This documentary is subtitled; ‘The Untold Story of 007’, it doesn’t tell a huge amount of things that fans won’t already know but it does try to tell the whole story of Bond from his conception by Ian Fleming (including archive footage of the man himself) to the present day. There are still a number of lesser-known facts and anecdotes though; for example the story of how George Lazenby basically tricked his way into being the shortest lived Bond is quite amusing.
Throughout, the film is interspersed with various clips from all the films, used to represent the real life events being described. It’s a slightly risky technique and often employs clips of less well-known moments but works well. It also utilises a lot of the excellent score music (mostly John Barry of course) from the series as a backdrop.
Being an official EON production, one could fear that it might skip over some of the more negative sides of the story but it doesn’t really seem to. It addresses the points when the series was deemed to have gone too far off the rails (‘Moonraker’, ‘Die Another Day’) and the public reaction to some more controversial decisions, such as Daniel Craig’s initial casting (though they proved themselves right on that one).
Nearly all of the still living key players are interviewed, Roger Moore, in his old age, is as lovely and charming as ever, particularly when reflecting on his more embarrassing moments. Lazenby is a little self-deprecating, but also seems regretful of some of his decisions. Dalton offers an intelligently argued defence of the direction his films took, and it’s great to see Pierce Brosnan’s uproarious laughter at the stupidity of ‘Die Another Day’.
In addition, most of the behind the scenes information comes from the family members of the two original producers, Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli, charting their dynamic relationship with the series, and each other.
There is of course one glaring, but predictable absence to the proceedings, that of Sean Connery, something that does result in him coming across rather poorly. I’m sure the producers tried to secure him for an interview for this documentary and it’s a shame he isn’t there to defend himself and offer his side of the story, as it would undoubtedly have improved it.
There is also a good deal of time spent addressing the legal troubles of the series, spearheaded by Kevin McClory, who seemingly dedicated his later life to suing Eon over the rights to Bond, which ultimately caused the near end of the series, and the production of ‘Never Say Never Again’.
Overall, the documentary does get through the whole 50+ year history of the character, but at just over 90 minutes seems not long enough to get into much detail. It skims through a lot of time at a very quick pace and really left me wanting more. I imagine they could have made a 4 hour documentary on the story without being over indulgent. And it’s a bit of a shame that it doesn’t include the triumph of ‘Skyfall’ as its conclusion. Still, I don’t imagine it’s the last time anyone will make a Bond documentary.