Director: Guy Hamilton
Starring: Roger Moore, Jane Seymour, Yaphet Kotto, Gloria Hendry, David Hedison
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 73
James Bond investigates the disappearance of three agents who were monitoring the dictator of a small Caribbean Island.
Live and Let Die is a revitalizing addition to the Bond series. Moore nails his role as Bond. All the critical elements of a good action movie take a jump in quality. There are weaknesses for sure, but the strengths of this film outweigh them.
After a disappointing Diamonds are Forever, I wasn’t sure what to expect with Live and Let Die, which is a watershed in the James Bond series. Roger Moore takes over from Sean Connery as James Bond, and with him comes a new era. I’m happy and surprised to say that Moore breathes new life into a series that was fading over the last three films. Unlike Diamonds are Forever and You Only Live Twice, Live and Let Die pays attention to the details that make a good action movie. And unlike George Lasenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Roger Moore nails the role of James Bond.
In many ways it’s not one element of Live and Let Die that makes it good, so much as it is an elevation of all the parts that go into a movie. On almost all the major ingredients of a good action movie—story, pacing, premise, and acting—Live and Let Die does admirably well.
But let’s start with Roger Moore. When I was young, we always argued over was who was the best Bond, Sean Connery or Roger Moore. I sided with Moore, which was based on the fact that I had only seen Connery’s last two movies, whereas I had seen the majority of Moore’s films. While I think Connery’s early work exceeds Moore, I do think that Roger Moore in Live and Let Die is better than Connery in Diamonds are Forever and You Only Live Twice. Moore brings a fresh, sophisticated, and ultra cool edge to Connery’s tired interpretation of the character. Moore also hits the right combination of hard professionalism and likeability. With Moore, Bond is back, and the series comes back to life.
The story, script, pacing, and premise in Live and Let Die are much more polished than in recent installments in the series. The story of Live and Let Die is crisp, largely believable, and well delivered. The script fills the story out nicely and has some genuinely funny one-liners. The pace in the movie is solid. Scenes connect well, and there is a solid balance between action and plot. The only notable exception here is a bayou boat chase that drags on much too long. As with most Bond movies, there are problems with the premise. Most commonly, the arch villain puts Bond in numerous deadly traps rather than killing him outright. At one point a control center of guards suddenly and inexplicably only contains two people. For the most part these problems with the premise never cross the line to ruin the movie, and in many places the movie plays more attention to premise than other movies in the series: it was refreshing at the beginning of the film to see Kanaga casually order his henchmen to take Bond out and shoot him. It’s also worth noting that the editing in this movie is excellent. In an action film, the little transitions can make all the difference, and Live and Let Die gets nearly a perfect score with regards to moving us through scenes.
The acting in Live and Let Die is greatly improved from that of Diamonds are Forever. All across the board, we’ve got solid performances to support Roger Moore. Of special note, Jane Seymour is convincing in her role as Solitaire the fortuneteller. The villains in Live and Let Die rock. Yaphet Kotto is outstanding as the head villain Kanaga. His seething, vicious edge makes Kanaga one of the more compelling Bond villains to date. He also is surrounded by the best set of accomplices in a Bond movie so far. Geoffrey Holder as the rhythmic Baron Samedi, Julius Harris as the hook-armed Tee Hee, and Earl Jolly Brown as the immense yet quiet Whisper all deserve mention for the flavor they add to the movie.
The action in Live and Let Die is not the strong point of the film, but it does provide for some good entertainment and advances the series nicely. With Live and Let Die, the Bond series embraces the thrills and stunts that would define its escapist flair in the future. We’ve got boat chases, fights, sharks, crocodiles, cars out of control, escapes in buses and planes. There are some solid stunts here and quite a few things explode. Visual effects are insignificant, as would be expected for a film this old.
There are some scenes that go too far in terms of humor, logic, and balance. The boat chase, as mentioned before, goes on much too long. By contrast, the final battles are much too short, are a bit anti-climactic, and weaken the ending. The humor in some of the action scenes can make them a bit too casual and lighthearted. In the boat chase scene, Clifton James plays a southern sheriff, who is funny, yes. But he gets too big of a role, and ultimately his humor wears thin. Lastly, a couple of the scenes involving snakes are unconvincing. On the whole, however, the action has a modern feel to it that pulls it out of the past.
As for Babes and Hunks, Jane Seymour is elegant and beautiful, but at times she seemed caked in makeup. Still, it’s hard to hide her beauty, and the Babe score benefits greatly from her presence. Gloria Hendry as a CIA agent on Kanaga’s payroll, was a bit clunky, but quite attractive. Moore scores well as Bond, and Kotto and the supporting cast add points as well.
Lastly, I don’t usually mention the soundtrack, but the song Live and Let Die, by Paul McCartney and Wings, is a powerful theme song for this movie. It helps set the mood and energy of the film.
Overall, Live and Let Die is a revitalizing addition to the Bond series. Moore nails his role as Bond. All the critical elements of a good action movie take a jump in quality. There are weaknesses for sure, but the overall quality of this film outshines them.
The 110-foot powerboat jump in this movie set a world record which would last for three years.
Consistent Premise: 63
Body Count: 22
Time to First Dead Body: 1 minute, 31 seconds.
Special Effects: 26