Friday, 19 August 2011

"Planet of the Apes" Review

Warning- Spoilers Ahead

It's always interesting reviewing a film like Planet of the Apes, a film which has extended beyond a singular film in to a pop culture staple as well as an on going franchise, with  Rise of the Planet of the Apes recently being released. You have to be able to step back and review the film as it stands, while at the same time acknowledging its iconic status and its place in film history. Planet of the Apes also a contradictory film; it's at once dated yet completely relevant to society, its star performance can be very hammy yet makes the film work, it's stagey while still havinng iconic imagery, and its overt in its social commentary yet still not preachy.

The film, based on a 1963 novel by Pierre Boulle, who also wrote the novel The Bridge on the River Kwai, and which became an Oscar winning film by David Lean, deals with three astronauts, George Taylor (Charlton Heston), Dodge (Jeff Burton), and Landon (Robert Gunner), who after time spent in hypersleep land on a mysterious planet ruled by apes who imprison humans. Dodge is killed and Landon and Taylor are captured. Taylor is shot in the throat and cannot speak, making him blend in with the other humans, who by nature cannot talk. I like how the film builds tension by having the audience know Taylor can talk but the apes not knowing. It gets the audience involved by really wanting Taylor to talk and show he's intelligent. Doctor Zira (Kim Hunter) believes he is intelligent and when he writes on a notepad "My name is Taylor," it makes Zira bring Taylor to the attention of her fiance Cornelius (Roddy McDowall), who has made expeditions to the "Forbidden Zone", where Taylor and crew crashed, and which we will later learn holds the secrets to the planet's past. Cornelius is skeptical that Taylor was able to survive in the Forbidden Zone and. the orangutan Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans) wants to give Taylor an labotomy because he is afraid of Taylor's intelligence. When Taylor regains his speech, a trial takes place where Zaius tries to prove Taylor is some kind of mutant created by Zira. Ultimately it all leads to the Forbidden Zone where the real orgins of the planet of the apes is revealed.

Planet of the Apes can sometimes be a stagey film, particularly since quite a bit of the film takes place in cages or in a court room. Nevertheless director Franklin J. Schaffner does bring a cinematic quality to the proceedings. The hunt sequence, which introduces us to the bizarre world that is the planet of the apes, is still frightening and intense after all these years. It also gains effectiveness by being preceeded by a buildup where the three astronauts try to find some form of life. Without the title Planet of the Apes, we wouldn't know what was going to happen until we saw the apes. Even so, the buildup to the apes makes their eventual appearance more exciting. Taylor's attempted escape from the ape compound is also well executed and suspenseful, particularly when it captures the dizzying effect of being surrounded by apes.

Heston can be very hammy here, particulary with lines like "Take you stinking paws off me, you damn drty ape" and "You tore out his brain you bloody baboon" but there's something about Heston's performance which makes the film more fun to watch and suits the insanity of the world Taylor has found himself in. If any one line encapsulates this film its Taylor's "It's a Madhouse! A madhouse!" McDowall and Hunter are really good as the most compassionate apes Taylor meets. Evans conveys Zaius' fear of what Taylor represents as well as the power Zaius himself represents.

The reason why the film holds up, apart from its famous twist ending, is that The Planet of the Apes provides intriguing social commentary which is still relevant today. Watching the film again recently I picked up on the how the film comments on faith and religion. Taylor is proposed to be the missing link in an evolutionary chain, which is decried as scientific haresy by Zaius and the other orangutans. Science is allowed in this world but not if it implies something came before apes. Taylor calls the planet of the apes an "upside down civilization," and certainly film turns our society upside down. The apes treat the humans the way we treat apes, as less intelligent beings. We're the ones being hunted and being put in cages. As an audience, seeing ourselves in cages shows us cruel we as humans can be when we don't allow certain animals to be free.

