For today’s 3 review of From Russia With Love (1963), I’m happy to present a review by Justine of Justine’s Movie Blog.
Thanks again Justine!
From Russia With Love is the second Bond film in a long-running series and arguably, one of the best examples of what the James Bond stories are all about. It is, first and foremost, a Cold War spy thriller, and it has all the elements you need in a Bond film–action, romance, cool gadgets, and a great setting.
James Bond (Sean Connery) is sent on a mission to retrieve a cryptographic device from the Soviets called a Lektor, which is something MI6 has wanted for years. What he doesn’t know is that SPECTRE has devised an intricate plan to steal the Lektor and sell it back to the Soviets, and at the same time, exact revenge on Bond for killing Dr. No. SPECTRE operatives Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal) and Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) recruit an assassin (Robert Shaw) who is ordered to kill Bond after he retrieves the device. They also recruit a woman named Tatiana Romonova (Daniela Bianchi), who works for the Soviet consulate in Istanbul, to act as a pawn who will feed Bond false information and lead him to the Lektor’s location. Bond travels to Turkey where he will meet with the British intelligence station head Kerim Bey (Pedro Armendáriz) and begin his mission.
Although I haven’t seen every single Bond film, I’ve seen at least one or two from each different Bond who has graced the big screens since the ’60s. I love them all, but Sean Connery is definitely my favorite. He always has a very dominant kind of presence on screen, it’s hard to say why, but if I ever saw him in real life, I’d be afraid to even say “hello.” So Sean Connery as the titular British MI6 agent isn’t a hard sell. He’s got the looks, the charm, and gives off a certain vibe that says he’s the man for any job and he’s in control of the situation. Between this, Dr. No, and Goldfinger, Connery has been a part of three of the best Bond films ever made (just my opinion, of course).
From Russia With Love is a carefully crafted story of espionage, and Ian Fleming’s book of the same name has even been favored by the likes of President Kennedy. I haven’t read the book, but the film is very driven by its story, and it moves at a steady pace. There isn’t an overwhelming amount of special gadgets introduced, besides a very handy briefcase that can eject knives and release tear gas, and proves to be quite useful to Bond at one point in the story. There are a few shoot outs, a fight on a train, a well done Hitchcock-esque scene involving a helicopter, a boat chase, and a hilarious cat fight between two Turkish gypsies. Other than that, the action isn’t prominent over the story, and that is one of the things I love about it, it’s a perfect balance.
The film also features one of the many iconic Bond girls who is portrayed well by the beautiful Daniela Bianchi. Her character faces the most classic of inner conflicts involving love over loyalty to her country. This movie also introduces the leader of SPECTRE, or “Number 1,” whose face is not shown, but he is a kind of dominant presence when it comes to the villains in the story. However, Grant, the assassin, is the most prevalent, as he follows Bond closely, killing many in his path, and doesn’t speak until it’s time to trick Bond into thinking he’s an MI6 agent sent to help him. He is a looming presence in the film, and makes you feel like Bond is always in danger.
From Russia With Love is a perfect spy thriller with plenty of fun action to keep the pace moving so that it never gets tedious or boring. Sean Connery is a classic embodiment of James Bond, he exhibits the kind of intelligence and charm you would expect from his character. It’s a well-written story with exciting action mixed in with a pretty Bond girl, a charismatic ally, and a few menacing villains, and it’s all set to the backdrop of exotic Istanbul. There are plenty of Bond films I haven’t seen, but from what I have seen so far, I can confidently say I think this is one of the greatest ever made.