Javier E. Trujillo reviews the first episode of 007: Road to a Million, Amazon Prime’s Bond-themed reality show.
I cannot say that I have met any of this new “reality tv show” with much enthusiasm. That type of programming has never been my cup of tea and slapping a “007” on it doesn’t immediately mean it will be a quality product (James Bond: World of Espionage mobile game, anyone?).
However, once Leo the Lion roared that old, familiar roar and the opening musical notes to Skyfall blared out through my home theater, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck begin to tingle. As the screen began to fill with the images of a road and David Arnold’s score to Casino Royale now began to take over, my curiosity intensified.
By the time the four minute mark hit and the main titles kicked in (replete with a new arrangement of “The James Bond Theme” by David Arnold), I was hooked.
The first thing that came to mind was that this production looked slick. There is a polished look to the opening that continues past the titles as we join two contestants, James and Joey Bone, in the Scottish Highlands. (To be fair, we get quick glimpses of all the contestants on the bus making the trek out to Scotland, but “The Controller” decides to focus on this pair of brothers out the gate.)
Thomas Newman’s Skyfall score in these scenes definitely helps immerse the viewer into the world of Bond. The camerawork goes handheld as the brothers race to a nearby phone, the voice of Brian Cox’s The Controller on the line, laying out instructions for their first challenge. Their first question is worth £5,000…if they can find it and answer correctly.
As the pair race after the clues they have been given, the audience is treated to presumably portions of their audition tape, in an effort to build up a rapport with these contestants. This footage is intercut with their journey, including footage of them talking directly to camera, filling us in on their backstory. I appreciated that their language wasn’t censored out. It gives us an unfiltered view of their experiences and makes the show feel more genuine.
There was a slight bit of difficulty for the pair to obtain the case, but it seemed more inconvenient than hard for this duo. They’re definitely not going to be as immaculate as Roger Moore by the end of this.
With the case retrieved, the real challenge begins. With money on the line, The Controller relays some history and provides a multiple choice question. The production tries to build the tension, with the contestants hemming and hawing about the correct decision to make. They certainly drag out the reveal of if they answered correctly or not, but I did find myself invested.
The show moves on to spotlight more contestants, with The Controller setting his sights on a pair of sisters, Sana and Saiqa Pirmohamed. What’s interesting is that Cox comes off more malevolent, before the tone shifts. Is he an M type figure or Blofeld? The show makes you think it could go either way.
Some Goldfinger elements get brought in, a welcome change of pace from a show that already seems Craig-heavy. I don’t fault the production for leaning into more modern elements of the franchise. It will certainly be heavier on the casual viewer’s mind than a near-60 year old film, but I appreciate the mix of eras.
The contestants feel more fish-out-of water than Bond would be, frantically dashing around from one locale to the next. The backdrop and score contribute heavily to any 007 elements seen more than the participants. No one is running around in Tom Ford or Sunspel, at least not yet.
The debut episode primarily focuses on the Bones, ending in a cliffhanger. Being a streaming show that dropped all eight episodes at once, the wait for a resolution is only the click of a remote away, leaving little suspense, provided one has the time.
So, is the show worth a Bond fan’s time? Depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re after the thrill one gets from Big Screen Bond, you’re bound to be disappointed. There’s no straight-forward narrative, no singular focus on an unflappable hero tasked with saving the world. However, there is a sense of style, albeit one that feels slightly recycled thanks to familiar music and locations, but that’s what makes it feel like 007, not the next Amazing Race.
There are production values that make the show look expansive in scope, adding to the travelogue feel one expects from 007. From what I have seen of the contestants so far, they all seem very likable, having a relatable element, but conversely, I would not mistake anyone for James Bond (nor do I think that is the intent). For a show this brief, I’m willing to go along for the ride with them.
It’s not Bond 26, but in this world where the fandom is carrying the torch, creating content on social media and YouTube, 007: Road to A Million is a glitzy placeholder while we wait for James Bond to return. It has enough of a Bond element that will keep me watching based on the first episode and with several contestants still a mystery to me, I want to get to know their stories as well. Is anyone in the cast a Bond fan? Do any of these challenges make them feel like the character? Guess I’ll keep tuning in to find out! And maybe I’ll mix a martini while the latest version of “The James Bond Theme” plays!
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