Arguably the most important comment the film makes has to do with the character of Taylor. Throughtout the early part of the film we learn Taylor has given up on mankind.When he is narrating a message to Earth on the ship at the beginning he asks whether men still fight wars. He asks this because by Earth time its over a hundred years since the ship left Earth, even though the ship time is only a few months. On the planet he tells Landon he went on this mission because there was nothing keeping him on Earth and that he feels there must be something out there better than man. One gathers he's a bit of a misanthrope. I would argue he never finds something better than man because the apes are just as bad as men. He does seem to discover an appreciation, however, for mankind. When a talking human doll is found in the Forbidden Zone he tells Zaius something was here before the apes, and it was better than apes. Moreover, at the end of the film he discovers the top of the statue of liberty on the beach. He has been home all along and never did get away from Earth. He is devastated because he truly realizes all he has known is gone, and not for the better.

Taylor's arc, his eventual realization he is home, is very Twilight Zone-esque, which is appropriate considering Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling shares screenwriting credit with Michael Wilson and reportedly came up with the twist ending.  I don't know how much of the script is Wilson's and how much is Serling's, aside from the ending, but the film never feels like it has two writers, the script works as a whole.

The original novel, which I read a number of years ago, actually had a different ending. The planet of the apes was not earth in the novel but when the astronaut Ulysse gets back to Earth he realizes it has been taken over by apes. This ending is similar to Tim Burton's 2001 reimagining of the series, which ended with Mark Wahlberg's character Leo Davidson landing in Washington only to find Abraham Lincolin's statue with the face of Tim Roth's General Thade. I think I prefer the film's ending, which pulls together the social commentary of the film and making a grand statement about our ability to destroy one another.

Planet of the Apes was followed by four sequels and they took the franchise in to fascinating directions, such as mutant humans underground who worship a doomsday device, Zira and Cornelius time travelling to Earth's past and their son Caesar becoming the leader of an ape revolutionary; but I think this film, with its simplicity yet penertrating social commentary, memorable performances, and of course its ending, which makes it the definitive journey to the planet of the apes.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" Review

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the latest film in the long running franchise which began in 1968's Planet of the Apes, with Charlton Heston demanding "Get your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape" and realizing he was on Earth all along. The original film, with its concept of an upside down civilization where apes rule over men, as well as its twist ending, concocted by Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling, has become such a huge part of our pop culture, it's sometimes hard to step back from it and analyze its subtext or to understand how this upside down civilization began, as Heston's character asks in the original film.

Director Rupert Wyatt's new film is an attempt to step back and do these very things. It's an origin story in the most minimalist of ways, hinting at the origins of the planet of the apes rather than having the apes take over the planet completely in one film. The film centers on scientist Will Rodman (James Franco), a San Francisco scientist who is trying to find a cure for Alzheimer's (his father suffers from the disease) by testing a retrovirus on chimpanzees. When one chimpanzee goes on a rampage and is killed, Will's boss Steven Jacobs orders the other chimpanzees to be put down. Will discovers the chimpanzee who was killed had become angry because she thought her baby was being threatened. The baby is taken home by Will and Will realizes the baby has inherited his mother's unique intelligence.

I liked seeing Caesar, as he is named, evolve over time. The film is an origin story and I think the film has a good understanding of what entails an origin story, particularly one which is supposed to lead to an already established universe. An origin story is really about evolution, leading to characterization of people and universes which remind viewers of established universes they know before watching the film. Moreover, Rise of the Planet of the Apes effectively uses Caesar's origin story to serve the larger origin of the universe of the planet of the apes. There is a supposedly long gap between this film and what we interpret as the planet of the apes and while the film doesn't bridge that gap, it uses that gap to create a chilling foreshadowing of what is to come. The apes create mayhem in San Fransico but they do not take over. The fact we see only one instance of the apes uprising against man is powerful because we know much worst is to come.

Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the title character in Jackson's follow up to the trilogy, King Kong, both with the use of motion capture, plays Caesar similarly, and he's terrific, giving a genuine performance, conveying the humanity of Caesar and his anger towards the humans who treat him terribly. Caesar is the most fascinating character in the film because of Serkis' performance as well as his evolution from a baby to a highly evolved chimpanzee, to a revolutionary. Franco gives a solid performance as Will and I liked his relationship with his father Charles (John Lithgow, also very good), though I feel the apes are the more compelling characters in the film. Freida Pinto from Slumdog Millionaire is wasted in the role of Will's girlfriend Caroline and Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films, seems destined to be typecast as weasly villains. As Dodge Landon, Felton doesn't get much of a character to play, being that Dodge is just the obligatory cruel human working at his father John's (Brian Cox) primate institute. There were a few perks to Felton's job though; he gets to say two of Heston's iconic lines. His "Get your stinking paws off me..." leads to one of the film's most epic moments.

