We start in a cemetery. Bond is delivering roses to the grave of Tracy, the late Mrs. Bond. The gravestone reads as follows:
Beloved wife of
We have all the time in the World
A priest flags down Bond to tell him that his office has called and they are sending a helicopter. As Bond gets on the helicopter, he sees the priest giving (I think) the hand jive for last rites.
Cut to Blofeld’s cat! Which is in the lap of Blofeld!
We haven’t seen Blofeld since his presumed death in “Diamonds are Forever.” He is not in great shape. He’s in a neck brace and motorized wheelchair, hairless again. His face is once again obscured to the viewer, as it was in his early appearances.
Blofeld has a complicated electronic console on his wheelchair, one that contains a live feed to Bond’s helicopter. He presses a button on it that electrocutes Bond’s pilot. The copter goes into a tail spin as Blofeld speaks over speakers installed in the helicopter, taunting Bond.
Blofeld uses his console to remotely control the helicopter. He starts toying with Bond, batting the helicopter around like a cat with a mouse. Bond, meanwhile, climbs to the outside of the helicopter, dangling precariously as he tries to reach the cockpit.
The helicopter is flying over a rock quarry or somesuch. This is where Blofeld is located. He wants to watch Bond die. Unfortunately for him, Bond regains control of the helicpoter, and flies toward Blofeld. He spears the wheelchair with the landing struts of the helicopter and lifts Blofeld into the air.
Instantly, Blofeld adopts a pleading tone. “We can do a deal! I can buy you a delicatessen! In stainless steel!” Bond laughingly dumps Blofeld into a large smokestack. This presumably kills him one and for all.
The opening credits is the standard guns and naked ladies one expects from these things, but oddly the performer of the title song, Sheena Easton, is visible onscreen, singing. I like this approach. I think it gives it a “we’re putting on a show” vibe that I can get behind.
After the credits, the film follows a shifty man onto what appears to be a large fishing boat. However, it turns out there is a hidden door inside this boat, leading to some British Naval Intelligence shit, complete with nuclear capability.
The crew of the fishing boat, which seems to be a real fishing boat, with fishermen perhaps unaware that there is a secret military outpost inside their vessel, catch a sea mine in their net, apparently at random. This blows up the boat.
We do not cut to M’s office, instead we cut to the Minister of Defence, who we have seen have a minor role in past films, being briefed on this explosion.
We then cut to Gogol, M’s Russian opposite, who we have also seen in multiple prior films, also being informed of the incident. He’s contacted “their friend in Greece.”
James Bond movies are largely standalone affairs, but fifteen minutes in and there have been a ton of call backs to the history of the franchise. Perhaps this is a deliberate attempt to recalibrate after the scifi excess of “Moonraker.”
We now watch as a beautiful woman flies by sea plane to meet her parents who are on a boat and own a parrot. However, their reunion is cut tragically short because the pilot who brought her to the boat, arcs back around and uses the hidden machine guns on his plane to lay her parents to waste.
The camera zooms in on the woman, as grief hardens into resolve. For a moment it feels like I’m watching a real movie, albeit a melodramatic one.
Now we have Moneypenny in the office. Not unattractive by any means, but years past the age range of women that Bond views as sexual beings. She opens up a filing cabinet to reveal an over-the-top Q Branch super-vanity. She is applying lipstick in a mirror when through the mirror she sees a hat fly through the air onto the hat rack. It is 1981.
Bond appears and the two of them flirt in a way that they haven’t for a number of years. It is almost sweet, except we’ve seen Moneypenny pine over this piece of garbage while 20 years have gone by, so “sweet” isn’t exactly right.
M is on holiday, so Bond is briefed by other stodgy white guys in suits, including the Minister of Defence. During the briefing Bond learns that the boat that sunk is outside the Albanian Coast and that if the ATAC missile system that was onboard were to fall into the wrong hands, all of Britain’s missiles would be under the command of those wrong hands.
The murdered parents with the parrot were trying to salvage the wreck for Britain. Their assassin is one Hector Gonzales of Cuba. Melina is their daughter.
Bond is to track down Gonzales in Madrid. He arrives, driving an absurd-looking Lotus. He sneaks onto an estate during a party. Gonzales is there, meeting with some sort of money man, but before anything can happen, Bond gets caught, almost immediately. As he is being dragged away by guards, Gonzales is shot fatally by what appears to be a dart.
In the confusion of that assassination, Bond bucks his guards and escapes. He exits the grounds, using a parasol as a parachute. He runs from the guards as a terrible Bill Conti score blares in the background.
He runs into Melina, who is wielding a crossbow and shoots one of his pursuers. Now they both flee together toward Bond’s car.
Some of the baddies approach Bond’s garish Lotus first. There is a closeup of a window decal stating “Burglar Protected.” A goon tries to smash the window of the car and the whole car explodes.
Bond and Melina keep running, getting in her car, an ancient yellow Citroën . The joke is supposed to be that her car is so much less cool than his, but, boy, has 40 years reversed that gag.
The bad guys pursue them into a village. At one point in the chase, the Citroën flips over but a few villagers help right the car. More car chase ensues. It’s genuinely good, not played (much) for laughs. This chase is probably the best that James Bond has been since “Live or Let Die”.
Bond and Melina get away and catch their breath in a hotel room. Bond, who has just recently murdered the killer of his wife, tries to talk Melina out of a path of vengeance. She ain’t having it. She still has revenge left to do. As she explains to Bond, she’s half-Greek, and like “Electra, Greek women always avenger their loved ones.”
