Ricky Church counts down to the release of Spectre with a retro review of From Russia with Love…
In From Russia with Love, James Bond’s adventures continue as he’s sent to help Tatiana, a young Russian clerk, defect with Russia’s new cryptograph machine, though in actuality she’s being sent undercover. Unbeknownst to either the British or Russian government though, they are being manipulated by the terrorist organization known as SPECTRE to raise the tension between the two countries, gain their cryptograph machine, humiliate the British government and kill James Bond in revenge for Dr. No’s defeat.
This is one of the few Bond films of the entire franchise that actually builds off events from the previous film, even if it is mentioned briefly. SPECTRE becomes a very prominent enemy to Bond with this film, also notable for its brief introduction to Blofeld, SPECTRE’s leader, though still unseen and unnamed at this point. The real antagonists of this film are Lotte Lenya as KGB/SPECTRE operative Rosa Klebb and Robert Shaw as the organization’s assassin Red Grant, two of Bond’s most memorable villains.
What is so notable about From Russia with Love’s plot is the fact that it doesn’t revolve around a villain seeking world domination. It’s pure Cold War espionage as the British and Russian governments play an intricate battle with each other as they’re manipulated by SPECTRE. This makes it one of the few films in the franchise that tells a story with much smaller stakes, but the trade-off as an in-depth look at how the Cold War was fought and a rather personal look at how James Bond compartmentalizes his feelings.
Bond is forced to lead Tatiana on with the promise of a life together in Britain, and is eventually forced to choose between the girl and the cryptograph. Viewers get see more of Bond’s cold demeanor through his own manipulation, but they also get to know him a little more personally as his fierce loyalty to his allies is shown through his friendship with Karim Bay alongside his steadfast dedication to his country, even when he’s conflicted by his personal feelings.
Sean Connery once again does an excellent job in his second outing as 007. He’s able to really display the emotional conflict he feels in the few moments where Bond’s veneer breaks over his feelings for Tatiana. Rounding out the main cast are Daniela Bianchi as Tatiana Romanova and Pedro Armendariz as Kerim Bay. Bianchi does a good job in the role of a loyal Russian servant slowly falling in love with Bond, but her character isn’t developed beyond that, while Armendariz’s Kerim Bay is one of the more humourous and likeable allies in the franchise. It’s a shame his character could not be utilized any more throughout the Bond series.
Terence Young once again directed and did an outstanding job. While the locations and production design may not quite hold up to Dr. No, he did an excellent job of exploring Istanbul and its surrounding area. From Russia with Love also has more action scenes that the previous film, including a brutal fistfight in the tight confines of a train car and a helicopter chase. Its continued focus on espionage over crazy spectacle makes From Russia with Love one of the best 007 films in the entire franchise.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★