The film truly becomes an epic of sorts when Caesar and his ape allies attack San Francisco. The action sequence on the Golden Gate Bridge shows Wyatt's ability to stage an action sequence which is both chaotic yet still easy to follow, as well as finding a half way point between the absurd and the epic. We have fun watching the apes fight the humans but at the same time we can take it seriously as a dramatic conflict. I wish there was little more development of the relationship between Will and Caesar though you do see Will come to care about Will as well as Caesar seperating himself from Will, particularly when he tells Will "Caesar is home" in the forest at the end of the film. Unfortunately, when the film ends, I was ready to see the sequel, but when a summer blockbuster based on a long running franchise can make you want to see what happend next, it must be doing something right...damn dirty filmmakers.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Oscar Nominations: 2012

It's almost September which means we're coming to my favourite time of the year: Oscar Season! Well, maybe's it not that time yet but certainly once we get in to the fall, the studios unleash their big guns, the films which they feel have the best chance at claiming Oscar Gold. I'm going to talk about some of the films coming out in the fall, along with films released earlier this year, in no particular order, and theorize about their Oscar chances.

J. Edgar- Clint Eastwood's biopic about the infamous head of the F.B.I, J. Edgar Hoover, is one of those films which has all the markings of an Oscar contender. It has the prestigious director, Eastwood, the leading man, Leonardo DiCaprio, diving in to the role of a real person. It's also written by the Oscar winning writer of Milk, Dustin Lance Black. I felt DiCaprio should have been nominated for Shutter Island last year and I feel he has a pretty good chance of taking the gold this year, possibly being the one to beat. Arnie Hammer, who broke out last year as th Winklevoss twins in The Social Network, plays the assistant director of the F.B.I. and rumoured lover of Hoover. I don't how much the film will delve in to Hoover's supposed homosexuality but I think Hammer will get some plum scenes with DiCaprio and may have a good chance of receiving a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Naomi Watts also stars as Hoover's secretary, Helen Gandy. Like Hammer, she's probably has ample screen time with DiCaprio and if the Best Supporting Actress race doesn't get too croweded, I can definitely see her getting a nomination. It'll be interesting to see if this is Eastwood's Oscar comeback. While Changeling and Invictus scored nominations for its actors, an Eastwood has received a Best Picture or Best Director nomination since 2006's Letters From Iwo Jima. I feel his time away from the Best Director category was a good thing, for this film at least, and a nomination this year for both him and the film, for now at least, seems like a good bet. Black also seems to have a good chance of getting a screenwriting nomination.

The Help- Controversy will get you noticed in the Oscar race but it can also hurt your chances. The Help seems like the type of film the academy loves. It deals with an important social issue, which is the treatment of black maids in 1960s Mississippi and the plight of two maids, played by Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, as well as a young white woman named Skeeter, played by Emma Stone, to reveal the truth about these conditions in a book. It's a period piece, and from the reviews it sounds like an acting showcase, and by a nearly all female cast to boot. Unfortunately, the film has been criticized for distorting historical fact as well as falling prey to the "white saviour" model of storytelling, where a story about African Americans is told through the perspective of  a white character who ultimately saves the black characters. On the other hand, I've also read things which say it is the story of the black maids more than it is about Skeeter. The controversy could hurt the film but I think it's main problem will be retaining momentum through the fall season. From the praise Davis has been getting, I think she may be close to a lock for a Best Supporting Actress nomination, or as some have been saying, a Best Actress nomination. It all depends on the campaigning. Spencer's performance has also been praised and I can both her and Davis in the Best Supporting Actress category. Stone's chances seem up in the air at the moment. She's Hollywood's new "It Girl" and seems well liked in the community, which could definitely push her in to the Best Actress category. Again, it all depends on campaigning. Some have even suggested her for the Best Supporting Actress category, where she could compete with Spencer. Davis could take a Best Actress slot. Hey, let's go even further and put Davis and Spencer both in the Best Actress race and have Stone compete with Bryce Dallas Howard or Jessica Chastain. Sorry, that's getting pretty complicated. I do have a feeling Spencer will be supporting either way. Also, in a reply tweet from Entertainment Weekly's Dave Karger, he told me the academy would probably focus more on Davis and Spencer than Stone. Maybe not getting a nomination will be the best thing for Stone since she's already been a little bit too overexposed. Tate Taylor, close friend of Kathryn Stockett, the author of the novel on which the novel is based, may not be a name people know well enough to get a best director nomination; most of the praise has been going to the actresses. A lack of a best director nomination could also hurt it's chances at a nomination for Best Picture. Again, I think it needs to keep its momentum through the season.