Bond returns to England to report his failure. The Minister advises him to try the “Identigraph.”
And so Bond visits Q Branch. As he walks through the section, there are the now-standard silly spy gadget gags. For the first time, Q Branch is now staffed co-ed.
The Identigraph has it’s own room within Q Branch. Bond lists off a series of descriptions of the guy who he saw pay off Gonzales to Q, as if he were a sketch artist. Q produces a computer-generated image that doesn’t really look anything like the guy. Q uses that image to produce a positive ID on the fellow. Bond is looking for Emile Leopold Locque , an enforcer in the Brussels underworld.
Bond takes a new Lotus (or possibly a reconstituted one?) to Cortina, Italy, where Locque was last seen. He arrives at his hotel and steams up the bathroom to find a message written on the mirror: “Tofana 10 AM”. It’s silly and heightened, but it almost feels like real spycraft. Wait, do I actually like this movie?
Bond meets his contact, Luigi. Luigi introduces Bond to another contact, Aris Kristatos, who is the sports manager for Bibi, an ice skater with Olympic aspirations. Bond also meets Bibi and her coach, Mrs. Brink.
He learns from Kristatos, that Locque is an operative of an organization called the White Dove, and that their leader is a man named Columbo, also known as the Dove, and is reported to be an all around bad dude.
Bond then spots Melina buying a new crossbow. She is then beset by murderous Bikers. Bond helps her avoid her attackers.
He asks what she is doing in Cortina. She claims Bond had sent her a telegram to meet him there. Bond asks her to not kill Columbo before he can interrogate him.
Bond gets back to his hotel to find Bibi, who’s full name is Bibi Dahl, waiting for him, naked. For some unknowable reason she is eager to sleep with him, but he rebuffs her advances. Let me repeat that: James Bond refuses sex from an attractive young woman. Is Moore feeling his 54 years of age?
Bond goes skiing with Bibi. She wants to watch her friend Erich, a German biathlete, perform. He’s a crack shot and very dour.
Bond skis away from the athletes, only to be shot at by Erich. Bond evades the gunfire but the Dove himself starts chasing Bond.
There is a lot of skiing and chasing and shooting. Motorcycles and a bobsled are added to the mix at some point. The action is chaotic, but fun and well done. I think this movie might be actually be good.
The plot gets too hard to parse for a while. Bond is attacked by hockey players. Luigi is found dead, clutching the dove pin that is the symbol of the White Dove. Bond plays some Baccarat long enough to humiliate some random schmoe. A bunch of conversations and lies and counterlies.
Eventually, Bond sleeps with a slightly more age appropriate woman, a companion of the Dove. She ends up dead, and he ends up a prisoner of the Dove.
The Dove, Columbo, tells Bond that he is not exactly the villain Bond believes him to be. He claims that he is a simple smuggler, but Locque is a Russian double agent. Bond and Columbo seem to get along well. Columbo likes to eat pistachios.
To prove his story, Columbo takes Bond with him to a shootout against… the real bad guys? It’s really kind of hard to follow. The action that follows is solid, but the plot has gotten progressively incomprehensible.
Also, after the filmmakers took the time to set up Melina as a second lead at the beginning of the film, she has barely been in the movie since. Bond now catches up with her, as well as her father’s parrot. He and she enter a submersible, diving to retrace her father’s steps. They find the boat. Inside, they find the ATAC missile system.
Bond begins the process of removing it, when they are attacked by a bad guy in an armored diving suit with claw arms. Bond blows him up and they retreat to the submersible.
Naturally, they then get attacked by a larger submersible. They get away, but Kristatos is waiting for them on her boat. The bad guys take the ATAC, and then, instead of shooting the good guys, they tie the two of them together and drag them in water behind them at high speeds.
This, of course, fails to kill them, and Bond severs the rope and frees them. It all falls disappointingly flat after the successful action of the rest of the film.
Fortunately, the parrot tells Bond and Melina where to go next. Kristatos has taken the ATAC to a Monastery on a mountain.
Columbo and his men help Bond and Melina assault the fortress. I think he does this simply because he likes Bond?
Bond climbs up the side of the mountain, gets to the top, is kicked off of it by a good and is caught by his safety harness. He then has to climb back up the safety rope quickly while the goon tries to dislodge it. It’s pretty great.
Bond and company sneak through the compound while Kristatos waits for Gogol himself. In the ensuing fracas, Melina is denied her revenge when Columbo kills Kristatos.
Gogol arrives. Not recognizing Bond, he asks him for the ATAC. Bond tosses it off of the mountain, and Gogol departs.
Bond and Melina make out on her boat. Bond gets radioed from his watch, now an analog/digital hybrid. Bond sticks the watch in the birdcage and the two humans fuck on the boat while Margaret Thatcher calls to congratulate Bond, unaware that she is actually talking to a Parrot.
What an odd film. So much better than the last few, the action is played straight and is well shot. Although, the plot is largely incomprehensible, I appreciate that the filmmakers are taking things somewhat seriously. The stakes are not insignificant, but are drastically lower than the last several. Perhaps most notably, this is the first Bond movie where the main threat is actually the Soviets.
There are several very odd notes in the film. The Bibi stuff is bewilderingly out of place, and without insider baseball knowledge, the Blofeld cold open is even more bizarre. And no two ways about it, Moore is too old to be playing an action hero.