007: TOP 10 PRE-TITLE SEQUENCES
007: TOP 10 PRE-TITLE SEQUENCES
Ahead of the opening of No Time to Die (at last), David Black compares previous Bond movies to choose the top ten pre-title sequences.
In a tradition that started with From Russia With Love, every Bond film has started with a teaser. A sign of things to come. Some are firmly connected to the movie's plot, some only tangentially and some not at all. Here's ten of the best, and one that wasn't so great...
10. Live And Let Die (1973)
At the UN in New York, Dawes (James Drake), a British agent listening to a translation of a speech in Hungarian is killed by an ultrasonic sound played through his earpiece. In Louisiana, another agent, Hamilton (Robert Dix) is staking out a local Fillet Of Soul restaurant when a funeral procession passes by. He asks whose funeral it is and is told “Yours!” as a flick-knife slips between his ribs. The empty coffin is lowered on to Hamilton's prone body and somehow carries him away from the scene of the crime, while the mourners break into jubilant celebration. Meanwhile on San Monique, an island in the Caribbean, a third agent, Baines (Dennis Edwards), is tied to a post, bitten by a poisonous snake and dies instantly.
Taking the opposite tack to On Her Majesty's Secret Service, which used the opening scenes to reassure the audience of a new lead actor, this was the first and only time Bond (in this case, Roger Moore) does not appear at all before the titles. Instead we open with a trio of murders that are are all brilliant, but placing the fantastic Louisiana sequence in the middle renders the ritualistic voodoo sacrifice almost tame by comparison.
9. Skyfall (2012)
Bond (Daniel Craig) chases Patrice (Ola Rapace), an assassin with a vital hard drive in his possession, over the roof of the Grand Bazaar and on to a nearby bridge. Patrice and Bond leap on to a moving train as it passes underneath the bridge, while Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) follows by road. Bond climbs into a digger being transported as cargo on the train and crushes a number of cars with it attempting to get closer to Patrice, who shoots him in the shoulder. Bond uses the digger's excavator arms to shield himself from gunfire and then to climb from one carriage to the next. 007 follows Patrice down the train and they fight on the roof. Meanwhile, Moneypenny runs out of road and sets herself up as a sniper. As the train rounds the bend, she shoots Bond and he falls into a river below, presumed dead, while Patrice escapes.
The land-cover chase around the Grand Bazaar, the bike chase over it and the fight on the train – this opening relentlessly shares fantastic action sequence after fantastic action sequence but, unlike other examples, we never lose sight of what's important.
8. GoldenEye (1995)
James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) bungee jumps off a dam and infiltrates the toilets of a top-secret Soviet chemical-weapons production facility. He meets 006 (Sean Bean) and they attempt to destroy it. Bond sets the timer on a bomb, while 006 stands guard. The Russians attack and catch 006, while Bond speeds up the timer. Russian General Ourumov (Gottfried John) apparently kills 006 and then one of his own men for shooting near the gas canisters. Bond escapes on a conveyor belt shooting open a cage and sending hundreds of metal canisters raining down on the Russians. On the surface, Bond tries to steal an aeroplane as it taxis down the runway, but whilst throwing the pilot out, he is pulled out as well. 007 grabs a motorbike and rides after the plane at over a precipice at the end of the runway. Bond freefalls into the cockpit and flies the plane to safety as the bomb goes off.
For the first time the opening sequence is used as a flashback. The opening 220-metre bungee jump is fantastic and set a world record. The new Bond is revealed to us slowly: first his stunt double, then his eyes in extreme close-up, then his face in silhouette and upside down. The double act with 006 works well and Ourumov's callous treatment of his own soldiers sets him up well as the villain. The closing stunt sequence is equally impressive, but never gets the recognition it deserves.
7. Spectre (2015)
During the Day Of The Dead festivities in Mexico City, Bond (Craig) dresses up as a skeletal figure and accompanies a woman back to her hotel room. As she makes herself comfortable on the bed, she is surprised to see Bond out of costume and climbing out of the window. He walks to the next building and observes terrorists discussing the bombing of a stadium. Bond kills a number of them, but an explosion tears through the building and brings the whole thing down, causing the building Bond is stood on to begin to collapse as well. Suddenly at ground level, Bond chases Sciarra (Alesandro Cremona) through the devastation and the crowds to a helicopter as it lands. Bond clambers in and brawls with Sciarra and the pilot while the chopper sways dangerously over the heads of thousands of assembled revellers. Bond steals Sciarra's ring, before kicking him out. The helicopter does a loop de loop as the pilot tries to regain control, but Bond chucks him out as well. As 007 levels out and flies out over the skyline of the Mexican capital, he takes a moment to look at the octopus symbol on the ring.
Beginning with the caption 'The dead are alive' and what is ostensibly one long four-minute tracking shot, the Day of the Dead parade offers wonderful spectacle for everything that unfolds here and is entirely an invention of the film, but life imitated art and the parade became part of festivities the year after. The domino effect of the collapsing buildings and the helicopter fight sequence are both magnificent action pieces. In story terms, this is essentially a twelve-and-a-half minute sequence to give Bond an opportunity to steal Sciarra's bling, but because it is beautifully shot and engaging, it never seems gratuitous.
6. Die Another Day (2002)
Bond (Brosnan) surfs into North Korea and trades places with a conflict diamond trader in order to get close to Colonel Moon (Will Yun Lee), but 007 booby traps the diamonds with C-4. Bond gets caught, but before the firing squad can shoot him he blows the C-4 with his watch. He steals a hovercraft and chases Moon across a minefield and off a cliff. Bond jumps clear, but detained by the North Korean military and tortured.