The Tree of Life- The film that caused a 100 walkouts, thanks to some dinosaurs and the creation of the universe. The Tree of Life's buzz seems to have died down but I think a film like this, once seen, is hard ro forget. If it gets a campaign push when it comes to DVD and Blu-Ray, I think this film, due largely to its ambition, as well the the legendary status of director Terrence Malick can get a Best Picture nomination. Winning is another matter. The Tree of Life, which juxtaposes the life a 1950s family with a sequence where we see the creation of the universe, is an impressionistic film, one which abandons a linear narrative structure and a clear cut ending. The film is a divider and that hurt its chances winning Best Picture. I think Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain are terrific as Mr. and Mrs. O'Brien but due to the impressionistic style of the film, their performances may be overlooked. The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezski and original score by a Alexandre Desplat who was just nominated for The King's Speech also have solid chances of getting nominations. I also feel the editing, which is the core of the film's aesthetic, also has a good chance of being noticed.

Midnight in Paris- Director Woody Allen's ode to romantic nostaligia has been called his best film in ages. I really liked the film but I feel it's too small a film to get a Best Picture nomination. It's best chance is probably in the Best Original Screenplay category where they may even decide to honour him for the film. Owen Wilson gives what may be his best performance here but I don't think it's the kind of role which can lead to a nomination.

Drive- Ryan Gosling, who some feel was snubbed for last year's Blue Valentine, which resulted in a Best Actress nomination for Michelle Williams, has gotten some serious buzz for his performance as a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a wheelman. The film is supposed to be excellent and it'll be interesting to see if the academy warms to it.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo- Already being marketed as "The Feel Bad Movie of Christmas," David Fincher's take on the international bestseller will rise and fall, I think on the performance of Rooney Mara as computer hacker Lisbeth Salander. Mara played Mark Zuckerberg's girlfriend in Fincher's last film The Social Network and he clearly saw something in her while they were filming and during the audition process which led Fincher to pick her over more established actresses. If Mara hits it out of the park, I think she'll have a great chance at securing a nomination. I don't know if Daniel Craig's role, despite being the lead, will be baity enough to get a nomination but only time will tell. Those who've read the novel know this is dark and gruesome material and fortunately the academy can embrace movies like this, with Black Swan being nominated this year and The Silence of the Lambs winning Best Picture nearly twenty years ago. Many feel Fincher was robbed this year for The Social Network so there is the possibility he may recieve a make-up Oscar this year.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close- Based on a novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, this film chronicles the story of nine year old Oskar, whose father died two years earlier on 9/11. He discovers a key which belonged to his father and proceeds to journey around New York to find information about the key. The film will concede with the 10 Anniversary of the attacks, which add to its emotional poignance. The academy also seems to love its director, Stephen Daldry, so I can see this possibly being a contender if its subject matter, which from what I gather exists in heightened reality, can work on film. It's been a while since Tom Hanks was nominated for an Oscar but I don't know if his role as Oskar's father will be his return to the race. It all depends on how the film is received and whether the role is fleshed out enough.

The Ides of March- George Clooney received a Best Director Nomination for his work on Good Night, and Good Luck  and I can see him getting another Best Director nomination for this political drama about a staffer (Ryan Gosling), learning about politics while on the campaign trail for a presidential candidate, played by Clooney. If the role is meaty enough, Clooney could also score a nomination or either Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor. It depends how Clooney is campaigned. I wonder if Gosling will be pushed for this film instead of Drive. I sense that Gosling is the lead and Clooney is supporting. Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti could also score nominations if their roles are big enough, though it'll probably be Clooney who gets the push.

