The 3rd film in the Roger Moore era of Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me rediscovers what made the earlier films of the Sean Connery era so successful. Focused less on the forced comedy, goofiness and absurdity of the premise, The Spy Who Loved Me brings the wit, charm, unrelenting action and scale back to the franchise since Moore took over the mantle. Bond is where he’s supposed to be, front and center, not overshadowed by the villain nor going after those who don’t pose a global threat. This is after all; the best Bond has been in quite a few years (nothing can compare to the Connery adventures).
The Spy Who Loved Me presents a first in the franchise – based on the novel of the same name by author Ian Fleming, this film features no plot points or any significant element that Fleming wrote in the novel. They only share a name, everything in the film version is brand new to the overall story of James Bond (Roger Moore). That could party be due to the poorer critical reception that The Man with the Golden Gun and Live and Let Die received. Getting back to the roots that made this franchise so esteemed is necessary for the franchise’s survival going forward.
Early Bond films found their identity in the relationship between Bond and the megalomanic villain. Here the main villain is Karl Stromberg (Curt Jurgens) who plans to start World War III than recreate civilization underwater in an Atlantis type city. Stromberg isn’t the only villain in The Spy Who Loved Me, he’s merely the reclusive billionaire held up in a structure in the middle of the ocean. He’s also not the main draw as far as villains go, Stromberg is one of the more forgettable Bond villains. The muscle of the film – the man whom Bond cannot defeat no matter how many punches thrown is Jaws (Richard Kiel). Named Jaws for his metal teeth, he’s indestructible as a metallic vampire stalking his prey the same way Michael Meyers or Jason Voorhees would. Like especially every Bond villain with the exception of Blofeld, Jaws will return in the next film Moonraker.
All the usual supporting characters are back supporting Bond in his mission to stop world destruction and domination. Besides Bond, these characters are synonymous with the franchise. M (Bernard Lee), Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) and Q (Desmond Llewelyn). It appears that Moneypenny has grown tired of chasing Bond – instead of getting her hopes up that he might stick to his word, her character is more business in how she reacts to anything Bond says. As much as the supporting cast remain constant, the one true change with every Bond film is the Bond girl.
Agent Triple X or Major Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) is perhaps the first Bond girl to be Bond’s equal. She’s intelligent, charming, charismatic, and deadly. Kudos to screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Christopher Wood for not succumbing to the misogynistic approach the women have been written in the previous installments. With how well Barbara portrays Anya, her and Moore have great chemistry together, something that has been expected in each film.
Sometimes, the double entendre’s and sexual inuendo work and sometimes they don’t, in The Spy Who Loved Me they work with the one-liners used throughout the films typical 2 hour runtime.
For Roger Moore, this is his best portrayal as Bond. He looks to be completely comfortable in the characters shoes while not playing a previous actor’s version. Moore conducts his Bond differently than Connery but still with a personality that makes Bond unique.
10 films in a franchise are a dream to some with only a handful achieving that many films in a continually expanded universe. The Bond film is essentially a fantastical story that relies on the spectacle while still feeling grounded. The plots may be more on the loose end but the entertainment value that is being supplied is enough to overlook how simple these films are structured from a story standpoint. You watch a Bond film for the spectacular action sequences like the one that opens this film up. Bond is escaping some Soviet henchmen down a mountain on skies (something that we’ve seen before with Lazenby) that ends with Bond jumping off a cliff.
Following the fast-paced chase down the alps, The Spy Who Loved Me moves at a slower pace not quite living up to some of the best Connery films but remaining the best in the Moore Era. Roger himself stated that Spy is his favorite of his tenure as Bond. Action wise, similar third act sequences prove to be a staple in this franchise going bigger with each set piece in which Bond finally saves the day usually with a small army at his disposal. What the Moore Era of Bond emphasizes the most are the gadgets and tech designed by Q.
The Spy Who Loved Me possibly has the best tech to date most notably the Lotus Esprit, the car that doubles as a submarine with all the bells and whistles that come with it in aiding in an escape. Each Bond film seems to out do the previous one, bringing the future that much closer in reach.
The Spy Who Loved Me is by no means a perfect Bond film, sure the usual formulaic elemental tropes that built this franchise are present but what plagues the previous few installments to the franchise remains while Spy addresses some of those concerns. Is it the best Bond film? No, but it comes close to the Connery led films in execution of the ideas presented in the film. The Moore era has been more style over substance, centering around the fashion, the women, the exotic locations, and the cars that have everything in them but the kitchen sink over the characters and story and what made Bond what it is today.
Written By: Richard Maibaum & Christopher Wood
Directed By: Lewis Gilbert
Based on: The Man with the Golden Gun by Ian Fleming in name only
Production Company: Eon Productions
Cinematography: Claude Renoir
Music: Marvin Hamilsch
Release Date: July 13, 1977
Running Time: 2 Hours 5 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
My Score out of 5: 3.5 out of 5