Friday, July 17, 2015

A View to a Kill (1985) | Bond

Actors and Allies

As mentioned many times by many people - including the man himself - Roger Moore was too old to be playing Bond anymore. But let's not lie by saying that his age is the problem with this movie. He's still as charming as ever and his age is only an issue when he's climbing into bed with much younger women. For the most part though, those trysts make sense. The one that doesn't is Stacey Sutton, but except for a tacked-on, last minute dalliance in the shower, their relationship is mostly chaste, so even that's not distractingly creepy for most of the movie.

The problem with A View to a Kill is the story, as we looked at yesterday. Since there is no one, central mystery to solve, Bond's not able to succeed through detective work. The script forces him to rely entirely on hunches. He looks into the horse steroids on a hunch. Then, when that leads nowhere, he goes to San Francisco on a hunch. While there, he hears about problems with some missing crabs, so he investigates Zorin's oil wells on another hunch. He has to get his details about Zorin's most sinister scheme from the Soviets, and he meets Stacey - the final piece of his puzzle - quite by accident at City Hall when he goes to visit the Department of Oils and Mines for some reason. Probably a hunch.

It's sad that Bond can't do his job through honest problem-solving, because it's not for lack of trying. He goes undercover twice in the movie, which has to be hard for him, because that never works out well for Bond. I mean, one of his aliases is James Stock. I had to chuckle when he tells Sir Godfrey that "a successful cover becomes almost second nature." Like he would know.

Speaking of Sir Godrey, it's a pleasure seeing Patrick Macnee in this movie. I've never seen The Avengers (something I have plans to fix soon), so I mostly know him from View to a Kill and guest appearances on '70s TV shows like Battlestar Galactica. But even if you don't get the spy reference, he's still a fun character and a pleasant companion for Bond during the rambling horse investigation. That part of the movie is always better when he's on screen.

Once Bond gets to San Francisco, his main ally becomes Jack Lee of the CIA. Rumor has it that the screenwriters considered using Felix Leiter for that role, but opted for a Chinese American agent since Chinatown is such a well-known part of San Francisco. Good for them. The character probably wouldn't have been as memorable had he been yet another Felix.

General Gogol is back. He's sort of an adversary in that the initial microchip that got Bond involved had been stolen from the British and ended up with the Soviets. But Zorin refuses to play nice with the KGB and gets on Gogol's bad side, so there's another alliance between the KGB and MI6 as they both work against Zorin.

Speaking of MI6, everyone's very professional during Bond's briefing. Except maybe for Q, who will keep playing with that robot. Bond is attentive and serious, so M and the Minister of Defense don't have anything to get upset about. I guess that Robert Brown's M is having a positive effect on Bond in that regard. He seems neither easily riled nor willing to put up with any crap from Bond. I imagine that if Bond played the fool, this M wouldn't just gripe. Discipline would probably be swift and stern.

I wish I had a good, in-story explanation for why M sends in Q's robot to check on Bond at the end of the movie. They make a big deal of not knowing if Bond is dead or alive, but instead of sending an agent around to Stacey's house, they sneak that robot in. It makes no more sense than Stacey's wanting to take a shower with Bond.

Finally, we need to talk about Moneypenny, especially since this is Lois Maxwell's last performance in the role. She's also the last remaining cast member who'd been around since Dr. No. There's no flirting this time, just some friendly ribbing, but we're used to that by this point. I enjoyed her relationship with Bond, which wasn't nearly as one-sided (most of the time) as legend has it. That more-or-less platonic relationship with a woman is something that I miss about the rest of the series. At least until Skyfall anyway.

Best Quip

"I'm trying not to think about it," in answer to Stacey's question, "Do you know what I'm sitting on?"

Worst Quip

"There's a fly in his soup," after his dinner companion is murdered with a butterfly-shaped fishing lure.


The best piece of tech in the movie is the iceberg boat that extracts Bond from Siberia. I love its camouflage, I love it's Union Jack hatch cover, and I love its swanky interior.

But while Bond doesn't have anything else that cool in the movie, he certainly makes up for it in quantity. View has to hold the record for most gadgets in a film so far, especially the personal kind. He uses a bug-sweeping device disguised as an electric razor, polarizing sunglasses, a reader that makes impressions of the last check someone wrote, a camera ring, and a credit card (from Sharper Image, naturally) that opens locks electronically.

Looking at how my Top Ten list is shaping up for gadgets, I wonder if I shouldn't have made two separate lists to differentiate between vehicles and personal items, because the vehicles are definitely taking over. But nah. The vehicles are just way cooler. It's still a fair list.

Top Ten Gadgets

1. Lotus Esprit (The Spy Who Loved Me)
2. Aston Martin DB V (Goldfinger and Thunderball)
3. Jet pack (Thunderball)
4. Iceberg boat (A View to a Kill)
5. Glastron CV23HT speed boat (Moonraker)
6. Acrostar Mini Jet (Octopussy)
7. Crocodile submarine (Octopussy)
8. Little Nellie (You Only Live Twice)
9. Rocket cigarettes (You Only Live Twice)
10. Ski pole rocket (The Spy Who Loved Me)

Bond's Best Outfit

Love a leather jacket.

Bond's Worst Outfit

Still don't like brown suits.

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