My Week With Marilyn- Michelle Williams could score two consecutive Best Actress nominations if she's nominated for playing Marilyn Monroe in this film. It seems like the kind of role Oscar would love to nominate. Kenneth Branagh plays Laurence Olivier but I feel much of the attention will go to Williams. Emma Watson also stars but I believe her role is small so while it's not hard to see Watson getting a nomination some time down the road, it probably won't be for this film.

That's all for now. Certainly there are quite a few more films to talk about but I just wanted to touch on a few possible contenders. Hopefully the race this year will have some actual suspense and excitement.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

"Quantum of Solace" Review

                                                                                                                                                                  When I first saw Quantum of Solace in 2008 I admired the film and how it stayed true to the new vision of James Bond as presented in 2006's Casino Royale but at the same time I felt a slight disappointment because I had loved Casino Royale and somehow this film fell short of that film's greatness. When Quantum of Solace came to Blu Ray I watched it and Casino Royale back to back and found myself enjoying the film more as part of a origin larger story of James Bond, and certainly these two Bond films are the lead up to a more recognizable James Bond. Watching it again recently, I think I've finally begun to stop wringing my hands over the film and just enjoy the film as a solid entry in the Bond canon.

First, I  want to talk about why Quantum of Solace, as a film, seem a little bit "off." I think there are several factors regarding its creation which give me this feeling. For one, this film feels like an extended epilogue to Casino Royale than it does a full fledged film. This of course is the first Bond film to be a direct sequel to the film before it. The Bond films, while previously having a loose sense of continuity, have always been self contained adventures but Quantum of Solace uses the events of Casino Royale as a jumping board for this adventure. Faced with the task of making the (arguably) first genuine sequel to a Bond film, I don't feel the fillmakers knew exactly how to expand the story in to something which feels more stand alone. This film is also a sequel which seems more modest in scale than the previous entry. Quantum of Solace is a much shorter film than Casino Royale and does seem to move quicker than that film. Casino Royale was also a more ambitious film than Quantum of Solace; it set out to reboot a long running franchise for the 21st century with a rugged and controversial leading actor, and re-introducing familiar Bond elements with a twist. Casino Royale was a breath of fresh air, whereas Quantum of Solace wants to leave the audience breathless. Quantum of Solace is less concerned with being revolutionary than Casino Royale was. It's a red-blooded action pretty much all the way, but not without its tender moments.

While the scaled down quality of Quantum of Solace does throw me off a little, I like the economy and brisk pace of the film. While the Bond films are often burdened by being too long without enough substance to fill the two hour plus running times, there's not a lot of fat on its bones. While it does have its own plotline regarding a coup in Bolivia set in motion by Dominic Greene (Mathau Amalric), in order to put General Medrano (Joaquin Cosio) in power in return for control over Bolivia's water supply, the plot is kept in check, somewhat convultued but still simple enough for the film to still be essentially about Bond. I like how while this film has the set up of a revenge film, the person Bond would want revenge against is already dead. He fell in love with Vesper Lynd only for her to break his heart when she's revealed as a traitor and killed herself. Bond doesn't know quite who to turn his vengeance against. When he kills a few leads which can lead him to QUANTUM, the organization Le Chiffre worked for, it suggests Bond is "taking out" his pain on the wrong people. The film is kind of an "existential" revenge film, or better yet, an anti revenge film. This is not to say its preaching against revenge so much as its about Bond moving past his feelings of vengeance and becoming the 007 we know and (sometimes) love.

I like how the main Bond Woman, Camille (Olga Kurylenko) has actual motivation, which gives her a purpose in the narrative aside from just being the Bond Woman. She has gotten close to Greene in order to kill Medrano for killing her family. Unlike Bond, she does have a definitive target for her revenge but by the end of the film she becomes Bond's partner. They learn to trust one another and the mission becomes more than just about revenge but about stopping QUANTUM. The second Bond Woman, Agent Fields (Gemma Arterton), has a few fun moments with Bond but she doesn't get to really develop as a character and feels like she's just there to be a reference to Goldfinger.

