Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bond Is Forever: “A View to a Kill”

Having recovered a microchip in a snowy mountainous region of Siberia, MI6 agent James Bond (Roger Moore) is briefed by Q (Desmond Llewelyn) of the circuit’s likeness to another manufactured by Zorin Industries. The microchip apparently on the open market is suspect, as it has been expressly designed to withstand an electromagnetic pulse. Bond and another agent, Sir Godfrey Tibbett (Patrick Macnee), infiltrate a thoroughbred sale conducted by Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), and learn that he is drugging steeds to fix horse races. When 007’s identity is exposed, he must evade the murderous clutches of Zorin and his partner, May Day (Grace Jones). Bond’s investigation leads him to Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts), granddaughter of an oil mogul, who becomes a target for Zorin when a payoff is not as expeditious as the industrialist desires. Zorin’s ultimate goal is Project Main Strike, which would involve flooding Silicon Valley in San Francisco and shifting all the power in the production of microchips to Max Zorin.

A View to a Kill (1985) was the seventh and final film for British actor Moore, who celebrated his 57th birthday during the film’s production. It is undoubtedly one of the least popular films of the series, and the main criticism seems to be the casting of Moore, whose age shows throughout (even the actor himself publicly stated as much). Moore’s charm, however, is as strong as ever. This was also the last movie for the delightful Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny. Including A View to a Kill, Maxwell had appeared in all 14 Bond movies, the only actor to do so. Caroline Bliss took over the role in the subsequent film, The Living Daylights (1987).

Though flawed, A View to a Kill is an underrated entry among the Bond movies. There is depth to the plot, which bounces 007 around to distinctive locales without the impression of a lengthy pursuit, a common complaint for films such as Live and Let Die (1973). A notable factor in the solid story is the inclusion of the KGB. There’s a suggestion that Zorin was trained by the KGB but has since abandoned the agency. When Bond is believed to have been killed, the KGB confronts Zorin and condemns him for authorizing the deed without its permission. The organization becomes a neutral presence, as Bond must intercept a KGB agent (Fiona Fullerton) to stop her from obtaining incriminating evidence against Zorin, evidence that Bond needs for himself. The movie also includes a scene in which M (Robert Brown), Q, and Moneypenny are in the field with Bond, at the racecourse for surveillance, and it’s especially fun to watch Moneypenny cheer for her horse.

A View to a Kill (or at least its title) was adapted from Ian Fleming’s short story, “From a View to a Kill”, which appeared in the collection, For Your Eyes Only. Interestingly, some of the plot owes more to Goldfinger (1964). Zorin’s plan to render Silicon Valley worthless is similar to Goldfinger’s radiation attack on Fort Knox. Likewise, Zorin gathers men to explain the corporation overthrow, and anyone not interested in the endeavor is dropped from his airship. In the same manner, Goldfinger assembled members of the mob to invest in his scheme, and the man who says no thanks is given a ride to the junkyard (though those who invested were not necessarily safe). On the same point, a couple of key criticisms of A View to a Kill involve scenes which share similarities to Goldfinger, elements in the latter film that are generally not denounced. While a villain in A View to a Kill “turns good” near the end, that is essentially what Pussy Galore does (and she is always listed as a Bond Girl, never a villain). And Zorin’s oft-criticized act of gunning down men in cold blood with an uzi can be equated with Goldfinger’s original intention of dropping nerve gas and killing all military personnel at Fort Knox.

But while A View to a Kill maintains a respectable pace and entertains with worthy action sequences, it does have lesser attributes. Yet another disapproval is Tanya Roberts, who is admittedly weak as Stacey. In the same regard, the character of Stacey is nearly insignificant, as she proves helpless in combat or with information. Roberts is undeniably stunning, but Stacey is without substance, and the actress is one of the worst female co-stars in the series. Fortunately, Stacey is hardly in the first half of the film, but, not surprisingly, when she is full engaged in the storyline, the movie decelerates considerably (it’s equally frustrating to watch Stacey wear a hardhat like a baseball cap). An incursion into a mine shaft, for the final action scene, begins leisurely but picks up and concludes explosively.

