This review is part of Project Bond, wherein over the course of 2014 we watch all of the James Bond movies in production order.
Summary: in which Bond goes off the range (again), Leiter loses a leg, and Bond meets a seriously awesome pilot. Also, Benicio del Toro chews some scenery.
Alex: I am still loving Timothy Dalton and wishing that there were more of him as Bond. I know that the coming Brosnan is a lot of fun (well… I hope the Suck Fairy hasn’t visited too hard), but Dalton! He’s so cool! Sigh.
This film’s prologue involves Bond and someone we’ve never met going to Felix Leiter’s wedding… but on the way they go help out with a raid of some sort. OF COURSE. Because it’s only wimminz who get all hung up about weddings, and HA HA isn’t it funny when you switch the stereotype and it’s the man who’s late? oh the lolz. This raid introduces us to Sanchez, who is clearly evil because he drags a pretty girl out of bed and whips her for having left him. (If further proof is needed, his pet iguana has a diamond necklace.)
After the boob-heavy credits, Bond finds Leiter in his study – at a rather modern looking computer! – while the wedding party is going on; he’s talking to a woman who completely brushes off Bond. OOH, FORESHADOWING. Leiter’s wife Della makes some reference to marrying off Bond, and once again we get a nice moment of continuity as Bond goes all mopey at remembering his OTP. Dawwww. Also, they give him a monogrammed lighter. FROM THE LEITERS. GET IT? Meanwhile, Sanchez has escaped, and he and his goons come after Leiter. And then, just to prove that this is no Roger Moore film, Sanchez has his sharks BITE OFF FELIX LEITER’S LEG. And they also killed Della. At which I am completely
Naturally Bond wants revenge, and eventually he confronts M about this, in Ernest Hemingway’s house – and they’re only there to give Bond the excuse to say “I guess this is a farewell to arms,” which… I dunno… it’s a long set up for little pay off.
Anyway the movie goes on and centres on both Bond getting revenge and a desire to stop a major drug lord from getting more power. Bond teams up with Pam Bouvier – she who brushed him off earlier – and proves herself early on by pulling a much larger gun than him when confronted with Dario (del Toro) and co. She’s what Dr Goodhead, in Moonraker, came close to being: proficient, professional, and awesome. They do eventually get it on… but she kisses him, prompting the (somewhat amused, still patronising) line “Why don’t you wait til you’re asked?” To which she replies, “Then why don’t you ask?”
Q turns up, in the field again; Wayne Newton also turns up, as a televangelist type who is helping Sanchez sell drugs to cartels in various cities. He is as grotesque as he always seems to be. Bond inveigles his way into Sanchez’ place… things go well, things badly, random Hong Kong ninjas working for HK narcotics turn up and stomp on him… Bond turns Sanchez into a paranoid maniac, and people die.
Women? Bouvier is indeed awesome. She has some great lines, she’s always competent and clear-headed, and she deals quite well with confronting Bond’s other love interest – is this the first time that’s happened in Bond films? The two sex objects actually meeting? The second is Lupe, and unfortunately all the awesomeness was spent on Bouvier because Lupe’s dialogue and characterisation are appalling. She falls for Bond too hard and too fast – and I guess you can explain this as her wanting to escape Sanchez, but it’s not framed that way.
Race? Leiter’s other groom is Sharkey, a black man, and there seem to be no issues with that. One of the DEA assistants is also black, and I think some other random background characters too. The story is set largely in “Isthmus City” so many of the goons and thugs are vaguely Latino; it was shot in Mexico so I’m sure that the cast was from a varied ethnic background. There’s also the “Eastern” drug lords that Sanchez is trying to woo. Overall, yes there’s the stereotype of Central/South America being in the drug trade, but there are also white people involved (Sanchez’ main helper is Anglo, his American contact is too), so I actually think it does mostly ok from a race perspective. For its day, especially.
James: Perhaps my favourite Bond theme music by Gladys Knight, great gadgets too thanks to Q Branch. “Everything for a man on holidays” – explosive alarm clock (never wake up), explosive toothpaste, a Hasselblad palm-reading gun camera and a Polaroid camera which shoots a laser and makes x-ray prints. Dalton is enjoyable again and it will be interesting to see how the transition to Pierce Brosnan feels as we move into what I’ve always considered the modern Bond era. We’re ordering our drinks shaken and not stirred again. 3 Martinis.