Reviewed byRighty-Sock (firstname.lastname@example.org)Vote: 9/10/10
Reviewed bylaika-livesVote: 8/10/10
'From Russia With Love' is the second and last of the Bond films to bemade without a rigid formula. With 'Goldfinger', the expected elementsof the later films would all accrue in a single film, setting atemplate the series would struggle to escape from (and, for the mostpart, would not bother trying to). So, like 'Dr. No', there's only asingle sex interest (let's not use the term 'love' too lightly), ratherthan the good-girl-survives, bad/tragic-girl-dies dichotomy that wouldlater structure all the films (bar OHMSS and, interestingly, the Daltonfilms), and unlike 'Dr. No', the villainous plot is rather small beerand resolutely real-world - to steal a code machine and humiliate theBritish Intelligence community in the process. There's also nobombastic theme song, although Matt Monro provides an easy-listeningversion of the theme tune at the end (it's not half bad, actually,although Shirley Bassey's brassy 'Goldfinger' makes it seemantediluvian in comparison).
Effectively, this means that it's the last Bond film in which themakers were trying to make a film, not a Bond film. It didn't matter ifthe motifs were all there or not, it only mattered if it was a goodfilm. Unsurprisingly, it has a good claim to being the best film of theseries, and it's certainly the least self-conscious (compare with'Thunderball', an artificial attempt to replicate 'Goldfinger' butmaking everything bigger).
So, Daniela Bianchi isn't really just the latest 'Bond Girl', but thecharacter at the heart of this thriller - she pretty much is the story.Ursula Andress might have had an iconic entrance in 'Dr. No', but shewas so much window-dressing, irrelevant to the plot, arriving late andwith almost no agency in the events that unfold around her. Bycontrast, the crucial pivot of 'From Russia With Love' is whetherBianchi's Tanya will side with Bond or SMERSH - the age old 'love orduty' dilemma.
The film also takes time with detours that have little to do with themain plot - as in the sequence at the gypsy camp. There is a realfeeling of a functioning world around Bond's escapades, rather thanjust colourful 'exotic' backdrops.
There also isn't an undue emphasis on big action set pieces - Bond'sencounter with a helicopter (very 'North by Northwest' - in factHitchcock's influence is detectable throughout this film, from theCathedral sequence, to the cool Blondeness of Bianchi, to the trainsetting of the second half) and the climactic speedboat chase arewell-executed, but miniature next to those of later films. Tellingly,the best remembered action sequence is the fight between Connery andRobert Shaw on the train, and the series would never better thisintimate, brutal struggle.
Shaw is by far the best of the series' bull-necked heavies - he'sintelligent and charismatic as well as forceful, almost aBond-equivalent. Lotte Lenya and Pedro Armendariz are both excellent intheir supporting turns, reminders of a time when the series actuallyfeatured fully developed supporting characters, and Bianchi is good -she may lack the overt sex appeal of Andress, but she's a betteractress, playing innocent without being either stupid or dull. Conneryreally grows into the role here, a long way from the pork-pie hattedclod he was in the first film but still untamed and prickly enough tobe an exciting screen presence. It was a long slow decline from here tothe tubby jobsworth of 'Diamonds Are Forever'.
The early Bond films often escape the critical gaze, and when they aresubjected to it, it is usually through rose-tinted spectacles. 'Dr. No'is dull and poorly acted, 'Goldfinger' fun but rather shapeless, and'Thunderball' just tries too hard altogether. 'From Russia With Love'is a polished little gem, a cold-war thriller done with great style,and a minor masterpiece, irrespective of the series around it.
Reviewed bypyrocitorVote: 8/10/10
After the success of Dr. No, it was only a matter of time before JamesBond returned for his second installment of espionage and adventure. Ofcourse, it wasn't until the phenomenal success of Goldfinger that theBond series really took off, and established the formula soon to befollowed by every subsequent 007 movie and virtually every other actionmovie. But 'From Russia with Love' proved to be an equally effective,if slightly quieter little film, with more focus on the undercoverespionage portion of James Bond's occupation, and less of the glamoroussaving the world which would later become daily routine for him.
In fact, one of the things that makes 'From Russia with Love'interesting is that it is a 007 movie made before the "Bond movie"formula was established, and noticeable differences in the storylinecan be seen. 'Russia' is more of a slower film, with fewer actionsequences and more focus on Bond actually being a spy rather than anaction hero. This leisurely, tension-building storytelling likely wouldhave garnered terrible reaction in the 90s, but 'From Russia with Love'is still a very strong, if less formulaic addition to the Bond series.
Another noticeable difference is that Bond himself is much less thestar of the show than is usually the case. Much more focus is placed onthe supporting characters of the story, including minor characters suchas chess master Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal) who likely would simply havebeen eliminated from the story had 'Russia' followed the standardformula more closely. And for once, Bond isn't completely all knowing,capable of solving any problem independently - he teams up with thewise Kerim Bey (the charming Pedro Armendariz, his last film role) whoshows Bond the ropes of Istanbul. But more standard story elements fromthe Bond formula are still present, such as menacing villains RosaKlebb (the terrifying Lotte Lenya) and hit-man Red Grant. (an utterlyintimidating and menacing Robert Shaw, the film's standout) And ofcourse, there is still a slew of beautiful women for Bond to seduce,especially Russian decoding clerk Tatiana Romanova, played by theimmensely gorgeous Daniela Bianchi. Also watch for a tense boat chasenear the film's climax, the kind of stunt frequented by future Bondfilms.
So 'From Russia with Love' is really a quieter, more suspensefuladdition to the Bond series, with more focus on Bond doing some actualspying rather than explosions every five minutes and Bond saving theworld from some elaborate scheme. It may drag at times, and may notprove quite as exciting as today's audiences might hope, but Connery isat the top of his game here as 007, and his opposers are genuinelymenacing and intimidating. For those wishing the Bond franchise wouldplace more emphasis of the espionage portion of Bond's occupation,'From Russia with Love' should prove the perfect film for them.
James Bond 007 is on the search for a Russian decoding machine, known as Lektor. Bond needs to find this machine, before the evil SPECTRE organization discovers it first. Whilst being romantically linked with Russian girl, Tatiana Romanova, Bond sneaks his way around Istanbul, whilst each SPECTRE agent tries to pick him off, including the over powering Donald 'Red' Grant and ex-KGB agent Rosa Klebb who knows all the tricks in the books and even possesses an incredible poison tipped shoe!