Sunday, November 18, 2012

BOND 2: From Russia With Love

From Russia with Love
Director: Terence Young
Year 1963

From Russia with love is the second Bond entry in the long standing and lucrative spy series, and it features all the staples of the genre that we love, as concocted by Ian Fleming. The film establishes Sean Connery as the quintessential men of men, as it showcases his razor wit and overpowering charm in the role of James Bond 007. Shot in a sleek style and cool temperament by director Terence Young, this continuation of Bond’s misadventures in the espionage world is not to be missed.

The film follows secret agent James Bond as he is assigned to locate a Russian decoding machine called a Lektor. The only problem is that the evil organization known as SPECTRE is also hunting for the device, and they’ll stop at nothing in order to obtain it first, doing all they can to finally put 007 out of commission for good. With the aid of a sexy Russian undercover agent named Tatiana Romanova, Bond thwarts the efforts of SPECTRE and their two best agents Donald Grant and ex-KGB agent Rosa Klebb, as he gets one step closer to taking the Lektor for Queen and Country. Live it up because James Bond is back! He’s got new incredible women, new incredible enemies, and new incredible adventures, so soak it all up and get in the 60’s super spy mood!

Once again Sean Connery takes on the iconic role of James Bond for the second time, bringing with him the outrageous banter and smooth demeanor that made his portrayal of 007 so endearing the first time around. Connery melds into the character, making every gesture and every action-packed moment his own, as he solidifies his claim as the gold standard of secret agents. As I’ve mentioned before, Connery is my absolute favorite of the Bonds and in From Russia with Love, he gives it his all and really entertains to no end. There’s no denying that the longevity of the series has a great deal to do with the efforts that Connery put in during his first five consecutive portrayals of the much lauded character. You can see the slow evolution of James Bond beginning to blossom within this second entry, which gradually comes to fruition in Connery’s third outing, Goldfinger, only to then ultimately thrive in the forth installment Thunderball. It goes without saying that Connery has had an inspired progression throughout the series, and it’s great to see the early inklings of this storied character come to life.

Daniela Bianchi takes on the role of Tatiana Romanova, a rival agent to Bond, who is assigned to get up, close and personal with the impressionable agent in order to fulfill SPECTRE’s nefarious plans. As a pawn in SPECTRE’s grand scheme, Tatiana doesn’t fully realize the plot that has been put into play, and Bianchi perfectly mirrors the loyal innocence and coy nature that the character is needed to convey in this hardened situation. With a subtle hand and an expert sensibility, Bianchi knocks this role out of the park. After her fabulous turn as the double-edged Tatiana Romanova in From Russia with Love, Bianchi went on to take the Eurospy world by storm starring in such entertaining gems as Code Name: Tiger, Slalom, Balearic Caper, Special Mission Lady Chaplin, and of course teaming alongside Sean’s own brother, Neil, in Operation Kid Brother AKA OK Connery. With her drop dead gorgeous looks and her tendency to steal the limelight from her costars, Bianchi made the perfect femme fatale, and in From Russia with Love she proved that she had what it took to become an iconic Bond girl and then some.

As for the main villain of From Russia with Love, the honors go to Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the leader of SPECTRE the international terrorist organization. Strangely enough though, we never get to see the face of Blofeld in this film, giving the infamous ruler of this organization a mysterious aura that is later revealed in the fifth entry of the series, You Only Live Twice, by the iconic actor Donald Pleasence. To take the place of this faceless SPECTRE leader, the film focuses on the henchmen of Blofeld’s illusive organization, the ones that do his bidding. Robert Shaw takes on the role of Grant, a psychotic agent, whose sole purpose is to manipulate James Bond and ultimately destroy him. Shaw does a tremendous job as the demented Grant and his methodic acting and shark-like portrayal of this dangerous agent is quite stupendous. One of the highlights of the film is the tension-filled battle of wits and strength between himself and James Bond on a passenger train. The fight is brutal as both combatants get their fair share of bruises. Another stand out villain of the film is Rosa Klebb, played by Hungarian born actress Lotte Lenya. With her dagger studded boots and nasty attitude, she becomes quite a thorn in the side of James Bond.

Aside from the lively characters of From Russia with Love, the film, in true Bond fashion, showcases a remarkable array of beautiful and picturesque locations that highlight the globe trotting aspects of 007’s world to perfection. From James’ familiar stopping grounds in London, to the bustling streets of Istanbul, to the romantic venues of Venice, and to the paranoid alleyways of Zagreb and Belgrade, this Bond entry doesn’t skimp on the international flavor. Each locale is crucial in both placing Bond in a tangible place and time, but also in adding to the intrigue of what being a secret agent would be like. Seeing all of these wonderful sights are what makes the Bond universe so appealing to cinema fans, and with From Russia with Love, we get more than our fair share of sightseeing. Though the film lacks in the more traditional Bond trappings like elaborate lairs, intuitive gadgets, and tropical settings, this second entry in the long standing series is definitely one that brings an added bit of weight to the proceedings. Even if it doesn’t match up to some of the more iconic efforts of the bunch, From Russia with Love is still a damn fine production that has the added bonus of being headlined by one of the best Bond’s, in my humble opinion.

From Russia with Love is a great entry in the beloved series of Bond films, which tones down the flamboyant and extravagant elements that the series is mostly famous for, and rather focuses on a more grounded espionage tale to expand on the Bond universe. With Sean Connery reprising his role as the iconic super agent James Bond, the film doesn’t miss a step as Connery showcases his outstanding timing and unparalleled wit to great effect. The same can be said for Daniela Bianchi’s portrayal of Tatiana Romanova, as she pulls of a captivating performance filled with a nuanced vulnerable quality that is perfectly balanced against her strong and capable abilities as a fellow agent.

With the mysterious nature of Blofeld and his physical form kept under wraps, the film generates a mystifying aura about it, specifically when it comes to the SPECTRE organization. This unorthodox approach gives the film some added weight, and it also allows the lesser villains, such as Robert Shaw’s Grant and Lotte Lenya’s Rosa Klebb, to take center stage. In true grandiose fashion, From Russia with Love takes us on a whirlwind of a ride as it jettisons us from one beautiful location to the next, weaving an international tapestry of exotic wonders that really boggles the mind. From Turkey, to Italy, to Yugoslavia, the representations of these interesting countries are on full display as they meld with the always entertaining trappings of James Bond’s wild espionage-filled world. Even if it isn’t one of the best, From Russia with Love is still a respectable entry in the series. You really can’t go wrong with a Sean Connery Bond film, and this one is no exception. If I had my way, I’d rename this entertaining gem, From Russia with…..

You know who I am goddammit!

Damn, now that's the life.

Ask me to drop my towel, or I'll shoot.

Meow Mix, Meow Mix, please deliver.

Stop right there mister!

I'm so cool I can't stand it.

Rather pleased with yourself, eh Donald?

Well don't you look as pretty as a tulip.

It was an explosive ride.

If you can't handle the heat... get your ass out of the danger room.

Is it getting uncomfortable in here or is it just Rosa Klebb.

Well hello there.

You're seriously going to wear that out to the club?

It's the romantic ballad, "Put your gun on my shoulder."

Come sail away... Come sail away... Come and sail away with Bond.

The day the Skipper snapped. Look out Gilligan!

Have another bad day at the office James?

All's well that ends well.

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