It’s James Bond time again. I’m sure you’re excited. Yesterday we did Doctor No, the first film and, so far in my experience, the best. But the sequel is, I think, often held up as one of the best. From Russia with Love. Woo, and stuff.
We’ve got a ways to go with Connery, but it’s this film where he actually sets up his character the way he’d play it the rest of the time. James is in danger a lot, and still gets fucked up one or twice, but he’s never afraid and paranoid in the way he is in Doctor No. However, the plot continues from that film, with SPECTRE wanting revenge for Doctor No’s death.
But first! The intro! A very clammy and wooden James Bond wanders aimlessly around in a garden behind a mansion hosting some sort of party. Things are dark, shit is tense for no reason, and then Apollo Creed jumps him. Well, not really, but he looks like the same sort of enormous, blond, concrete-faced Russian dude Rocky always promised me. Apollo Blond-Bond-killer strangles James, and we learn, of course, it was some dude with a Sean Connery mask on. Of course, I love how obvious it is that it was Sean Connery until the death scene, when suddenly it’s some dude in a rubber mask. I guess this was a training mission or something? I dunno. Cut to opening song.
OK, what’s going on here is that SPECTRE wants a Lektor, which is a Russian decoding device or something. MI6 wants one really badly as well. So here’s what happens. The former head of spies and subterfuge or some shit from Russia works for SPECTRE now. She cons a currently-in-good-standing Russian spy to run a mission for her, thinking she’s still the boss. The mission is to contact MI6 and say she wants to defect, but only if James Bond comes to get her. Her collateral for this investment of big, beefy war supplies is a working Lektor unit. M says that’s cool, Bond, go fuck this girl and get the machine. So there’s still this weird feeling of using sex as payment or manipulation, but in the end, of course, James and the lady (Tatiana I think?) fall in James Bond love for the rest of the film. Spoilers, I guess.
He shows up, she’s awkward for a minute, warms up to this job, and then shit starts to get really weird. Apollo Bond Killer is around as well, and is stalking James. So eventually James finds a friend who takes him home, and home is a gypsy caravan. OK, whatever. There’s a party, a lot of drinking, and a gunfight. Apollo saves James from afar, since they need him to help the plot carry along (not the movie’s, theirs, though I guess technically both?). Eventually, and this is hilarious, there’s a fight between two women that Bond steps in the middle of. Because he asks them to stop, he has to arbitrate their fight, which is about which one gets to marry the chief’s son. So Bond fucks both of them. Right. He decides in the morning, and neither woman looks like they really wanna marry the guy any longer, but, you know, Bond has more Bonding to do.
He and Tatiana break into the Russian base, get the thingie, and head off on a weird, Orient Express style train ride out of the danger zone. Apollo kills James’ contact and poses as the guy, and hijinks ensue in a tiny train car with Tatiana drugged unconscious. This is after some amusing scenes where they’re posing as a married couple, which isn’t difficult, as Tatiana has pretty much given up on her spy plan and is now just boning James as much as possible.
There’s the sweet power boat chase that is what everyone remembers from this movie, and the fake used-to-be-boss now a SPECTRE agent lady shows up at the hotel as a cleaning lady, trying to take the Lektor (remember that thing?). Tatiana pretends to work with her and fucks her up from behind. End of film, basically.
So, yeah, this one’s pretty good. A few good locations (like the Hagia Sophia and the gypsy camp), the train, which implies, at least, some of the paranoia of the first film. There is a decent amount of stuff going on under the noses of the mundanes without their knowledge, and that’s pretty good. It has the seeds of some of the more goofy things that eventually weighed some of the later movies down. SPECTRE itself is front and center, with the machinations of the organization taking up time that could be better used showing their effects through actions, not talking in mysterious offices. Blofeld is introduced, I think, but never revealed on camera, mirroring the first movie’s build up of Doctor No. But SPECTRE just isn’t that interesting. They’re like COBRA in G. I. Joe. Their motivation is, pretty much, to be dicks to everyone? They kill employees for failing but never recognize patterns well enough to see why they’re failing?
Look, I don’t hate the idea of an organization with no national affiliation being all bad and shit. That fucking happens. So fine, good, whatever. But what, exactly, are their motivations? And let them be villains, please? I don’t really need to see them in their offices talking about how they want to do bad stuff. Show them doing bad stuff – and yes, I realize the “being mean to employees” thing is supposed to do that, but it doesn’t. It just shows they’re stupid. There was possibility in Quantum, the SPECTRE-like from Quantum of Solace, but, well, they don’t fucking show up in Skyfall, do they? So who knows if we’ll ever see them again?
So, basically – evil bullshit organizations have to have motivation too. And not just “we’re mean, we want money, let’s kill the main character of this enormously profitable franchise. I’m sure that’ll go well.”