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Everything or Nothing: Film Review

Cubby Broccoli Sean Connery Ian Fleming Harry Saltzman - H 2012
1962 Danjaq, LLC & United Artists Corporation

The Bottom Line

Lively doc focuses on how the Bond mythology has changed over time.

Opens

Friday, Oct. 5 in UK (Sony)

Venue

Hamptons Film Festival, World Cinema: Documentary

Director

Stevan Riley

Stevan Riley lets producers speak more than anyone in his chronicle of the James Bond books and movies.

HAMPTONS — Celebrating five decades of 007 films without quite feeling like a self-congratulating corporate puff piece, Stevan Riley's Everything or Nothing follows the character's evolution from Ian Fleming's troubled soul through to Daniel Craig's brawny current incarnation. An enjoyable ride with just enough behind-the-scenes drama to keep things interesting, the film will please fans at fests and on Epix, where it premieres simultaneously. (On Bond's United Kingdom home turf, Sony will bring it to big screens.)

Focusing less on the character's cultural impact than on how he came to life, Riley gives us few outside voices to put the superspy myth in perspective. (One exception being Bill Clinton, who testifies to the crowd-pleasing power of seeing one man take on an army.) He doesn't even spend as much time as expected with the actors who supported the various Bonds: Though current M, Judi Dench, appears, Riley can't find time for others (Richard Kiel, for instance, who played "Jaws") who left their mark on the brand.

Instead he focuses on the family and associates of the three men he views as most important: Fleming and series producers Harry Saltzman and "Cubby" Broccoli. Reminiscences about Fleming are enlightening and poignant, speaking to the dark core of James Bond -- the "sex, snobbery and sadism" that has sometimes been hidden beneath gadgetry and one-liners. But even though Saltzman's and Broccoli's children (especially the latter) have seen more of this story than anyone, some viewers will wish they were less prominent here -- making room for, say, vintage clips of key participants (composer John Barry, cast members from the early films) who are no longer alive to share their recollections.

The leading men are here, of course, with the glaring (if predictable) exception of the man whose importance to the series may be second only to Fleming's: Sean Connery, whose falling out with the producers is well chronicled here, is not interviewed. Each of the actors who followed Connery is entertaining in his turn, and many viewers will find themselves sympathizing with even their least-favorite Bonds: George Lazenby charmingly recalls how the role went to his head; Timothy Dalton is portrayed as the victim of bad timing and corporate cowardice. Pacifist Roger Moore scolds himself for the rare moments of real Bondian brutishness he allowed into his famously tongue-in-cheek interpretation, while Pierce Brosnan admits that, after losing the role once and finally landing it, he only really remembers GoldenEye.

Editor Claire Ferguson does a very fine job of using clips from the films as light-hearted illustrations of off-screen drama. While these stories are occasionally poignant, the only one with real narrative pull is the decades-long campaign by producer Kevin McClory (who won rights to Thunderball in a dispute over authorship) to claim James Bond as his own.

Production Companies: Passion Pictures, Red Box Films
Director: Stevan Riley
Screenwriters: Stevan Riley, Peter Ettedgui
Producers: John Battsek, Simon Chinn
Executive producer: Andrew Ruhemann
Editor: Claire Ferguson
No rating, 97 minutes