Written by Christopher Wood, Richard Maibaum, and Ian Fleming
Directed by Lewis Gilbert
With Bond and the series of 007 films midway through the 1970s, some things changed and some things remained the same. The tenth film in the franchise, The Spy Who Loved Me was probably the best of the Bond films with Roger Moore as the spy, and before the series started getting a bit silly.
The film opens with a scene on board a submarine. Suddenly, everything begins shuddering and the power winks on and off. We first see British super-spy James Bond (portrayed by Roger Moore) in bed with a beautiful woman (natch). Reminiscent of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, he then ends up in a chase scene down the slopes of the Austrian Alps.
Back at his headquarters, Bond learns that one of the Royal Navy’s nuclear submarines is missing. However, that’s not the end of the story. KGB agent Triple-X (portrayed by Barbara Bach) is also learning that one of the Russian nuclear submarines is also missing.
Both agents are dispatched to Cairo, where it’s believed a tracking system that has made its way onto the black market holds the key to the missing submarines. The villain in the film, Karl Stromberg (portrayed by Curd Jergens) is also looking for the tracking system, having paid for its development and then been double-crossed. His top henchman is a beast by the name of Jaws (portrayed by Richard Kiel) whose name comes from the metal teeth on display whenever he smiles.
Eventually, the two spies must work together, although reluctantly, and Triple-X assures Bond she intends to kill him as soon as their mission is complete.
The setting is beautiful and takes Bond once again to an exotic location. Egypt provides an excellent backdrop to the bulk of the action and chase sequences. There are plenty of them in the film, although there aren’t so many it feels non-stop. There’s enough downtime spent on the characters that they are developed well and are not just pawns for the sake of the story, something that’s become common in action films of late.
The Spy Who Loved Me plays to the acting strengths of Roger Moore as well. He’s suave and sophisticated as Bond, with a cool demeanor similar to that of his predecessor in the role. However, Moore seems to handle the humor much better. The underlying sarcasm at times is excellent and provides relief from all the action, balancing out the film. Director Lewis Gilbert, who also directed You Only Live Twice seems to know how to balance a film and play to the strengths of his actors.
Moore is excellent as Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me. He’s got the right balance of hero and mortal, intelligence and coolness. He’s balanced by Barbara Bach as Triple-X, a woman who’s as beautiful as she is deadly. Bach is stunning in the role, and not a woman who’s written down to be a mere tagalong on Bond’s adventure. However, her action sequences aren’t terribly convincing. The one reason I could never get into the television show Alias is that I could never buy Jennifer Garner as a secret agent due to the physical demands of the role and her twig-like stature. Although Bach is not a twig like Garner, she suffers in many of the same ways when the physical scenes come about.
Before the role got beaten to death, Richard Kiel made an excellent adversary in Jaws. He’s seemingly invulnerable when it comes to matching Bond for strength, and defeating him requires a bit of creativity on the spy’s part. The regulars in the Bond films make appearances as well, including M (portrayed by Bernard Lee), Q (portrayed by Desmond Llewelyn), and Miss Moneypenny (portrayed by Lois Maxwell).
There are some cool gadgets, but almost everything else in the film is overshadowed by the Lotus Esprit Bond drives, which can also function as a submarine. Carly Simon performs the opening song, Nobody Does It Better.
Roger Moore himself has stated that The Spy Who Loved Me was his best turn as Bond, and I would have to agree. The series got downright silly for a bit after this, while here it seems to strike the right balance all around. Couple that with a good villain and almost invincible henchman before he also became cartoonish, and it’s a film almost anyone can enjoy regardless of whether you’ve watched a Bond flick before or not.
• Theatrical Trailer
• The Spy Who Loved Me Featurette
• The Spy Who Loved Me Declassified – a selection of clips about the gadgets, car, villains, girls
Previous film in the series (link): The Man With the Golden Gun