Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Diamonds Are Forever

  After Lazenby's infamous departure from the role of the titular secret agent, it was up in the air as to who would play Bond for the 7th outing, pitting him once again against SPECTRE and Blofeld. Of course, things shook out just the right way and for better or worse Sean Connery himself ended up back in the part. Diamonds are Forever is a nice Bond vehicle, but the darkness and seriousness that permeated OHMSS is nowhere to be found in this one. It has the depth of a ten cent spy novel and is about as original. Bond spends the movie tracking down a bunch of diamonds, as far as I could follow he's trying to find out who's trying to buy them. As it turns out, it's his old archenemy, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Of course, had this been a sequel with any sort of directness, it would've been a revenge thriller. It's really not. Bond's discourse with Blofeld isn't charged with the kind of hatred you'd expect after what happened to Bond's new bride at the end of OHMSS. It's a shame, but the movie on it's own terms doesn't really suffer for it. Diamonds are Forever, and so is 007 apparently- even in a silly outing like this one.

  Diamonds are Forever probably had the fastest pacing of any Bond movie ever in it's time. Even when exposition and character development are necessary, they happen on the fly. Bond is always moving from one encounter to the next, whether it be a deadly one... or a 'personal' one, he's no time to stop and smell the roses. As a result, this breezy little actioner feels frivolous and over rather fast. It carries none of the weight as Connery's previous films, but again, I can't imagine it was ever meant to. Bond isn't really a character in the movie as he is simply an action figure. Even in the other Connery movies, most notably in You Only Live Twice and Thunderball, he was indeed rather 2 dimensional- but never to this extent. The movie itself is solid, but it won't appeal to everyone. Some probably cite this one as a perfect example of what's wrong with a big portion of 007 movies. I can't imagine the impending Roger Moore era did anything to sway those people as his turn as the famous double-o agent is probably the silliest and most tongue-in-cheek.

  So those aren't necessarily flaws of this movie, if you're judging it on it's own merits. It manages to be rather light and carefree, especially in comparison to it's predecessor OHMSS. Yet, all the fundamental trappings of a 007 movie are here. The elaborate plot, the meticulously designed villain's lair, the car chases, gadgets, and more. It's sort of a back to basics notion that seems to be driving this movie- aside from Connery's wit and charm that is. His performance here seems to nicely pave the way for Moore's ultra-suave take on the character. Nevertheless the movie raises a question honestly, what do we really want out of a 007 movie? Is it the silliness of ones like this? Or is it the dark tone of the Dalton movies? Honestly, I think I prefer the darker Bonds, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy ones like this too. It's carefree and often funny. It's an all you can eat buffet of one liners and Bond-isms.

  Even the lightheartedness aside, the movie definitely has some really intense moments. Bond gets trapped in a coffin inside at one point, set to be cremated. At another point, he has what seems like the entire Las Vegas police force after him in a show stopping car chase that pulls out all the stops. Even beyond stuff like that, Diamonds are Forever never has a dull moment. Or a quiet one for that matter. It's breakneck pace moves everything along with snappy momentum, and even giving us several quite memorable moments- but ultimately nothing that would go down in Bond history. I feel myself coming up short with critical analysis of this movie. It feels like a highlight reel of a longer Bond movie, but that's also not a bad thing either. Sean Connery is getting older but proves he can still keep up. Even if he is sort of just going through the paces. Again, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

  Connery had played Bond so much by this point that slipping into the character again looked effortless to him. That calm effortless attitude permeates the character itself. I think some misinterpret this as Connery phoning in his performance. I respectfully disagree. If you're fine with the aging star returning to the role which made him famous, then odds are, you'll like the movie. I've seen it twice and have yet to even marginally dislike it. It's basic fare, but well made at that. Stylish and sleek even. Jill St. John plays the main Bond girl this time, she's witty and sly, and easy on the eyes. However, she's not super memorable either. Diamonds are Forever really isn't either. It seems to me that it's doomed to end up as one of those movies that are just 'parts'. You can only ever remember parts of it, and wonder which Bond movie it was from. The "you have something to get off your chest" moment, the car chase, and Bond's confrontation with Blofeld.

  You'd almost never think of those moments and think: Diamonds are Forever! Ergo, the movie doesn't make for bad viewing, it's a fun time for sure, but it's unchallenging and emotionally inert. Not that it even attempts to be otherwise. It knows it doesn't stand a fighting chance of trying to continue on with the serious emotional tone from OHMSS so it just turns in as a lighthearted action adventure instead. Even Blofeld feels a bit like a stock villain at this point, but it still doesn't prevent him from chewing scenery and have fun doing it. He's still a fun villain, and nothing if not a staple of the franchise by this point. The movie... on the whole, is fun, but nothing spectacular. You could do worse as far as 70's lighthearted actioners go, and you could even do a lot worse with 007 movies as well. The flip side is that you could also do better too. I recommend it so long as you know what kind of 007 movie it is,  just plain basic fun- little else.

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