From Russia with Love (1963)
The Evolution of Bond
I think it's a very lovely mouth. It's just the right size - for me anyway! - James Bond
Whilst only the second movie in the long running franchise "From Russia with Love" is one of the best, although saying that if you enjoyed the comedy of the Roger Moore era then you will probably find it dull. What we have here is the bare bones which was set out in "Dr. No" but built upon so we have the introduction of Bond's use of gadgets, we also get his wit and whilst still ruthless is more charming and less cold. It is these 3 evolutions which make "From Russia with Love" such a good Bond movie and the fact the storyline whilst simple has some pleasant twists as well as plenty of action. In many ways "From Russia with Love" and the following "Goldfinger" were the pinnacle of the franchise delivering that perfect blend of story, action, comedy and drama.
When British Intelligence is contacted by Russian cipher clerk Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) who wants to defect they send James Bond (Sean Connery - The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) over to Istanbul to bring her back along with the much wanted Lektor encryption machine. But whilst wary of Tatiana as well as turned on by her Bond is unaware that her defection is a ruse, an order from KGB agent Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) in order to get Bond to Istanbul. And that is not all as unbeknown to Tatiana and Bond is that Klebb in fact works for SPECTRE and all of this is just a cunning plan to get their hands on a Lektor machine and also Bond.
One of the great things about "From Russia with Love" is the storyline because it is simple, easy to follow but also with twists. So what we get is a cold war thriller with Bond trying to bring back a Russian encryption machine along with Tatiana Romanova who is supposedly defecting. But it is not that simple as she is in fact following orders from her superior Rosa Klebb who unbeknown to her is part of SPECTRE. Yes SPECTRE returns in the sequel and they are being clever because they are manipulating Bond to get the encryption machine so that they can they take it off him. And that is the basis of what is a very fine story, simple to follow with some twists and there are a few more to make it even more interesting with out becoming over complex or too contrived.
Now with this being at heart a cold way spy storyline there is a touch of realism to things but also that perfect amount of fantasy to fuel are imaginations. When Bond heads to Istanbul to meet Tatiana we meet his ally Kerim Bey who uses tunnels and a submarine periscope to spy on the Russian Embassy, it's imaginative and just a little bit outrageous but works. The same when it comes to the action, and the amount of action has certainly been increased, there it this mix of realism and fantasy to all of this with of course are heroic Bond at the centre of it all.
The action side of "From Russia with Love" is only one of the evolutions and along with Bond getting a nifty fully loaded brief case we also have his evolution as well. Now at the centre of this you have Sean Connery who comes across at being more comfortable and knowing exactly what he is doing with Bond this time and maybe the slight changes are part of the reason why he seems so comfortable. The most significant change is that Bond is less cold hearted in fact he is a lot more charming this time around and as well as being a total ladies man also has found a nice line witty comments. Yes the witty comments play a part this time around as well but these are intelligent ripostes from 007 rather the corny one liners which dominated the later movies.
And whilst the evolution of Bond into this confident charmer makes "From Russia with Love" one of the best Bond movies the other actors play an important part as well. Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb has this element of mini menace about her whilst Robert Shaw looks every ounce a hulking killing machine. Plus there is of course Pedro Armendáriz who as Kerim Bey ha a touch of humour and action hero about him, is the perfect ally for Bond in Istanbul.
What this all boils down to is that "From Russia with Love" is simply one of the best Bond movies ever made. The storyline is simple to follow but interesting thanks to various twists and the bare bones of what we saw in "Dr. No" has evolved so we now have Bond the charming spy, the killer with a love of women and a line in witty ripostes. But it never over does it so whilst there is action, humour and of course some womanizing it never over powers the story.
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