Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Terence Young
Written by: Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood & Berkely Mather
(based on the novel DR. NO by Ian Fleming)
Starring: Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Lord, Bernard Lee, Anthony Dawson, John Kitzmiller & Zena Marshall
In the grand scheme of cinematic history, DR. NO created a whole subgenre and kicked off one of the longest running movie series ever. There were spy films before this Bond adventure, but DR. NO gave birth to the excitement, over-the-top clichés, and ridiculous tropes that spy-movie fans have come to know and love. Based on the sixth Bond novel, this first Bond film introduces the iconic character in style. His backstory has already been established before the film even begins, which in turn makes his character development a far more difficult task. However, I felt like I already knew who Bond fully was while watching DR. NO in spite of never having seen a 007 film outside of 2006’s CASINO ROYALE. DR. NO serves as a fantastic first chapter in the long-running franchise.
James Bond (a.k.a. 007) has been assigned to visit Jamaica in order to investigate the disappearance of a fellow agent. The missing agent seems to have been murdered for stumbling upon some information he was not supposed to find. In the foreign country, Bond discovers that the mysterious disappearance is only the beginning of web connected by secrets, advanced weaponry, and an evil madman with a diabolical plot. Gun fights, car chases, femme fatales, and a showdown with an over-the-top baddie ensue. You can guess where all this is going and how it will all play out, but that doesn’t matter. DR. NO is so much fun that it’s a near-perfect spy thriller and one of the first of its kind.
As the original 007, Sean Connery is sophisticated and bad-ass in equal measure. That’s part of the appeal to Bond in the first place. You can see his charming charisma working on people around him in one scene and then his action-hero persona breaking out in the next (complete with smart alecky one-liners). Going back to the first of those qualities, Bond seems like a pig when it comes to wooing the women around him, but I attribute this to the time period in which this movie was made and the flaws of the character himself (which I’m hoping are expanded upon in the other Bond films). I enjoyed the side performers in this film as well. Though she doesn’t pop up until about halfway through, Honey Ryder (playing the part of damsel-in-distress) is a sexy and entertaining character who was brought to the screen by Swiss actress Ursula Andress and then dubbed into English by German actress Nikki van der Zyl (try to make sense of that combination). The other agents that help 007 along the way are also entertaining to watch, even when they’re only giving exposition.
The title character of DR. NO is where I have a slight issue with this film. The story takes a lot of screen time hyping up this sinister villain (in one early scene, we only hear his intimidating voice over an intercom) and then doesn’t do much with him. Instead, he pops in to make a quick speech to Bond and then shows up again for the admittedly exciting final confrontation. This evil genius and his treatment both really come down to the clichés of what Dr. Evil was spoofing in the first AUSTIN POWERS. Even with a lack of the main baddie through most of the running time, DR. NO is still an exciting adventure that’s full of action and intrigue. Though there are quiet moments where Bond is charming those around him or snooping to get some confidential info, I was surprised (in a good way) by the amount of action this movie contained. There is also an assassination attempt that will give viewers who suffer from arachnophobia a good shiver down their spine. Besides all of the gun fights and car chases, DR. NO also has a witty sense of humor and focuses on being entertaining all the way through. It knows what kind of film it wants to be and becomes a near-perfect example of that.
DR. NO is the first official Bond film to ever hit the big screen. It’s also an influential classic that gave birth to the stylish, action-packed spy movies that we know today. I have only watched one other Bond movie besides DR. NO, but this classic first installment might have made a budding 007 fan out of me all by itself. I plan on watching more Bond before SPECTRE hits in November. If any of the entries I plan on watching are anywhere near as excellent as DR. NO, then I’m in for a treat.