The Spy Who Loved Me Review

Changing tact, the James Bond series preserved James Bond not just as a womanising secret agent with foul intentions and a penchant for getting the job done, but also as a clumsy scamp who is one eye-roll away from parody. Roger Moore was the reason for that, and some of his features are better for it. They feel awkward and janky, but The Spy Who Loved Me at least straddles the shark-jumping opportunities as well as it can. Live and Let Die did too. All the natural elements of the Bond feature are here, from the Russian villains to the suave and steady one-liners. But it is their implementation here that strikes up some surprisingly confident turns from Moore.

Surprising in the sense that, since his debut on Live and Let Die, he had not mustered up much confidence. Nor would he in later features. There are some subtler moments within, though. They often lack Moore’s presence. All the cheap and clumsy one-liners are there, but Lewis Gilbert gives them a bit more presence with sight gags and cuts that bring an extra layer to the meaningless, light moments. Gilbert does that a few more times than necessary, but the presence of the set designs and double-crosses are well done. With a bit of funk and soul to some scenes of Moore skating through the snowy mountains, the reinvention of Bond as a cool and classy bloke with a tinge of humour to him is, more or less, fully completed here.

It is a fun revitalisation. Moore moves away from the Sean Connery era with confidence but is shaky at times. The Spy Who Loved Me is a thorough bit of fun, but the one-liners and cheaper gags and sound cues take hold. It is a reinvention, but one with drastic consequences for the later stages of the Bond series. Curd Jürgens’ villainy is oddly reminiscent of Thunderball. Perhaps it is the underwater subterfuge. Either way, he is another villain that passes the series by without much presence, despite the solid performance. When the best-of lists are pooled together to rank the Telly Savalas’ and Mads Mikkelsen’s of the series, Jürgens will be near the bottom through no fault of his own. He is not given much to do, his costumes are mired by boredom and the interactions he has with Moore do little to set the world on fire with his Atlantis-based plans.

Many of the Moore features in the Bond series blur together horribly. Russian villains, forgettable antagonists and the odd bit of brilliance. The Spy Who Loved Me may mark the third feature for Moore as Britain’s finest spy, but it feels like he has been in the role an age. Moonraker was just around the corner, bringing with it all the shark-jumping qualities of a campy, space-based cash-in. At least The Spy Who Loved Me has a bit of grit to it. Some of the best scenes within this Bond instalment don’t feature the man himself. He is a spare part, but a useful one when the story starts to drift and some sight or goal is needed.

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