Friday, November 16, 2012

From Russia With Love

This one has the distinct reputation as the "thinking person's" Bond flick and as much as I'd like to go all contrarian and say it's not true, it's definitely the one I've seen so far where the dumbness is ratcheted down the most and the spying/intelligence gathering is upped. Even the MacGuffin is smart, some sort of Soviet code breaking machine.

Some of the problems of the first one are addressed (the single-location shoot in Jamaica for Dr. No really sucked the life out of the 2nd act, and From Russia With Love takes its show on the road with a long 3rd act train ride behind the Iron Curtain.) The Bond girl is way better, as she'd have to be, and is an actual operative in the plot instead of just a random beach straggler dragged into the proceedings by chance.

Some of the problems remain, in that the 2nd act is still too long and bloated, and takes place entirely in a somewhat colorless Istanbul. The top-level bad guy is an unseen Blofeld (you see the cat, but not his face) but the real main bad guy, the one who drives the plot (Lotte Lenya) is sidelined for too much of the movie while her henchman, played by Robert Shaw in all his young, Aryan glory, menaces Bond directly.

Sexist/Racist index - by far more sexist than racist; you can make the case that the movie isn't really racist at all, depending on how you feel about the silly detour the movie takes to some dumb Gypsy party. It is still extremely sexist, but actually less so than Dr. No, for whatever that's worth.

Bond once again dispatches the villains through very poorly thought out plot mechanics, including possibly the dumbest "don't kill me yet, I'll give you something" gambit ever, one that is Chekhov Gunned to within an inch of its life.

From Russia With Love definitely improves on Dr. No, introducing Blofeld and the SPECTRE hierarchy and giving Bond a real adventure to go on instead of just a dumb little vacation to Jamaica. It doesn't have any real cool production designed locations (well, there's Blofeld's boat, but we barely see it) but what it does have is that long train ride which serves as some degree of location porn if you are the type of person who loves Golden Age of Passenger Trains sets (which you should be).

Bond beds at least 2 and possibly 4 women, depending on whether you believe he took liberties with the two Gypsy girls after the shootout at their camp (and he probably did, but they're presented as bride material, so maybe even James Bond has the sort of retrograde chivalry that would make him keep his hands off.) Of the two that he definitely beds, one is the same rando from Dr. No (which is jarring, girls rarely make a second Bond appearance) and the other is the hybrid Bond girl/villain girl. Bond quite literally fucks the Russian out of her, because of course he does.

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