Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence
Sean Connery as James Bond
Pedro Armendáriz as Ali Kerim Bey
Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb
Robert Shaw as Donald “Red” Grant
Bernard Lee as M
Daniela Bianchi as Tatiana Romanova
Director: Terence Young
James Bond searches for a Lektor cryptographic device that has the potential to wreak havoc in the world and stops SPECTRE, a secret crime organisation, from acquiring it.
In my rewatches of the James Bond movies, I was looking forward to From Russia with Love, that’s because of the official Bond movies, that’s the only one I never watched. I did hear some people declare it as one of the Best Bond movies, especially of the Connery era. I finally watched it and liked it, at the very least it is definitely a level above the previous movie Dr No.
Dr No was a very lowkey Bond movie compared to many of the later movies in the series, with heavy emphasis on the spy aspect. From Russia with Love is similar in that regard, but is better in every way. The plot is a Cold War mission, focussing more on espionage and spycraft than world ending schemes. There aren’t many Bond-esque gadgets, but James Bond does have a suitcase with many tricks, which proves to be useful. From Russia with Love isn’t quite like the Bond movies that you would expect yet, but it is definitely steps closer to the formula in the series. Plotwise, it can be a bit convoluted, but it made for a good movie and was well constructed. Also, whereas parts of Dr No’s story can be shaky, FRWL feels a lot more confident, they upped the scope and scale here. I found the plot to be interesting, mysterious and intriguing. It is a slow burn, it’s quite Hitchcockian in parts with some tense sequences, especially with a particular section on a train. The tone is serious and the film is fairly grounded, but also has some good moments of humour. It definitely has outdated aspects in the writing, but it mostly works.
Sean Connery returns of the role of James Bond and once again is great, he’s even better here than in the last movie. It’s a more confident performance, he’s charismatic, convincingly deadly, and has plenty of witty one liners. His interpretation of the character definitely has limitations given the writing, but for what it is, he’s good. There is a better cast of characters compared to the last movie, it even has the first appearance of Q as played by Desmond Llewelyn. Daniela Bianchi is the Bond girl this time, playing Tatiana Romonova. While her story arc doesn’t have much to it (especially considering that this is an early 60s Bond movie), she’s integral to the plot, endearing and felt like a real person, along with sharing good chemistry with Connery. There’s not much depth to the villains but they are better than in the last movie. In the last movie, the antagonist Dr No mentions he’s a part of SPECTRE and that criminal organisation gets more presence here. The secretive leader Blofeld is barely seen but still has a strong presence in his scenes. The main two villains are memorable in their parts; Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb as a higher up of SPECTRE, and Robert Shaw as the first Bond henchman Red Grant, who hunts him down over the course of the movie. The latter particularly shines when he finally meets with Bond.
Dr No director Terence Young returns to direct, and his work is definitely a step up from the last movie. You can tell that he has a much higher budget here. The action set pieces are grander and feel more fleshed out. There’s particularly a fight on a train that feels very real and is likely one of the best fights in the series. The editing and cinematography are also improved here. Some technical aspects are flawed like the ADR and some continuity errors, but that’s mostly to do with it being a movie from the 60s, you can expect little things like those.
From Russia with Love is an improvement over the first movie in every respect, with the writing, characters, performances and the directing. It’s an effective espionage spy thriller with some great sequences. It’s a really good movie and definitely on the better side of the Bond movies.