A lot of what makes Roger Moore’s Bond so iconic is featured in The Spy Who Loved Me. A very cool and original car, a henchman with a special feature and a villain who has a crazy plan to practically destroy the world. Even the Bond Girl in this movie is much more than just a damsel-in-distress to be rescued by Bond (for most of the film anyway).
The movie starts with one of the more famous James Bond openings. Bond is back on skis and after dodging, killing and out-skiing the enemy, he makes a death-defying leap over a cliff – only for a Union Jack parachute to open and the theme of the movie to kick-in. It is a bold, crazy and tongue-in-cheek stunt which sums up the rest of the film perfectly.
The Spy Who Loved Me is a movie where Moore’s Bond is comfortable and the rule book for serious, real-world plots and characters is removed. There is some attempt at the beginning, with both Russian and British submarine’s disappearing and Bond forced to work with his Russian counterpart, a female spy! Played by Barbara Bach, Anya Amasova is unusual for early Bond as she is a Bond Girl who is actually somewhat a match for the spy. She has skills of her own and gives 007 a run for his money.
This comes into play perfectly when they finally confront the henchman of the movie, the now famous Jaws. He is so cool that he is practically the film’s main villain and one of the best henchmen in the series since Oddjob. Richard Kiel fits the role perfectly, with menace and the silver, shining teeth that make him an unusual Bond villain, even in Moore’s “silly stage.”
It is a shame the same can’t be said for the main villain of the film, Karl Stromberg, played by Curd Jurgens. He has a villainous lair and an evil plan to destroy the world and live undersea but he is hardly in the movie and when he is, he isn’t exactly the most inspiring of characters. His use of sharks as a trap feel cliché, even though this is the first time we have properly seen it in Bond.
In fact, that feeling of familiarity runs through The Spy Who Loved Me. Aside from the iconic henchman and the shark-filled lair, the gadgets are just as extreme and unbelievable. This comes to the fore in one of the most famous and still very cool spy-car moments, the Lotus Esprit being chased into the sea and then turning into a submarine! It is done so convincingly, without a knowing wink or look to camera and feels so perfectly Bond – or at least Moore Bond.
Moore is as comfortable here as he will ever be as Bond. He is cool when he needs to be, ferocious when it calls for it and his trademark incredulous when necessary too. The way he deals with Jaws while sat next to Bach’s Anya is perfectly Moore-Bond. He is cool, sarcastic and in control, not wanting to lose his nerve (or temper) in front of the female spy.
It is a shame they their story becomes so damp and predictable towards the end. There is a great rivalry, begrudging respect and then a great development in the story, with Anya gunning for revenge and vowing to kill Bond. It is so disappointing when this is then thrown aside with little to no conflict later.
Little to no conflict also sums-up the finale. It is a strange mix of big action sequences, with loads of bang and very little substance. Even main villain Stromberg is dispatched in the most boring and quick way that you wonder whether that really is it for the character. At least Jaws survives his fate.
Overall, The Spy Who Loved Me is a classic Bond film and sums-up all the characteristics that made Moore’s era so memorable. It has a strange henchman, a bizarre scheme to destroy the world and a memorable Bond Girl. The gadgets go one step further than Bond has managed to so far with the great car/submarine surprise. It is a just a shame that the villain and a great sub-plot involving Bond and Russian Spy Anya falls to the side for a flashy but dull finale.
Rating – 3
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