A View To A Kill (1985)

Directed by John Glen
Roger Moore, Christopher Walken, Tanya Roberts, Patrick MacNee, Robert Brown, Lois Maxwell
Music by John Barry
Title song performed by Duran Duran

A View To A Kill was the fourteenth official James Bond movie, and the seventh (and last) film to feature Roger Moore as agent 007. Quite frankly, Moore was too old for the role by this time. He knew it and the producers knew it, but there was no logical successor at the time. The producers had considered casting American actor James Brolin in the role before filming began on Octopussy (the preceding movie in the series) but decided against it. Footage of Brolin’s screen tests can be seen on the recent MGM/UA 2 disk DVD of Octopussy. Octopussy ended up being one of Moore’s better films, which is probably why the producers stuck with Moore again. But for A View To A Kill, the team went to the well one time too many. Let’s look at why A View To A Kill doesn’t work:

The casting, with the exception of Patrick Macnee, is uniformly weak. I have already mentioned Moore’s age. He is really showing it here. Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell), after 23 years of service, she appeared in Dr. No in 1962, is looking slightly out of place too. But you can almost forgive the aging Bond family regulars because they are faces you have grown to love. The major casting blunders are the female leads. Tanya Roberts as Stacey Sutton is so vacuous she barely registers as a human being. She spends most of the film shrieking and squealing. Often in Bond criticism, the Bond girls are given short shrift by the media. Most of the time, I think this is unfounded. Most of the female characters are intelligent and capable women who happen to be rather attractive. Not just mere window dressing. Many are equals to Bond. But Robert’s character comes off as a dumb blonde. He acting is so stilted, she destroys any dramatic scene in which she appears. Just don’t let her speak. She is the reason for any negative Bond girl criticism.

Similarly Grace Jones is rather wooden as Mayday. Her delivery of lines is very forced, but thankfully she doesn’t have many to deliver. She is very eye catching though, and certainly has a presence on the screen.

Next we come to Christopher Walken. Walken is an actor I really appreciate. I can sit through most of his B-grade movies and smile due to his performances. But here, he is simply miscast. Not that he gives a bad performance here; far from it. He does ‘psychopath’ very well. But his character is supposed to be an Anglo-French multi-millionaire industrialist, who was born in Germany. So the character is very European. Yet Walken is so New York. He doesn’t belong in a French chateau, or at Ascot in a top hat and tails.

As I briefly mentioned earlier, the one successful bit of casting is Patrick Macnee. The fact that Moore and Macnee were friends from their early television days, and appeared together in the movie The Sea Wolves, may count for the chemistry between them. But despite this (or maybe because), Macnee has an understated grace that makes it seem like he belongs in these opulent surroundings. And acting wise, his is the only character to have any emotional impact in the film.

The next weak element of the film is the script. Admittedly the writers have tried something new. Rather than a megalomaniac for a villain, they have a Max Zorin (Walken’s character) played as a psychopath. Interesting idea on paper, but on screen it doesn’t work. For example, when Zorin kills all his henchmen in a gleeful psychotic display, it leaves him isolated and alone (well practically) against Bond in the final showdown. And let’s remember that Bond has taken on armies in volcanoes, on oil rigs, and on space stations. No matter how creative the backdrop (atop the Golden Gate Bridge, no less), Bond is essentially going up against one man – it’s not impossible odds. And really with the way the plot has unfolded, Bond, with a little help from Mayday, has already saved the day The only reason to go after Zorin is to rescue Stacey Sutton, and you already know my opinion of that character. Do you think I care? The way the whole denouement unfolds is clumsily written.

The story is a fairly simple one. Wealthy industrialist, Max Zorin own’s a company that makes microchips. Unfortunately for Zorin, most of the world’s microchips are made in Silicon Valley in the USA. Zorin (I have already mentioned that he is psychotic), plans to cause an Earthquake, unlocking the San Andreas and Haywood faults. That will cause the destuction of Silicon Valley, which will simply disappear into the sea. His company will then have a worldwide monopoly. Naturally James Bond has to stop him.

To the music now: When the film came out in 1985, Duran Duran’s theme song was a massive hit, even though it sounds a little dated today. The theme ties in nicely with John Barry’s score, which is one of the more evocative one he has composed for the series. I am particularly fond of the music when Bond carries Sutton down a fire truck ladder to safety, while the San Francisco City Hall burns behind them. The music is rousing and heroic, combing the ‘dance into the fire’ motif from the title song with the ‘Bond sound’. The score is universally good except for one minor quibble. During the pre-title sequence, Bond uses a ski from a snow mobile as a snowboard. As he glides down an embankment of snow and across a small pond, instead of the John Barry score, which has been working a treat through the previous action, we are slapped in the face with an annoying cover version of The Beach Boys ‘California Girls’. It is simply not necessary, and it is certainly not funny!

While I do not believe A View To A Kill is quite as bad as Die Another Day, it is one of the weaker entries in the series. It is an unworthy swan song for Roger Moore, who despite a recent dip in popularity is truly one of the great Bond actors. He brought a great deal of enjoyment to many people, and most of all he filled the shoes of Sean Connery.

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