31
Jul
16

From Turkey With Love (James Bond 2)

From Russia with Love has long been considered by many to be the best of all the James Bond films. It perhaps isn’t the quintessential film as a few other aspects of the mythos wouldn’t be solidified until the third film. However, in terms of plotting, acting, directing, and spectacle, this movie has got it all.

Overwhelmed with the unexpected success of Dr. No, the producers hurried the sequel into production. The studio doubled their budget, and were expecting big things. The question was which of Ian Fleming’s novels to film next? Since they had already gone out of order (Dr. No is actually the sixth novel), they didn’t need to stay with any sort of continuity. Then-President John F. Kennedy had stated that From Russia with Love was one of his top-ten favorite books. So, why not use that one? They knew they’d have one fan eagerly awaiting the movie.

Since the source material dealt far more heavily with Cold War themes that the last, the producers decided to change a few aspects. SPECTRE once again became the primary villains. In doing so, the writers were able to carry over a few interesting aspects from the first film.

In 2008, the James Bond producers stated that Quantum of Solace was the first direct sequel in franchise history, coming after Casino Royale. Unfortunately, the current producers don’t know much about the history of their own franchise. If they were to watch From Russia with Love, they would realize it is a direct sequel to Dr. No.

In the beginning of the second film, the leader of SPECTRE (Ernst Stavro Blofeld) meets with two of his subordinates to discuss their next diabolical plan. They plan to pit British and Soviet agents against one another in order to let SPECTRE steal a highly valuable Lekter decoding device, and then sell it back to the Soviets at a high price. The secondary goal is to make certain James Bond is the British agent, kill him for causing the death of Dr. No, and then subsequently embarrass the British government on a global scale. Getting revenge for something that happened in a previous film sounds like a sequel to me, don’t you agree?

One of the really nice things about this movie is that the plot is smart, and doesn’t for one second dumb itself down. SPECTRE’s plan, the turmoil between the Turks and Soviets, the reason for the microfilm, and Bond’s switching of the escape plan dates are all presented to the audience without explanation. It’s up to the audience to work it all out, to discover what they mean without it being spelled out for them. That is just about the only time this has ever been attempted in a James Bond movie, and it worked brilliantly. It’s too bad they didn’t keep doing this sort of thing.

The bulk of the film takes place in Turkey. Much of the filming was done there, as well. It was an early film to do so much location shooting. Today, everything is shot on location when it isn’t shot in front of green screens. So, it doesn’t seem particularly noteworthy. But back in 1963, it was a big deal. To see the actors in real locations, not on soundstages, would have been quite a treat. It also helps bring an air of realism to the affair, and helps the movie stand the test of time.

Director Terence Young returned for the sequel, and filmed the movie with an experienced hand. The scenes are taught and focused, with nary a wasted line of dialogue to be had. His action scenes are also well-directed. The fight scene between Bond and assassin Red Grant is especially tense. Adding to the realism is that both actors did their own stunts for the fight. Altogether, the scene is pure magic, and is probably the best fight scene in any Bond movie.

Sean Connery is just as good as Bond as he was last time. He has an odd pent-up energy about him this time, though. Perhaps he was excited about the popularity of the character, or maybe he was just amped up with his big paycheck. Either way, he’s great in the role, but slightly different. He’s still sauve with an undercurrent of sinister, just the way you’d expect 007 to be.

The rest of the cast is solid. Robert Shaw is excellent as the assassin stalking Bond. Daniela Bianchi plays the Soviet agent tasked with being in love with Bond, although it’s obviously a trap. She does a good job, too, although slightly over-the-top. It’s easy to give her a pass, though. Her lines were actually dubbed by someone else, so it’s hard to know how her original performance came across.

The real standout, however, was Pedro Armendariz, who played Bond’s Turkish contact, Kerim Bay. He shines with warmth and charisma, he’s got truckloads of humor, and he steals pretty much every scene he’s in. Sadly, he had cancer, and committed suicide during the film’s production. Fortunately, the vast majority of his scenes were completed before doing so. Body-doubles were used for all the other shots he would have been in.

It’s surprising the film turned out so well considering how plagued the production was. A helicopter carrying Young crashed in the ocean yet he survived without injury, Bianchi was involved in a car crash, and an explosion went out of control and injured several stuntmen. It’s something of a miracle that it all came together without the film getting shut down completely.

While this is indeed a great movie, it’s not a perfect one. The one cringe-worthy thing here is the misogyny. There is more here than in most Bond movies. Bond and Bay trade sex jokes, they ogle a pair of gypsy women, and Bond slaps the female Soviet agent. It’s indeed unfortunate, and while I think it’s a product of its time, there’s no excusing it.

From Russia with Love isn’t paced quite as breezily as Dr. No had been. There is a lot of frontloading of story and plot points, with most of the action taking place in the second half. The first half is by no means boring, but it does take longer to get going than most of the other films. I think this actually makes the action scenes more rewarding as it takes longer to build to them. Apart from the brutal fight on the train, there’s an exciting helicopter attack, and a fun speedboat chase.

Fans of the newer Daniel Craig movies, those who like their Bond gritty and realistic, would feel right at home with this movie. It is one of the most realistic films in the series. It has the gadgets, the action, and the espionage, but it doesn’t have cartoonish supervillains, cheesy lines, or campy antics. It is perfectly balanced in nearly every respect.

There are a lot of Bond movies, and there are a lot of Bond fans. No two Bond fans will ever have an identical list in terms of ranking their favorite movies. From Russia with Love, however, has probably topped more lists than any other. Watching it again you can see why. It’s a fun James Bond adventure with a smart story, wonderful performances, true espionage tension, and pretty much everything there is to love about the genre. If you’re a fan of cinema in general, it’s one worth watching over and over.

Verdict: Awesome

My other James Bond posts:

Dr. No

Spectre

Skyfall

James Bond Pre-Title Sequences, Ranked

Movies > Books: Casino Royale

Bond…James Bond 15-22

Bond…James Bond 8-14

Bond…James Bond 1-7

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8 Responses to “From Turkey With Love (James Bond 2)”


  1. August 13, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    Brihause, did you notice that after the helicopter crash, when Bond is running down the hill away from the helicopter, another man in the same type of suit is seen coming up the hill from the right…? Weird…

  2. August 13, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    So, the original name of this classic is “From Russia With Love”? Here in Brasil, this flick is known as “Moscow VS. 007” lol

  3. August 15, 2016 at 8:23 pm

    …”Thunderball” takes the cake though. “007 VS. A Chantagem Atômica” (007 VS. The Atomic Blackmail) lol

    • August 16, 2016 at 7:52 am

      WOW! Do they still change the newer Bond film titles to such crazy things? Or was it only for the old movies?

      • August 16, 2016 at 6:16 pm

        …They still do, kinda. Although the new flicks aren’t as outlandish title-wise, they still keep the old tradition of,more often than not, naming it “007 Vs. Something”. (E.G.: 007 Vs Spectre, 007 Vs. Goldeneye…) It’s a marketing decision, you know.


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