The disclaimer at the end of the previous Bond outing, Octopussy (1983), te
ased the film as From a View to a Kill, though the “from” would be dropped before the 1985 release. From this film on, the disclaimer in the closing credits states, “James Bond will return,” but does not specify a title.

The title song was performed by pop band, Duran Duran, who also co-wrote with Bond composer John Barry, whose incorporation of the title song into the score is beautifully done. The single reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard charts (the only Bond theme song to ever do so), but with Duran Duran at the height of its popularity, the song’s success was foreseeable. Barry and the band were nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Song.

Macnee’s appearance makes yet another connection to the British TV series, The
Avengers. He co-starred with Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg and with Joanna Lumley in The New Avengers. Blackman starred in Goldfinger and Rigg and Lumley (the latter in a small, blink-and-you’ll-miss-her part) were in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

B-movie action star Dolph Lundgren, who was dating Grace Jones in 1985, has a tiny, nonspeaking role as a KGB henchman for General Gogol (Walter Gotell) and is clearly seen for only a couple of brief moments. This cameo, however, marked his film debut, and he received much more screen time and corresponding acclaim later the same year as Russian boxer, Ivan Drago, in Rocky IV.

It’s certainly not a fan favorite and is frequently placed near the bottom of Bond lists (if not the very bottom), but I enjoy watching A View to a Kill. The action is tight and energetic, Moore’s charisma shines through, and Walken is a riveting foe (I find his discernible voice oddly comforting, an intriguing antithesis to his villainous roles). The film isn’t the best of the series, but it’s also not the worst, and I prefer it over other Bond movies. It’s an admirable farewell to Moore and Maxwell.

Bond Is Forever will return for its final installment next month with Diamonds Are Forever (1971).


  1. Well-done review of a Bond entry that takes a lot of criticism. I'm not a fan of Christopher Walken's villain (I think he's over the top) and agree with you that the lovely Tanya Roberts registers little impact. But the plot is above-average for a 007 film, the locales are nice, and there are some bright spots in the supporting cast (particularly the always enjoyable Macnee and Fiona Fullerton, who deserved more screen time). Don't know if it's true, but I've heard that the title was changed from Fleming's short story because Duran Duran had trouble using it in the song. I don't know what inspired Cubby Broccoli to pair John Barry and Duran Duran--but the resulting title tune is one of my favorites to a Bond film (and I'm not a Duran Duran fan). Roger may look older in A VIEW TO A KILL, but he's still livelier than, say, Sean in NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN. And you're right, the Moore charm is still very much on display. It's hard to believe--and sad--that BOND IS FOREVER is coming to an end next month after over a year and 20 reviews. It's been terrific!

  2. Sark, I always liked Roger Moore as Bond, and it is largely because of his charm. Patrick Macnee is a joy to watch so having them together lifts up "A View to a Kill" for me. I didn't remember about Joanna Lumley having a tiny part in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" so that makes the connection between Bond and The Avengers extra fun! Are we really nearing the end of the the Bond is Forever series? You have done a remarkable job, especially with your excellent research that has made each film seem extra memorable. Well done, Sark!

  3. Another well-done and interesting Bond review, Sark. Is the next one really your last? I can't believe it! Do you have a new series in mind? I hope so!

  4. Yeah I think A View To A Kill has it faults but it is not the worst Bond film. Great post and I agree with everyone else with saying this has been a fantastic series Sark.

  5. Glad I'm not the only one who thinks this one is underrated. I'll second the Macnee-Moore banter as a big reason I like it, and Grace Jones is also very interesting.

  6. Sark, I came in late to your Bond series, but I really enjoyed your A VIEW TO A KILL blog post! It's certainly far from the best Bond film, but even 007's most "meh" films are more fun to watch than the best film of lesser spy adventures. Grace Jones might not have been the new Honor Blackman, but she was a riveting presence, to be sure; indeed, aside from living Kewpie Doll Tanya Roberts, most of the rest of the cast was a joy to see. For the record, my hubby Vinnie felt the best part of the film was Duran Duran's music video. :-) Great post!