I also wish Jeffrey Wright, returning as Bond's CIA friend Felix Leiter hadn't been so underused. I always find the Bond films play down their relationship while it comes through more in Ian Fleming's novels. However, I did like how they played the Rick Blaine card, having Bond say Felix isn't as cynical as he pretends to be. The CIA is turning a blind eye towards Greene's operation yet they are not portrayed as villains, which I thought was nice touch. As Bond's friend Rene Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) says, when one gets older, it's harder to tell the good guys from the bad, which comes from a passage in the novel Casino Royale. 

With sequels, we sometimes think of them as being darker than the original film. In Quantum of Solace's case, it's not so much a darker film but a more melancholic film. I think the reason why the film can feel disappointing is because it's a film about disappointment, of knowing you'll never get the one you love back and the only thing left to do is forgive that person for leaving you and to forgive yourself. The film, while very action driven, is never soulless. The scenes between Bond and Mathis expand upon their relationship in Casino Royale and I love their final moments together as Mathis is dying; Mathis tells him to forgive Vesper and to forgive himself. When Mathis dies, it's a genuinely sad moment since we've come to like the character.

Marc Forster, who replaced Casino Royale's Martin Campbell as a director does a really fine job of hitting the appropriate emotional beats, making the film feel like an authentic human drama. He has been criticized for not being a good  action director but I don't have a huge problem with his action scenes. I do like the frantic editing at the beginning of the car chase at the start of the film and I love the final assault on Greene's hotel. I like how it's similar to the typical Bond Villain fortress but more grounded in the real world.

I still would have liked to see Bond's two conversations with Greene and Vesper's boyfriend who tricked Vesper in to working for QUANTUM by being faux-kidnapped, though I understand how those things may be better left to the imagination.

Quantum of Solace, like the Timothy Dalton Bond entries, is a divider among Bond fans. I usually like the dividers and Quantum of Solace, while starting out as somewhat of a disappointment, and a way still is, is nevertheless a very humane and unique entry in the James Bond mythos.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

All The Time in the World: "On Her Majesty's Secret Service"

I think On Her Majesty's Secret Service stands as one of the most undervalued entries in the James Bond series and  may be my second favourite James Bond film after 2006's Casino Royale. What these two films share in common is the sense of really digging, or at least trying to, in to the character of James Bond, making him recognizably human instead of being a super spy who exists a little too far above reality. The scale of the film is also more grounded than previous entries, still containing the kind of spectacle one would want from a Bond film but moving away from hollowed out volcanoes and gadgets.

The reason why On Her Majesty's Secret Service is still not as widely considered one of the best James Bond films the same way Goldfinger is probably due to the controversy regarding its leading actor. When Sean Connery retired from the role after You Only Live Twice (1967), Bond film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman were faced with a challenge which, while a huge undertaking even now, was arguably the most daunting task they had yet to face, the casting of a new James Bond. They made a surprising choice, an Austrailian model with no acting experience outside of commericials, George Lazenby. Lazenby only played Bond once and is considered by many to be the weakest of the actors to play the character. For an inexperienced actor I think Lazenby gives a solid performance as Bond. While he's not as charismatic as Connery, I feel this benefits the film. This Bond is supposed to be a more grounded version of the character and Lazenby's greenness in the role conveys a certain normalcy. Nevertheless, physically he is believable as someone who can handle himself in a fight and its Lazenby's physicality in the role is what is usually praised in his performance.

The plot of the film deals with Bond's determination to take down  the head of SPECTRE, Ernest Stravo Blofeld (Telly Salvalas). Marc-Ange Draco (Gabriele Ferzetti), head of the largest crime syndicate in Europe offers Bond information on Blofeld's location in exchange for Bond marrying his daughter Tracy di Vicenzo (Dianna Rigg), who Bond had saved from committing suicide in the pre title sequence. Bond is at first hesitant about wooing Tracy, saying he prefers the bachelor life, and certainly we've seen that from the previous entries in the series. Eventually him and Tracy do start to fall in love and we get a lovely montage not seen in a Bond film until now of Bond and Tracy spending time together, set to Louis Armstrong's touching song "We Have All the Time in the World." The montage is without dialogue but with simple images and music the film captures the joy and poignancy of falling in love for the first time.

