A View to a Kill (1985)

 

Welcome to your briefing 007. Your mission: A View to a Kill. Bond, your successful mission to recover 003 and the microchip on him has revealed a bigger problem: the Russians have duplicated Q’s EMP-resistant microchip. Your mission is to find out how, and start with Max Zorin, CEO of Zorin Industries, whose moniker we found on the recovered chip.

The Beginning

The opening sequence here is a fire starter for the rest of the film. Again the franchise takes advantage of the Cold War and inserts the Russians right into the mix of things. Bond travels to Siberia where he uncovers a frozen 003 as well as an important microchip, but from there adrenaline takes over as we are treated to a ski chase. I think they have had Bond skiing way too many times, I almost feel like he is a better skier than secret agent. But the action is fun and then…snowboarding! But why oh why do they have to ruin it by playing The Beach Boys? Then on to the iceberg disguised sub where Bond treats himself to the lovely lady inside, who I’m not sure what her role in the operation is. Wouldn’t MI6 know better by this point than to pair a beautiful woman with Bond on a mission? I guess not.

The title sequence is very distinctive, and for that I applaud it. However, it is very distinctive for how 80s it is with the bright florescent colors, and for that I deplore it. The theme song is by Duran Duran and it actually reached #1 on the US pop charts, marking the first time this happened with a Bond theme song. How!? This song is so forgettable and insignificant. Not atrocious, but I think I had forgotten it by the time Bond reappeared on screen.

Location

Siberia, Paris, France, San Francisco

Allies

Tibbet

Like in Octopussy, Bond gets a fairly formidable sidekick, albeit one that doesn’t do much and has too little a screen time. But like Vijay, Tibbet is an important part of Bond’s operation at Zorin’s horse auction. He plays Bond’s valet and as such the two have some nice interplay as Tibbet is actually a Sir, ranking above Bond in the government, but he has the knowledge Bond needs to be able to successfully integrate into the thoroughbred scene. The filmmakers even play off the fact that he is not Bond’s equal when it comes to being a secret agent, having the two take on some thugs only to have Tibbet get beat and Bond have to compensate for him.

Chuck Lee

Chuck Lee is nothing more than a glorified contact. He pops up in San Francisco to let Bond into the loop when it comes to Zorin and his operations. He shows up one more time and doesn’t really provide much aid to Bond in his mission, nor is he that important to the overall plot of the film.

Enemies

Max Zorin

Max Zorin is the main villain and portrayed by Christopher Walken. As such he is the first Bond character to be played by an Academy Award winner. Some actors went on to win Oscars (Kim Basinger, Judi Dench), but none already had one when they starred in the franchise. I will refrain from commenting on Walken’s performance for the mission debriefing. But the character of Zorin I found to be one of the better written villains. He is a millionaire with some strange connections. He has a romantic relationship with his right hand woman, May Day, owns a huge corporation, is working with the Russians, and is a little bit crazy, probably because he is the freak result of a East German steroid project. Heck, he even has the most badass thoroughbred stables ever, past or present.

May Day

May Day is I think the perfect pair with Max Zorin. She is a extremely mysterious and exotic. Portrayed by famed singer Grace Jones, she wears strange costumes and has much more personality, despite her reserved nature, than most villain’s henchmen. I think her eccentricities make her one of the more fascinating villains, especially given she is a black woman, and on top of that, she has a physicality that is unmatched in the series to this point. I think May Day opened the door to other intimidating women in the series.

Q Branch

Q does not show up too much in this film, in fact he only has one scene in the film, but his presence is felt by the many gadgets he clearly provides Bond with. I think the biggest impact he has on the film is clearly the microchip which the whole film is essentially about. But on top of that some of the cooler gadgets Bond gets include see-through glasses, which are a bit odd because they are not X-ray, but allow him to see through curtains or some such obstruction. I love how Bond always seems to have the exact, specific gadget he needs, as though Q knows what situation he will be in. In addition he has some sort of carbon copier which allows him to figure out the last check Zorin wrote. As always Bond is equipped with bug detectors for his room and he also has a ring camera, which, while used, is never really explained/utilized. There is also some weird window unlocker, but what is strange here is that it says it is from The Sharper Image. I guess even the Bond franchise is not exempt from product placement.

The prize invention here, however, is a robotic watchdog thingy. It really wasn’t all that practical due to its size, and in actuality reminded me a little of the little annoying transformer from the Michael Bay films.

The Girls

Stacy Sutton

Stacy Sutton is a mysterious character from the very start. She is somehow associated with Zorin and Bond soon learns that Zorin has written a check to her for a the grand sum of $5 million. Hmmm, very suspicious. Bond tries to woo her for more information, and she is quite attractive, being portrayed by Tanya Roberts. But May Day and Zorin quickly swoop in to make sure this doesn’t happen. She resurfaces in San Francisco and we learn that she is actually against Zorin, something to do with her late father. Lucky for Bond that she is a state geologist and has smarts to go with her looks. Without Stacy, Bond would never have uncovered the sinister plot by Zorin.

