From Russia With Love

From Russia With LoveSynopsis: Sean Connery returns as James Bond in this thrill-a-minute adventure featuring remarkable villains, beautiful women and exotic locales! This time, Bond squares off against the evil Spectre Organization in a race to seize a soviet decoding machine, thrusting him into a thrilling boat chase, a brutal helicopter attack and a deadly brawl aboard the Orient Express.

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Welcome to The Critical Eye’s ‘Mission Briefing Version’ commentaries of the James Bond movies.

Via thirteen key categories, over the course of the next few months we will rate and/or comment on each picture in brief. These MBV blurbs will also sometimes feature guest commentators, Bond fans and non-fans alike, thus offering a variety of perspectives on this iconic series.

We hope that you will enjoy TCE’s unique take on the world of 007.

From Russia With Love

Date of viewing: February 12, 2013

FRWL 1

Opening credits

The Thorn: 7.0 – This is the first iteration of the famous and iconic Bond credits featuring a bevy of beautiful female forms. Strangely enough, while Maurice Binder is the one most associated with the style, he was replaced by Robert Brownjohn for this one. It’s very rudimentary, in that they projected the titles on the women’s body parts, but it’s a nice start. I was surprised that an instrumental version of the theme song was used for the credits – I had forgotten this detail. And I loved the pre-credit sequence, because it established “Red” Grant as a pretty serious killer – and it momentarily deceived us into thinking that Bond was actually in jeopardy.

The Horrible Dr. B: 5.0 – The idea is good: they are projecting the credits on gypsy dancing women body parts. Half of the takes uses curves judiciously in a way that creates the illusion of motion, and the other half are just lame. As with Dr.No, the movie starts with the classic gun barrel scene with, again, the same guy that shoots in a lame “jumping” way; who is he and why is he not Sean Connery? For the rest of the opening, the idea is good: …

The Consultant: 0.o – I don’t mind the almost naked girl dancing as much as the next paying customer and this intro delivered. I’ve never seen a nicer pair of zeros in my life. Thank you double-O seven.

Joelito: 10

***

FRWL 2Story
The Thorn: 9.5 – I think that ‘From Russia With Love’ is an exceptional Cold War-era espionage story: SPECTRE is looking to get its hands on a Lektor decoder machine and contrive to get the Brits to steal it for them, thereby also providing them with an opportunity to get revenge for Dr. No’s demise. It’s simple, effective and it has enough twists to keep us riveted. Moreover, it takes its sweet time setting the stage (allowing us to savour the flavour) and pieces every part together with a sure hand.
The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – The story is based on a clever plan designed by Spectre. The plan is introduced right at the beginning but not how it will be carried it out. For the rest of the movie, we are witnessing the plan unfold.
The Consultant: 9.8 – I think the story was brilliant. Mainly, I’m referring the villain’s plot to steal the Russian decoder. I was suppressed. No, I mean it. I was literally stuck in my foxhole (spot on the couch) taking cover from the onslaught of brilliant storytelling.
Joelito: 8.0

***

FRWL 3Banter
The Thorn: 6.5 – The banter in this picture pales in comparison to the previous one. Whereas ‘Dr. No’ felt fresh and had many clever moments, this one feels tired, uninspired; it’s amusing, but hardly brilliant – and sometimes groan-worthy. For instance, after getting rid of a character who had been trying to kick him to death, Bond utters: “She had her kicks”. Really? That’s the best they could come up with?
The Horrible Dr. B: 5.0 There are funny moments in the movie, and the usual cheesy lines here and there, but not a lot of teasing between characters.
The Consultant: 6.5 – James seemed more at easy with another alpha male. You could tell by the exchanges that they both talking to mirror images of each other, knowing each other’s “ins and outs” as they say. The one-liners were lacking, however, in numbers and quality.
Joelito: 7.0

***

FRWL 4Villains
The Thorn: 9.5 – There are four main villains: 1) Blofeld, who is here known as “Number 1”, 2) Rosa Klebb, SPECTRE’s “Number 3”, 3) Kronsteen, SPECTRE’s Chief Planning Officer, 4) “Red” Grant, SPECTRE’s psychopathic assassin. Blofeld is mysterious (we never see anything but his hand petting a white cat), cold and calculating; he’s a wicked villain. Rosa Klebb, is a ratty lesbian who makes one’s skin crawl (I should note that it was also hinted at that Dr. No was gay – I’m not sure what Fleming’s problem was, but Bardem was certainly not the first gay villain. What about a gay ally?). Kronsteen is a brilliant chess master who is über-confident in his strategies, planning every move and countermove in advance; he had an oozy, commanding presence. Grant was creepy because he didn’t utter a word until well after the first half of the movie – the rest of the time he acted, reacted and hung out in the shadows. And when he strikes, he’s a fierce killing machine.
The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – Great introduction to Blofeld and the Spectre organization. Here we get a chance to witness how Specter organize, train and carry out missions. Without explicit details, we can imagine that the organization is extremely powerful, well resourced and globally connected. We also get a glimpse of their rules and how their members are controlled through fear and competition. Also, the people carrying the evil plan are quite intelligent and skilled, which is refreshing from the usual dumb minions.
The Consultant: 8.0 – Oooh a villainous organization! You know what, I was about to give this category a 10 because their scheme was perfect and their agents knew exactly what to do to ensnare Mr. Bond. Then I took off a point for the fact that Grant fell for the oldest trick in the book. That is, explain the whole plot while keeping Mr. Bond alive and giving him enough time to think his way out of the trap. I also took off a point because Klebb, at the end, had ample time to shot Bond but didn’t. Tsk tsk.
Joelito: 7.0 – because he’s in “Jaws”

