FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, 1962
It comes to MI6's attention that a Russian girl has defected and offered to bring a lektor decoding device to MI6 in exchange that James Bond comes and retrieves her and the device. Bond rightfully responds that it is a trap, but who is setting the trap? Is it the Russians?
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Off the bat I have to say that From Russia with Love is my favorite Bond film and Bond novel. The film follows the source material relatively close, except a few minor changes, but that doesn't matter, because the film is exciting and it flows extremely well. Unlike Dr. No we know the plan of the foes right off the bat. We have to watch Bond from a distance and he thinks he's got everything figured out. He thinks the Russians are setting him up, but it is in fact SPECTRE. Bond doesn't know this until over halfway into the film and you can see on Connery's face that it is a huge blow to the ego. SPECTRE wants Bond dead for killing Dr. No and they want to steal the Lektor to sell it back to the Russians to help fund their organization. So why not kill two birds in one stone. Get MI6, who have been trying to get a lektor for ages, to send Bond to get the Lektor, SPECTRE sends an assassin to kill Bond get the Lektor into SPECTRE's hands, all the time Russia and England will be blaming each other.
The film took place during the intense cold war and the film does a good job at portraying that, which makes SPECTRE that much more diabolical is that they are taking advantage of world issues for their own gain. The film is a perfect balance. There is not too much and not too little. We aren't overwhelmed by an overabundance of set pieces and gadgets just yet and this is Connery's most vulnerable film as Bond, particularly when Red Grant, the Irish psychopath working for SPECTRE proves that bond doesn't always know what is going on, which leads into an amazing fight scene in a train car. It's not like a Jason Bourne fight, but for 1963 I can imagine it was a very similar experience at the time.
This is the first film to introduce Q and his gadgets, which become a James Bond staple. Bond gets a suitcase full of fun toys that always conveniently help him on the way.
The villains in From Russia with Love are very memorable. Rosa Klebb is the nasty woman who spearheads the operation under No. 1 who's face we do not see, but through her fear we know he is not to be toyed with. She hires Red Grant, a man who makes James Bond enjoyable prey to hunt. He is very strong and begins a long line of Bond foes that seem indestructible, raising the danger levels higher.
With all the new add ons that upped the ante for the series From Russia with love remains my favorite, because it is more believable than a lot of other Bond films, which is what makes the film more exciting. There's a connection with from Russia with Love that the other films don't have for me, and that is what constitutes as good story telling for this type of genre. There has to be a sense of being grounded in reality even if it is a crazy spy story and From Russia With Love achieves that the best of the early Bonds films