The middle section of the film involves going uncover as geneologist Hilary Bray at Blofeld's clinical research insitute in the Alps. Unfortunately, Lazenby is dubbed by George Baker, who plays the real Bray and I think it distracts a little from Lazenby's performance. Blofeld wants to claim the title of  'Comte Balthazar de Bleuchamp,' giving Bond the perfect in. Bond soon discovers Blofeld is brainwashing ten young women to bateriological warfare agents in to the world. Blofeld, in typical Blofeld fashion will hold the world ransom; and in typical Bond villain fashion explains the plot to Bond even when he figures out Bray is Bond. It's a fun little continuity error that Blofeld only seems to know Bray is Bond after he slips up a geneological detail even though Bond and Blofeld met face to face in You Only Live Twice. This may be due to the faithfulness of On Her Majesty's Secret Service to Ian Fleming's original novel, which comes before You Only Live Twice in the novel chronology. One could also chalk this up to Bond getting plastic surgery, which was the original idea to explain why Bond know longer looking like Sean Connery.

Salvalas is sometimes criticized as playing Blofeld like a mob boss but I like his performance quite a bit and feel he is the best Blofeld. His Blofeld, like Lazenby's Bond, is more grounded than previous incarnations. Blofeld is no longer just a hand stroking a cat, his face unseen, nor is he the Dr. Evil-ish figure played by Donald Pleasance in You Only Live Twice. He's determined and subtly sinister, and I wish Salvalas had a few more dialogue scenes.

Dianna Rigg is arguably the best Bond girl in the series though I think I still love Honor Blackman and Shirley Eaton in Goldfinger more. Nevertheless, until Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale nearly forty years later, I think Tracy is the most complicated Bond Woman in the series. She is strong willed yet, as we see at the beginning when she tries to drown herself, she still has the desire to die. She is independent yet still needs Bond to give her a future, as she says at the end of the film.

When Bond goes to Blofeld's clinic, the love story is put on hold, only for Tracy to rescue Bond when he escapes the clinic and is being chased by Blofeld and his men. They share a wonderful scene in a barn where Bond is at his most vulnerable. He tells Tracy he'll never find another girl like her and asks her to marry him. I would have liked a final scene between Bond and Tracy before he left on the mission and maybe a little bit more of Tracy back home as well as a lead up to when she meets Bond yet again. Nevertheless I feel the film does a good love of giving equal weight to both the spy and love story, and of course the tragic ending brings them completely together.

After Bond and Draco save Tracy from Blofeld's clinic and foil Blofeld's plan once again, Bond and Tracy do get married. As they stop their car to clear off some of the flowers, Blofeld comes driving by with his henchwoman Irma Bunt (Ilse Steppat) firing a machine gun at the car. Bond gets in the car, discovering Tracy has been shot and killed. A police officer drives up and in Bond tells him Tracy is just resting and that they have all the time in the world. Lazenby's speech is all done in one take and I think this is his best moment on screen. Heartbroken and in shock, unable to truly say what he must feel, he pretends like everything is okay. As he puts his head in her dress and sobs, it's devastating and shows a real courage by the filmmakers to stay true to Fleming's vision of a world where Bond constantly has his heartbroken but remains a survivor in the only world he'll probably ever know, the world of a spy, where true happiness can be taken away in an instance.

Peter Hunt, who had been a editor on the previous Bond films, sat in to the director's chair this time and I feel his work as an editor aided him very well in putting together the action sequences with his editor John Glen, who would also go on to direct all the Bond films in the 1980s. The action is intense and fast but still easy to follow geographically. I like the zoom ins during the pre title sequence when Bond throws his punches.

Lazenby felt Bond would not survive in to the seventies so he quit the role and as a result I don't think he's ever transcended the label of "that guy who only did one movie," though he undeniably has admirers. I count myself as one. If he had played Bond a few more times he may have found his groove. The next film, Diamonds are Forever (1971), suffers from feeling like it ignores On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and it's only until The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), where Tracy is mentioned. It's a shame that the series ditched much of the seriousness of this entry and became lighter and more about the gadgets than Bond's character. Still, On Her Majesty's Secret Service is a poignant, funny, exciting, and ultimately tragic film which gives us what feels like an authentic human being in James Bond. It's not just a great Bond film, it's a great film on its own terms as well.