Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A View to a Kill

  This was clearly a Timothy Dalton 007 movie. It felt like one. It played like one. The worst problem is... it had no Timothy Dalton. Instead we have Roger Moore, one last time. If his age was showing in the last couple movies, it's screaming out at us in this one. He somehow seems more awake and 'into' the role than he was in Octopussy, but he's hardly the star. He's just a face at this point, only good for closeups as the stunt team does all the fun stuff. It's so frequent and so obvious that it's hard to really get into the movie. Sir Roger handles the innuendo and the witty discourse as well as ever, but it seems like that's all he's handling this time. Having said that, the movie around him is rather great. With a plethora of honest-to-goodness thrills, A View to A Kill doesn't disappoint.

  Due in no small part to Christopher Walken as the sinister Max Zorin, the movie has a crackling energy to it whenever it focuses on the stunts and the action scenes. Walken plays a psychotic genius, who on top of being the CEO of a massive microchip manufacturing company, is an ex-KGB agent. Bond stumbles onto his plot to literally sink Silicon Valley so that his company will corner and dominate the microchip market. His plan is grandiose, but he plays up his part to such an extent that you can readily believe a mind like his could come up with this plan. His energy and insanity carry the parts of the movie that Moore simply couldn't.  However, with a large portion of the movie focusing on Zorin's horse racing interests, it's hard to connect the first half of this movie with the second half. They seem like completely different movies to me. The plot follows, yes, but the tone doesn't. Having said that, all the cloak and dagger business on Zorin's properties is quite entertaining.

  Henchmen have always been a staple of the franchise, and henchwoman May Day (Grace Jones) is no slouch. They may have exaggerated her physique a bit, but her presence more than makes up for it. She's so intense, you sorta believe she could lift a car just by staring at it. Nevertheless, I'm glad that wasn't a thing that happened. Instead, Jones is an assassin in the employee of Zorin, who also doubles as her lover. Both Max Zorin and May Day are very unconventional Bond characters, but they are a delight to watch nonetheless. Alas, there were the only 'updating' that seemed to really work. So much of the plot and style of this movie seemed to be trying extra hard to appeal to the younger and 'hipper' audiences in the 1980's. Which largely seems to backfire, as it was destined to with Roger Moore in the starring role. The term "dinosaur" comes to mind, but I like Moore. He may not be my favorite, but he always put on a good show and seems like a nice enough guy anyways.

  As I had been saying though, the stunt team is the real star here. From a ruthless car chase through the streets of Paris- ending on a barge no less, to the climatic nail-biting showdown between Bond and Zorin atop the Golden Gate bridge, the stunt team delivers. It's the best way to view this movie, as a showcase of technical prowess. The stunts, the action scenes, all of it... it's all fantastically done. Especially a scene in which Bond and Bond girl Stacey Sutton must escape from an elevator in a burning building, and again in a scene that has Bond being sucked into an impeller underwater. The movie doesn't skimp on thrills, and tries it's damndest to be original. I'd say for the most part it achieves that. Yet, it comes to a screeching halt whenever Bond must be called upon to practice his... social skills, mingling and conversing with Zorin's guests, and endlessly inquiring about horses.

  Of course this leads to a neat part where Zorin looks up Bond's file on the computer while Bond is in the same room and two are maintaining their guises. Walken's reactions to his file are priceless. As are his reactions to just about everything. Walken steals the show, and rightly so. He ends up being a very memorable villain, which is a breath of fresh air at this point. Most everything is on point with this one, except the fact Moore sticks out like a sore thumb. His humor, his innuendo, it all feels outdated by this point. He does what he's always done as well as he's always done it, but this wasn't the movie for Moore to do it in. This movie was begging for a darker James Bond to fit the times. Zorin was a dark villain, maybe too dark to pit against Moore. This was never more evident than in a shocking moment towards the end which I honestly didn't see coming. It made my jaw drop honestly. The acting, the music score, the action scenes... they're all a blast. Yet if I haven't made it clear enough, the movie is at odds with itself.

  It's calling for a more physical Bond, less of a lover more of an action man. Moore was 58 at the time of this one which is the movie's biggest detractor. That and a sense of humor that feels slightly off. Kind of like an aftertaste from the Moore era. There's a thrilling car chase involving Bond and Sutton in a fire truck being pursued by a bunch of SFPD cops. The sequence is thrilling, but sorta undone by how silly the cops end up looking. There's a limit to how serious and intense something like this can get when you're basically chased by the keystone cops. Nevertheless, there are enough positives to this movie for me to give it a recommendation. It's essentially a string of action scenes, each managing to outdo the last with gusto. It's spectacle, espionage, and on-location filming for another 007 outing. It's really fun regardless of Moore's age, but I can't wait to dig into Timothy Dalton's debut with The Living Daylights!

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