I was saddened to read the news that director Michael Apted had passed away at the age of 79. He was a prolific director who turned his hand to many genres, from innovative documentary series to biopic and even a Bond movie. He will be missed, but his legacy of great movies is for all of us to enjoy.
Coal Miner’s Daughter
- Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn
- Tommy Lee Jones as Doolittle Lynn
- Beverly D’Angelo as Patsy Cline
- Levon Helm as Ted Webb
- Phyllis Boyens as Clary Webb
Based on the life of the queen of country music Loretta Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter emerges as a superb biopic, thanks in no small part to the Oscar-winning performance from Sissy Spacek and direction from Michael Apted.
Opening up in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, we see Loretta as a 15-year-old girl and daughter of a coal miner, one of eight children living on a cabin on a hill. The family is poor, but make their best of what they have at their disposal. Loretta falls for Doolittle Lynn, most commonly referred to as Doo, and after a quick courtship, she marries the much older man. Her parents are none to pleased about this, but her father wants his daughter to be happy so allows the marriage. From the start of the marriage, there is turmoil and upheaval as arguments and raising four kids before she turns 20 takes its toll on the young Loretta. Doo is well-meaning despite his attitude towards his wife and buys her a guitar after seeing her talent for singing. Loretta is uncertain, but begins playing in honky tonks to much success. Doo persuades his wife to pursue a career and though reluctant, Loretta agrees. After securing a hit record, a whirlwind of publicity follows and Loretta soon becomes a huge star on the country music scene, eventually earning the title of ‘The First Lady of Country Music’. Yet with this new-found success comes a variety of problems such as keeping up her image, near exhaustion from constant touring and her tumultuous marriage which leads to a breakdown.
While Coal Miner’s Daughter covers certain familiar themes as other biopics such as a tumultuous life, it is the way that it is told that makes it stand out for the better. Michael Apted infuses the film with a personal feeling and thoughtfulness that lets the events of Loretta’s life play out with brisk assurance and revealing detail. He also keeps the drama from not being too in your face, instead settling for subtle insights into the eventful life that Loretta leads from the poverty of Kentucky to wild success as the country music queen. While there is plenty of drama to be found in Coal Miner’s Daughter, it never feels exploitative or melodramatic at all. Another asset to the film is that it is told in linear fashion, rather than over use of flashbacks that often cheapen other biopics. Through this strategy, we see the growth of Loretta over the years and are always fascinated by the facets of her life. The musical numbers are outstanding, especially from Sissy Spacek who shows off deft musical talent and a stellar voice that really blows you away.
In a role that earned her a well-deserved Oscar, Sissy Spacek shines with heartfelt delivery and quiet subtlety as Loretta Lynn. Displaying the girl’s initially naive view of the world and then her self-assurance, no-nonsense attitude and personal demons, Spacek is always riveting to behold. Required to age from a young girl to a grown woman, she does it with marvelous ease and we never once doubt that she is Loretta Lynn. Her previously mentioned music skill is amazing to behold, and Spacek gives the songs her all and succeeds all the way through. Tommy Lee Jones is well cast as her well-meaning but temperamental husband Doo, who does help her with her career but is prone to berating her and bickering with her on many an opportunity. Beverly D’Angelo is marvelous as Patsy Cline, who befriends Loretta and is often a key figure in advising her. D’Angelo also shows off her amazing singing voice, filled with passion and clarity. In the supporting roles as Loretta’s father and mother, Levon Helm and Phyllis Boyens exude tough but loving care for their daughter.
Told with heartfelt care and quiet power, Coal Miner’s Daughter becomes a tremendous biopic that is riveting to watch.
007, 1990's, Colin Salmon, Denise Richards, Desmond Llewelyn, James Bond, Judi Dench, Michael Apted, Pierce Brosnan, Robbie Coltrane, Robert Carlyle, Samantha Bond, Sophie Marceau, Spy, The World Is Not Enough
The World Is Not Enough
- Pierce Brosnan as James Bond
- Sophie Marceau as Elektra King
- Robert Carlyle as Renard
- Denise Richards as Christmas Jones
- Robbie Coltrane as Valentin Zukovsky
- Judi Dench as M
- Desmond Llewelyn as Q
- Samantha Bond as Moneypenny
- Colin Salmon as Robinson
Pierce Brosnan’s third outing as 007 after previously playing the spy in GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies comes in the form of The World Is Not Enough. Occasionally muddled and a little uneven, it does boast some great sequences, serious drama and interesting characters to keep the interest of the audience for its run time and have some fun with. I mean it’s definitely better than the movie that followed.
