How does one even begin trying to cram 50 years of James Bond history into one documentary that tops out at around 98 minutes? I don't know, but director Stevan Riley takes his best shot at doing so with EVERYTHING OR NOTHING: THE UNTOLD STORY OF 007. If there's one glaring issues with the film, it's that time isn't particularly on the film's side. The doc is far too short to truly detail the rich storied history of the famed MI6 agent that spans six actors - Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig - and, as a result, we're left with some aspects of the cultural phenomena that are glossed over or aren't given their due, such as the lack of success the Dalton films had or a much deeper understanding of the Kevin McClory wrench thrown in the plans for the future of James Bond other than a surface-level explanation of the issues he brought about. However, that's always going to be a problem with a film dealing with a subject matter this massive - creating a balance between all of its aspects. For EVERYTHING OR NOTHING, the only way I could have seen that done is by adding more minutes to its running time. But short of that, you'll have to live with the choices Riley makes in compiling this solid crash course look at the history of 007.
Using the voices of every Bond except one (Connery is nowhere to be found here, except from past clips) as well as those with a current stake in Bond - producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson - Riley gives us a pretty detailed look at the creation of Bond through the original Ian Fleming novels and the struggles the author faced in trying to bring the naturally cinematic character into the world of film. The books were very much ahead of their time when they were written, particularly when looking at Bond's proclivity for the ladies, and it wasn't until the partnership of Albert "Cubby" Broccoli and Harry Saltzman that things were able to come together under United Artists and Bond became a sensation starting with DR. NO.
There's a heavy emphasis on far too many things being the most important in the successful launch of the Bond franchise - the right director, the right production design, the right script, the right logo - but when Riley really examines what Sean Connery brought to the table during his run in the role, that's when you get a much better sense of why Bond captured audiences right from the start. That also makes it quite unfortunate to watch the deterioration of Connery's relationship with the Bond producers that not only led to his departure from the series but a brief one-off return prompted by money and a rival Bond film down the road.
One of the more fascinating aspects of EVERYTHING OR NOTHING is the undivided attention paid to George Lazenby's foray into 007 territory. Lazenby may have had the shortest term of any of the actors who've paid Bond over the years, but Riley takes a much more personal look at the rise and fall of the Australian actor leading up to and following ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE than he does for some of the other Bonds. Lazenby is given the opportunity to tell in his own words how he managed to capture the coveted role with no experience whatsoever and then how he blew the opportunity. Alongside Pierce Brosnan’s stories about almost landing the Bond role earlier in his career and then his leave from the series, these are easily the most honest moments of the film, as we’re able to witness a couple of men pull back the curtain on their regret and disappointment in their dealings with such a dream role.
EVERYTHING OR NOTHING: THE UNTOLD STORY OF 007 is like the Cliff’s Notes of Bond, giving you as much information as possible in a short amount of time. Had you more time at your disposal, you could really get into some of the finer points of Bond’s history along the way with greater detail. However, for such a condensed form, Riley’s doc does the trick in delivering what you need to know about 007, in addition to what you should know.
EVERYTHING OR NOTHING: THE UNTOLD STORY OF 007 premieres Friday, October 5, at 8:00 p.m., on Epix.
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