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James Bond films.
Great action. Great cars. Great looking girls. Great gadgets. Great theme songs. Well, some of them.
And great “gunbarrel” sequences.
Yes – the introduction of a James Bond film starts with this famous sequence. As a kid I always got a kick watching it, and as I’ve watched the Bond films over the years I’ve been fascinated by how the different actors (Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig) have played James Bond, and in particular, the way they approach this famous ‘gunbarrel’ sequence.
What I’ve come across is that the actors that have played the famous british secret service agent can, in some instances, be defined by how they approach this very important sequence. It introduces us not only to MI6’s most famous agent but also gives us a very short glimpse of the actor’s style. It’s a very simple act – just walk along and quickly turn to the camera and shoot, but every actor that has played Bond have had their own method of performing this very small – but very crucial act.
As you read below, I have studied how each actor performs this sequence, and have also ranked them according to style, technique and in relation to how they played the role.
Starting from my least favourite to the best, we have:
7. Robert Simmons
Simmons was the Bond Stuntman who stood in for Connery for the first Bond sequence on Dr No – so he needs to be mentioned. (Connery would perform his gunbarrel sequence later on Thunderball. Simmons’ approach is very slow, but he hops awkwardly (somewhat telegraphed) to make the deadly shot – he moves well away to the left of the shooters frame, making him an elusive target. He also seems to press the trigger and shoot up at the ceiling while coming down. Great if the villain was hiding in a tree (great observation Vaughan). Even though he did not play James Bond, he is placed on this list because of its significance that he is the very first person to perform the gunbarrel sequence.
6. George Lazenby
His gunbarrel sequence is the worst of the actors who’ve played Bond. He’s the only one who shoots bending down on one knee. Also wearing the fedora hat, his delivery is too flamboyant, too polished, too posed. He might as well burst into song at the end. If anything, he does get points for the element of surprise by bending down suddenly which makes him a harder target, but overall it’s not what Bond would do – it’s more Broadway than Bond and places his gunbarrel sequence well down the list.
5. Sean Connery
Shock horror. The Bond of all Bonds – Connery’s take on the secret agent was picture perfect – all brooding with charms to match. Unfortunately (and surprisingly) his gunbarrel sequence doesn’t match any of that. It actually dispels my original theory but Connery is the only Bond that does this. His approach is smooth, but his delivery of the deadly shot is awkward and jumpy. He’s off balance, shaking as he shoots. Connery looks like he’s about to drop his weapon than shoot it. And then trip up and fall over. Oh dear. Add to that, his final pose, despite crouching down which is technically correct, visually – it’s the ugliest looking pose of all the Bonds. So, despite Connery being tagged the best James Bond (and for me he still is), his gunbarrel sequence is sadly along with Lazenby, one of the worst. Sorry Sean.
Along with Daniel Craig, he’s the only other Actor who’s performed the gunbarrel sequence more than once. And he has the rather dubious honor of having both the ‘quickest’ and ‘slowest’ gunshot.
His first two bond films Live and let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun:
The fedora hat now discarded, the early Roger Moore shows him as the quickest shot of the Bonds, and he is the only one who uses two hands. Using his other arm as a brace, its a sudden movement and is technically correct. Fast? Absolutely. Accurate? Not really. He fires the shot a few centimetres to the right of where he finally ends up. This gunshot is very unlike Moore – it’s too clinical and rushed, lacking that charm and humour which he brought to the role of Bond in his later films.
From The Spy who Loved me to a View to a Kill:
Moore breaks away from the business suit of previous Bond sequences – he is the first to wear a tuxedo. (Every other Bond after him would follow suit with the exception of Craig in Casino Royale- which will be explained later). Here a much more smooth and efficient Moore enters. He still uses two hands – but looks more comfortable than the previous version, and his shot is more accurate. But his delivery is the slowest of all the Bond gunbarrel sequences. The movement was how Moore was playing Bond at the time – smooth and relaxed (maybe too relaxed, which was a criticism of his take on Bond). Other bloggers have ranked this sequence the best – but as an agent licence to kill your gunshot should be much quicker. Certainly looks good though. Rest in peace Roger.
