After a brief absence in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in which George Lazenby took the reigns as James Bond and gave a solid effort, the man that started it all is back and all seems right within the James Bond universe. What got Sean Connery to come back to play the role that fits him like a glove so effortlessly was a lucrative deal to make Connery the highest paid actor at the time. Seeing Connery as Bond is familiar like a reoccurring Sunday night dinner or a season of your favorite sports team, no matter the outcome, watching Connery step right back into those shoes is a happy, welcoming sight to behold.
Inspired by the previous film Goldfinger, most of the crew that worked on that film returned in hopes of recapturing that magic that made one of the top 3 Bond movies put out by Eon Productions. Guy Hamilton is back in the director’s chair for his second time with Richard Maibaum penning the script along with Tom Mankiewicz. Cinematographer Ted Moore who has framed several of the early Bond films is back along with the music written by John Barry and brought to life by Shirley Bassey, who sung the Goldfinger theme song.
Within franchises lightning rarely strikes twice – especially when following the exact formula that worked so well for a previous film. The Bond formula for bringing Ian Fleming’s novels to life is still present – a sort of assembly line for crafting these early stories that future films would look to for guidance. Diamonds Are Forever is definitely no Goldfinger (possibly the best Bond film in the 24, soon to be 25 film franchise) though it puts so much effort into the mimic that at the slightest hiccup, everything becomes unraveled. The one certainty that comes with Diamonds Are Forever is James Bond (Sean Connery).
Connery coming back is what makes this film worth watching. After all, he’s the first to play the character and establish who the character is on a human and personal level. Ted Moore has his fun with us mimicking the Michael Reed cinematography of revealing a different actor playing Bond by not showing Connery’s face immediately. That shot selection acknowledges the change from Lazenby back to Connery, making the anticipation to see Connery higher than it’s been before. It’s like Connery never left the role, he brings that sense of familiarity back looking comfortable as Bond while not breaking a sweat when in any sort of danger. Like he’s done this before – that charm followed up with the signature smirk and flirtatious nature, trying to point out where Connery ends, and Bond begins is no easy task. The two have become one.
Even among the silliness of Diamonds Are Forever, Connery commands the scene, whether it’s in a makeshift flying apparatus in Goldfinger or driving a moon buggy through the desert – Connery looks to be the only man to play those scenes in a calm, cool and collected manner, taking it as seriously as he can.
Diamonds Are Forever may not live up to the expectations or success that Goldfinger has but it has all the elements there for the taking. The problem is the plot is way too convoluted to pay close attention to and follow along without getting wrapped up in the whirlwind. Ernst Starvo Blofeld (Charles Gray), the leader and number 1 of SPECTRE plans to steal diamonds and use them for a space-based laser weapon that would strike fear in the global population with a nuclear weapon. Bond, with the aid of Felix Leiter (Norman Burton) looks to stop Blofeld from enacting his deadly plan.
It wouldn’t be a James Bond film if M (Bernard Lee) didn’t give Bond his mission, Q (Desmond Llewelyn) didn’t set Bond up with the latest tech gadgets that could propel society into the next century, the Bond girl, Tiffany Case (Jill St. John) didn’t play a major role in Bond’s life as well as the plot and Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) didn’t get her hopes up by Bond’s charm at the potential of a relationship. With Connery back, all looks normal with the signature stunts and flashy action sequences that this franchise sometimes relies on too much to push the story forward.
Diamonds Are Forever offers plenty of promise that just doesn’t get delivered. The film is strapped to Connery’s back that struggles to create its own identity. The relationships between characters remain strong even with a new actor stepping into the role as Blofeld for the third time. With every new Bond girl, Connery has exceptional chemistry with, it’s not easy ignoring how charming he is when coming across a woman he hopes to seduce that turns out to be his enemy at first.
The franchise itself shows no signs of slowing down. It’s the 7th film overall based on the 4th novel by Fleming and the final one that features Sean Connery as an Eon produced film. Connery would come back to play Bond for a different studio. John Barry’s music, besides Connery coming back is the most successful aspect of this installment. If not for the story, watch this film for performances, action sequences that get more impossible with each film and the spy intrigue.
Easily, the Sean Connery led films are the strongest in the franchise – they set the tone for future films and actors that look to step into the role as Bond.
One of the more spectacular set up sequences is an almost never ending car chase around the Las Vegas strip that results in the destruction of police cars and ends with Bond maneuvering his Mustang on two wheels while completely unfazed by the danger.
Written By: Richard Maibaum & Tom Mankiewicz
Directed By: Guy Hamilton
Based on: Diamonds Are Forever by Ian Fleming
Production Company: Eon Productions
Cinematography: Ted Moore
Music: John Barry
Release Date: December 17, 1971
Running Time: 2 Hours 5 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 63%
My Score out of 5: 3 out of 5