Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Film Review: The Spy Who Loved Me


The Spy Who Loved Me 
  • Publisher: United Artists
  • Studio: Danjaq / EON Productions
  • Director: Lewis Gilbert
  • Producers: Albert R. Broccoli
  • Writers: Richard Maibaum
  • Release: 20 July 1977 (UK), 3 August 1977 (USA)


The Girl: Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach), agent XXX of the KGB.  Assigned to the same case as Bond, only to discover that had killed her old boyfriend.  In effect, she becomes a personification of “detente”, a period in the 1970s when NATO and the Soviet Union softened tensions with each other.  Her performance is sadly a little understated, but takes a turn towards stern when she realises what Bond had done on that mission in Austria.  3 out of 5.

Other Allies: General Alexis Gogol (Walter Gotell), head of the KGB and M's opposite number in the Soviet Union.  Again, he and XXX are competing with Bond and M to achieve the same goals for mutual benefit, providing at least a partially amicable dynamic among both parties.   If the name of his actor sounds familiar, it’s because he previously played the role of Morzeny, director of the SPECTRE training camp in From Russia With Love.  Thus, Herr Gotell becomes the first in a tradition of actors who play one role in a Bond film and get killed off, only to be reincarnated later as another character.  4 out of 5.

The Villain: Karl Stromberg (Curd Jurgens), shipping magnate.  Shot by Bond.  Whilst not one of the more memorable Bond villains, he deserves credit for the reasoning behind his evil plot.  The way he sees it, humanity is driving itself to extinction, so he only wishes to accelerate the process and give mankind a fresh start in his undersea communities.  This leads to an awesome rebuttal from Amasova: "That does not justify mass murder".  Huge props to the writers for making him look like a sensible man, only to remind us why we're fighting him in the first place.  3 out of 5.

Other Henchmen: Jaws (Richard Kiel), a seven-foot-tall assassin with steel teeth.  Dropped into a shark tank by Bond, but survives.  Super strong (for some reason), his preferred method of execution is biting his victims below the neck.  He truly feels unstoppable - plus he creeps out my mom. ^_^  5 out of 5.

The Gadgets: Bond's new car is a Lotus Espirit, which is able to convert into a submarine and is equipped with multiple armaments: oil slicks, smoke screens, rockets, and mines.  Seems like overkill, especially since it's only used in one scene, but don't tell me you don't want one of those!  Also, it's not technically a gadget, but you gotta love that Union Jack parachute from the pre-credits.  5 out of 5.

The Locations: Austria (filmed in modern-day Nunavut, Canada), the UK, Egypt, Sardinia (Italy), and the Atlantic Ocean. Fun Fact: the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios, the largest sound stage in the world, was built for this film.

The Theme Song: "Nobody Does It Better (The Spy Who Loved Me)" by Carly Simon.  A poignant love song, the title serves as a rather sweet sentiment.  5 out of 5.  The song, and the film’s score, were composed by Marvin Hamlisch, whose works include The Sting and The Way We Were. Apart from the title song, the soundtrack is sadly hit-or-miss, with dated disco-influenced tracks here, including a remake of Monty Norman’s theme, classical selections there, and of all things, music from Lawrence of Arabia for a scene in the Sahara desert. I expected better of you, EON Productions.

The Opening Credits: Most of the shots in the opening credits show silhouette-Bond and/or silhouette-Anya doing spy stuff, primarily atop backgrounds of smoke and coloured lights. The technical aspects of the effects started to show their age right out of the gate, but in terms of content, it fits with the detente theme of not only the song, but the entire screenplay.  3 out of 5.

The Novel: Unlike the other novels in the James Bond series, 1962's The Spy Who Loved Me was more of a romance drama.  The main character and narrator was a Canadian woman named Vivienne Michel, who gets roughed up at a motel in upstate New York, only to be rescued by a passing-by Bond.  And depending on what you were expecting, it sucked.  Apparently, Ian Fleming shared my viewpoint: he left orders that only the name could be used for a film.  To that, I say: good on ya, mate.  On the plus side, the two thugs in the book provided the basis for Sandor and Jaws, two of this movie's henchmen.  Fun Fact: Because of the change in plot, this was the first movie to get its own novelisation, written by Christopher Wood.

The Plot: Our movie starts with a British submarine getting captured by a giant tanker.  007 is called back from a mission in Austria, where he makes a ski-bound getaway from Soviet pursuants.  Cue opening credits.  We cut back to the KGB headquarters, where Major Anya Amasova, agent XXX, is instructed to investigate the similar disappearance of a Russian submarine.  Meanwhile, Bond gets his mission: the plans for a submarine tracking system have been leaked onto the market, and Bond follows lead after lead in Egypt until bumping into Amasova, working on the same case.  After an auction gone awry, she recovers a microfilm of the plans from Jaws, an assassin, and takes off without Bond.

007 returns to MI6's field base, only to discover Anya and her boss, General Gogol of the KGB, who have decided to work together with the British.  Together, they identify the culprit: shipping magnate Karl Stromberg, whom Jaws happens to work for.  From the Italian island of Sardinia, Bond and Amasova arrange for a meeting with Stromberg at his offshore Atlantis base, where they see a model of his new supertanker, the Liparus.  The couple then conduct an underwater drive-by of Atlantis in Bond's new submarine/car, and learn from MI6 that the Liparus has never docked at any known port, raising their suspicions.  Also, remember that scene in Austria?  Turns out Bond killed a man who was Anya's boyfriend, so she makes a promise to kill Bond in turn upon the success of their mission.

The two then join up with an American submarine, which in turn gets captured by the Liparus.  The crew is taken prisoner, and Stromberg reveals his plan - have the other two submarines nuke New York City and Moscow, inciting global thermonuclear war and forcing civilisation to retreat in his undersea communities - before leaving with Anya.  Bond rescues and rallies the other sub crews, breaks into the control room, and re-programs the two subs to target each other.  The day is saved, but Bond convinces the American commander to let him infiltrate the Atlantis base to rescue Anya.  There, he kills Stromberg, fends off Jaws, and finds the girl.  Together, they escape in a pod as the Americans torpedo the base.  She reminds 007 of her promise, but instead of killing him, reveals a change of heart, and together the two have a "joint summit" beneath the sheets.  You are now free to turn off your TV.

You may have noticed that the plot to this movie is basically recycled from the adaptation of You Only Live Twice.  Then again, if you'll recall the Novel section of this review, you'll realise that this was not only an enforced move, but a highly welcome decision.  4 out of 5.

The Call: 90% (A-)

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For Your Eyes Only

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