James Bond investigates the hijacking of British and Russian submarines carrying nuclear warheads with the help of a KGB agent whose lover he killed.
Mmm, maybe I misjudged Stromberg. Any man who drinks Dom Perignon ’52 can’t be all bad.
‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ is Roger Moore’s best outing as James Bond to date, matching the classic elements of the franchise with a strong script, great action and a couple of excellent villains. ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ feels like a course correction to an extent of some of the weaker films at the start of Moore’s and end of Connery’s reign, with the comedic elements Moore brings to proceedings mostly in the background and not at the film’s centre. Moore has grown into the role by this point and he forms excellent chemistry with the film’s Bond girl, Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach), a Russian KGB agent known as Agent Triple X who is just as threatening and dangerous as Bond is. Bach isn’t the strongest actress (not that this has ever been a pre-requisite for a Bond girl!) but she forms a good rapport with Moore and the way her character is written is strong enough to overcome her deficiencies. Through this relationship, the film also brings M’s KGB counterpart into play which leads to a flip in alliances after several films where the Russians were seen as the enemy.
The title of the film refers to Bond’s relationship with Amasova, who he forms an unsteady alliance with as the KGB and MI5 end up working together to defeat a common enemy, in Curd Jürgens megalomaniac Karl Stromberg. As far as the motivations of Bond villains go, Stromberg’s plan to trigger World War III and destroy the world to allow him to create a new civilisation underwater is both utterly mad but successful in tapping into the Cold War paranoia of the time. Stromberg is a good villain, but he’s helped by his collection of henchmen and henchwomen, most notably the iconic Jaws. Richard Kiel’s Jaws is one of the best henchmen in the series, a man mountain with superhuman strength and a vicious set of steel teeth. Throughout the course of the film, he encounters Bond on various occasions and it’s clear Bond has met his match – and he knows it. As any fan of the series will know, Jaws is not particularly easy to kill, even when faced with a shark and an exploding submarine as he tracks Bond and Amasova down across various exotic locales such as Egypt and Sardinia!
There are plenty of cool moments in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, from an early sequence where Bond escapes from a ski slope with a Union Jack parachute to the series best use of gadgetry to date. The gadgets of the Bond series had become overly focused on novelty factor than practicality in some of the previous films, but even a true purist couldn’t help but admire the Lotus Esprit car that can turn into a submarine for underwater escape. This memorable moment follows on from a terrific sequence when Bond and Amasova leave Stromberg’s lair as his various henchmen and henchwomen try to kill them. The chase is thrilling and exciting, and in some ways plays out like a computer game with the protagonists having to dispatch numerous and increasingly dangerous adversaries.
‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ marks the first film in the series whereby the theme song is not named after the film’s title (although it does mention it), but it is one of the most memorable as sung by Carly Simon. The music overall was produced by Marvin Hamlisch, standing in for regular Bond composer John Barry, and he brings a more energetic feel to the series than Barry and helps to present a different vibe to the action on screen. Overall, I loved ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ and thought it was a well acted and superbly produced entry in the series with plenty of memorable moments and it represents for me, the pinnacle of the Moore Bond’s. Next up, the villainous plans become more outlandish as we head for space with ‘Moonraker’.
Directed By: Lewis Gilbert
Starring: Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curd Jürgens, Richard Kiel, Caroline Munro, Walter Gotell, Geoffrey Keen, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell and Desmond Llewelyn