Bond loses! This appears to be business as usual right up until Bond's arrest. This is how you surprise the audience. Don't waste time pretending that you've killed your leading man again. Put him through the wringer instead. This is of comparable duration to its immediate predecessor and hits many similar beats, but here the hovercraft chase is great and while the surfing is a little cheesy it doesn't outstay its welcome. Moon and Zao are immediately well-drawn characters. Many a Bond opening sequence has led into the imagery of the titles, but never to this extent. The scenes of Bond being tortured are woven throughout, although 007 is presumably spared listening to Madonna's electropop theme. It begs the question whether Bond can see the naked lava women, for that matter maybe all the title sequences are his hallucinations...
5. You Only Live Twice (1967)
A US space capsule is swallowed by an unidentified object. Back on Earth, the USA blames the USSR, while the Brits tracked the latter spacecraft's descent to the Sea of Japan. Meanwhile in Hong Kong, Bond (Sean Connery) engages in some unfortunate pillow talk and is then apparently killed by two men armed with machine guns, they are swiftly followed by the British authorities who confirm that Bond is indeed dead.
This is pretty epic. The conflict in space, followed by the geopolitics of the world stage and then by Bond's death. This time it's a death that seems far less equivocal than that of From Russia With Love (below).
4. Casino Royale (2005)
In Prague, Czech Republic, Bond (Craig) has been sent to kill corrupt section chief Dryden (Malcolm Sinclair). Dryden tells him that it takes two kills to become a Double-0. Bond reveals that he killed Dryden's contact and that Dryden himself will be his second. Dryden implies that the second killing is easier than the first. Bond puts a bullet in him and agrees.
Excellent. Presented in moody black and white, cutting from a genteel conversation about murder to a gritty fight scene flashback that depicts it. This opening scene shows us the moment that Bond became 007 and the new philosophy of the Bond franchise.
3. From Russia With Love (1963)
Bond (Connery) is being followed around a maze by Red Grant (Robert Shaw) who catches up to him and strangles him with a wire hidden in his watch in exactly 1 minute 52 seconds. The garden is illuminated and it's revealed that 'Bond' is another man wearing a flawless mask and that he was killed for an audience.
I doubt that anybody really believed Bond was dead, but the first pre-titles sequence provides a great image that sets up the character of Red Grant as a suitable opponent for 007 and the lengths that SPECTRE will go to to train him.
2. Goldfinger (1963)
Bond (Connery) emerges from the water to destroy the base of a Mexican drug lord before peeling off his wetsuit to reveal a white tuxedo underneath. He interrupts a bathing belly dancer and spots an imminent attacker reflected in her eyes. Bond electrocutes his adversary in the bath.
This is the first pre-title sequence that has no real connection to the rest of the film, but it provides the perfect visual metaphor for the character of Bond as he effortlessly moves from wetsuit to white suit. It also offers us the first quip of the film as Bond mocks the death of Cajungo, whose name is Spanish for thug so he never really had a chance to be anything else. If you hadn't seen the first two films, this sequence tells you everything you need to know about 007.
1. The Living Daylights (1987)
Bond (Dalton) and two other 00 agents parachute down onto Gibraltar to take part in a training exercise. 002 (Glyn Baker) is caught almost immediately by a British soldier, but 004 (Frederick Warder) is killed by an assassin (Carl Rigg) and labelled 'smiert spionom'. 007 goes after the assassin, leaping on to his stolen land rover filled with explosives. The assassin drives off the Ministry of Defence base and into tourist traffic, through an outdoor cafe and up into the air as Bond and the assassin fight for control of the vehicle. Bond deploys his reserve parachute and is pulled upwards as the falling land rover explodes killing the assassin. Bond drifts down on to a pleasure yacht where Linda (Belle Avery) makes him very welcome as he contacts his superiors.
Timothy Dalton's first film opens with a fantastic action sequence. 'Smiert Spionom' means 'Death to Spies', and seeing two of 007's peers die, one in the exercise, one fatally, is a great way to establish that Bond really is the best of the best. The “Bond, James Bond” introduction is underplayed and all the better for it. One of the oft-repeated myths about The Living Daylights is that fears about HIV meant that there is only one 'Bond girl' in the film, but everybody seems to forget Linda. Poor champagne-drinking millionairess yachtswoman Linda.
Special Mention: The World Is Not Enough (1999)
In Bilbao, Spain, Bond (Brosnan) meets with a Swiss banker to take receipt of a large sum of money and information on the identity of the killer of an MI6 agent. The meeting does not go well and the banker's secretary (Maria Grazia Cucinotta) kills him before he can reveal anything. She flees and Bond follows, in the next room he is threatened by a goon, who is promptly shot by a sniper. Bond ties cord to an unconscious henchman and around his own waist before leaping off a balcony several storeys up. Bond walks away with the cash. Back in London, Bond returns the money to Sir Robert King (David Calder) and when they are reunited they both explode, blowing a hole in MI6's HQ. Peering out, Bond sees the secretary watching from a boat in the Thames. Bond gives chase in an experimental boat from Q (Desmond Llewelyn), but she attempts escape in a hot air balloon with Bond hanging from a rope beneath her. She shoots the balloon's gas tank and it explodes killing her rather than let herself be arrested. Bond falls down on to the Millennium Dome and breaks his collarbone.
No Time to Die is in cinemas from September 30.