Investigating the disappearance of two nuclear submarines, Bond must team up with a Russian agent, Major Anya Amasova (also known as XXX), to prevent a nuclear strike from happening.
The idea of Anglo-Soviet co-operation in real life may have seemed unusual, given the Cold War. The scene with the microfilm where each agent attempts to outdo the other is amusing-the one-upmanship between Gogol and M is also good.
Moore often has a reputation for being a bit ineffective but here he’s quite the man of action: callously letting a man fall to his death from the roof of a building once Bond has the information required and effortlessly beating up two goons, not to mention his rather brutal dispatch of Stromberg. I also like the fact that Bond’s marriage is mentioned, thus providing some continuity for the character, and that Moore looks genuinely grieved to have it brought up. In his third outing as Bond, he’s started to find his own version of the role which is good to see.
Barbara Bach is brilliant as Anya. Far from being a damsel in distress, she matches Bond in wit and skill, even saving Bond from a falling rock at the Pyramids. She can even come out with a Bond-esque quip without it sounding forced. The chemistry between Bach and Moore is pretty good too; they spark off one another nicely. The scene where Anya asks Bond if he killed the man she loved is impressive.
Jaws makes his first appearance and is just great. Richard Kiel’s a physically imposing man (approximately seven feet tall) which just adds to the menace. He can rip a van to pieces with his bare hands and has no compunction about killing on orders. He seems virtually indestructible, emerging unscathed from a crashed Ford Cortina and from being electrocuted and thrown off a train and even takes on a sharkand walks away from it.
It’s a shame that such a strong film is lumbered with a weak villain – Karl Stromberg, another megalomaniac with a shark fetish (like Largo and Blofeld before him). Stromberg is a web-handed recluse who wants to start a nuclear war to ensure that his plans for a civilisation under the sea can come to fruition. It’s often said that a Bond film is only as good as its villain which would rank this one just above Thunderball for me.
The sequence at the Pyramids, where Jaws takes out Fekkesh, is nicely done- director Lewis Gilbert once again showing a good eye for scope and scale. The scale of some of the sets is absolutely huge- the Liparus set is just immense as is the Atlantis set. There’s an absolutely rocking theme tune by Carly Simon (even if the campy showtune remix over the end credits leaves something to be desired), the underwater Lotus Esprit makes an appearance and is just as cool as I remember. The Union Jack parachute jump at the end of the pre-credits sequence is another iconic movie moment, a trifle overblown but still fun.
All said, The Spy Who Loved Me is one of the strongest Bond films in the franchise, transcending its flaws and coming up with a winner.
Rating: 4 out of 5