We're finally back on the Bond train and kicking things off with Roger Moore's first outing. I have to admit, I was a little concerned when the setup seemed to be "the black people of the world are all evil terrorists, and somehow all share a single line of communication" that the whole film was just going to be deeply racist, and I'm not sure it ever fully absolves itself of that. On the other hand, the actual villain is a solid one; the key henchmen are fairly diverse and memorable; and the evil plot is not overly imaginative, but nor is it completely ridiculous – it would actually work, to some extent. Plus, I guess you can at least point to the (completely unnecessary and extremely boring) "southern" cops and say, sure, the film is racist towards black people and Caribbean culture, but it's also classist, sexist, and at least a little racist towards some kinds of white folk, too. (I don't think this is any better, but it is something.)
As for Moore, I actually quite liked his Bond. He is much less rapey and outright arrogant than the later Connery, and actually does a small amount of genuine spy work this time around (even if most of the plot points are handed on a silver plate). He's still a little insufferable and a complete womaniser, but overall, less of a douchebag. He also gets some excellent one-liners – very much in the "so bad, they're great camp". Our personal favourite was "A snake! I should have told you: never go into the bathroom without a mongoose" 😂 The dialogue is cheesy, but in a way that largely works.
They also weren't afraid to try out some different stunts. We get car chases, plane chases, boat chases, and just regular chases at various points, and they can be pretty fun. Some of the boat jumps, in particular, are great. It's a shame, then, that they spend quite so damn long on them. This definitely falls into the whole "underwater battle" issue of earlier films: they worked out how to do something and then got carried away. The tenth time a boat gets driven across land briefly, I'm bored of it. And therein lies the film's biggest issue: pacing. By the two-thirds mark, this had largely redeemed itself and would have scored quite highly, but they drag out the final third way too long. Bond blows up the factory and then we get a prolonged chase sequence (complete with comedy cops); a prolonged damsel in distress sequence; a prolonged escape sequence; and then multiple henchman deaths and fake-out endings. Dude, the plot here was "make heroin, flood the market". The story is over the moment Bond torches the supply and then tells the CIA what was going on – the rest is just padding and it feels that way. Throw in some confusing voodoo stuff (and, eurgh, that is just all so cringe) that is never really explained, and you've ruined some genuinely good Bond moments:
- The fake face reveal – great!
- The alligator escape – great!
- The first half dozen boat chase sequences – great!
The end result is a film with lots of the right ingredients, and a competent recipe, that half-bakes the final execution and comes out a little flat.