Should I Watch..? 'A View to a Kill'
What's the big deal?
A View To A Kill is an action thriller film released in 1985 and is the fourteenth entry in the James Bond series. It features Roger Moore returning as 007 for the last time, facing off against an insane industrialist who wishes to destroy Silicon Valley near San Francisco. The title is adapted from a short story written by Ian Fleming although the film's plot is original. It earned mixed reviews upon release but was a commercial success with the film's theme tune by Duran Duran especially well received. It also marked the last appearance of Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny but the film was a debut for Dolph Lundgren, Grace Jones' partner at the time, who would go on to appear in the likes of Universal Soldier and The Expendables franchise.
What's it about?
In deepest Siberia, British secret agent James Bond recovers a Soviet microchip which turns out to be a copy of a chip manufactured by Zorin Industries, designed to withstand an electromagnetic pulse. Along with fellow MI6 agent Sir Godfrey Tibbett, Bond visits the company owner Max Zorin at a race meeting where Bond begins to suspect that some of Zorin's horses have been fed performance-enhancing drugs. While investigating further, Zorin learns of Bond's true identity and has his personal bodyguard May Day attempt to assassinate both him and Sir Godfrey.
Escaping from Zorin's estate but unable to save Sir Godfrey, Bond pursues Zorin to San Francisco where he encounters State Geologist Stacey Sutton who is trying to resist Zorin buying her land near the San Andreas Fault. Working together, they come to suspect that Zorin's plans involve a bit more than doped horses but are they too late to stop him? With time running out, the fate of millions rests once again with Bond...
Sir Godfrey Tibbett
Scarpine, Zorin's henchman
Dr Carl Mortner, Zorin's physician
Richard Maibaum & Michael G. Wilson *
Release Date (UK)
13th June, 1985
Razzie Award Nomination
Worst Actress (Tanya Roberts)
What's to like?
For all the criticism that Bond films, including this one, receive then it's reassuring that you can virtually guarantee a high quality production. It's well-shot, well-polished and despite its faults, it is still fun if you've the right mind-set. Over time, Bond has become as familiar to us as a long-lost uncle who occasionally turns up at Christmas, entertains everyone for a few hours with the same old jokes before disappearing into the night again. There's a comfort to be had watching a Bond film and Moore's films especially. They're not great but at least they don't take themselves too seriously - an accusation you couldn't make of Daniel Craig's tenure.
The action remains one of the few highlights to be found in A View To A Kill which has an energetic chase up and down the Eiffel Tower in Paris, not one but two car chases that defy all logic and feel a bit farcical and a gripping fight atop San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. Sure enough, they all enjoy on some levels but none of them really engage you like the free-falling fight from Moonraker or the confrontation between Bond and Oddjob deep in the heart of Fort Knox in Goldfinger. The whole thing feels sterile and too predictable.
- Moore's least favourite Bond film he appeared in due to the increased amount of violence, his increasingly aged appearance, the lack of chemistry with Tanya Roberts and a genuine dislike of Grace Jones.
- Former CIA agent Tony Mendez (the subject of the film Argo) claimed that his superiors once asked if they had face recognition software like the one Zorin uses in this film. When Mendez replied that they had not, he was given orders to develop the software immediately.
- With this being Lois Maxwell's last appearance, she became the last cast and crew member from Dr No to leave the series with the exception of Albert Broccoli. Her total screen time over the fourteen films she appeared in was just over an hour and she had fewer than 200 words of dialogue.
What's not to like?
Walken, a much better actor than he demonstrates here, is a complete loose cannon but gives the movie no real threat because he spends a lot of time killing his own people. The two lead Bond girls - Jones and Roberts - are opposite sides of the same coin but neither are particularly convincing. Roberts is especially bad, coming across as little more than a dumb blonde bewildered by everything she sees and hangs on Bond's every word. The story isn't the strongest as it completely fails to tie up all its loose ends - why spend the first quarter of the movie talking about Zorin's horses when no mention is ever made of them again?
Moore, looking like his own melting waxwork figure, is far too old to be playing Bond at this stage - so old that the various love scenes make you feel queasy at the vast age gaps between the actors (Moore said he decided to quit when he found out he was older than Tanya Roberts' mother). But before he went, Moore decided that he may as well go all-out on the comedy front - and sure enough, there isn't a single opportunity for a sickening innuendo missed in the movie. The whole film feels as though it was produced remotely, with little interest in the cast or crew. It looks OK for the undemanding viewer but Bond fans were hoping for - and frankly, deserving - much better than this.
Should I watch it?
A View To A Kill is as old-fashioned and out-of-touch as its leading actor, who was longer in the tooth than the Charleston by this point. It feels tired and out of ideas, hoping that enough action sequences will distract us from an unengaging cast, uninteresting story and inept direction. The only thing that saves it is the stunt work and the theme tune by Duran Duran - a sure-fire sign that a movie has real problems.
Great For: the people of San Francisco, Timothy Dalton, 80's themed party nights
Not So Great For: Bond fans, Parisian taxi drives, Roger Moore
What else should I watch?
For those viewers who enjoyed Moore's tenure, it must be a shame that he bowed out of the series in such dreadful fashion. His best film as 007 - The Spy Who Loved Me - is a great Bond film which combines a good story with memorable locations, terrific action and the greatest henchman in the entire series in Jaws. I say, watch that and wish that they could have got it right more than once...
Traditional fans like myself will argue that Sean Connery's Goldfinger is the best Bond yet but modern fans could argue that the likes of Casino Royale and Skyfall give the old boy a run for its money. The former is a dark and brooding thriller that finally gets the tone of Fleming's work spot on as well as marking Daniel Craig's debut in the role while the latter is an exciting blend of story, action and tension even if it does get a little silly plot-wise.
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© 2015 Benjamin Cox