It should come as no surprise that I’m a big James Bond fan. While I ewas raised on the Roger Moore films, I have since taken a shine to the Sean Connery Bonds as being definitive of the franchise. With the DVD release of the latest Bond Daniel Craig’s second outing in Quantum of Solace, I wanted to take a look at Connery’s sophomore outing, From Russia With Love. If for no other reason than to introduce those unfamiliar with the flick to one of the best in the series.
Part of the Bond mystique has always been tied to the 1960′s. Part intrigue, part jet-set and part pop art, Bond IS an icon of the decade. It was even rumored that when the franchise ran out of steam in the late 1990′s that it was going to be rebooted as a period piece directed by Quentin Tarantino. Even President Kennedy was a Bond fan! Recognized as President Kennedy’s favorite of the Bond books, From Russia With Love was slated as a favorite amongst the filmmakers to follow in the footsteps of Dr. No.
While Dr. No is essentially where we can see the franchise finding its footing, From Russia With Love is a bold leap in a new direction. Far more action-packed and violent than its predecessor, it is also full of neurotic sadists that bring a certain kind of unique danger to the film. Connery’s mixture of pug and prince makes him one of the most unique actors to play the role (and personally I think Craig is following in his footsteps quite well). An articulate and cultured man, Bond is also presented as something of a punk who brazenly disobeys orders when it pleases him and gets in way over his head as a result.
The setting of the film is key to the success of this film as well. Traveling to Istanbul to obtain the Lektor, a sophisticated code-breaking machine used by the Soviet Union. Adding some interest to the deal is that it will be handed to Bond by a Soviet agent who claims to be in love with him. It’s certainly a trap, but MI6 cannot pass up the opportunity to get the code-breaker and Bond cannot pass up the beautiful Tatiana Romanova awaiting him on the other side of the iron curtain. It is indeed a trap carefully laid out by the organization known as SPECTRE (closely related to the real life organization SMERSH) who have been plotting to kill Bond after his success at thwarting Dr. No’s plans.
Agent Rosa Kleb (played by former German chanteuse Lotte Lenya) has tricked Romanova into luring Bond to the USSR, making the unsuspecting clerk think that she is actually serving mother Russia and not a secret global crime ring. The entire plot will result in placing Bond and the Lektor on a train where her assassin will strike. Kleb has trained her secret weapon Red Grant who appears to be nothing more than an attack dog in human form to take Bond out on the train at a key moment. Grant has got to be one of the most impressively villainous characters in Bond history. Whenever he is on the screen one can sense the destructive power being delicately held in check. His combat scenes with Connery in the cramped train car must have been startling at the time and they still hold up today.
Full of excitement, danger and thrilling locations, this remains my favorite Bond film of them all. So if you are a new Bond fan excited about Quantum of Solace and the success of the Bond franchise’ rebirth or a seasoned one who has never seen this gem, make sure to remedy that situation as soon as possible.
From Russia with Love (James Bond) [Blu-ray]
Casino Royale (2-Disc Widescreen Edition)
Quantum of Solace (Two-Disc Deluxe Edition with Bonus Book)
James Bond 007: Quantum of Solace- XBox 360