STREAMING OPTIONS: That Secret Service

Published September 12, 2021, 10:22 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng

Here are two new ‘drops’ that feature spies and assassins – but one is a documentary on Daniel Craig, and the second, a female-led action-adventure.

Being James Bond: the Daniel Craig Story (AppleTV) – On the eve of the last Daniel Craig James Bond film, No Time to Die, we get this documentary that basically looks back at his career as 007. Produced by Craig himself, and the Broccoli family, it’s a wonderful retrospective that doesn’t overstay its welcome, and knows how to show the Craig journey – rough starts, warts, and all. To its credit, it doesn’t flinch from showing us how the announcement that Craig would take on the role, was initially met with derision and much criticism. ‘Blond Bond’ was the rallying cry the pundits used to exaggerate the negative press Craig got. And it’s funny when the narrators recount how it was a scene of Craig emerging from the sea, captured by the paparazzi in Jamaica, that silenced the critics.

That film was Casino Royale, and it was a smash hit, showcasing a Bond that was leaner, wired for physical action, and yet ready to show a soft, vulnerable side. Quantum of Solace followed, and the producers admit they started filming without a script. Bringing Sam Mendes as director for Skyfall was Daniel’s idea, and that’s still seen as the best film of the Craig era as Bond. The documentary relates how Mendes didn’t even want to return for Spectre as he didn’t think there was anything more to say within the Bond genre. There really isn’t much revealed about No Time to Die that we haven’t seen in the official trailer, so how new Director Cary Fukunaga attacks this last Craig film isn’t analyzed. It’s a 15-year journey that’s definitely coming to a close for Craig, and this docu is a fitting tribute to an actor who was ready to take risks in giving us a different Bond.

Kate (Netflix USA-Japan) – From the very start of this new September 10 drop on Netflix, we know this action adventure is out to work as a direct descendant of films such as Atomic Blonde, John Wick, and Kill Bill, via Black Rain and other Western action films shot in Japan. Both Osaka and Tokyo figure as location for the story of this for hire female assassin, Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). And the right elements have been assembled for this film. There’s Woody Harrelson as Varrick, the alter ego and elder that guides Kate, and there’s Miku Martineau as Ani, a young Japanese girl who’ll be a sidekick of sorts. There are great camera angles, and nifty cinematography to accompany this narrative of an assassin being poisoned and having 24 hours to find out who did this to her.

So like I said, the parts brought together hold promise, but unfortunately, it’s 25 years too late. Truly, this is a sad case of ‘deja view’ – it’s like we’ve seen this all before over the last two decades, and the attempt to turn Kate into a Jane Wick falls flat. Such that despite the great action sequences and strong action choreography, we know that as soon as we revert to the story narrative, we can stop paying attention, and still know exactly what’s happening the moment we return to the film. Unfortunately, it’s that predictable, sticking to long-established formulas. Winstead makes a decent case for turning into a female action star, but she’s also cursed with a look in this film that isn’t very memorable – and she’s never really challenged to add texture or nuance to the one-dimensional role.