Thursday, 28 February 2019

The Spy Who Loved Me

Lewis Gilbert, 1977, UK

Coming after the much derided “The Man With The Golden Gun”, “The Spy Who Loved Me”, along with the subsequent “For Your Eyes Only” are generally seen as the best of the Roger Moore Bonds. Whilst it is true that Moore owns the role here and convinces adequately both as combatant and seducer, knowing when to look serious and when to put his tongue in his cheek, this is still pretty much “Carry On Up Yer Spying”. The most expensive Bond at the time (Biggest! Best! Beyond!), it works best as a weak parody of itself. 

Bond is never one exotic location away from getting laid – Bond is here; he’s there; he’s everywhere – and never one woman away from trite innuendo, occasionally tied into the rote patriotism that makes him a national icon. The biggest joke of the film being that Bond has to team up with sexy Russian agent XXX, Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach… and is that kisses? X-rated?), and ... well, you know how men and women are different, yes? Even when fleeing death, Bond will pause to raise an eyebrow at the efforts of a lady because, well, you know how women are? See how agent XXX has trouble getting a van going to escape danger? Women drivers, right? See agent XXX pursue a lethal killer in a sleek evening gown, high heels and clutching a handbag. Etc.

The plot is a tracing over “You Only Live Twice” and we are firmly in science-fiction land and a long way from, say, Harry Palmer and John Le Carre. Okay, so that realism is not what the Bond franchise was engaging with and Bond is far more Flash Gordon than George Smiley, but it seems a shame to have Bond just a sequence of weak gags and innuendo until harder-edged action steps in from a far more convincing if no less silly film. But there has always been a part of Bond films that want to be all things to a mainstream audience. It’s a grab bag of generalisations held together by leading man charisma, gadgets and girls. Oh, but Richard Kiel as definitive henchman "Jaws" steals the show.

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