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Goldeneye’s Martin Campbell Names His Favorite James Bond Movie, And It Makes So Much Sense

While Casino Royale director Martin Campbell may not have initially believed in Daniel Craig as James Bond, he eventually came around to praising the instincts of EON Productions producer Barbara Broccoli. Though one wouldn’t fault Campbell’s initial reticence, especially when he has such a clear-cut vision of what Bond was supposed to look and act like, much like the rest of the Bond fandom had come to expect. So it makes perfect sense that the man who also brought the world Pierce Brosnan’s Bond in Goldeneye tends to favor the more grounded entries in the series. Nowhere is this more felt in his admission that From Russia With Love is his favorite James Bond film out of the lot.

Speaking with Martin Campbell on behalf of his recent action film The Protégé, we continued to discuss the 007 legacy at length. During a Reddit AMA that Campbell had done in the days leading up to our interview, the director admitted that Sean Connery’s second entry as James Bond is the gold standard. This is pretty much sacred ground when speaking with someone who shares an affinity for the cinematic franchise that’s been running for almost six decades now. Campbell admitted the following reasons for holding that film above all the other James Bond films:

One of the reasons, it’s very contained. It hasn’t got spaceships, or control rooms to blow up, or sort of madmen trying to take over the world. It’s very down to earth, and when he’s fighting Robert Shaw, he’s a very threatening villain. And that’s what’s so great, based on the book, of course. Don’t forget those first Bonds were all based on one of the seven novels that Ian Fleming wrote. Subsequently, he wrote short stories, where the title of Quantum of Solace came from. … But From Russia With Love was… I loved it. I loved Rosa Klebb, with her nasty little boot and the blade coming out of her foot. My god, if ever there was a lesbian crazed woman, it was her, wasn’t it?

Looking back at the Sean Connery era that kicked off the James Bond film franchise, the formula that Martin Campbell lamented above didn’t really start to take hold until 1964’s Goldfinger. With Auric Goldfinger being the first over-the-top villain, complete with a plot to irradiate the gold of Fort Knox with a dirty bomb, the series started to take its larger steps into the over-the-top gamesmanship that would eventually end with 2002’s Die Another Day. Though throughout the succeeding runs of Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan, there were films that hewed closer to the seriousness that From Russia With Love exuded.

Sean Connery looking rather concerned as he takes a phone call in From Russia With Love.

Even George Lazenby’s solo outing On Her Majesty’s Secret Service started the path that would eventually lead to Casino Royale’s big moment in the sun. And after rejecting several offers to return to the world of Bond, the 2006 soft reboot was Martin Campbell’s big opportunity to do two things he enjoys within the franchise. Campbell not only reintroduced James Bond in a fresh context for the modern age, he did so so in a movie that was as grounded as his favorite 007 film of all time.

The way that Martin Campbell talks about From Russia With Love, you can sort of see the flourishes in his James Bond entries that map up to what he loves about the second 007 film ever. While there are control rooms linked to the Goldeneye satellite itself, and Sean Bean’s Alec Trevalyan definitely qualifies as a James Bond madman, those aspects don’t rain on the parade of realism Campbell injected into the film. And the rivalry between Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond and his former MI6 compatriot was a far cry from what would come after, and what had come before. Plus, Famke Janssen's Xenia Onatopp is definitely a deranged secondary villain that aligns with Lotte Lenya's ruthless nature.

And, of course, Daniel Craig’s monumental reboot of Bond in Casino Royale saw perhaps the most serious shock to the system in the then-44 year history of the franchise. Which saw the particular Martin Campbell returning to the fold for his own personal reasons. Though there were ample opportunities for the man to step back into the director’s chair, Casino Royale presented something that appealed to Campbell’s love of films From Russia With Love; and the rest was history.

The James Bond franchise sees Daniel Craig’s tenure heading to an action-packed climax in No Time To Die, which will be released only in theaters this fall. September 30 is the UK’s opening date, while October 8 sees US audiences getting their turn in the hot seat. After the continual delays in releasing the 25th 007 adventure into theaters, that extra week is nothing to sneeze at, but also an eternity.

Mike Reyes

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.