A View To a Kill (1985) – Film Review

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Director: John Glen
Cast: Roger Moore, Christopher Walken, Patrick McNee
Certificate: PG

by @Roger Crow

Roger Moore should have left the 007 franchise long before 1985. He was still immensely charismatic, but Bond is a young man’s game, and this was a James too far.

So the 14th 007 offering would be his last, and though he thankfully doesn’t dress up in a clown outfit or don a gorilla suit for this one, it’s fun, but a bit meh.

a view to a kill film reviewFollowing the pre-credits scene where Moore appears for a few seconds and retrieves a microchip from a dead agent in an icy setting (Willy Bognor’s stunt team deserve a big round of applause), there are those opening titles.

“Killer butterfly”

No problem with Duran Duran’s theme, though at no point does 007 “dance into the fire”. However, he does go to the races for an overlong series of thrills, spills and exposition.

Bad guy this time is Christopher Walken’s ex KGB nutcase Max Zorin, in a role originally pencilled in for David Bowie.

Here’s a drinking game you can play. Take a taste of your favourite tipple every time Zorin laughs manically for no apparent reason. It’ll certainly help you get through some of the weaker aspects of the movie.

Following Octopussy’s novelty ‘death by circular saw blade on a wire’, we now have one poor soul meeting his fate by a killer butterfly on a wire. Yes, that old one. It leads to a thrilling chase up the Eiffel Tower in which Bond tries to stop Grace Jones’s psycho sidekick Mayday.

There are more chases through Paris and while it’s utter nonsense, when I was 15 I remember having a great time. I saw this twice at the cinema in 1985; it helped that it was British Film Year, and entry to our local flea pit was a pound as the industry tried to stay afloat while home video took the lion’s share of profits.

a view to a kill film review grace jones

“Formidable adversary”

Given the fact The Avengers and 007 were cut from the same cloth, and both Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg made terrific heroines, thankfully Patrick MacNee gives a nice turn as Bond’s glamorous assistant, Tibbett. It’s also poignant for Lois Maxwell’s Moneypenny, who bowed out in this offering after years of being always the MI6 bridesmaid.

In a throwback to Goldfinger, Zorin briefs a bunch of businessmen about his plans, and when one decides to opt out, Mayday shows him the door – down a ramp, from a zeppelin, at which point his limbs act just like a badly made shop dummy.

Bond eventually crosses paths with Tanya Roberts’ Stacey, who, bless her, was given some of the clunkiest exposition to divulge at key moments.

Zorin attempts to flood Silicon Valley so he can become an all-powerful nutcase. That’s about it. But 1985 saw the home computer market starting to take off in a big way, so it was super relevant back then. These days he’d probably just need to threaten to turn off the Internet.

Grace Jones makes a formidable adversary, though the scene where she gets it on with 007 seems awkward at best. In fact most of the love scenes in this movie are ill-judged. Fiona Fullerton’s Russian femme fatale in a hot tub is equally odd. I’ve no doubt 007 has the libido of a 20-year-old, but at this point he was more reminiscent of Fred Wedlock’s one-hit wonder, ‘The Oldest Swinger in Town’.

a view to a kill film review fiona fullerton

“Huge set piece”

Though director John Glen ensures the action ticks over, a set piece in a burning building drags on a bit. However, I did get a frisson of joy when Bond rescues the heroine with the audio fanfare of that glorious John Barry score. Yes, there was a fire, but still no dancing as that opening theme suggests.

Though a chase on a fire engine in San Francisco is laboured, (a moustachioed comedy cop just lacks the appeal of tobacco-chewing redneck JW Pepper), it passes the time.

In a spot of much needed downtime, James Bond makes a quiche. Yes, it’s one of those rare domestic moments when we see 007 do something other than just order room service, fight bad guys or bed beautiful women. A shame there wasn’t more of that in the Bond movies, as nothing makes a ‘superhero’ seem more real than a spot of cooking. (See Captain Kirk make an omelette in Star Trek: Generations for further proof).

The third act is Bond-by-numbers, even in 1985. A huge set piece involves a mine (which looks like it was left over from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), and Max Zorin killing almost everyone in sight while laughing manically. Obviously Bond and Stacey survive, while Mayday suddenly does a Jaws/Moonraker-style U-Turn of trying to help 007 instead of killing him.

Now the logistics of trying to grab anyone from a zeppelin without them knowing until the last second defies belief, even for a Bond movie. However, poor Stacey may be hard of hearing, or not sense the imminent arrival of a huge dirigible until it’s on top of her, so we’ll let that slide.

a view to a kill film review car

“Things go bang”

There is a great scene of Zorin going full Clarkson as he urges a lackey “More power!” when his nefarious plan comes unstuck and his lumbering airship fails to perform in the way he wants.

Sadly Bond never makes a gag about “trying to keep it up”, which seems like a wasted opportunity.

Obviously when you have James hanging from your zeppelin, it’s only a matter of time until things go bang. And Zorin eventually meets his doom, while Bond and Stacey go back to hers for a spot of fun in the shower. What they didn’t count on was Q and his stupid robot dog invading the property and filming the action, probably so he could screen it at some oak-panelled gentleman’s club.

Really Q!

Yes, it’s a low point to end on for Moore’s Bond, though not as low as the previous two movies.

For most of his 007 offerings he was a superb yin to Sean Connery’s yang, but though he should have left after Moonraker, his final three 007 movies had their moments if nothing else. (Put the best bits together and you had enough for one decent Bond movie).

Waiting in the wings was Timothy Dalton, who helped get the Bond series back on track for arguably the best 007 offering of the eighties…

Performances7.5
Direction6.5
Script6.5
Score6.5
Stunts8
Rewatchability7
A View to a Kill is currently streaming on Amazon Prime
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