3. Daniel Craig
Craig brings a rawness – and it shows in his two versions of the gunbarrel sequence. The Casino Royale version breaks tradition and is shown in the first section of the film. It’s a great ‘spin’ (pun aside) on the gunbarrel sequence– in his delivery, he spins around fast and his shot is straight and true. It’s set in a rather undignified setting – he’s located in the mens’ toilet – and he’s not wearing a tie. Fast and furious, this will be the manner in which Craig will play the role in the film.
In Quantum of Solace he also breaks tradition as the gunbarrel sequence is shown at the end of the film – Craigs’ entrance is hurried and plain arrogant – his delivery of the deadly shot is quick, standing upright. He also seems to be shooting at the head of his victim. (notice his arm is lifted up more than the others who shoot slightly lower) This smug arrogance continues as he walks out of the picture after he takes the shot without hesitation (he’s the first Bond to do this). The only hang-up is that the overall sequence appears too rushed and he is positioned quite a distance from the gunbarrel. Hopefully, this is a deliberate ploy from the producers and a more assured and definitive Craig gunbarrel version will appear in Skyfall. But alas, from first looks at the gunbarrel sequence (at the end of the film) – it looks even worse. Craig’s approach is ok but his release of the shot is good but his movements appear stiff and not smooth as the others – it looks almost telegraphed – and he comes across like a little kid shooting a gun rather than an assured OO7 Licence to Kill. I thought this would be so much better.
And in Spectre (see below) he royally stuffs it up even before he gets to his stance – by showing the gun as he’s walking!
Another secret agent with a licence to kill would’ve seen that a mile away and brought him down before he hit his stance.
It’s a damn shame because his final stance is an improvement from Skyfall.
But seriously Daniel. It’s not good. Please do better in your last film.
2. Pierce Brosnan
A smooth walking style, the delivery is ultra quick – Brosnan stands up straight when he delivers the gunshot. Great. Vaughan thinks there’s a real touch of ‘bad-ass’ about it – but for me he’s too upright which makes him an easy target. He’s also the only Bond who shoots a bullet back into the gunbarrel from Die Another Day– a special one-off special effect to commemorate the 40th anniversary. Also the gunbarrel is computer generated which detracts somewhat. And on Goldeneye the traditional John Barry score is replaced by a synthesiser version which detracts even more. Despite the flaw in his technique, I rank Brosnan second and just pips Craig simply because his is the best paced and the best looking visually. Stylish and effortless, it’s delivered with such panache – which is how Brosnan would play 007. It’s probably what George Lazenby was thinking when he did his sequence but never quite pulled off. So kudos to Pierce Brosnan for his sequence. But seriously, he was always too Remington Steele to be a convincing 007 for me. Goldeneye was brilliant. But Die Another Day? Enough said.
And surprise, surprise the number spot goes to:
1. Timothy Dalton
Walking in a confident manner, his shot is low and quick from the hip. He’s crouched and leans slightly towards the right – making him a harder target. He is poised and balanced when he takes the shot – it’s a sweeping move and has a very natural flow. There is no show of arrogance or extravagance. In my opinion Dalton is the most technically correct of all the Bond gunbarrel sequences. He fires the gun at the perfect time – which is right at the end of his move. (The others seem to press the trigger before they get to their final position). His movements are economical and efficient – the valued traits of an agent who is Licensed to Kill. His take on Bond gets a lot of stick, but his gunbarrel sequence fits perfectly with how he portrayed Bond. Serious. Tough. Hard-nosed . No-nonsense. For my money his sequence is the best of all of them.
On a side note, Dalton’s unused gunbarrel sequences on Youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dm8z7Dxi3Q4 – are interesting to watch too. The first one is really wild, and the second was used for the Music video “The Living Daylights’ by A-ha, which is a bit closer to the one they finally used on film. Pays to have a few goes at it I suppose.
So there you go. Your thoughts may differ (even considerably) but take a look at the sequences in succession and see what you think. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wr_PGZtP0UM
And thanks to my nephew Vaughan for his insightful comments!