Mano-a-Mano, Face to Face: Bond’s Best Brawls
What is more Bondian than a fistfight? In a good one you can feel every blow, cringing as you see them coming, and your heart pounds with adrenal action. In a bad one, you cringe for a different reason, sinking lower into your seat, embarrassed that someone is passing this off as a fight. By the way, the title is a quote from Scaramanga in The Man With the Golden Gun, when he suggests to Bond that they have an old-fashioned duel.
1. From Russia With Love: James Bond vs. Red Grant on the Orient Express
Simply one of the finest fights in movie history, this one has it all. At its heart are two incredibly powerful men; two actors, well-matched physically, doing most of their own stunt work. The editing, justifiably famous, adds a speed and brutality not seen before in movie fistfights. A broken window brings the sound of the train in from outside, while broken lights bathe the room in an eerie darkness, made even more macabre by the remains of teargas floating in the air. Watching this one over and over will never diminish its impact. (Click the image to watch it on YouTube.)
2. Diamonds Are Forever: James Bond vs. Peter Franks in a teensy weensy elevator
Bond’s fight with Grant was the purest form of a fight — two people facing off. But some fights add other components. Some, for example, add an outside threat, something that can intrude on the fight and kill either or both combatants. A dramatic example of an outside threat is the fight between Necros and Bond off the back of the airplane; while the fight is going on, each is also endangered by the possibility of falling.
The fight between Bond and Franks (played by Joe Robinson) has a more down-to-earth threat, but a significant one nonetheless. During the intense action, either or both could be crushed by being in the wrong spot as the elevator rises to the next floor. The fight is all about confinement and space. Two large men in an elevator not much bigger than a phone booth. Glass breaks, the entire thing is moving, and every time either one of them swings, he hits a wall. A classic!
3. Die Another Day: James Bond vs. Zao at the Los Organos Clinic
While the Blades sword fight (see below) got all the media attention and fan buzz, this gem has gone virtually unmentioned. From the moment Bond wakes Zao by squeezing his IV bag (Yow! That’s gotta hurt!), we know he is a man on the edge, and that this fight will stop at nothing. And we’re right — later in the fight, Bond will attempt to strangle Zao with the medical tubing still attached to his body.
The use of space here is fantastic, as the combatants maneuver around the crowded hospital room, using quite a range of medical equipment, and banging into and breaking it; setting a fire while they’re at it. My favorite moment is when the magnetic resonance machine first grabs both men’s weapons, and then Bond turns it off to neatly catch his gun.
Part of the pleasure is our first glimpse of the freakishly half-transformed Zao, shirtless and obviously very, very fit.
4. Goldfinger: James Bond vs. Oddjob inside Fort Knox
Unlike in the previous fights, the opponents here are anything but equal. Bond has already seen that Oddjob is virtually unbeatable — he is immensely strong, impervious to pain, and has no regard for human life. Add to that a killer hat, and you have a perhaps impossibly dominant foe.
This brings up a third kind of fight, one that is a distraction from a more important task. Bond must stop the atomic bomb, but Oddjob is in his way. The entire time they battle, we are aware of that ticking timer and what it means.
Bond fights Oddjob while he fights the clock, and he uses his resourcefulness, his wits, and his courage in the face of impossible odds to win the day.
5. GoldenEye: James Bond vs. Alec Trevelyan on the satellite dish
This is another great Brosnan fight scene. It is very raw, and Bond’s most human, most personal combat. Whereas most of the greatest fights exist in a confined space, the showdown between 007 and 006 ranges all over the satellite dish; across a catwalk, in a gear room, and finally dangling from the top of the transmitter.
This is a match between equals. Alec is meant to be Bond’s exact counterpart, their style and demeanor are at first nearly identical, until Alec is revealed to be a brute and a villain.
(The above is an excerpt from The Ultimate James Bond Fan Book.)