Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG
Directed by: Lewis Gilbert
Written by: Christopher Wood & Richard Maibaum
Starring: Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curd Jurgens, Richard Kiel, Caroline Munro, Walter Gotell & Bernard Lee
The tenth 007 film in the series and the fourth in my 11-film retrospective before SPECTRE, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME is often regarded as one of the best Bond movies of all-time. I’ll admit that I was a bit hesitant to watch this film, because Roger Moore was playing Bond and I didn’t buy him as the suave secret agent at all in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN. That being said, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME is probably the shining star of Moore’s time as Bond. Besides a better performance from the leading man this time around, SPY is elevated thanks to an interesting plot, a good balance of humor and romance as well as a fantastic villain with a diabolical world-ending plan.
James Bond is investigating two mysterious submarine disappearances (one British, one Soviet). His new assignment takes him to Egypt in order to buy some advanced tracking technology, but he encounters a couple of problems during this mission. These problems come in the form of KGB agent Anya Amasova and a hulking assassin known as Jaws. Through a twist of fate, Anya and Bond are forced to become temporary partners in order to stop a madman from starting WWIII. Literal sparks fly during confrontations against the enemy and romantic sparks fly between the pair of spies.
I really didn’t like Roger Moore as 007 in MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN. It seemed like he was entirely wrong for the iconic character and instead came off as an unconvincing, comedic action hero. Somehow, between GOLDEN GUN and SPY WHO LOVED ME, I think someone opened Roger Moore up and flipped a charismatic switch, because this doesn’t feel like the same actor who I loathed in the previous film. He’s much more serious this time around and still finds a way to deliver sarcastic one-liners in an entertaining way. Another benefit comes in Moore being paired with a lovable leading lady this time around. Barbara Beach does extremely well as a character with two distinct sides. She’s a rival KGB agent and also serves as Bond’s romantic interest. Tensions are high between the Bond and Anya, but you cannot deny their chemistry. The two are so enjoyable to watch that they make scenes consisting entirely of cheesy flirting into something very entertaining. That certainly doesn’t mean that there aren’t ridiculous-sounding pieces of dialogue, but these silly lines are all part of the fun.
Obviously, a Bond flick isn’t all about romance and SPY boasts two fantastic villains. Curd Jurgens plays Karl Stromberg. Instead of stroking a cat, this madman prefers the company of exotic pet fish. He also has a great way of disposing those who displease him with the help of a trained man-eating shark. Jurgens chews the scenery in a good way and seems to know exactly how to play his sophisticated maniac. Aiding Jurgens is Richard Kiel as the strong, silent Jaws. This hitman is a literal iron-jawed, unstoppable opponent. While Bond takes out plenty of random henchmen in exciting action scenes (one of which is set to ironic music in Egypt), he and Anya have constant confrontations with Jaws. Each fight is more intense than the last and it certainly helps that Jaws is probably one of the most unusual henchmen in the whole damn series (I’m including Oddjob when I say that).
The whole adventured is capped off with a final third that seems to be constructed almost entirely of action. With explosions galore, shoot-outs and a tense defusing of a nuclear missile, SPY WHO LOVED ME never feels boring or repetitive at all. This is probably Moore’s best stint as Bond and the story takes place on a grand scale. The final scenes of SPY WHO LOVED ME almost take an unexpected, tragic conclusion and then opt a happier, more uplifting choice. This final moment feels cheesy, much like certain pieces of the dialogue between the otherwise convincing Moore and Bach. THE SPY WHO LOVED ME is a silly spy adventure, but remains a thrilling and exciting one the whole way through.