For Fresh Eyes Only: Live and Let Die
I’ve done it. It felt like it would never happen during the doldrums of Sean Connery’s reign, but I’ve finally reached Roger Moore. From what I understand, he may be the most polarizing Bond, and already after one film I can easily see that, but so far I’m a fan. With a white hot blaxploitation-inspired plot, the best Bond theme yet, a few fun action scenes, and a few great performances (including the best villain since Goldfinger), Live and Let Die just feels fresh.
A trio of secret agents have been murdered and New Bond has been enlisted to get to the bottom of it. The bad guys are extremely organized, dispatching of their targets in insanely complex ways (the Bourbon Street funeral procession assassinations are hilarious), and seem to be deep rooted everywhere in the US, from New York to New Orleans. Their leader, Dr. Kananga (Yaphet Kotto), has a wackadoo plan to turn a majority of the US into addicts and monopolize the heroin industry, which is a very welcome change from “Nuclear Annihilation Plot #4.”
Moore doesn’t immediately do much to set himself apart; he’s definitely playing within the blueprint laid out by Connery. This is not a bad thing at all, just as long as he doesn’t get as complacent. Dude’s got six films to go, I really hope he eventually does something to really establish himself in the role, but for now he’s just fine. The real star of this movie is Yaphet Kotto. He masterfully walks the line between over-the-top dastardly and genuinely sinister. He even sells the silly Mr. Big reveal, something that I didn’t see coming even if I really should have. Jane Seymour is also excellent as the mysterious, possibly supernatural Solitaire.
There are a few exciting car chases, one where Bond’s driver is sniped and Bond has to wrestle away control while flying down a busy street. The largest is a boat/car chase, shot cleverly from the perspective of police officers trying and failing to stop the out of control boats constantly ramping over land. On the whole, it’s a more stylized film than any other Bond since From Russia With Love, and that style is incredibly successful. It’s a gorgeous looking movie, and the main theme is amazing. I had no idea that “Live and Let Die” was a Bond movie theme until it started playing over the badass opening credits (I also thought it was a Beatles song, I’m dumb, it is known). I hear the song every day on the radio where I work, and it’s always welcome. It’s an awesome song used to great effect here.
I may have enjoyed the movie a lot but I still have complaints. The simple cop J.W. Pepper (Clifton James) and the simple CIA agent Rosie Carver (Gloria Hendry) characters are embarrassingly bad. Each are so dimwitted that you couldn’t possibly buy that they hold the positions they allegedly do. Carver in particular is frustrating; she’s supposed to be a CIA agent who’s also working with the bad guys, and she’s massively freaking out over a damn dead snake. They aren’t even in the movie for that long but they really leave a bad lasting impression. And as much as I liked the car chases, there’s not much else here in terms of action. And the climax devolves into yet another underground cave system escape that I’ve grown tired of. It’s even more illogical here.
It’s not perfect, but Live and Let Die felt invigorating. A fresh face does a whole lot, even if it is so familiar. From looking ahead, it seems that Roger Moore’s films are where the series chases trends and embraces the silly, campy aspects of the series. So far, that has not been my favorite type of Bond movie, but if they’re well balanced like this one, I’m open to it. Ok, I’m going to go listen to “Live and Let Die” now, bye.
Marcus will return in For Fresh Eyes Only: The Man With the Golden Gun.