House effectively thrusts us into the film as the work of a seasoned pro. It did not call attention to itself, which is great, in that I watched the film emotionally pulled rather than thinking of the tinkering involved. Also involved as editor of the film is three-time editor and five-time director in the Bond series, John Glen. Glen's work as well carefully guides this story along. There is a class that went along with Bond that shows up here. The people involved (yes, even in the Roger Moore days, despite some prior misgivings) were genuine talents and pros interested in real and classic storytelling.

         In 2002, I found myself groaning through Rob Cohen's XXX, and my appetite started to become whetted as Die Another Day was being proclaimed as one of the all-time best Bond films. I watched Louis Leterrier and Cory Yuen's The Transporter, a cool action film, as a primer for a great Bond flick, one hopes a perfect stepping from XXX up to Bond. Next thing I knew, I was watching a massacre. Lee Tamahori thought he was doing the world some great favor by updating Bond with slow motion, speeding up, computer effects, and other such things. The computer effects really got to me when Bond started surfing, which still makes my mind boggle as to how horrible it was. Halle Berry was possibly the worst Bond girl, who thought she was cool and suave, but who lacked all wit or true ability as Bond saved her twice. And what does Lee Tamahori have on his roster?--XXX2--truly telling.

         I hope that Bond will find its place again: a place where there are real stunts and real wit--a place where there is no need to flash things up--a place where there is the sort of talent behind the wheel that would also do something like A Doll's House. I really liked the film a good deal. Anthony Hopkins is a part of it. While the film was well performed all around, Hopkins gives a great performance, showing a well-tuned actor from then all the way to now. He has not lost his place. But it is not all due to him, as one actor cannot make a film great. It took everyone involved to step up to the plate focused on telling the story and telling it right. I was, for one, pleased with that.

Jesse Gilstrap

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