A View To A Kill (1985) REVIEW
Director: John Glen
Producer: Albert R. Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson
Writer: Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maibaum
Based on: James Bond by Ian Fleming
Cast: Roger Moore, Christopher Walken, Tanya Roberts, Grace Jones and Patrick Macnee
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Who would have thought, that in the two-year gap between Octopussy and A View To A Kill, a man could age so much?
I will let you in on a little back story. The last time I watched all the James Bond films was way back in 2012, just before the release of Skyfall. The new Blu Ray box set had been released and everyone had 007 on their mind. I was out of work and filling my time with films and writing. Over the period of a few weeks, I watched all the films in order solidifying my love of two things; film and Bond. I had always been a massive fan before, but never watched them in such close proximity.
So when it came time to watch, review and compile the ultimate lists, I made sure to do each film justice and watch them as many times as I could. I would devour the behind the scenes material, history on the film and trivia where found. Audio commentaries were another area to cover and in doing so, it would require multiple viewings. No issues, Bond fan here. I was all in.
At the time of writing this review, I have seen A View To A Kill over eight times in the past month and each time I watch it, I cringe a little more and not for the lack of quality in the production or music departments. The script is fairly solid for the most part and acting is actually quite good too. No, not for any of those, but for Roger Moore and his visible deterioration of the once physically capable figure on-screen.
It is about time we kick this review into gear, so time for the plot.
When on a mission in Siberia, 007 finds the body of 003 and manages to recover a microchip. Upon returning to MI6, he is informed the microchip is a copy of those designed by Zorin Industries, and is capable of withstanding an EMP triggered by a nuclear explosion.
Suspecting Max Zorin may be leaking his designs to the Russians, Bond is sent to investigate. While on his mission, 007 finds that not only is Max incredibly charming and intelligent, he also happens to be planning on flooding Silicone Valley by drilling into the San Andreas fault line. This would wipe out the competition giving him a monopoly over the market. James Bond must use his wits and rock salt to battle Zorin and his evil henchwoman, May Day, while trying his best to save the day.
As mentioned already, the plot found here is pretty solid. Max Zorin is a millionaire many times over. He is stockpiling his EMP resistant microchips and once Silicone Valley is gone, the entire world will need to come through him to buy their supply. Its simple, its smart and highly psychotic. Zorin is willing to kill thousands of people just to be in control, and his motivations, although slightly far-fetched, are played excellently by Christopher Walken. One scene has him laughing maniacally while gunning down his loyal workers and just shows his disdain for human life.
The basic plot and a few beats, are lifted from Goldfinger. Usually its something that would bother me, but for some reason, I seem to be able to let it slide here.
One moment in particular lifted from Goldfinger, has Zorin in a meeting with a group of potentials investors when one decides it’s not for him. Instead of leaving him to be, May Day walks the guy out of the meeting and drops him into the ocean killing him. Much like how Oddjob deals with a similar situation, it’s these moments that make A View To A Kill more enjoyable than I originally remember. You see, these last few Roger Moore films are the Bond films I watch least. So coming back and finding moments, really puts a smile back on my face. They harken back to the classic films, as well as give a new fresh spin on things. Plus May Day looks terrifying and I’d fear for my life in front of her.
Grace Jones, singer, model and actress brings May Day to life in all her flamboyant craziness. As mentioned in previous reviews, my major failing is never delving into the movies of past Bond film alumni. I’d like to see the actors before and after their respective 007 outings, but it isn’t always the case. All I can base Grace Jones on is her performance here. She plays the muscles type usually reserved for Jaws or Oddjob, but as a woman, she flips that on its head and does it exceptionally well. May Day has many speaking scenes and can act, which I’m usually a little hesitant about being a singer first and actor second. But thankfully she nails it. Her physicality is centre stage and Grace couldn’t have been a better fit beside Christopher Walken. Toward the final stages as her character makes the switch to help Bond, I completely believed her realisation that Zorin had abandoned her. It was well done and was kind of sad to see her go. Believe it or not, I wouldn’t have minded seeing more of May Day.
Interestingly enough, when listening to commentaries and behind the scenes material, it is plainly evident that Grace Jones was a bit of a handful. She makes mention of it herself; showing up late to set, slight diva tendencies. It is also common knowledge that Grace and Roger didn’t get along during filming. It seems so out-of-place, but being ever the gentleman, Roger doesn’t talk much of it. Still, you would never know from what is shown on-screen. Both actors are so professional and even others I’ve spoken too had no idea there was a problem.
The things I love about all 007 films, from Dr. No to present day, are the allies. They always come in various forms and help out where they can. Usually the ally doesn’t survive the film (unless his name is Felix) but always burn bright in their time on-screen. Here in A View To A Kill we have Sir Godfrey Tibbett as played by the late, Patrick Macnee. Made famous by his run on The Avengers tv series, Macnee brings so much fun and laughter to the film, all his shared scenes with Roger are stand outs. Their chemistry is some of the best seen in the Bond franchise, and its no surprise to hear they were friends off-screen also. Tibbett’s frustration during his stay the Chateau is priceless.
Even if people have mixed feelings about A View To A Kill, most will agree that Tibbett and Bond’s scenes together are the highlights of the piece.
