From Russia With Love

Directed By: Terence Young

Starring: Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi, Lotte Lenya, Robert Shaw, and Pedro Armendáriz

With last year marking the 50th anniversary for the Bond series as a whole, there's a lot of love for the world's favorite British spy.  If the win for billion dollar blockbuster Skyfall at the BAFTAs proves anything, it proves that 007 is still a hot commodity.  With this in mind, we're going to keep this Bond retro series going on STMR.  This month's film is From Russia With Love, and this Bond flick has a milestone of its own to celebrate.  It's now been a half century since Sean Connery's second outing as the beloved secret agent.

Kronsteen (Vladek Sheybal), a member of the nefarious criminal organization SPECTRE, has a plan to dupe the Russians into buying their own Lektor, a cryptographic decoder, and to exact revenge on James Bond (Connery) for killing Dr. No.  SPECTRE No. 1 charges former Soviet colonel Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) with carrying out Kronsteen’s plan.  Using Soviet Embassy clerk Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), Klebb sets a trap for the Russians and the Brits.  After Klebb and her team steal a decoder from the Russians, Tatiana poses as a defector who can offer the British a Lektor.  She's willing to give the Lektor to Bond if he meets her in Istanbul.  Though he senses a trap, MI6 chief M (Bernard Lee) opts to send Bond to Istanbul anyway because the British are so desperate to get their hands on a Lektor.

From Russia With Love is definitely an enjoyable follow-up to Dr. No.  With Sean Connery reprising his role as 007, we definitely get the same suave British spy we all know and love.  It's a solid James Bond film.  The guns, gadgets, and girls are all there.  It's an old school Bond film with the timely backdrop of the Cold War.  That being said, From Russia With Love is not my favorite outing for 007.  While the film eventually heats up and reels us in, it starts off a little too slow for my taste.  I'm also not a fan of the romance between Connery and Daniela Bianchi on screen.

Sean Connery is arguably the most charismatic actor to take on the role of James Bond, and he shows the world why all over again in From Russia With Love.  With his trademark wit and dapper look, Connery brings all the charm and smoothness that make Bond the man.  Aside from Connery, there are plenty of the classic elements of a Bond film.  007's PPK gun sees plenty of action in Istanbul.  Gadgets like the Lektor and Q’s handy briefcase also come to mind.  With Daniela Bianchi taking on the role of Tatiana Romanova, Eunice Gayson reprising her role as Sylvia Trench, and gypsy belly dancers galore, the girls are definitely here in this Bond flick.

From Russia With Love starts off too slow and never fully recovers.  While there are plenty of thrills and suspense from mysterious SPECTRE agents, dangerous Istanbul passageways, and the lowest-flying helicopter in movie history, watching this 007 movie is a real labor of love at the start.  The first 30 minutes or so are pretty bland, and director Terence Young almost loses me.  For whatever reason, Young takes his sweet time in introducing the star of the show on screen.  We're left with Lotte Lenya's rather annoying Colonel Klebb for the vast majority of the film's opening.

While romance isn't the primary focus of any Bond film, 007 has always shown a different side with the ladies.  Despite gypsy chick fights and belly dancers, the playboy Bond doesn't really shine in this film because his romance with Daniela Bianchi's Tatiana Romanova is stale.  First, the premise of the film lends itself to a relationship in which the chemistry is pretty much nonexistent.  Bond and Romanova are playing on opposite sides, and Connery and Bianchi capture this perfectly.  That being said, they never transition their relationship into something more, something believable.  Second, we never actually here Bianchi's voice as it is dubbed over.  This creates a serious disconnect during Bianchi’s more intimate interactions with Connery.  While this was commonly done back then, it certainly takes away from the already troubled on-screen romance between Connery and Bianchi.

From Russia With Love is definitely not my favorite Bond film, but it's still a solid action movie.  Sean Connery is back in form, and there's a lot going for this film.  It really just took too long for it to grab my attention.  From Russia With Love gets a strong 0.06% rating.  Have a few glasses of Sauvignon Blanc with this one.