Based on Ian Fleming’s novel, The Spy Who Loved Me is the story of James Bond teaming up with a Russian agent to stop a reclusive megalomaniac from destroying the world and create a new one under the sea. Directed by Lewis Gilbert and screenplay by Richard Maimbaum and Christopher Wood, the film is a return to James Bond going back to basics after spending time dabbling with other genres with its two previous films as Roger Moore plays Agent 007 for the third time. Also starring Barbara Bach, Curd Jurgens, Richard Kiel, Geoffrey Keen, Walter Gotell, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell, and Bernard Lee as M. The Spy Who Loved Me is an extraordinary and thrilling film from Lewis Gilbert.
Following the disappearance of two nuclear submarines from Britain and the Soviet Union, James Bond is asked by the Minister of Defense (Geoffrey Keen) to investigate the matter as Bond travels to Cairo. He then meets KGB officer Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) who is also there to find a microfilm plans about the tracking system that has captured the submarines where they encounter a metallic-teeth henchman named Jaws (Richard Kiel) as they get the microfilm where Bond later meets Amasova’s superior in General Gogol (Walter Gotell) who has decided to team up with M to investigate the submarines’ disappearance where Bond and Amasova suspect a shipping tycoon named Karl Stromberg (Curd Jurgens).
Traveling to Sardinia, Bond and Amasova meet Stromberg posing as a couple where Bond learns about Stromberg’s plans to create an underwater society away from the decadence and chaos of the modern world. After another tussle with some of Stromberg’s people including Jaws, Bond and Amasova realize that an oil tanker from Stromberg might have something to do with it as the two board a U.S. submarine to uncover more about Stromberg’s base known as Atlantis where they’re captured by Stromberg’s oil tanker along with the U.S. sub crew. Realizing what Stromberg plans to do with the two captured subs, it’s up to Bond to once again save the day.
The film is essentially the story of James Bond teaming up with a KGB agent to defeat an industrialist tycoon who is hell-bent on destroying the world in order to create a new one under the sea. It’s a plot that is simple yet screenwriters Richard Maimbaum and Christopher Wood create a script that is complex in terms of the motivations of Karl Stromberg as well as fleshing out both James Bond and Anya Amasova who team up to stop Stromberg. Especially since Bond is the one who kills Amasova’s lover early in the film during a mission where she would eventually find out that would cause some tension between the two.
Anya Amasova in some ways is Bond’s equal as she is a spy who is just as cunning, intelligent, and is able to get the job done though she may not be as physically superior as Bond. Still, she is someone who understands Bond as well as the fact that she is someone who is loyal to the KGB and wants to ensure that she gets the job done. Then there’s Karl Stromberg who is an interesting villain that stands out from the rest. All he wants is to create a new world under the sea where things are simpler as there’s no politics and decadence that he feels is ruining the modern world. While he may not be a villain who can match Bond physically, his ambition and willingness to face anyone who will get in his way does make him a compelling antagonist.
Lewis Gilbert’s direction is definitely big in terms of the set pieces that are created as well as the locations as the film is shot in Egypt, Canada, Switzerland, and Sardinia, Italy. Yet, it’s also intimate for the way it explores the relationship between Bond and Amasova where they have to work together despite being part of different factions as they’re away of the bigger picture in order to maintain a good British-Soviet relationship. Through some amazing compositions, close-ups, and tracking shots, Gilbert’s direction is always engaging for the way the suspense is built and the payoff that comes in afterwards. Notably in the climatic action scenes involving submarines and possible nuclear Armageddon where Bond would have to use his own intelligence to save the world. Overall, Gilbert creates a truly magnificent and engrossing film that stands up there with some of the great Bond films.
Cinematographer Claude Renoir does spectacular work with the film‘s photography from the beauty of the exteriors in its locations to some of the interiors with some amazing light schemes that features un-credited work from Stanley Kubrick. Editor John Glen does excellent work with the film‘s editing by playing up to the film‘s suspense and action with methodical and rhythmic cuts to maintain its leisured pace. Production designer Ken Adam, with set decorator Hugh Scaifie and art director Peter Lamont, does superb work with the set pieces such as the Atlantis home base as well as the secret meeting rooms Bond and Amasova meet to pull their sources together.
Visual effects supervisor Derek Meddings does amazing work with the miniatures created such as the exterior of the Atlantis base as well a few key visual effects shots. Sound recorder Gordon Everett does terrific work with the sound to play up some of the action scenes with heightened sound as well as the way the narrator speaks during the Egyptian pyramids sequence.
The film’s score by Marvin Hamlisch is brilliant for its lush orchestral pieces mixed in with a bit of funk and disco for the some of the film’s action sequences. With a soundtrack that includes classical pieces from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johann Sebastian Bach, Camille Saint-Saens, and Frederic Chopin along with Maurice Jarre’s theme from Lawrence of Arabia. The film’s theme song Nobody Does It Better by Hamlisch and lyricist Carole Bayer Sager and sung by Carly Simon is among one of the best Bond theme songs ever recorded.
The casting by Weston Drury Jr. and Maude Spector is incredible for the ensemble that is created as it features notable appearances from Michael Billington as Amasova’s lover Sergei Barsov, Shane Rimmer as the U.S. sub commander, Edward de Souza as Bond’s Egyptian contact Sheikh Hosein, Robert Brown as Admiral Hagreaves, Milton Reid as Stomberg henchman Sandor, and Caroline Munro as Stromberg’s assistant/assassin Naomi. Bond regulars such as Lois Maxwell as the witty secretary Miss Moneypenny and Desmond Llewelyn as the inventive but unappreciated Q are a joy to watch. New Bond regulars in Geoffrey Keen as British defense minister and Walter Gotell as General Gogol are also great to watch as the latter is a great character who serves as an authority figure Bond can trust. Bernard Lee is superb as Bond’s superior M who always keeps Bond in check while ensuring that he does his job.
Richard Kiel is excellent as the silent but deadly Jaws where his tall figure and big metallic teeth makes a great impression as one of the most memorable henchman of the Bond franchise. Curd Jurgens is great as the villainous Karl Stromberg who displays a low-key sense of intimidation to his character as well as devilish charm to a man who likes to show off his ideas. Barbara Bach is wonderful as Major Anya Amasova aka Agent Triple X as she displays an intoxicating beauty but also determination as a woman keen on doing her job as well as deal with someone as charming as Bond. Finally there’s Roger Moore in a phenomenal performance as James Bond where Moore maintains his low-key sense of humor for the role while bringing a wit to the way he handles business as it’s one of Moore’s best performances as Agent 007.
The Spy Who Loved Me is a remarkable film from Lewis Gilbert as it stands as one of the best films of the James Bond franchise. Thanks to an ensemble cast led by Roger Moore as James Bond, the film is highlighted by high production values, amazing visual effects, and a compelling story. It’s a film that does everything that is expected in a Bond film and more. In the end, The Spy Who Loved Me is an outstanding film from Lewis Gilbert.
James Bond Files: The EON Films: Dr. No - From Russia with Love - Goldfinger - Thunderball - You Only Live Twice - On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Diamonds are Forever - Live and Let Die - The Man with the Golden Gun - Moonraker - For Your Eyes Only - Octopussy - A View to a Kill - The Living Daylights - Licence to Kill - GoldenEye - Tomorrow Never Dies - The World is Not Enough - Die Another Day - Casino Royale (2006 film) - Quantum of Solace - Skyfall
Non-EON Films: Casino Royale (Climax! TV Episode) - Casino Royale (1967 film) - Never Say Never Again
Bond Documentaries: Bond Girls Are Forever - True Bond - Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007
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