After the mixed reception of "Moonraker", producer Albert R. Broccoli brought in director John Glen (who would go on to direct the next four Bond films) and screenwriters Michael G. Wilson (who would also write the screenplays for the next three Bond Films) and Richard Maibaum (who had a hand in every Bond screenplay from "Dr. No" up to "Licence to Kill"). The film received only slightly higher reviews than "Moonraker", but made a bit less in the box office. Was it deserved? Let's find out.
The plot of the film follows Bond (Sir Roger Moore again) getting sent on a mission to retrieve a submarine command console called ATAC, or Automated Targeting Attack Communicator, which would allow the Russians to order British submarines to fire at British cities if they got their hands on it. On the way to find out who is responsible for hiring a hitman to kill two civilians who were searching for the wreck the ATAC was on board of at the time of the ship's sinking, he crosses paths with their vengeful daughter Melina Havelock (Carol Bouquet, a French actress and model), who is also searching for the man responsible for her parent's death. However, while it seems simple enough to track down the man responsible, things get complicated fairly quickly.
The plot is quite well done. It moves along at a decent pace, and it has enough twists and turns to keep your interest, while still being fairly easy to follow. It does slow down in some parts, but it doesn't happen very often, and the plot is a big improvement over the extremely unrealistic plots of the previous two films.
Those are some freaking nice shoes, don't you think?
However, the plot is only as strong as the best actor. Luckily, every major player in this film does their job well. Sir Roger Moore still plays a less serious Bond, full of quips. This time, however, he shows a darker side, including a kill that is nearly as cold-blooded as Professor Dent's way back in "Dr. No". The other big role is Carole Bouquet's role as love interest and partner Melina Havelock. And she does the job well, showing her vengeful side and unwillingness to compromise her need for vengeance. She is out to kill the man who ordered the hit on her parents, and nothing, not even Bond, will stop her. However, she also shows a sensitive side as well, playing a quite believable romance with Bond. None of this "sleeping together at the end of the movie because it's a Bond film". Here, Roger Moore and Carole Bouquet have quite a bit of chemistry together, and thus, it is believable when they slowly get closer together, eventually becoming partners, then lovers. Also, Carol Bouquet is freaking hot. You'll see what I mean later.
As for the bad guys, the main one is Aris Kristatos (played by Julian Glover, who played Walter Donovan in "Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade"). He is a smuggler of various illicit goods, and plans to get his hands on ATAC and sell it to the Russians for money. That is such a refreshing change from the "destroy world" plot of the last two movies, isn't it? As well, Julian Glover has quite a bit of charisma, playing his role believably. You could see why Bond initially believed his story that a business rival, Milos Columbo (Chaim Topol, fresh off of "Flash Gordon"), was the one trying to get his hands on ATAC. However, as the movie gets further along, you see his colder side, showing that he is truly the villain, and that any charm he has is only to further his own goals.
The other main villain is Emile Locque (played by Michael Gothard of the 1973 version of "The Three Musketeers"). And he plays the role of a hitman quite well, despite looking like a less nerdy version of Bill Gates, and never talking. He has an air about him that makes you take him seriously as a villain. It's a shame he dies halfway through, being replaced with the KGB agent Eric Kriegler (John Wyman of "Revenge of the Pink Panther"). Wyman does all right, but he never seemed as much of a threat as Gothard, especially after a temper tantrum earlier in the movie.
I'd probably be raising more than my hands if she was aiming at me.
Other, more minor, characters that still make an impact are Bibi Dahl (Lynn-Holly Johnson, a professional figure skater), Milos Colombo (mentioned earlier), and Countess Lisl. Bibi Dahl is a 15 year old figure skater prodigy, sponsored by her uncle Aris (who has an eye on more than just her skating skills, if she is to be believed). Lynn-Holly plays her quite well, showing an almost childlike exuberance towards ice skating, but is a little too knowledgeable about sexual matters for her age. The most interesting thing about this character is that, despite being quite attracted to Bond, she is the only female in Bond movie history to be naked in Bond's bed, but never get further than first base with him (apparently, he draws the line at being a pederast). She also gets the one-liner of the movie, seen at the end of the review.
The second one becomes Bond's ally after Bond finds out that Kristatos, not him, wants to get his hands on the ATAC, and that Kristatos blamed Colombo only to get him out of the way. He is played quite well, showing a dry sense of humor, as well as charisma and a fondness of pistachios.
The final one, Countess Lisl, is played by Cassandra Harris. Her character really isn't all that memorable, although she is the one who leads Bond to Colombo indirectly. Why do I list her, then? Cassandra Harris, at the time, was married to Remington Steele himself, Pierce Brosnan. That makes her, to date, the only girl to sleep with Bond while being married to a future Bond. Unfortunately, Mrs. Harris died in 1991 of ovarian cancer, so she never got to see her husband get the role.
Now that the major roles, as well as minor memorable ones, let's get on to the action scenes. In a word, awesome. The first major action scene, at the beginning of the movie, is a helicopter ride that gets hijacked by a bald man in a wheelchair with a white cat who is definitely not Blofeld, as they couldn't get the rights to the character from Kevin McClory, via remote control. This stunt scene, while fairly fun to watch and exciting, is only the tip of the iceberg. Later on, we get a ski chase scene involving Bond skiing with only one, then no, ski poles, a man with a rifle shooting at him, and men chasing him on skiis and two motorcyles down a hill, through a balcony restaurant, and even down a bobsled track. That is truly an awesome scene, and is one of my favorite skiing scenes in any Bond movie, only topped by one in a much later film. On top of that, the climax of the film starts with a harrowing climb up a rock by Bond to get to an isolated church where the ATAC is, portrayed quite realistically. All the stunts in the film fit in and are very well done. These three aren't the limit of the stunts, by any means.
The Bond theme is sung by Sheena Easton this time around. And she does a great job at it. If you like ballads, then you'll love this song. It starts out slow, but the chorus is sung with quite a bit of power. As well, Miss Easton has a quite skilled voice for singing, and she shows it. This is easily one of the better themes in the series.
Overall, I am unsure why this movie was less popular with crowds than "Moonraker". The locations are beautiful, the acting is all well done, the stunts are exciting to watch, Moore and Bouquet have a lot of chemistry together, and the plot is grounded and realistic. Honestly, this is not only my favorite Roger Moore Bond movie, but one of my favorite Bond movies in general. Unfortunately, the last two of Moore's Bond films failed to match up with this one badly...
My reaction at the review scores.
Best One-Liner: Bond: I don't think your uncle would approve.
Bibi Dahl: (while nude in Bond's bed) Him? He thinks I'm still a virgin.
Bond: Yes...Well...(that's right. Bond is speechless.)
Girls Bonded With: 2 (Countess Lisl, Melina Havelock)
Total Girls Bonded With: 35
Average Per Movie: 2.9
Bond Reviews will return in...Octopussy