JT Film Review

28 – From Russia With Love (1963)

From Russia With Love REVIEW

4/5 stars

Director – Terrence Young

Cast – Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi, Robert Shaw, Bernard Lee, Lotta Lenya

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— follows Dr. No

— followed by Goldfinger

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from-russia-with-love-1963_posterSean Connery’s James Bond returns in the second Bond movie, sequel to 1962`s Dr. No. This time the evil SPECTRE group manipulates both the British (MI6) and Russians (SMERSH), attempting to ignite a third World War. Bond must capture a “Lector” decoding machine, while keeping free of both SMERSH and SPECTRE. The obligatory leading lady is also present of course, in this case a Russian agent played quite well by Daniele Bianchi. Bad guys include SPECTRE agents played by Robert Shaw (who later played “Quint” in Jaws), and Lotta Lenya.

This movie takes Bond in a slightly grittier, more realisitic direction while still keeping the familiar Bond sterotypes and adventure, and overall it works very well. From the very opening sequence we see this more realistic turn; it involves Robert Shaw chasing Bond through a maze, then killing him. Then we see it is not Bond, but a “live target” with a Bond mask, used for practice. Throughout the whole movie we actually fear for Bond, as his opponents are just as good if not better than he is. Robert Shaw is always one step ahead of him, out smarting and out-fighting Bond every step of the way. The only reason Bond wins is usually because of the gadgets supplied him by Q. This brings a human angle to Bond which we aren’t used to seeing, and which Daniel Craig’s Bond movies are starting to bring out more, thankfully.

This Bond is also more about tension than action, and it feels wonderful to have a movie like that. Many movies make the mistake of jumping to “The Good Bits”, i.e. the explosions, fistfights, etc.; but it is much more effective to build up slowly. We will actually be thinking, “Will they fight?”, “What’s going to happen, I feel uneasy.”, etc. And then fromrussiawithlovebdcap6_copy0finally when we do get the “payoff” of a fight or action sequence it is so much more satisfying. In the second half of the movie there are a few examples of this. The fight in the train between Bond and Robert Shaw’s SPECTRE agent builds slowly, and then erupts into a riveting, tense fist-fight that is one of the best put onto film. An interesting point is that during this scene there is no music, another very effective device which brings us closer to the action. A fight with a SPECTRE helicopter afterwards is also a good example. However, there aren’t really that many action set-pieces here. In fact this movie is more a thriller than an action movie. In fact the very first scene after the opening credits is a chess match. That is a perfect example of the direction this Bond takes.

From-Russia-With-Love-03

Now this isn’t quite a perfect movie. Robert Shaw does a great job as a villian, combining smarts with an undeniable ability to kill. Lotta Lenya however, well… is not so good. Her accent is over the top, her performance wooden, and her accent awful. The famous Bond theme is, of course, iconic, and a great song; however severral times it is used in the wrong spot. One scene for example, has Bond checking his hotel room for bugs. It could be a pretty suspenseful scene; but with the Bond theme blairing over it it takes that whole dimension away. In fact the whole first half of the movie is a bit slow and uneven, almost not knowing what it’s going for. But it’s not too bad, and the last hour more than makes up for it.

OVERALL

This is one of the better Bond movies; it is fairly tense and holds your attention throughout. However, as a movie itself it isn’t that distinctive, without the character of Bond it would blend in with all the other movies of this sort. Recommended if you like Bond, or want a decent spy film.

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TRAILER

“From Russia With Love” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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July 18, 2009 - Posted by | 4 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Thriller, Year - 1960-1969 | , , , ,

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