Next up is the Bond girl in the form of Stacey Sutton as played by Tanya Roberts. Beautiful and young with a great figure, Stacey is an oil tycoon’s granddaughter fighting off Zorin who wishes to take ownership of her pipelines, no pun intended. Stacey is introduced fairly early in the film, but doesn’t really get to shine until about halfway in. At first she’s sceptical of Bond, but quickly aids him for the rest of the movie. Tanya’s acting is, well I’m not sure. You see in my Moonraker review, I made mention of Lois Chiles and her terrible, wooden performance which ruined my experience watching the movie and sadly, Tanya Roberts brings back those feelings here.
She isn’t terribly bad at conveying herself on-screen, and I’m no actor myself so respect given for being brave enough to get in front of the cameras, but if she just took the time to develop her skills, I would better be able to tolerate her. Worst part of Stacey Sutton is that far too often, she is just used as a damsel in distress shouting “JAMES!” at the top of her lungs and managing to sound like finger nails across a chalkboard. The relationship she and James have begins well enough with the spy playing father figure, but by film’s end, they’re having sex in the shower. For me, that completely ruins both Stacey and James in that final moment. Of course it is played up to keep the character, James, as audiences love him, but if the relationship was kept as father/daughter, if could’ve been so much better.
I touched on Christopher Walken a little already, but I’d like to go on some more. Clearly the man is a good, no, great actor. His personality and acting style makes him so fun and enjoyable to watch. As Max Zorin, this only helps bring his manic personality to life. Originally the part was offered to David Bowie before finally landing on Walken. Just imagine the part with Bowie in the role, because up until this point, that is one piece of alternate casting I would’ve loved to see.
Actually while on the subject of David Bowie, why haven’t we been graced with his amazing vocals on a title song for a Bond film yet? We are talking fifty plus years of James Bond films and never once have we had vocals likes his. Just something to think about and would love to know your thoughts on the matter.
Back to Max Zorin though, I really love the character. Child of a Nazi experimentation during WWII, the whole background seems so out-of-place in a James Bond film, but like many things in this film, it seems to work. Why? I have no idea, but it just does. Christopher Walken manages to make Zorin believable and yet his ability to flip on the spot between calm and psychopathic always seems to work. Interestingly enough, the moments opposite Bond come across a little hammed up, even more so because Zorin has a tendency to have a smirky smile on his face. Love it. I’m a fan of the character and he is such a great villain who is never afraid to get his hands dirty.
Finally we come to James Bond himself, Roger Moore. You know, since this is his final outing in the role, it is only fair I talk about his entire run in the series. When Roger Moore started out in Live And Let Die, I couldn’t get over how different he was from Connery. He seemed more charming and ruthless when needed. He wasn’t afraid to get involved with ladies at every opportunity and even his relationship with Q seemed different. Most important of all, Roger Moore brought a freshness to the franchise. When Connery exited the series looking bored in Diamonds Are Forever, Moore was such a refreshing take on the character that he easily breathed new life into the franchise to continue on for years to come.
Yeah, the series did take a lighter approach for the majority of his run, but I’d chalk that up to the 70’s being a campy time in film in general, mixed with Moore’s lighter personality himself. However being 46 years old at the time of his entry, he already had about 15 years on Connery. The plus side was that Moore never looked his age. Up until A View To A Kill that is. Most of the time his age was off set by a few things. The visiting of his wife’s grave in the pre-title sequence of For Your Eyes Only put his age front and centre leaving the audience having to accept him. Then when it came to Octopussy we’re given an older Bond girl with Maud Adams to act across. This masks his age even more. Plus throughout his run, the man just ages so well. However that was until now. This film.
There is no secret, even Roger Moore himself admits it. Between Octopussy and A View To A Kill 007 himself had some work done around the eyes just to freshen himself up a bit. There was no question of someone else taking the role, which surprises me, and the fact producers felt Roger Moore was still right for the role here is unthinkable. Even with some work done between films, Moore still looks old and out-of-place amongst the cast. His thinning hair doesn’t help either, nor does the casting of Tanya Roberts who is clearly only 30 at the time.
As mentioned before, the platonic relationship Bond and Stacey have works for the film. An older man and younger woman, but then once it turns romantic, everything goes belly up. No way. I can’t buy it. Even the very first appearance of Moore on-screen in the snow, I just can’t buy it. Going from one film to the next, the difference is so extremely noticeable, with Bond now resembling more of a grandfather than anything. The age issue becomes such a problem that most, if not all, action scenes are clearly a stunt double in place. Moore is there for the close-ups, but the difference between is so noticeable that it becomes laughable.
Even after all the negative comments I’ve made, I still love Roger Moore as James Bond. He brought so much character to James Bond that it makes his era so watchable. His charm and gentleman persona is calming to watch on-screen at all times. Even in his later years, it is pleasing to see Moore fire off quips one after the other. All the iconic moments and enjoyable films, spread over such a long period, you can’t help but appreciate the Moore era for making some of the easiest films to bring new comers into the franchise with. Still, my only thought at the end of the day is that Moore should’ve left the franchise with Octopussy instead of coming back for one final shot. And sadly like Connery, he will always have that against him and it pains me to admit that.
And so ends the final review for a Roger Moore James Bond film. A View To A Kill is just an average Bond film in every way. There is some fun to be had, and has some exciting action scenes to boot. The stunt work, like always, is top-notch and the villain and henchwoman are the saving grace. Unfortunately the over reliance on stunt actors to cover for Roger Moore’s clearly old frame just doesn’t cut it. Unlike Connery, he never looks bored and clearly still enjoys the role being a gentleman(?) till the final moments, however it feels like you’re seeing a man who stuck around one film too long.
James Bond will return in The Living Daylights