Director: Terence Young
I could only fit 1 Bond film in my Top 100, and my favourite is From Russia With Love, the 2nd installment in the series. There’s no need to explain what’s so good about James Bond films, but why choose this one?
It all starts with a time, the 1960’s. Part of what I like so much about the Bond series are the politics and aesthetics of the first 7 films (1962-1971), which were obviously relevant at the time but are more fascinating now, since they’ve dated. From Russia With Love takes place during the Cold War, a more appealing subject to me than the war on terror. There is something more civil and exciting about the plight between the Russians and the rest of the West compared to the dirty terrorism of today. The more enemies have in common with each other, the greater the chances are of infiltrating the other side and working under cover. James bond is all about espionage and From Russia With Love sees him sleeping with the enemy.
It all ends with a man, Sean Connery. The suavest motherfucker in the Bond Series. He is charming, so much so that I’d do ‘anything’ he asks, he has great comic timing, the best one-liners, and he’s so bad-ass that he slaps women without apologising. Wait, what? Yes, James Bond used to slap women and Connery was the main offender. You don’t get that sort of behaviour in the later Bond films, obviously, because it’s wrong. But it was the 60’s, things were different back then. Women were objectified in public and a big characteristic of Connery’s Bond was that he told women what to do and slapped them if they misbehaved. I do not condone this attitude, but I find it amusing to watch – fuck, so does my girlfriend! It’s amusing for the same reasons Mad Men (2007 – ) is. Watching people behave in a way that you never would is fascinating. That’s why we love watching violent movies.
I do love some of the later Bond films, Goldeneye (1995) and Casino Royale (2006), but I prefer the camp spirit of the 60’s films to the realism of the later ones. For me Bond is all about cheeky one-liners, impossible gadgets and a variety of babes. Using that argument alone, Goldfinger (1964) is the obvious choice for best Bond film as it has a bigger helping of girls, guns and gadgets. I prefer From Russia With Love because even though it is camp, its story is quite convincing, resulting in more suspenseful action scenes. The villain who receives the most screen time in this film, Red Grant (Robert Shaw) is perhaps the most interesting and compelling villain of the series. He’s a deadly Russian assassin who trails Bond from the start of the film. When they finally meet, Red poses as a British colleague resulting in a Hitchcock-style scene of suspense that keeps us guessing until all hell breaks loose. The Bond girl in this film, Tatiana Romanova, a Russian spy played by Daniela Bianchi, is integral to the story unlike most of the other Bond girls who just tag along for the ride. She is the coolest and most beautiful Bond girl in the series.
If you haven’t seen a Bond film, I wouldn’t start with this one. Either start from the beginning and watch Dr. No (1992), or if you don’t have the patience, go straight to Goldfinger (1964). If you like James Bond and you haven’t seen From Russia With Love, you’re crazy.