Dr. No Review

That score. Beautiful. It opens Dr. No and the James Bond franchise so fittingly. Exceptional work as ever from the great Monty Norman. His dedication to smooth basslines and strong guitar riffs open the first of many Ian Fleming adaptations. A not-so-seamless transition into the other half of the credits does kill off some of the power of Dr. No, but for a first outing of the famed spy under the watchful eye of director Terence Young, no more could be asked of their efforts. It is hard to lay the critique on too thick for the men that brought Sean Connery such a defining role, and he such a definitive portrayal of such a famous character.  

Connery is a clear shot of all those masculine characteristics inherent to the Bond persona. Suave is certainly the word Connery clings to. He does so well. Connery is clearly quite agreeable to this role, it works well with the personality he wishes to give Bond, and the smooth and blunt cunning found within the dialogue bolsters that. Because of this, Dr. No is free to explore larger villains, establish core mechanics that the series would soon come to rely on, and develop supporting characters that would crop up frequently over the years. There are omissions, naturally. Young does well to realise that the core mechanics he brings in here are more important than the likes of Q Branch or the stronger, later iconography of the series, but he does well with the grander building blocks provided.  

Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) and M (Bernard Lee) in particular are incredibly well utilised. They are extensions of who Bond is, and why audiences like him. His charm is old hat, and the orientation of 1960s culture provides a strong bed for his behaviour. But it is the delivery of the action from Connery, not the action itself, that is so intense and rewarding to witness. From revelations of danger to fights and shootouts, all of it is carried with a coolness inherent to the Bond style. Little details are the great beauty of Dr. No. How Bond carries himself, the alert nature of his questioning and actions. They all have reason to them, but they are delicate flicks of the hand, and Connery does well to disguise them as natural movements, rather than forced expressions that Young wishes an audience to pick up on their first viewing. Dr. No is a film with variety and a rewatchable nature to it because of how its subtler moments are disguised, and how their obvious presentation of the action genre is not all it would seem. 

Incredible it is to watch the series take form, Dr. No takes broad liberties with Fleming’s writing, but changes enough to make a fresh and exciting vehicle for Connery to take far and wide. The fear this titular villain can implant in his henchmen and photographers is fascinating. It is the frustration imbued within the performance Connery gives that makes this villain so convincing. Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) creates fear. Initially, it is not through his presence, but the inference of violence and the stubbornness of the cronies he hires that Connery encounters. The sign of a great villain is the absence of them entirely. Wiseman’s first appearance within Dr. No is just as stunning as Connery, but the difference between the two could not be clearer, or greater, than what Young and his cast offer here. 

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