Everything Or Nothing: The Untold Story Of 007 review

The life and times of James Bond are explored in the feature-length documentary, Everything Or Nothing. Here’s Duncan’s review…

James Bond is many things to many people. To some he’s a dismissible pop icon, to others a misogynistic relic, but to myself and most of the world, he’s an iconic hero. Indeed, as this October marks the 50th anniversary since Dr. No first burst its way on to cinema screens, it could be said that James Bond is the greatest action hero of all. Time hasn’t aged him, bullets have never stopped him and women have always loved him (and loved to hate him).

Bond has been in my life for almost as long as I can remember, always making public holidays, especially Christmas, that little bit more explosive, with his sardonic wit and breathless feats of daring. Roger Moore was the first Bond I saw, with my innocent young mind unaware there was anything remotely camp or knowing in his performance. That came many years later when re-watching A View To A Kill, and it was a slightly terrifying revelation.

I was just old enough to catch the tail end of Moore’s career as 007 at the cinema, so when Timothy Dalton’s debut came in 1987 with The Living Daylights, it marked a more adult Bond, and with my emerging teens a more grown up me (that’s what I told myself anyway), which could not have been more exciting, as by that point calling myself a fan would have been an understatement.

Licence To Kill was the first film I snuck into underage (take that BBFC), merely adding to the thrill of Bond on the big screen. Pierce Brosnan was gracious enough to be there for me when I first moved out of home and started university, when his long deserved time to shine finally came in GoldenEye. Due to my age, I only discovered Sean Connery and George Lazenby retrospectively, which means rather controversially that I’ve never been able to rate fan favourite Connery as highly as Dalton and Brosnan, or even Daniel Craig for that matter, as I’ve never had a personal connection to the great Scot’s era. I still love and respect his work in establishing the character, of course, but what you have to bear in mind is that the first Bond movie I saw starring Connery was Never Say Never Again, which went head to head with Octopussy, and I still remember my dad explaining that Connery had to wear a hair piece, that he was too old and that Never Say Never Again didn’t count as an official Bond film – it’s no wonder I grew up quite so opinionated and passionate about the making of movies.

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The controversy surrounding the legal battle over the James Bond rights is one of the core subjects at the heart of Everything Or Nothing, a documentary which covers in detail the extreme highs and lows that have challenged the world’s greatest secret agent’s journey from his creation right up to present day. If my introduction above reads like a love letter to the fictional creation of Ian Fleming, it’s because Everything Or Nothing is an incredibly compelling, candid and emotional film that is as fascinating as it is affectionate.

Director Stevan Riley chooses to cleverly illustrate his documentary with clips from the entire Bond canon, showing a knowledge and passion for the subject, while also provides a tongue in cheek backdrop during some of the film’s bleaker moments, much like a Bond movie itself.

EoN (from where the production company gets its name, in case you thought the documentary was named after the rather ace game) logically chooses to chart the history of 007 in chronological order, giving personal insight from relatives of Ian Fleming and producers Albert R ‘Cubby’ Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, with contributions from assorted cast and crew, including every James Bond, with the noticeable exception of Connery. He is present only through archived interviews and sound clips, perhaps on account of how hostile his relationship became with both Saltzman and Broccoli over the years, though I couldn’t help but feel it would have made some amends for him to state his case, especially when his fellow Bonds describe their own sad and premature ends in the role.

Lazenby frankly and humorously recalls how he finished his career as a global star before it had even started, coming across every bit the affable and old school Australian womaniser. A variety of people describe how Dalton’s portrayal was ahead of its time as the general public at the time of Licence To Kill were utterly unwilling to see such a dark and brutal Bond (shame on you). One joyous inclusion from that period is Kill’s own villain, the great Robert Davi, who manages to draw a comparison of the era’s events to pasta, while sporting a rather fine hat.

Pierce Brosnan is given the chance to relay the stories of his first experiences of playing Bond, as well as how the shift in audience expectations post 9/11 left him redundant and consequently ended yet another Bond’s time before it was due.

The bittersweet streak that runs through every person’s involvement with 007 only adds to the films’ strength and make the dedication to keep the franchise running, against the odds, one truly worth investing in for any fan. It also gives a great insight into how much of Bond’s longevity is down to the productions remaining a family run affair, with the fierce dedication of Barbara Broccoli in particular coming to the fore – Bond is her life, that much is certain, and I for one am grateful for that.

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The main delight and the majority of laughs, of which there are many, come from the frank anecdotes peppered throughout, as well as seeing who makes an appearance from the hundreds of people who’ve worked with Bond over the years. It would spoil things for me to relay too much information in that respect, but rest assured there are some cracking revelations, so do try not to watch any before you see the film. 

The biggest gap in proceedings is the musical side of things, with John Barry’s contribution only lightly touched on and no mention of David Arnold’s stellar continuation of the scoring duties, which are just as much a part of the legacy as any other. Sam Mendes appears briefly, though that merely draws attention to the lack of Martin Campbell, who surely merits an appearance, having been entrusted with re-booting Bond twice in the last couple of decades. 

That said, there will always have to be omissions when covering 50 years of movies, and with Everything Or Nothing clocking in at a brief 95 minutes, I wonder how much was left on the cutting room floor – here’s hoping for an extended cut on Blu-ray. Still, my rabid enthusiasm for the subject matter wouldn’t have been satiated if the documentary had fun for several hours, so it’s hardly a criticism.

Leaving the screening and wanting more is high praise, as is the euphoric love and enthusiasm it stirred up in me for all the Bond movies. Everything Or Nothing will remind every fan why they love Bond, will instantly make you want to re-watch every previous outing, while heightening anticipation for the next adventure, Skyfall.

Everything Or Nothing: The Untold Story Of 007 is out in UK cinemas on Friday 5th October.

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4 out of 5