***

FRWL 5Bond Girls
The Thorn: 8.5 – While the main Bond girl is Tatianna Romanova, there is also the return of Sylvia Trench (who is delightfully delicious here), there’s a girl fight between two sexy gypsy women, and then there are Kerim Bey’s purring women in his office, eagerly awaiting his touch. It’s total male wish-fulfilment fantasy: women at men’s disposal, desiring intensely and intensely desirable. Romanova, I must say, is naturally pretty, with a reserved sexiness to her. I think that she’s an excellent choice as the leading lady in this picture, because it would be easy to be sweet on her.
The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – Beside a small scene with Silvia Trench (see Dr. No), Tatiana Romanova is the main Bond girl. She’s charming, beautiful and cheerful. However at some point in the story, she’s forced to wear an awful negligee that Bond gave her; I bet she’s pretending to like it.
The Consultant: 9.0 – Tatiana was cute, she was intelligent, but was laying on the whole “I’m in love with you” bit pretty thick. Imagine eating a spoon full of peanut butter just before you realize that you’re out of milk, and that peanut butter happen to be wearing an awful negligee >>> that thick.
Joelito: 10

***

FRWL 6Gadgets
The Thorn: 8.5 – I really like the gadgets in this one because they seem realistic (i.e. no invisible cars!). I like the attaché case, even though all of its gimmicks “conveniently” had to be used (albeit, only in one scene). I’m a BIG fan of the garrote watch: it’s not a practical weapon, but it’s discreet and Grant uses it to great effect. A part of me likes SPECTRE ‘s bladed shoes, but it’s an awkward weapon that’s only useful in certain contexts, mostly as surprise attacks. Of note is the first appearance of Desmond Llewelyn as Q, the perfect actor for the role. He will forever be missed.
The Horrible Dr. B: 5.0 – 0 for the gadgets given to Bond; they have not been given because it’s “standard equipment”, but because they have a specific role in the story. In my opinion, the story would have been better without any of them. The villains have the best gadget (10): the venomous spiked shoe of death!
The Consultant: 8.0 So, the first official gadget presented by Q. I suppose it was somewhat imaginative but, overall, unrealistic. Who carries talcum powder? How is he supposed to get through a metal detector with that knife? Wouldn’t EVERYONE find it suspicious that he would be bartering with gold coins?
Joelito: 7.0

***

FRWL 7Vehicles
The Thorn: 7.5 – There aren’t any fancy vehicles here, but I am totally in love with the train that Bond and Romanova are on for a huge chunk of the picture; there’s just something romantic, if not even exotic, about it. Otherwise, the cars, the boats and the helicopter are all pretty standard fare; there’s just a lot more of them than there were in ‘Dr. No’, is all.
The Horrible Dr. B: N/A
The Consultant: 7.5 – Well, the most significant vehicle was the train. What really stole the show for me, however, was that boat they used to traverse the stool filled waste water. Its paint eroded with the acidity. Its location was perfect. Its introduction to the movie was impeccable. The entire scene was laden with connotation of Venice. I could easily imagine James taking his lady friends down there on a romantic getaway.
Joelito: 7.0

***

FRWL 8Locales
The Thorn: 8.5 – ‘From Russia With Love’ is like a travelogue: there are so many exotic locales, and so much location shooting in fascinating places, that every other scene is a treat. It’s not even necessarily pretty (case-in-point, the dilapidated Russian cityscapes), but it’s always interesting-looking. This totally raised the bar after ‘Dr. No’s limited locations, and it set the tone for the rest of the series.
The Horrible Dr. B: 10 – Great use of Istanbul.
The Consultant: 9.0 – Istanbul was a great local. My interest in geography and history in high school was as profound as Bruce Willis’ hair, so I appreciated the lesson about how king so-and-so created sewers but it would have been nice to see how they expected to walk on their walls. Wait, what do you mean those things hiding the doorways weren’t floor mats?
Joelito: 10

