Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Film Review: The Spy Who Loved Me

"The Spy Who Loved Me" *** 1\2 (out of ****)

"Nobody Does It Better" so goes the theme song for "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977). But what exactly are we talking about? It could have multiple meanings. Nobody does it better could mean, no one is a better action hero than James Bond. It could mean, no one is a better lover than James Bond. Or it could mean nobody plays  James Bond better than Roger Moore. The answer to all of those meanings would be yes.

"The Spy Who Loved Me" was the tenth movie in the James Bond franchise and Roger Moore's third movie playing secret agent 007. Up til this point in Moore's reign as the character it was his best film to date as Bond. It was with this movie Roger Moore finally came into his own as Bond. The character was his. He needn't worry about Connery comparisons. They would still exist no doubt, but, he needn't pay them any attention. Audiences were willing to see Roger Moore as Bond since the film was a box-office smash. It is not only considered Moore's best film in the Bond series but there are those who would go as far as saying it is one of the best Bond films period.

Looking at "The Spy Who Loved Me" from a historical perspective it delivers on the promise of "Live And Let Die" (1973), Roger Moore's introduction as Bond. I have reviewed that movie. It's my opinion that in that particular movie Moore displayed the playful, comical interpretation fans consider "correct" for playing Bond. But Moore also got the action scenes right. The movie had some very good action sequences to counter Bond's sly wit. The next film in the series, "The Man with the Golden Gun" (1974) is not exactly a bad movie but it was lacking in some elements. Much of the wit and adventure was missing despite an interesting premise. Not to mention, the villain never struck me as interesting. But "The Spy Who Loved Me" changed the game.

What makes the movie work so well is it goes back to the classic structure of the Sean Connery films. Moore's first two films were almost a departure. "The Spy Who Loved Me" is every bit as good as "Dr. No" (1962) the first Bond film. Plus the villain is worthy of a Bond movie. No heroine addicts and voodoo here or an assassin with a third nipple. Just a purely corrupt evil genius bent on world domination. Precisely the way I like my Bond villains.

Heck I even love the title sequence and theme song. It was the best one in the More era up to that point. I'd even suggest "Nobody Does It Better" is one of the all-time great Bond songs. In a class with Bond songs such as "Goldfinger", "From Russia with Love" and "Diamonds Are Forever", just to name a few of my favorites.

In this movie Bond (Moore) confronts Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens). A man who has acquired technology which can trace nuclear submarines. His ultimate goal is to create an underwater world after destroying everything on the surface.

Since every country would be at risk if such information and technology reached the black market Bond teams up with the KGB and the top Soviet agent, XXX (Barbara Bach). What neither Bond or XXX knows is Bond killed her lover on a mission. For the moment however they must work together to stop Stromberg.

"The Spy Who Loved Me" also gives us memorable secondary characters. There is Stromberg's Hungarian henchmen Sandor (Milton Reid) and the metal mouth killer Jaws (Richard Kiel). And thankfully there is no Sheriff Pepper (Clifton James) in sight. He was the redneck sheriff who appeared in "Live And Let Die" and "The Man with the Golden Gun" to add comic relief.

Watching this movie once again I noticed something about Bond that I guess I never really picked up on before. The way the character uses sex. I always thought of the James Bond character as a ladies man. A man who always had beautiful women throwing themselves at him. Sex distracted him. But, that's not the case at all. There is a moment when Bond schedule's an appointment to meet a man who has information on the tracking device. A woman greets Bond and informs him the man is not home. She makes a pass at Bond and he responds. Not because he is interested in her but because he notices what she is doing. She is using sex for power, trying to set Bond up for something. So, like a femme fatale Bond plays back. He'll distract her with sex. Pay attention to the scene and notice during his love making he is trying to get information out of her. Sex isn't fun it's part of the job for Bond. How many times have we seen Bond with a pretty girl but once headquarters contacts him he leaves? England is always first for Bond.

"The Spy Who Loved Me" was directed by Lewis Gilbert, who was not the original choice. Guy Hamilton was set to directed this picture. He directed "Goldfinger" (1964) and Moore' first two films as Bond. Gilbert on the other hand had previously directed Sean Connery in "You Only Live Twice" (1967) and would direct Moore in the next Bond film "Moonraker" (1979). So he had an understanding of the Bond formula and how everything is suppose to work. It shows because the movie is nicely constructed and has a different feel to it compared to the two previous Bond movies.

The movie was also nominated for three Academy Awards; best art direction, musical score and best song (Nobody Does It Better).

"The Spy Who Loved Me" was a turning point both for the series and Roger Moore. He managed to grow into the character after this movie and the series was given a nice rebound thanks to this movie.

Casual Bond fans should enjoy this as will the devotees.