Documented: Everything or Nothing

Everything or Nothing.jpg

When I was in college TBS used to air 15 days of 007, usually in late November and usually right before finals. I was forced to choose between watching Dr. No for the 12th time or learning Rhetoric and Western Thought for the first time. James Bond won. My GPA did not.

The James Bond films are the longest running major motion picture series in history, spanning 50 years and 6 leading men. I haven’t counted the Bond girls, I am not opposed to trying. With all the history of the series, the behind the scenes story of the franchise would seem to be as rich as the movies themselves. Everything or Nothing, the Untold Story of 007 tells much of that story and does the job incredibly well.

Everything or Nothing begins at the beginning with Ian Fleming, the author of the original series of books.  The first thing you notice is that most of the key players in the development of the series lived way cooler lives than you or I do. (I don't know you. I'm making an assumption. I'm sure you wear a tuxedo, carry a gun, and hang from that one part of the helicopter.) Fleming worked for British Naval Intelligence during the Second World War and much of his framing of the James Bond legend came from the blueprints of real field agents. Mostly Fleming’s life could be summed up by the Bond ethos that the world is not enough. He was a desk jock during the war, he wanted more so he wrote James Bond from his Jamaican beach getaway Goldeneye. GOLDENEYE!

Dr. No, the film that launched the series.

Dr. No, the film that launched the series.

The documentary revolves around Fleming and two producers, Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. Cubby and Saltzman came together to create the James Bond movies we know today. Their vision guided the process. Their partnership, like most, didn’t end well, but it is an interesting and well documented ride. We learn the genesis of the name James Bond, the earlier film adaptations, including one version of Casino Royal where James Bond was an American named Jimmy Bond. Thankfully Jimmy Bond didn’t last and Sean Connery came along to save the series. The casting decisions and infighting are well worth your time.

Speaking of the Bonds themselves, the George Lazenby section is greatness. I don’t know that I believe a word that comes out of his mouth, but he can certainly tell a story. If half of what he says is true then wow. All I can say is wow. Connery was the only Bond not interviewed for the documentary and that omission left a void, but the rest of the Bonds made for good insight. They even dig up Timothy Dalton. He talked about his movies with a straight face. I respect that.

The George Lazenby section is entertaining. I don’t know that I believe a word that comes out of his mouth, but he can certainly tell a story.

Seeing how the films came together stylistically was also great. Director Terence Young was a playboy former tank commander. He was at Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands. He was, surprisingly, responsible for Connery's on camera style, a style that continues into the modern films. Designer Ken Adam was a former fighter pilot. Adam designed the underground lairs, the hazmat-like space suits, and the awesome room decor. He also could have been a real life member of Inglorius Basterds. Do we have directors and designers like this anymore? Do they all wear skinny jeans now?

George Lazenby, the forgotten Bond. 

George Lazenby, the forgotten Bond. 

The style of the documentary is probably the most endearing component. The film makers splice in Bond clips that sync with the behind the scenes story. For example, the pitch to the studios Columbia and United Artists as to which would sign on to make the movies combines ticking time bombs, rogue villians, and mass transit scenes, all from the Bond films, all edited together to tell the story. Ex-United Artists President David Picker knows where the bodies are buried. Let's get that man on camera to talk about other stuff. Just a thought. The music is all Bond all the time and the movie is not driven by a narrator but by the interviews. The pacing is good with no lapses. Watching the films evolve and develop and influencers come and go is captivating.

 Look, I’m a fan of the Bond series. I’d grow a beard, live on ramen and avoid natural light if a Bond marathon came on. I have no objectivity. If this were about the making of the Twilight series I’d write two sentences that ended in awful and terrible and call it a night. So…it comes as no surprise when I say this is a great documentary. I’ve watched it 2.5 times. I also think I’m not a total homer when I say the mix of story and style is excellent.

 See for yourselves. Everything or Nothing is on Netflix Instant View.

Posted on January 25, 2013 .