26 December 2005 | pyrocitor
Bond as a spy, rather than an action hero
After the success of Dr. No, it was only a matter of time before James Bond returned for his second installment of espionage and adventure. Of course, it wasn't until the phenomenal success of Goldfinger that the Bond series really took off, and established the formula soon to be followed by every subsequent 007 movie and virtually every other action movie. But 'From Russia with Love' proved to be an equally effective, if slightly quieter little film, with more focus on the undercover espionage portion of James Bond's occupation, and less of the glamorous saving the world which would later become daily routine for him.
In fact, one of the things that makes 'From Russia with Love' interesting is that it is a 007 movie made before the "Bond movie" formula was established, and noticeable differences in the storyline can be seen. 'Russia' is more of a slower film, with fewer action sequences and more focus on Bond actually being a spy rather than an action hero. This leisurely, tension-building storytelling likely would have garnered terrible reaction in the 90s, but 'From Russia with Love' is still a very strong, if less formulaic addition to the Bond series.
Another noticeable difference is that Bond himself is much less the star of the show than is usually the case. Much more focus is placed on the supporting characters of the story, including minor characters such as chess master Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal) who likely would simply have been eliminated from the story had 'Russia' followed the standard formula more closely. And for once, Bond isn't completely all knowing, capable of solving any problem independently - he teams up with the wise Kerim Bey (the charming Pedro Armendariz, his last film role) who shows Bond the ropes of Istanbul. But more standard story elements from the Bond formula are still present, such as menacing villains Rosa Klebb (the terrifying Lotte Lenya) and hit-man Red Grant. (an utterly intimidating and menacing Robert Shaw, the film's standout) And of course, there is still a slew of beautiful women for Bond to seduce, especially Russian decoding clerk Tatiana Romanova, played by the immensely gorgeous Daniela Bianchi. Also watch for a tense boat chase near the film's climax, the kind of stunt frequented by future Bond films.
So 'From Russia with Love' is really a quieter, more suspenseful addition to the Bond series, with more focus on Bond doing some actual spying rather than explosions every five minutes and Bond saving the world from some elaborate scheme. It may drag at times, and may not prove quite as exciting as today's audiences might hope, but Connery is at the top of his game here as 007, and his opposers are genuinely menacing and intimidating. For those wishing the Bond franchise would place more emphasis of the espionage portion of Bond's occupation, 'From Russia with Love' should prove the perfect film for them.