Friday, November 10, 2023

007: Road to a Million, on Prime

Brian Cox actually resembles French thesp Michael Lonsdale, who played Hugo Drax (in Moonraker), the only Bond villain who always looked bored with his own villainy. Perhaps fittingly, Cox now sort of plays a Bond villain, but he seems much more amused by his role. This is not a Bond movie, it is a reality TV, in which “The Controller” gives nine pairs of contestants a series of Bond-related challenges that could possibly win them a million Pounds. Of course, Cox is not going to make it easy for them in the eight-episode reality series, 007: Road to a Million, which premieres today on Prime Video.

The music is clearly adapted from the classic Bond theme and Barbara Broccoli is on board as an executive producer, so everything is legit. The cast is also entirely British, but the locations are suitably exotic. Throughout the series, the contestants visit Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio, Venice, Jamaica, the Alps, and the Atacama Desert in Chile. At each stop, they must retrieve a nuclear-football-looking briefcase, through which the Controller will ask them a trivia question, worth escalating sums of money. During the initial rounds, the questions are pretty easier, but they get trickier as the money increases.

Do you remember Bond’s connection to Atacama? That is where the
Quantum of Solace villain had his lair. The glaringly obvious lost opportunity in Road to a Million is it never takes the time to establish the connections to the Bond movies and how their stunts inspired each challenge. It might have cost a bit more in licensing, but since Broccoli is on-board, she would just be paying herself, right?

Of course, the Sugarloaf challenge is an homage to
Moonraker and maybe so are the Venice excursions. The live crocodiles of another challenge presumably refer to Live and Let Die. However, when you cannot immediately guess the connection, Road to a Million feels more like The Amazing Race than James Bond-related programming.

Nevertheless, Cox is quite amusing as the Controller. In fact, he seems to quite enjoy tormenting the players. Cox is not necessarily their antagonist, but when some contestants struggle with easy questions, he looks like he would call in a drone strike on them, if he could. A lot of viewers would feel that way too.

The concept of
Road to a Million has solid promise and Cox is great fun to watch, just like he always is. However, the James Bond fan service would be much more rewarding if the series first showed what Bond did and then explained how the contestants will do something thematically related, but simplified, for safety’s sake.

007: Road to a Million
delivers a lot of fast-paced globe-trotting and extravagant stunts. Wisely, it largely eschews the navel-gazing cast interviews. Almost everything we know about the contestants we glean from them while they are on the go. By reality TV competition standards, it is slickly produced, but it is recommended more for fans of Cox and shows like Amazing Race than Bond junkies hoping for a fix. It is now streaming on Prime.