License to Review #10: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

James Bond will return to cinemas this November with his twenty-fifth adventure, No Time to Die. In preparation, David Alkhed will take a look at all the previous entries in the franchise and see which ones are deserving of praise (shaken) and which ones aren’t (stirred).

The Roger Moore era of Bond was the one I was looking forward to the least, mainly because of the lasting reputation of his films and seeing a flew clips that looked like they belonged in The Naked Gun (but I fear that’s further down the road), and Moore’s age when he made the films doesn’t exactly help in his coming features. Live and Let Die was somewhat underwhelming and not particularly a standout in the franchise, despite Yaphet Kotto’s hilariously silly death scene (spoilers) and the arguably awesome theme song by Paul and Linda McCartney and the Wings. The Man with the Golden Gun was an improvement, with a really solid villainous turn from Christopher Lee, a really nice 70s theme song and intriguing set pieces, whilst still being silly in places. So my expectations for The Spy Who Loved Me were surprisingly optimistic as I had seen it many years ago and remembered liking it, but upon revisiting it I was shocked to find that not only did I really enjoy it, but I’d consider it my favorite film in the franchise next to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service so far.

The Spy Who Loved Me concerns a reclusive megalomaniac millionaire (is there any other kind?) named Karl Stromberg (Curd Jürgens) who plans to overthrow the world and create an underwater civilization. In doing so, he kidnaps two nuclear submarines, one British and one Soviet, and their respective governments decide to join forces, and our favorite top secret agent James Bond must team up with beautiful Russian KGB agent Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) to stop him, all whilst being hunted by one of Stromberg’s henchmen, Jaws (Richard Kiel).

If the stories sound familiar to other Bond films, don’t worry I thought so to. In a way, the film in some way functions as a combination of the best elements from From Russia with Love and Thunderball. There are nuclear missiles stolen, there’s a fight on a train, a prolonged visit to a Middle Eastern country, a Russian intelligence agency is involved somehow and the film involves massive amounts of water and sharks. And it’s all so, so, so good.

First of all, Moore has finally come into his own and grown comfortable into the part. He no longer looks confused as to how he should play the part, whether he should lean more towards Sean Connery or George Lazenby or something else entirely, he has now made the part his own, and I really liked him in this film. I also really liked the chemistry between Moore and Bach, and they form a genuine connection in this film. It’s also just fun to see a Bond girl actually be, you know, competent and more than just a pretty face or a damsel in distress. She actually takes part in the action and is in many ways very similar to Bond, which maybe is what leads to their relationship in the film. So yeah, pretty uncontroversial opinion I know but Anya is definitely one of my favorite Bond girls.

And that’s really what elevated much of the film for me, the relationship between Moore and Bach is what holds the film together. Sure, the rest of the film is also entertaining, a lot of the jokes (particularly the political jokes tickled my funny bone) actually land with this and I like the lighter tone this is going for, Stromberg was a fun albeit perhaps a bit typical Bond villain, and Jaws was an interesting sidekick. It also opens with what is possibly in my top five all-time Bond themes with “Nobody Does It Better” performed by Carly Simon. As Thom Yorke has said, it’s possibly the sexiest song ever written.

So The Spy Who Loved Me remains one of the classics in the James Bond franchise, and it really deserves that honor. I loved virtually everything about it and I’m really keen to rewatch it at some point in the future. This film is indeed shaken, as truly nobody does it better.

James Bond will return in For Your Eyes Only, except they straight up lied to audiences in 1977 and squeezed in Moonraker in between the two. Eon confirmed frauds!


Published by davidalkhed

Co-creator, critic and columnist for A Fistful of Film.

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