The James Bond Rewatch: A VIEW TO A KILL (1985)

A long-in-the-tooth Roger Moore finishes out his lengthy run as James Bond with A View to a Kill. With the inimitable Christopher Walken and Grace Jones as villains it can’t be all bad, can it?

A View to a Kill (1985)

Directed by John Glen, with Roger Moore as James Bond (for the 7th and final time)

The Theme Song: “A View to a Kill” performed by Duran Duran

After a long drought there’s finally another good title track.. Duran Duran knocks it out of the park with “A View to a Kill”, a song that’s thoroughly contemporary (read: hip) and more upbeat than the last few drowsy numbers. The band was supposedly recruited after someone drunkenly asked a producer “When are you going to get someone decent to do one of your theme songs?”. The song proved that the series was being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the mid-80’s even if Moore’s terminally stuffy Bond was still sporting disco-era bell bottoms. A solid pop song and a nice respite from the clunkers that directly preceded it.

The Plot

An even more inconsequential than usual cold open finds Bond recovering a stolen microchip in snowy Siberia. The ski chase that ensues is robbed of its usual fun by an obvious stunt double swaddled in a parka (one assumes the then 57-year old Moore was not as spry as he once was) and the weird use of The Beach Boys “California Girls” when Bond goes from skis to a kind of proto-snowboard.

Bond and his MI6 buddies at the horse races, wearing fancy hats and being very WASP-y

Bond and his MI6 buddies at the horse races, wearing fancy hats and being very WASP-y

A View to a Kill has Bond investigating Max Zorin, a wealthy industrialist with a fantastical plot to monopolize the microchip racket by destroying Cailfornia’s Silicon Valley. It’s Bond 101 and has little to differentiate if from similar plots, with this movie serving as kind of a victory lap for Moore that never expends much energy. Locales include the opening in SIberia (filmed in Iceland), and lengthy sequences in both Paris and San Francisco.

James The Fighter

A View to a Kill has undeniably great villains. A young Christopher Walken relishes the role of Max Zorin, a psychopathic result of genetic tinkering and an unrepentant bastard. With a shock of blonde hair and sporting Walken’s trademark vocal tics, Zorin is never less than compelling even when he’s foolishly letting Bond escape for the umpteenth time. Also strong (both literally and metaphorically) is May Day, played by a fierce Grace Jones in one of her first big screen roles. She goes through a similar arc as Jaws in Moonraker, changing from fearsome foe to trusted Bond ally over the course of one movie.

The villainous Zorin and May Day, by far the best aspects of the movie

The villainous Zorin and May Day, by far the best part of the movie

As for the action, it feels a little tepid for the most part as Moore had aged past the point of being a believable superspy. Most set pieces recall earlier, better ones from movies past. A car chase in downtown San Fran is similar to a Vegas chase from Diamonds are Forever, complete with a put-upon cop who echoes Sheriff Pepper (who himself had already appeared in both Live and Let Die and The Man With the Golden Gun).

The ending is decidedly low key and low stakes, as Bond fights Zorin both atop a blimp (this movie has lots of blimps) and the Golden Gate Bridge after diffusing a bomb with May Day’s help. An earlier horse race versus Zorin at his massive estate offers some novel action, while a fiery elevator escape and a shootout at a country home provide some of the movie’s only real tension.

James The Lover

The opening sees Bond bed a blonde beauty aboard a buoyant boat disguised as an iceberg in Siberia. Later, James is sidetracked by KGB agent Pola, whom he shares a hottub with (upon turning on the bubbles she exclaims: “They tickle my… Tchaikovsky!”).

Tanya Roberts as Stacey Sutton - she excels at being kidnapped

Tanya Roberts as Stacey Sutton – she excels at being kidnapped

However, Bond’s main squeeze is Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts) – an oil tycoon heiress whose family legacy is threatened by Zorin’s hostile takeover. Stacey at first appears to be a formidable foil for James, as she points a shotgun at the intruding 007. It quickly becomes clear that the screenwriters are more comfortable making her a damsel in distress, as Roberts screeches her way through the movie and annoys in the process, despite a surplus of charisma and presence.

Iconic Moments

  • Q makes a roomba-type robot who serves no purpose throughout the entire movie, other than to intrude upon Bond and Stacey making out at the end
  • There’s a classic scene of Bond and his ally Sir Godfrey (who dies an ignoble death, as do so many who aid Bond) checking the hotel room for bugs – I love this recurring trope
  • Bond to a villain who’s been trapped in a box: “Don’t worry, it’s all wrapped up”
  • Walken sells the hell out of most of Zorin’s scenes; here’s a sample of his eminently quotable dialogue: “Intuitive improvisation is the secret of genius”, “More… more power!”, “So, does anybody else wanna drop out?” (that last one is after throwing a man from a blimp)
  • May Day is no slouch either, and while she doesn’t have many lines her character actually goes through a tragic arc and dies a noble death after being betrayed by Zorin (“I thought that creep loved me!”)
  • Grace Jones’ then-boyfriend, a young Dolph Lundgren, plays a henchman but I missed him
  • Maud Adams also appears very briefly in a crowd scene, marking her third Bond film appearance after dying in The Man With the Golden Gun and playing the titular character in Octopussy

The Verdict

Even by the lax standards of Moore’s spotty run as 007, A View to A Kill is not very good. It keeps with the tradition of each Bond actor’s swan song being a bit shitty. Yet despite a disjointed plot and weirdly inert action, it still holds charms. The movie’s well cast and both Walken and Jones knock it out of the park as villains, while some of the broad comedy is at least in line with the movie’s light tone. Moore is sleepwalking through his role as Bond here, having enjoyed the longest tenure (12 years and seven movies) as Bond to date and A View to a Kill certainly confirms that he’d aged beyond the role. Seriously loopy, enjoyably dumb, and less a movie than a loose collection of scenes, A View to a Kill‘s singular weirdness helps save it from the absolute bottom of the pile.

Updated Rankings

  1. From Russia With Love
  2. Goldfinger
  3. Dr. No
  4. The Spy Who Loved Me
  5. You Only Live Twice
  6. Live and Let Die
  7. For Your Eyes Only
  8. Thunderball
  9. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  10. The Man with The Golden Gun
  11. A View to a Kill
  12. Moonraker
  13. Octopussy
  14. Diamonds Are Forever

A new James Bond will return in The Living Daylights

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