James Bond has one more mission. Bond returns from his travels in the USSR with a computer chip. This chip is capable of withstanding a nuclear electromagnetic pulse that would otherwise destroy a normal chip. The chip was created by Zorin Industries, and Bond heads off to investigate its owner, Max Zorin. Zorin may only seem like a innocent guilty man, but is really planning to set off an earthquake in San Andreas which will wipe out all of Silicon Valley. As well as Zorin, Bond must also tackle May Day and equally menacing companion of Zorin, whilst dragging Stacy Sutton along for the ride. Written by
In Roger Moore's final cinematic assignment as Agent 007, the super-spy must investigate the connection between a Soviet research centre's reproduction of British high-tech blast-proof microchips based and a multi-national industrialist who is hoarding them. With a supporting cast of Christopher Walken, Grace Jones, Patrick McNee, and Tanya Roberts, and locations such as Paris and San Francisco, what you have is another Bond movie with the size and scope to match any of its contemporaries.
To start with the good points, Roger Moore is once again reliable and believable in the role of Bond, and although critics of this movie maintain he was told old by now, this is disputable. The script doesn't allow him as much of his custom wit and repartee, with the writers dropping his usual amiability towards the villain in favour of a disgusted and repulsed tone, which is quite a turn. For those sick of the movies where Bond and his enemies swap endless pleasantries despite efforts to kill each other, check out the Bond/Zorin scenes towards the middle and end of this film. Although not Moore's most memorable turn, he is very solid as 007.
Christopher Walken as Max Zorin, the product of a Nazi genetic experiment who was artificially given both incredible intelligence and psycopathy as a side effect of his mother's treatment in the concentration camps before his birth, gives us an odd-ball but distinctive performance, and is very credible as a single-minded sociopath. Grace Jones plays MayDay, Zorin's bodyguard/girlfriend/personal trainer/hit-woman/seductress and whilst she won't go down as either one of the most beautiful Bond girls or one of his most feared villains, Jones still comes across well with some menace and formidable qualities that even Bond struggles to get to grips with (quite literally!). Both Walken and Jones were odd choices for roles in a Bond movie but both acquit themselves well and gain a respectable place in the pantheon of 007's enemies.
Continuing with the positives, the regulars M, Q, Moneypenny, Frederick Gray, and General Gogol (with Lois Maxwell in her last Bond role) are dependable as ever, and are joined by David Yip as a CIA agent. As in the two previous Bond movies, Moore is joined by a fellow agent on his mission, this time Patrick McNee as Sir Godfrey Tibbett, a horse racing expert affiliated to MI6. In some brilliantly funny scenes, with Bond posing as an owner and Tibbett as his valet, the pair go undercover at Zorin's stables during a horse sale with both hamming it up to distract the guards from suspecting them as impostors. Moore and McNee also appeared together in Sherlock Holmes in New York as Holmes and Watson respectively, as well as The Sea Wolves, and their chemistry is a highlight of the film. Too bad really that Tibbett is assassinated in unusual but chilling fashion by MayDay before the film can make more of his obvious debonair charm.
Also on the plus side, the action is handled very competently, with a Siberian (actually Iceland) ski-chase featuring some extreme-sport pursuits like snowboarding before they became more well-known, an adrenaline-fuelled horse race in which Bond comes under attack from Zorin's henchmen, and a scene in which a Russian agent is fed into a propeller after he is found spying on Zorin. There are also some great stunts, such a base-jump off the Eiffel Tower and in the aforementioned ski scene. For a Bond film the plot is actually fairly logical, although it seems to have borrowed some inspiration from its predecessors. Having said that, which Bond film didn't?
However it isn't all roses. Tanya Roberts is extremely annoying and not at all believable as California's state geologist and a businesswoman whose shares Zorin is trying to buy. Every time it comes to a fight or some action she cowers and whimpers, yelling `Help me James' at the top of her shrill voice, and spends most of the time as some sort of damsel in distress for Bond to save. Apart from Mayday, the henchmen are rather boring this time, with a bunch of caricatures instead of characters: a Texan oil boss, a mad scientist (plus monocle, tweed suit, wild hair, and German accent), and a tall silent type with a facial scar as his single defining feature. Lucky then that Walken is there to bail the movie out and prove, as the tagline suggests, to provide a match for James Bond.
Also, the technically well-done chase sequence in Paris is ruined due to a ludicrous moment in which Bond-s care is hit by another and breaks in half! It looked cool driving on two wheels, but it would have been better in a cartoon. In keeping with some of the less attractive Bond conventions, some of the other action scenes are ruined by an overly-jokey feel - the San Francisco fire truck chase, for example, is played totally for laughs, and, like the Golden Gate Bridge scenes, features so much poor back-projection it is hard not to laugh. Plus, the pre-credits ski-chase is wrecked by an 80's cover of 'California Girls' being played over the action, and Bond's companion and vehicle at the end of this sequence. For all the problems in this paragraph, director John Glen deserves the blame, although he was hardly alone in getting things wrong during 007's 40-year history.
Despite criticisms from some that this is a tired movie with a re-hashed plot and an uninspired screenplay, A View To A Kill holds up pretty well. Most diehard fans of the series don't rank this too highly amongst the others, but for the less demanding viewer there is enough of the Bond formula to appreciate, without a great deal of silliness. There are a few flaws in AVTAK but the positives outweigh the negatives, and while Roger Moore didn't make a great success of his post-Bond career, at least he had a very respectable sign-of from the series with this.
Verdict: 3.5/5: Well worth watching.
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