Director: Terence Young
Starring: Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi, Robert Shaw
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 64
James Bond gets embroiled in a complicated SPECTRE plot to play the British and Soviet governments against each other in order to get a valuable encryption machine.
From Russia with Love still provides excellent entertainment value. You’ve got a well-crafted story, genuine intrigue and suspense, and most importantly, James Bond played to perfection. Well worth a look back in time!
I thought I was going to like From Russia with Love more than I did, as many Bond fans consider it to be the best Bond movie. For sure, there are many strong elements in the movie. By far the most noteworthy positive is Sean Connery. He hits full stride as James Bond in this second Bond film. Exceptional in Dr. No, his performance now is more refined. He is full of confidence, delivers his lines perfectly, and moves with a grace and strength that makes Bond an incredibly charismatic figure. This is the number one reason to watch From Russia with Love: you will see Bond played flawlessly.
From Russia with Love also has a well-executed plot, stays within its premise excellently, and delivers an intriguing tale of Eastern European espionage. The pace is somewhat subdued, but events and actions are logically sequenced, with the notable exception of some dopey SPECTRE agents who brilliantly stop their boats in the middle of leaking gas cans.
I was somewhat surprised with the small scale of the film, which is more in line with the novels. In Dr. No and many of the other Bond movies, the world is in danger and Bond saves it. In From Russia with Love, the focus is on obtaining a Lektor Decoding Machine. Yes, yes, I know how important these decoding thingies can be, but somehow I almost felt as if everyone is fighting over a typewriter, and the movie loses some impact points because of this.
I was also surprised with how much From Russia with Love concentrates on the intrigue in the story, and puts the action element in the back seat. Compared to the latter Bond movies—and even compared to Dr. No—it is the suspense here that drives the movie. Even the ending is somewhat anticlimactic. When you think about it, though, given that 44-year-old action scenes don’t impress too many people, this focus on intrigue is likely a strong point of the movie.
Having said that, there are some worthwhile action scenes; a gypsy verses Bulgar battle with a couple of hundred people and a tough fistfight on the train between Bond and Grant, the main villain, come immediately to mind. The action here, compared to Dr. No, has advanced as well. Only about half of the fights in From Russia with Love end with the classic “one-punch knockouts”, and the fistfight on the train is exceptionally well shot for its time.
The babe factor in From Russia with Love comes almost entirely from Ms. Universe runner-up Daniela Bianchi, who plays a Russian spy conned by SPECTRE into contacting Bond with a love letter that offers to give him the Lektor Decoding Device if he will take her with him. While she has a perfect face, the movie doesn’t display her ample beauty as well as they did Ursula Andress’ in Dr. No. I know it’s Eastern Europe and not Jamaica, but still, couldn’t we have at least one poolside bikini shot? From a female vantage point, Sean Connery is at his peak, and things don’t get much better.
The acting support for Connery’s incredible performance gets the job done, but is nothing noteworthy. Pedro Armedáriz is perhaps the lone exception. Dying from cancer during the filming, he manages to put a charming edge to his role as Ali Karim Bey, head of the Turkish operation. I was especially disappointed in the villain, Grant. He was generic and robotic in his role.
All in all, despite its weak points, From Russia with Love still provides excellent entertainment value. You’ve got a well-crafted story, genuine intrigue and suspense, and most importantly, James Bond played to perfection. Well worth a look back in time!
The political climate after the John F. Kennedy assassination led producers to delay From Russia with Love’s U.S. release.
By far the best way to get the James Bond movies is through the newly released Collector’s Edition sets.
Consistent Premise: 88
Body Count: 30
Time to First Dead Body: Very fast
Special Effects: 12
Overall: 64 (Recommended)