Pola Ivanova

What a waste of a Bond girl. Pola is a Russian spy who Bond encounters after an excursion into Zorin’s compound. The two act as if they are on friendly terms, sleep with each other, and then attempt to double cross each other. Lucky for us, Bond is a bit quicker, getting the better of Pola.

The Car & the Chase

Much to my disappointment, there really isn’t a car or a chase in this film. The closest thing to it, and I will say I guess it is a chase, is the Eifel Tower sequence. After a ridiculous butterfly assassination in the Tower, Bond pursues May Day after she leaps from the tower, parachuting onto a boat on the river. Bond pursues her from the ground in a tiny taxi, which ends up in pieces. It is a really great sequence from a stunt perspective, but the cheesy taxi break up made me roll my eyes. The other chase involves a fire truck, driven by both Bond and Stacy. There are some really good stunts, once again, but ultimately the scene just doesn’t measure up with other Bond chases. And can we get Bond back into a sleek sports car!?

Mission Debriefing

A View to a Kill is an important Bond film for a few reasons the first and foremost is that it marks the final appearance in the lead role for Roger Moore. After a run longer than any other actor in the history of the franchise, even up to today, Roger Moore finally stepped down from the role. I have given him a hard time over the last few reviews and I’m not going to back down from what i have already said, but I do want to take the chance to lay some praise on Moore for his work in the franchise. I still prefer the Connery era, but the Moore era has its fair share of good films and good moments in the series. I still think Moore is the best example of Bond as a ladies’ man and really, despite his age in the later years, he works in the role. I cannot image the franchise without Moore’s portrayal, and maybe that has to do with the fact that he was around for so long, but he did leave a lasting impact on the franchise.

And his final film does him justice I think, despite his performance. He is fine for most of it, but at times I felt like he was intentionally hamming it up, meanwhile the rest of the cast didn’t seem to be in on it. Definitely apparent that it was time for him to go, even if in this installment I didn’t get the sense that his age was a problem. I would be hard pressed to find a film in the entire series that I could say I didn’t like and A View to a Kill is no different. Much like most of the Moore fare, it is a film with moments, and many thanks to director John Glen, but never really sums up to be anything brilliant or lasting. It upholds the Bond name, following the formula and providing some neat additions, but it will never be involved in any conversations about the seminal entries in the series.

I think the strongest aspect of the film is definitely director John Glen, but in a different way than I would praise most directors. Glen stepped up to direct the franchise after being an editor for previous Bond films and I think his background prepared him to direct some of the better action sequences in the series to this point. There are a number of spectacular action set pieces in this film and they are executed brilliantly. The first comes with the snowboarding opening sequence, and then the Eiffel Tower chase/jump scene and no discussion of this film can go without mentioning the final sequence atop the Golden Gate Bridge. But the scene that captured my attention most was the scene within city hall. That scene stood out to me because it was executed with such a high level of tension I felt it belonged in an action movie proper. I mean that as a compliment, even though it sounds as though I am trashing the series. Not at all, just that the Bond series to me has always been a sort of ridiculous, fun spy series, and this particular scene steps it up to becomes something much more real, which is a nice moment in the series.

I think one of the main reasons it works as well as it does it Christopher Walken as the main villain Zorin. There have probably been better villains in the series, but Walken performance takes Zorin into the discussion. He is the perfect actor for the role because of the off kilter, borderline insane character. What is so disappointing is that his sidekick, May Day, couldn’t get the same treatment. Grace Jones is a terrible actress. I have never heard her sing, but I am confident that she should stick to her day job. May Day is such a unique character with so much potential, yet she is somewhat ruined by Jones. The other Bond girl, Stacy Sutton, is not much better. Tanya Roberts is a better actress than Jones I would say, even if she ended up resorting to softcore porn later in her career, but I was never able to buy the fact that she was capable of fighting against Zorin or even being a smart geologist. The idea for the character is miles better than the final product. Vengeful, intelligent Bond women are my favorite, but Stacy Sutton is not.

The strength of the film is in the action scenes, executed beautifully by the stunt team. Walken is fun to watch, as always, and I really think the idea behind the film, the plot of Zorin attempting to take down Silicon Valley in order to corner the market on microchips in the mid 80s is smarter than most Moore films and more grounded as well. However, the ensemble cast and the overall execution of the film is far too inconsistent to canonize the film in the Bond saga. I have said this about some other films, that it is essential Bond viewing, but I am coming to the realization that I could say that about all of them because I am such a fan of the franchise. There is a fine line between knowing you can pretty much enjoy something regardless of what happens; there will never be a Bond film I don’t like, despite what I may sometimes say about them, and of that I am confident. That being said, A View to a Kill is not one of them I would be able to readily recommend to non-fans looking for the best spot to jump into the series or even expand from what they have already seen.

James Bond will return in…

The Living Daylights

 

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