***

FRWL 9Stunts
The Thorn: 8.0 – ‘FRWL’ doesn’t feature any of the epic stunts of later Bond films, there are a number of pretty cool sequences, including the pulse-pounding fight scene between Bond and Grant on the train, Bond’s helicopter-dodging on the hills (I used to think this was somewhat lame, but I really like it now! Perhaps because of its forebear in ‘North by Northwest’). and the multiple boats flame-up at end (while it could have been shot differently, more realistically, I loved seeing Bond shoot the flare and blow everything up – there was such finality in that move).
The Horrible Dr. B: 0 – See worst moments.
The Consultant: 7.5 – So I suppose the “chick” fight was staged, as was the shootout at the O.K. Coral that ensured. I would like to give proper respect to the stunt rats that sacrificed life and limb to bring a sense of realism to the Istanbul underbelly. In loving memory to Jimmy.
Joelito: 6.0

***

FRWL 10Soundtrack
The Thorn: 8.0 – After the success of the James Bond theme in ‘Dr. No’, it’s clear that it was going to be a central part of the next picture. Here, it is used quite regularly, giving Sean Connery’s most simple moves a panache he otherwise wouldn’t have. This film features composer John Barry for the first time; he remains the best of the whole series. This is not his most perfect score (case-in-point: the music he used to build suspense when Bond was trying to shoot the helicopter’s co-pilot), but he introduced “oo7” -the alternate James Bond theme- in this picture. It’s a fine start for the legend. As for the theme song itself, it’s decent, but it very much shows its age.
The Horrible Dr. B: 7.0 – Great intro and outro. However, during the movie, although music is present, it doesn’t seem to take an important role.
The Consultant: 6.0 – Nothing inspiring here. After stealing the decoder, they left the sewer to the sound of music that seemed more appropriate for them to be riding on horses into the western sunset. See worst bond moment.
Joelito: n/a – Don’t remember.

***

FRWL 11Best Bond moment
The Thorn: Honestly, there are so many great moments in this film that it’s hard for me to pick just one – when every sequence is an 8.5, it’s hard to distinguish one from the next! I love when SPECTRE discusses their plans, when M briefs Bond on his mission, the sequence when Romanova is due to give Bond the floor plans to the Soviet consulate, …etc. But the moment that really gets me going is when Bond takes out the flare gun, points at a distant target in the water and sets alight the whole horizon – as I said earlier, there’s finality in that move, and it impresses me each time.
The Horrible Dr. B: The best element of the movie is actually to witness Specter evil plan being carried out. On Bond side, the best moment is when he uses the villain greediness against him in order to escape death.
The Consultant: I would have to say my favorite moment is when Bond and Kerim took out that villain, who was trying to escape from the window. Ya darn tootin’ she should have kept her mouth shut.
Joelito: The hot chick, the evil white cat, fight on train, Istanbul.

***

FRWL 12Worst Bond moment
The Thorn: I’m a big fan of ‘From Russia With Love’ and can find very few flaws in it (I do taper my judgement based on the era in which it was made, of course), but the last few moments of the picture makes me cringe every single time I see it. I don’t mind that Bond decides to get rid of the x-rated film that SPECTRE made of he and Romanova, but seeing someone’s hand (was it really Connery’s?) in front of a rear projection of Venice and waving “bye-bye” lamely to the discarded film reel is exceptionally cheesy. I could totally do without it.
The Horrible Dr. B: The worst is really the 2 big budget stuns: the crash of the helicopter and the burning of the villains boats. Both sequence are filmed in a way that is not believable. Another notable bad moment is when Tatiana has difficulty in shooting Colonel Klebb; the Colonel was at most 1 meter away and clearly pinned by a chair at a safe distance from bond.
The Consultant: That shootout at the Gypsies. If I had wanted to see a western, I would have made myself an omelet.
Joelito: The one liners.

***

FRWL 13Overall impression
The Thorn: 9.0 – ‘From Russia With Love’ is probably my favourite James Bond film of the lot. I think that it does an excellent job of translating 007’s adventure to the big screen and it keeps us interested the whole way through. Even its flaws are minor or brief enough to be overlooked. And, quite frankly, I adore Blofeld’s “appearance” as well as seeing the way SPECTRE operates! This first taste is pure delight for me. Quite sincerely, I would love to see Blofeld and SPECTRE return in future Bond films. To me, it’s not James Bond without them.
The Horrible Dr. B: 9.0 – As mentioned before, the strength of this movie is the joy of discovering the implementation of Specter evil scheme; it is a long, complex, but well executed choreography from start to finish.
The Consultant: 8.0 – Another solid showing where the story line actually made sense. I wonder if I’m the only one that kept thinking of Silence of the Lamb every time they made mention of the Russian decoder?
Joelito: 8.0

James Bond will return in Goldfinger

3 responses to “From Russia With Love

  1. Pingback: The Happy Hooker Goes to Hollywood | thecriticaleye·

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