As two cinema icons prepare to depart the franchise once and for all, there is one question on everyone’s lips: will Lois Maxwell finally roger Moore? With MI6’s Viagra supplies now running dangerously low, I wouldn’t bet on it.
Fresh from the recovery of a microchip from 003’s Siberian grave-side, James Bond (Roger Moore) returns to London where Q (Desmond Llewelyn) identifies the artefact as a product of Zorin Industries. Dispatched to Zorin’s (Christopher Walken) estate in Chantilly, France under the suspicion that the industrialist is fixing horse races, 007 narrowly escapes an attempt on his life by Zorin and his second in command, May Day (Grace Jones). When he discovers that, despite previous allegiences with the KGB, he has gone rogue, Bond teams up with State Geologist Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts) in a bid to stop Zorin from flooding Silicone Valley through a series of artificial earthquakes.
Having grown tired of Roger Moore’s increasingly decrepit form over the previous six Bond movies, I was prepared to wish good riddance and be done with his arched eyebrows and ridiculous tan trousers once and for all. What I certainly wasn’t expecting was A View To A Kill, a startlingly strong entry in the 007 franchise that finally strikes the perfect balance between credibility and camp, getting underway with one of the most stylish title sequences yet. As you might have guessed, one’s work as Devil’s Advocate is never over.
I’m not even completely certain what it was that I enjoyed so much about it; after all, it boasts the same ski tricks, car chases and aerial acrobatics as every other Bond movie reviewed so far. While we might be spared the usual shark pools and metal-plated henchmen, this is still by-the-numbers stuff, even if it does endeavour to combine the characteristic components into an original story. With its release met with strong box office but crippling criticism, I seem to be alone in my enjoyment of this fourteenth instalment.
Unlike previous entries which have either gone out of their way to dress the character up as a recognisable human being or given in entirely to the double-taking pigeons and crocodile hopscotch, James Bond is neither required to tone down or save the world by destroying an enemy space station. Zorin and May Day are far more interesting than the usual pantomime perpetrators, Christopher Walken stripped bare of gimmicks and left instead to play the psychopath he has cultivated across his career, aided by the first plot in a while that doesn’t disappear up its own arse.
Of course, the majority of the film is utterly preposterous, with a sequence in which one character is murdered by plastic butterflies, a submarine that is for all intents and purposes not disguised as an ice berg and an ever-changing rosta of look-unlikes taking over from Moore for everything more strenuous than ascending stairs. But the goofs are as intrinsically Bond as the dazzling stunt-work and jaw-dropping sets; I can forgive a plot that posits “geological locks” and a laughable escape by half a car when the characters are this well drawn and the narrative so unusually intelligible.
Not that there aren’t actual flaws, there are. While May Day might be everything that Jaws most definitely was not (watchable), the film’s other female lead is an affront to not only the movie but Hollywood in general. Tanya Roberts cannot act, she can’t even react; she wears the same expression and holds the same tone whether she is trying to seduce the walking dead or contemplating her near-inevitable death in a burning elevator. The accent doesn’t help either, drawing unflattering comparisons to the comedy hick police officer from a few films back.
On the whole, however, A View To A Kill is perfectly enjoyable, exciting even, boasting a finale that is steeped in actual tension as Bond, Zorin and an axe battle it out atop the Golden Gate Bridge. Throw in a satisfying conclusion to May Day’s character arc and bullet wounds actually bleed and you don’t even notice the second-rate euphemisms peppering the script – until you try to pick one for your title, anyway.