I’ve heard and read that The Spy Who Loved Me is widely considered one of Roger Moore’s best Bond films. With that in mind, my expectations were raised a bit, and this may have affected my opinion of it as a whole.
First of all, Happy Halloween! I almost felt like dressing as Dr. No today, but I couldn’t find my black robot hands. Having said that, I feel like I may now disappoint some of you who have been regularly reading this series; while I did think The Spy Who Loved Me was better than The Man with the Golden Gun, I didn’t find it to be overwhelmingly so. In fact, I’d probably put it just slightly below Live and Let Die. I do, however, see that Roger Moore is feeling very comfortable in the role of James Bond, and the producers seem to have settled into how they’d like to portray Moore’s brand of 007 — fun, self-aware, unapologetic.
I really enjoyed the opening of this one as well. First, the way they introduce Anya Amasova, or Agent XXX (played by Barbara Bach — much nicer to look at than Vin Diesel or Ice Cube), immediately foretells the fact that she’ll be a great match for Bond, whether as an ally or adversary. Following this, there is a chase on skis, not dissimilar to the one in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It isn’t as impressive at first, with more of a reliance on greenscreen cinematography, but the culmination of the chase in an utterly breathtaking basejump, followed by Bond’s parachute opening up to reveal the British flag, gave me goose bumps. That… was… awesome.
On to the rest of the film: When the character of Karl Stromberg (Curd Jurgens — great name, by the way) is first introduced, I immediately noticed a few things. Of course, it’s apparent that this will be the main supervillain of the movie, and again he’s classy and sophisticated, as they all have been. Secondly, he is, I believe, the fourth one with a penchant for pet sharks. I don’t know if this was regularly written into the books, but maybe Fleming did some secret market research on evil masterminds. I will be sorely disappointed if I find out Osama Bin Laden isn’t hiding away in a luxury bunker under one of the Philippine Islands, sipping Dom Perignon, solving expert level sudokus, and shoveling chum to a school of great whites.
And, of course, Stromberg’s got his menacing underlings, in the form of Sandor, a cross between Don Rickles and The Thing, and the steel-grilled Jaws, aka Brendan Fraser on steroids. After a brief stint imitating Lawrence of Arabia, Bond encounters Sandor and easily dispatches him by tossing him off a building — I’m not even sure why they bothered to include him. Jaws, on the other hand, is a formidable opponent, surviving a veritable stoning, a tumble from a train, an impossible car crash, gunshots to the teeth, and, quite ironically, an underwater showdown with the aforementioned sharks. And he’s the one henchman (so far) who isn’t defeated or captured by Bond in the closing moments of the film. He’s quite special, in more ways than one.
As for the Bond girl, a role that has been largely uninteresting for the past few movies, Barbara Bach is certainly nice eye candy, but more so than that, she’s the first Bond girl since Tracy di Vicenzo (who, incidentally, is briefly mentioned here) to really offer 007 a challenge. Every time he seems to have the jump on her, she’s one step ahead, and the casual one-upmanship between them adds a level of entertainment that wasn’t really there with, say, Solitaire or Tiffany Case. On a somewhat related note, I need to start keeping track of how many of these films end with Bond making out with a woman at sea.
Of course, this installment wasn’t without its inexplicable moments of nonsense. The Q branch workshop beneath the Egyptian ruins feels like something out of Looney Toons, and the music takes a turn for the silly when Bond and Amasova are fleeing through the desert in a stolen van. The Lotus chase scene was video game-like; they manage to lose a motorcycle on their tail, only then to be chased by a car, after which a helicopter appears, and when our heroes escape the chopper by driving the Lotus off a pier and transforming it into a submarine, they’re harassed by frogmen and armed mini-subs.
Despite the goofier elements of the movie, I think it did a rather admirable job of staying with the story and offering some solid entertainment. There were things that absolutely did not work for me, but the overall sentiment was that it probably would have been great summer fun for me, had I not been a developing fetus in my mother’s womb. I understand that Moonraker is universally pooh-poohed, so a part of me is actually excited to witness it for myself. It can’t be that bad, can it?
Favorite line: “There’s a first time for everything.” — spoken by Bond as he’s disarming a nuclear warhead. I wish I could approach situations like that just as nonchalantly.
Favorite moment: Late in the movie, Bond and an army of rescued submarine crewmen attempt to breach the control room of Stromberg’s ship. As they stress over how to break through, one sailor steps up and volunteers to lead the charge. I thought to myself, “Wait, should I know this guy? Who is he?” And as the brave sailor rushes forth and gets wasted immediately, I thought, “Oh right. He’s the expendable extra they used to demonstrate how impregnable the control room is.”