In the beginning of the film, Bond manages to retrieve money stolen from Sir Robert King, an oil tycoon and old friend of his superior M. Upon returning the money to MI6 headquarters, disaster strikes as King is killed by money that has been dipped in an explosive. Bond then gives chase along the Thames after a sexy assassin who tries to kill him and then proceeds to commit suicide rather than inform Bond of who her boss is. The attack is traced to Renard, a prominent terrorist and former KGB agent who had previously kidnapped King’s daughter Elektra. Renard has a bullet lodged in his skull, that will eventually kill him but has now rendered him unable to feel physical pain and will allow him to grow stronger until his life expires. Bond believes that with the death of King that Elektra will be the next target for the terrorist. Worried about this and for Elektra, M reveals that she advised King not to pay his daughter’s ransom for fear of negotiating with a terrorist. Feeling a sense of guilt, she sends her best man to watch over the oil heiress who is overseeing the building of an oil pipeline in Azerbaijan. Bond feels immediately protective over Elektra, who appears to be traumatized and vulnerable by her kidnapping ordeal. Yet while investigating Renard and his activities, Bond’s suspicions are aroused by Elektra, as he senses she is concealing something sinister behind her vulnerable appearance. His suspicions are proved right as Elektra is indeed in league with Renard and plans on creating a nuclear disaster in the waters of Istanbul by exploding a stolen nuclear bomb which will benefit her oil supplies and business personally and powerfully. Crisscrossing from Baku to Kazakhstan and eventually Turkey, and with the help of buxom nuclear scientist Christmas Jones and former mob boss turned valuable ally Valentin Zukovsky must battle his way through danger to stop Elektra and Renard’s revenge.
The first thing to notice about The World Is Not Enough is an emphasis on drama that hasn’t really been seen in the Bond movies before. There is something developed about many of the characters and it is interesting to see them as two-dimensional people in a dangerous world. Admittedly, some of the drama does come off as more than a little muddled and underdeveloped. But director Michael Apted manages to bring a fresh dynamic to the series and stamps his own style on the movies with assurance. Apted also brings in his typical fashion the powerful and layered women to the forefront of the story, especially in the form of Elektra and an expanded role for M. Even though the mix of drama and action in The World Is Not Enough can be a little jarring, when both camps score, they score very highly to create some excellent Bond worthy moments. The boat chase on the Thames blasts the film into exciting motion and really stands as a definite action highlight, alongside a thrilling ski chase and a dangerous encounter with a bomb speeding along a pipeline. Having the bullet in Renard’s head slowly kill of his pain receptors but increase his strength is an intriguing idea but to be honest it doesn’t really add as much to the plot as it thinks it does and comes off as a rather wasted opportunity. The locations used are sublime with the heat of Kazakhstan and the nighttime glamour of Istanbul exceptionally realized. David Arnold returns for his second Bond score and delivers a stunning piece of work that accentuates the themes of distrust and betrayal. Alternative rock band Garbage provide the eerie yet sensual title track that is an exemplary sonic accompaniment to the languid title sequence of lovelies formed from slithering oil and fields of pumping oil derricks.
Pierce Brosnan brings his charm and smarts to this outing as 007, and he is allowed to show a lot more seriousness than before which proves highly effective given the drama in the story. We manage to see the more ruthless side to Bond in this adventure which is always interesting to watch. Sophie Marceau is on fine form as the duplicitous Elektra and fully embodies the capricious nature of the character. Elektra can be vulnerable and weak one minute and then ruthless and crazed the next, all of this is down to the successful performance of the intriguing Marceau. Because the character of Elektra is so well written, the part of the other villain Renard suffers. Robert Carlyle does bring an intensity to the part that is most befitting, but the underwritten nature of the character sadly short changes him. Denise Richards may be one gorgeous woman but her acting in The World Is Not Enough as a Bond girl is poor. She plays Christmas Jones, a nuclear scientist who helps Bond after Renard steals a nuclear bomb. But to be perfectly honest about her, the character is just so ridiculous and superfluous. I mean she looks curvaceous, athletic and sexy as hell in her Tomb Raider style get up of revealing tank top and hot pants, but when she starts talking about the dangers of nuclear weapons and scientific properties, it is really hard to take her seriously at all. Returning after his role in GoldenEye, Robbie Coltrane brings humour and assurance to the role of Valentin Zukovsky, who has supposedly become a legit businessman but still occasionally dabbles with crime. Judi Dench gets a more expanded role as M this time around and gives the extended part deep emotion and heart as she wrestles with a sense of personal guilt over her handling of Elektra’s kidnapping ordeal. Desmond Llewelyn appears for the final time as beloved gadget master Q. In a sad footnote, Llewelyn died after the premiere of this film and although his last scene with Bond wasn’t planned, when he says goodbye to Bond it is filled with a very deep poignancy that is hard to shake off. Llewelyn was truly part of the Bond fabric and his contribution to the series is a testament to his excellent talent. Samantha Bond and Colin Salmon are once again on hand for the parts of Moneypenny and fellow agent Robinson.
Muddled and sometimes jarring, The World Is Not Enough may not be perfect. But with cool action, beautiful locations and many of the actors performing excellently, it is a pulse-pounding spy yarn to say the very least.