"She must take a lot of vitamins!" - A View To A Kill Reviewed

"She must take a lot of vitamins!"

A View To A Kill, first released in 1985, was the seventh and final film to feature Roger Moore as James Bond and the fourteenth entry in the franchise. The film is not widely regarded to be one of the strongest entries in the series, often cropping up near the bottom of Bond fan lists, but it is, in my opinion, an enjoyable piece of hokum that has more to enjoy than some would ever give it credit for.

A View To A Kill's plot is essentially an update of Goldfinger with Silicon Valley replacing Fort Knox. James Bond investigates wealthy microchip industrialist Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) and stumbles upon a scheme that proposes to flood oil wells along the San Andreas fault in California, set off explosives and destroy Silicon Valley. Such a scheme would of course make Zorin's business considerably more lucrative and unique. Along the way we get the usual stunts, chases, double entendres, girls, humour, one-liners, sadism and the general nonsense and fun that you'd expect from a Roger Moore James Bond film.

The film begins with an enjoyable pre-credits ski chase set in Siberia which sees Bond involved in some Snowboarding action as he recovers a microchip from a dead 00 agent which is resistant to electromagnetic interference. The inclusion of a version of California Girls on the soundtrack is perhaps a little over the top (as is the iceberg submarine!) but the essential fun of the sequence - Bond outsmarting some Soviet troops in the snow with some nifty stunts - remains and John Barry's score is wonderful with great action cues. Barry's main theme, a poppy little rabble rouser performed by 'Duran, Duran' also works very well although Maurice Binder's titles are not quite up to his usual standards and seem to make extensive use of luminous paint.

After the usual M scenes there is some pleasant location work at Ascot with Q and Moneypenny enjoying a day at the races as Bond and company watch Zorin. Both Moore and Lois Maxwell bowed out after A View To A Kill and it's nice to see them all having one more adventure together before being put out to pasture. There are of course also several big action set-pieces in A View To A Kill, including a chase up the Eiffel Tower, skydiving and much carnage in Paris as Bond steals a car and destroys it - and most of the French capital it seems! "May I remind you," Says M. "That this operation was to be conducted discreetly. All it took was six million Francs in damages and penalties for violating most of the Napoleonic Code." There are some spectacular car stunts in this sequence and May Day's jump off the top of the Eiffel Tower is a memorable moment.

We are introduced to two interesting additions to the cast somewhere around this point. Good old Patrick Macnee as Sir Godfrey Tibbett, an MI6 contact of Bond, and Grace Jones as May Day, Zorin's bodyguard or 'henchwoman'. Macnee doesn't have a huge role but he works very nicely with Roger Moore in scenes set at Zorin's lavish French estate where the duo go undercover and he pretends to be Bond's butler. You do care what happens to he character of Tibbett.

The casting of Grace Jones was bold although some felt her character didn't quite live up to the hype upon the original release of A View To A Kill. Personally I thought it was a nice twist to cast a woman as the assistant/henchman and while Grace Jones is no Katherine Hepburn when it comes to snapping out dialogue she does have a very striking appearance and presence that works very well in a Bond film.

One thing I do feel is that the old Bond films, even the eighties ones made by the much derided John Glen, had a sense of style and weird sort of natural scope that the more recent Bond films lack. A View To A Kill, for all its faults, is undeniably a very stylish film. The Paris scenes and Zorin's stables/estate bear this out.

The piece of casting that perhaps hasn't endured quite as well is that of Tanya Roberts as geologist Stacey Sutton. Roberts is closer to Britt Eklund than Diana Rigg in the mythical pantheon of Bond girls. Elsewhere, Walter Gotell makes a welcome return as General Gogol and Fiona Fullerton has a brief cameo as Pola Ivanova - a sultry Russian agent who shares a hot tub - and some suggestive banter - with Bond. "The bubbles tickle my... Tchaikovsky!" The film could probably have lived without some of this extra silliness at times.

Alison Doody also makes her mark as Jenny Flex. I sometimes miss the days when every name in a Bond film was some sort of innuendo!

What else is there to enjoy in A View To A Kill? There is a big fire-engine chase through San Francisco which is enjoyable if a bit overlong and a well staged mine flooding sequence. It was a nice touch to give Zorin a distinctive airship to travel in - lending an air of grace and eccentricity to the character and setting up the climax of the film on top of the Golden Gate Bridge which I absolutely love - especially when John Barry's music kicks in. Zorin's airship is also used for a nice Goldfinger joke/reference and update of Mr Solo's "Pressing engagement."

Probably the best thing A View To A Kill has going for it is Christopher Walken as Zorin. "Intuitive improvisation is the secret of genius," says old Max. In the Bond films that have followed A View To A Kill, perhaps only Robert Davi as Sanchez in Licence To Kill has provided a villain to rank alongside Max Zorin. Walken is eccentric, stylish, sadistic and seems to be having a lot of fun. Note his psychotic laugh as he guns down his own mineworkers!

Roger Moore is also good in what would be his final appearance in the franchise. Sure, he's knocking on and probably should have bowed out after For Your Eyes Only in 1981 but he still looks quite stylish and handsome in the film (better than he did in Octopussy in fact) and brings his usual sense of fun to the part. Moore was always good at those little scenes where Bond mocks the villain at some swanky function and lets him know that he's onto him. In A View To A kill, Moore has a few good bits like this with Zorin and some other nice moments. "Brilliant," says Bond seriously after Zorin has shot somebody. "I'm almost speechless with admiration." Moore is suprisingly good sometimes when one of his Bond scripts requires him to play it straight for a moment.

So overall I think A View To A Kill is good, underrated fun. It has too much humour for its own good at times and could have been trimmed a little in length I think to give it a little more pace. The iceberg sub, the Beach Boys and Pola Ivanova are not essential parts of the film and could have been lost but for me A View To A Kill - while having weaknesses - also has a lot going for it.

It might not be the best James Bond film ever made but that doesn't automatically make it a bad film.

A View To A Kill may be flawed but it remains a stylish film that contains much to enjoy.

- Jake

c 2008 Alternative 007