This is it. It’s all over now. The Roger Moore era is finished. All I have to do is get this review out the way and I can get onto the clown suit and space adventure free Timothy Dalton era. So as A View To A Kill opens James Bond is completing a mission in Siberia to recover a microchip, he naturally gets attacked. Bond makes his escape by skiing away… Isn’t this like the 4th ski chase? He gets on a snow-mobile which promptly gets destroyed. This doesn’t stop Bond though as he takes the front ski of the snow-mobile and snowboards over the glacier… And then a cover of The Beach Boys Californian Girls starts playing. Ugh. Its 1985 and director John Glen has just made the brand new sport of Snowboarding look outdated by playing The Beach Boys over it. I guess we’re still undermining drama with poor attempts at humour then. On with the review…
The reason for Bond’s Siberian mission was to recover a Soviet microchip that’s suspiciously similar to one the British Ministry of Defence had contracted one Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) to create for them that would be impervious to magnetic pulses. Also Bond had to bang the female agent that went with him because that’s just how he rolls. Oh and he recovers it from the body of agent 003, who I swear dies in every other Bond film. Anyway, M sets Bond off along with MI6 agent and horse trainer… there is a reason for that… Sir Godfrey Tibbett (Patrick MacNee) to investigate Zorin at one of his horse auctions. I’m not gonna question why no-one amongst all the apparently affluent people at the horse auction recognise a knighted man in Godfrey Tibbett. Zorin seems to be producing horses that win races despite not being thoroughbreds or some shit that I really don’t care about. Why is Bond investigating horses? Why not go to Zorin’s factory and see if he making microchips for the Soviet Union? They mention an inspection turning nothing up but isn’t that where Bond is meant to come in? See, I’m 15 minutes into the film and the plot is falling apart.
This is A View To A Kill’s biggest problem. The plot is pure nonsense. If I told you that investigating the horses leads to Bond discovering that Zorin plans to flood Silicon Valley in order to gain a monopoly on the microchip market you’d probably question the substances I’ve been abusing. Caffeine… I drink a lot of caffeine. But that’s actually the plot. See the horses have microchips hidden in them which allow the jockey to release a steroid into their blood stream that allows them to win the races. So Bond and John Steed… I mean Sir Godfrey Tibbett investigate this stuff until Tibbett gets killed and Bond steals a tape from a Soviet spy, after shagging her of course, that makes mention of Zorin’s scheme. So Bond does none of the work to uncover Zorin’s evil plot. The horses and their steroid injection microchips are forgotten from here, so that was a waste. Why couldn’t they have been used in humans to give Bond an extra hurdle to cross? Surely creating an army of super soldiers using this technology would have been quite lucrative. Probably more so than the computing industry. It could have been used to explain the super human strength of Zorin’s lady friend Mayday (Grace Jones), but it wasn’t. There’s also another girl involved called Stacey Sutton (Charlie’s Angel’s Tanya Roberts) who has an excuse to go after Zorin, he ruined her financially to get where he is, but she really doesn’t add much beyond being another woman for Bond to bone. Honestly he gets through 4 women in the course of this film. Yes, he even gives Mayday a pole to dance on too. Like in the Mayday parades, where people dance around a Maypole… It makes sense!
So yeah, the plot is balls. It lacks much in the way of sense, which is admittedly not unusual for a Bond film. The worst Bond films almost all share a common issue in the form of plot being an absolute nonsensical mess. A View To A Kill does get quite a bit right though and I’ll certainly hear nothing of it being worse than Moonraker or Octopussy like some polls online have stated. To it’s benefit the stunt sequences are executed, although often let down by poor editing. One sequence in Paris that could have been put together greatly is edited down to pretty much just be the stunts with no cohesion between them. Bond steals a taxi, drives it down some steps, goes up a ramp to land on a bus and launches off there to have it’s roof knocked off by a barrier after it lands and then has it’s back end ripped off in a collision. Those individual components are excellent but the way they’re edited together means there’s no breathing room between stunts. You don’t even get a good look at how close the stuntman came to taking his head off in the barrier stunt thanks to the angle used and the speed of the cut. There’s a much better angle on the making of bonus feature that’s on the same disc. It’s these sorts of sloppy mistakes that bring these films down.
There’s notably less comical moments here than in some of the other Moore films, opening sequence stupidity notwithstanding. The use of gadgets has also been kept fairly practical and less for laughs or Deus Ex Machina style escapes. Although why Bond needs a special type of card to get a regular house window open I don’t know. The story may be stupid but the tone has been kept fairly straight. Thankfully the music has been toned down a lot too. Some of the Roger Moore films feature the most obnoxious variations on the Bond themes in the series. I’m especially not fond of some of the nasty 80s straight to video style synth pop used in a few of the films. Also A View To A Kill has the first memorable title song since Live And Let Die 12 years earlier. Apparently Duran Duran got the gig after their bassist approached Cubby Broccoli at a party and, quite drunkenly, asked when he was gonna have a decent song for the Bond theme. A View To A Kill was the first Bond theme to reach No.1 in the US charts and is still one of the most successful songs in the series.
What saves this film from being as terrible as some of Moore’s other films is the sheer brilliance of Max Zorin. Christopher Walken plays him in pretty much the same way he plays any of his villainous roles, as Christopher Walken. He amps up the psychotic and crazy in quite a few scenes and, as always, his line delivery is as unpredictable as the character. He even delivers the best pun in the film when, after one business man backs out of Zorin’s scheme and is promptly ejected from his airship Zorin says to the group “Now does anyone else want to drop out?”. Classic Walken. In one scene Zorin tells a man that Bond broke into city hall to kill him and burn the place down, when the man realises that means that that means he’d be dead Zorin confirms it by shooting him rather nonchalantly in the chest. Zorin claims he made it all up on the spot like the genius that he is. In another he positively enjoys gunning down everyone that helped him set up his big plot. Walken fills the character with that right sort of psychotic joy a good Bond villain needs.
Overall the film is let down by it’s weak and poorly conceived plot, which feels like the product of a bunch of out of touch minds. Moore looks too old to be playing Bond by some way now at the age of 57, although he is at least age appropriate for Moneypenny at this point. Bond girl Stacey leave little to no memorable impact. Excellent stunts are ruined by poor editing and direction. On the plus side Walken is amazing and the score is much better than the previous few films. The film is messy and amongst the weakest Bond films but it s by no means the worst and at this point in the Moore saga that’s all you could have hoped for. John Glen is a director that lacks the visual flair to pull off this style of James Bond caper. On the plus side his more restrained approach to shooting is actually a benefit to the more down to Earth pair of Bond films we have coming up. Next up Timothy Dalton débuts in The Living Daylights.