Never Say Never Again (1983)

Directed by Irvin Kershner
Written by Lorenzo Semple, Jr.

The James Bond 007 series is a cherished thing, and as such there is much put on by the EON company to have exclusive rights to the wonderful Ian Fleming creation. However, that was not always the case, as was evidenced by the 1966 version of Casino Royale, which featured an amazing line up of directors and actors, yet was essentially a failure, especially in my own personal opinion. The story for this film is much more complex, I’m sure, than I know, but what I do know is that Sean Connery returns to reprise his role as James Bond once more, 12 years after last playing him and hanging it up, declaring he would never again play the secret agent. And thus, this film is titled.

The director here is Irvin Kershner, who helmed what is generally billed as the best of the original Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, though that of course is debated, but the fact remains that it is a great film. The plot is essentially a rehashing of another Connery Bond flick, the 1965 film Thunderball. Bond, played by the 53 year old Connery, is obviously showing his age, and after “M” has basically stopped using 00 agents, checks into a physical fitness hospital to expel his “free radicals” and start living a healthier life. While there he uncovers an intriguing plot involving Air Force officer Jack Petachi, who it turns out is helping SPECTRE threaten the world once more when two nuclear warheads go missing. From there Bond follows the trail to Maximillian Largo, who is with Jack’s innocent sister Domino and one of Largo’s colleagues, Fatima Blush.

This installment, unofficial as it may be, is a very strange entry and I am hard pressed to wrap my head completely around it. First of all it is unconventional from the official entries. Even if it does follow closely to the basic formula, it does it differently. And in this respect the film comes off as refreshing from the often predictable, measured, and conventional nature of the official series. For instance, the opening scene is coupled with the credits and theme song instead of separate, which was a Bond trademark, yet the scene works and the theme songs fits within the Bond world. I actually I quite liked the song. But while it was unconventional and therefore fresh, it was also inconsistent.

The film didn’t seem to know how to balance the silly with the serious, which was unfortunate as it featured some of the best silliness and arguably the very best serious drama. And when I say silly, I mean silly. It really played off the idea that this was Connery back for one final film as Bond, in fact the final wink pretty much summed up the entire film: one big wink at the Bond fans out there. But at the same time the serious, dramatic moments in this film really work and I would like to think that is because of the villains in this installment.

The main villain is Largo, played by Klaus Maria Brandauer. Brandauer works better than any other villain thus far because he has a personality, what a concept! Unlike the stone faced, overly serious villains of the past, Brandauer likes to joke around with his Largo. He has a lose aura about him that just works for a Bond villain. In many ways I found him more threatening because he was more realistic, more human. I really liked Brandauer’s Largo. But also at his side was Barbara Carrera who plays Fatima Blush. She really is a good example of the silliness of this film. She has a pet snake which she uses to kill Jack Petachi, and she even goes so far as to force Bond to write a note stating that she was the best he ever “had”. But at the same time her serious nature really works when she is being serious.

Connery shows that he still has what it takes to be James Bond as well, and reminds me why I like him so much more than Roger Moore in the role. While at 53 I think I can say he shouldn’t be playing the character anymore, much like I do not like the age of Moore while completing his later Bond films, but Connery has so much more bravado than Moore and know how to use his wit and charm much better than Moore. They both have charisma and I stated before I think Moore may be the best ladies man to play Bond, but the toughness and quick wit of Connery just so fully describes Bond, and not just because he was the first in the role.

The main features of the Bond feature: the action and the women, are up to par in this film. Kim Basinger plays the main Bond girl as Domino and while she is not the greatest actress at this stage in her career (she later won an Academy Award for L.A. Confidential), she is still a knockout. There are some fun action scenes in this film too. It is really weird because I didn’t really know what to expect and yet I left it liking it a lot more than I expected to. I don’t really know the general opinion of this film, though I can see why some would not like it because it is fairly inconsistent and the silly scenes really are quite silly. But I think it does enough other stuff right to make it a solid entry into the series. Certainly better than some, though not all, of the Roger Moore films.

I require this film in my collection.

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