Based on Ian Fleming’s short story From a View to a Kill, A View to a Kill is about James Bond going up against a microchip industrialist who plans to destroy Silicon Valley for financial reasons. Directed by John Glen and screenplay by Michael G. Wilson and Richard Maimbaum, the film marks the seventh and final time Roger Moore played the role of Agent 007. Also starring Christopher Walken, Grace Jones, Tanya Roberts, Patrick Macnee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell, Walter Gotell, Geoffrey Keen, and Robert Brown as M. A View to a Kill is a stellar yet adventurous film from John Glen.
After recovering a microchip in Siberia, James Bond gives the chip to Q (Desmond Llewelyn) who analyzes it as he reveals that it’s a chip that can withstand electromagnetic pulse. Learning that it’s manufactured by an industrialist named Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), Bond joins M, Q, and Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) to the horse racetrack where they meet Sir Godfrey Tibbett (Patrick Macnee) where they make a discovery about Zorin’s horse. After talking to a French investigator at the Eiffel Tower, Bond comes across a mysterious assassin whom he tries to chase as he later goes to Zorin’s French estate with Tibbett pretending to be his driver. After meeting Zorin, Bond notices a beautiful young woman named Stacy Sutton (Tanya Roberts) being given a check for more than five million dollars.
Later that night, Bond and Tibbett break into Zorin’s secret lab where they learn about what Zorin and his henchman Dr. Carl Mortner (Wiloughby Gray) are injecting into the horses. When Tibbett leaves the next day to contact M, Bond goes horse riding with Zorin where things become tense as Bond’s identity was identified by Zorin’s henchwoman May Day (Grace Jones). Though Bond was able to survive Zorin’s attempt to kill him, he later re-appears in San Francisco to meet with CIA agent Chuck Lee (David Yip) who reveals to Bond some information about Zorin. After trying to uncover what Zorin is doing at an oil rig, Bond gets information from Russian agent Pola Ivanova (Fiona Fullerton) who is also going after Zorin since he used to be a KGB agent that’s gone rogue.
Bond then meets Stacy Sutton who reveals about the check Zorin gave her as she helps Bond trying to figure what Zorin is up to. Realizing his plan, Bond once again has to stop another villain from creating chaos.
The film is essentially the story of James Bond trying to stop a psychopathic industrialist from destroying Silicon Valley in order to create a monopoly in the microchip business. Yet, the villain that Bond faces is a man who isn’t just a rogue KGB agent who has grown rich on his own. He’s also a man who is the product of medical experiments performed by the Russians that had gone absolutely mad in his ambitions. It’s an interesting premise that allows Bond to do what he does to stop a madman but not everything about the screenplay works.
Some of the dialogue is a bit cheesy in its attempt to be funny while the Stacy Sutton character is badly written as she is this geologist who despises Zorin for wanting to buy her family’s business. Other issues in the screenplay involves a few ridiculous moments in which a group of police officers try to go after Bond where it feels like it belongs in another movie. Still, the screenplay does play faithfully to the formula as well as creating some interesting characters like May Day who adds some excitement to the story.
John Glen’s direction is definitely engaging for the action sequences, sprawling stunt sequences, and other adventurous moments that is created. Even in the way he builds up suspense as it is still about James Bond trying to uncover a mystery. While there’s moments in the humor that is good, some of it feels forced and off at times where it delves into very silly moments that takes away some of the action. Glen is still able to pull off the moments of thrills and knows when to slow things down in order for Bond to do his job and take his time. Even as he creates scenes to establish more information about Zorin and his plans. Overall, Glen creates a very solid though flawed film that has all of the hallmarks of what is needed in a James Bond film.
Cinematographer Alan Hume does excellent work with the film‘s photography from the colorful locations set in France, London, and San Francisco to some of the interiors set in Zorin‘s estate. Editor Peter Davies does terrific work with the editing in playing up the energy of the action scenes to more straightforward cuts for the suspense and dramatic scenes. Production designer Peter Lamont, with set decorator Crispian Sallis and art director John Fenner, does superb work with the look of Zorin‘s estate as well as the meeting room in his blimp. Costume designer Emma Porteus does wonderful work with the costumes such as the lavish clothing that May Day wears.
Special effects supervisor John Richardson does fantastic work with some of the action sequences that involves explosions and other big things. Sound editor Colin Miller does nice work with the sound from the way the sound is recorded during the oil rig scene as well as the broad mix in the film‘s action scenes. The film’s music by John Barry is very good for its orchestral-driven score from the bombastic arrangements for the action scenes to more lush-driven pieces for the romantic moments. The title song performed by Duran Duran is definitely one of the best theme songs for its mixture of new wave and orchestral bombast provided by Barry.
The casting by Debbie McWilliams is brilliant for the ensemble that is created as it includes some notable small performances from Patrick Bauchau as Zorin’s henchman Scarpine, Daniel Benzali as Stacy’s boss, Fiona Fullerton as KGB agent Pola Ivanova, Dolph Lundgren as one of General Gogol’s men, Papillon Soo Hoo and Alison Doody as a couple of May Day’s assistants, David Yip as CIA agent Chuck Lee, and Wiloughby Gray as Zorin’s scientist associate Dr. Mortner. Walter Gotell is wonderful as General Gogol while Lois Maxwell is very good in her final appearance as the always charming Miss Moneypenny. Bond regulars like Geoffrey Keen as defense minister Frederick Gray, Desmond Llewelyn as Q, and Robert Brown as M are excellent as always with Llewelyn always being the standout. Patrick Macnee is terrific as Bond’s friend Sir Godfrey Tibbett who gives him access to enter Zorin’s estate and stable.
Tanya Roberts is OK as Stacy Sutton where in less chaotic moments, Roberts can give a good performance but her character is so badly written that she is nothing more than just a damsel in distress. Grace Jones is great as Zorin’s henchwoman May Day as she displays a great sense of bravado as a woman eager to kill Bond and help out Zorin in any way. Christopher Walken is phenomenal as Max Zorin by displaying a dark sense of charm to his role as well as a craziness that is restrained. Although the performance could’ve been more campy and out there, Walken does enough to make Zorin a very memorable villain.
Finally, there’s Roger Moore as James Bond where Moore displays his usual wit in the role of Bond though it’s obvious that there’s a weariness in his performance as Moore definitely looks old for the part. Still, Moore brings all of the elements that makes James Bond one of films’ great characters.
While it may be among one of the weaker films of the James Bond series, A View to a Kill is still a worthwhile film from John Glen thanks to the performances of Roger Moore, Christopher Walken, and Grace Jones. With some amazing action sequences and thrilling moments, it’s a film that has a lot of things Bond fans can enjoy. In the end, A View to a Kill is a pretty good film from John Glen.
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 - The Spy Who Loved Me - Moonraker - For Your Eyes Only - Octopussy - 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 - SPECTRE
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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