Time: 109 Minutes
Age Rating: contains low level violence
Sean Connery as James Bond
Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder
Joseph Wiseman as Dr. Julius No
Jack Lord as Felix Leiter
Bernard Lee as M
John Kitzmiller as Quarrel
Anthony Dawson as Professor R.J. Dent
Zena Marshall as Miss Taro
Eunice Gayson as Sylvia Trench
Director: Terence Young
Agent 007 decides to battle against an eccentric scientist, Dr No, who is determined to ruin the US space programme. For this purpose, he journeys to Jamaica to nip in the bud this megalomaniac peril.
After No Time to Die I decided to rewatch the pre-Craig James Bond movies in the most illogical order, going backwards from Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan all the way back to Sean Connery and George Lazenby. Going to the Sean Connery movies was interesting, especially with seeing how the franchise started. The first film, Dr. No, is definitely very dated and I wouldn’t call it among the best Bond movies by any means. However it is pretty good and held up better than I expected.
Having watched the post Connery Bond movies, it was interesting seeing how the Bond trademarks began on film. The James Bond movies are known for being over the top but Dr. No is not that overly campy. In fact, it is surprising how low key and simple its beginning is, Bond’s first movie is more of a proper espionage spy thriller more intrigue than large explosions. Many of the Bond trademarks aren’t here, no Q, no gadgets (outside of a gun), and no globetrotting (it takes place largely in Jamaica). As such, it was very interesting to watch. It also has a 60s old school charm to it which made it endearing to watch, even if it is outdated in many ways. I will admit that I wasn’t fully invested in the story. The pacing is all over the place, the plot can meander quite often, and the middle part of the movie is generally boring. Also, I found the conclusion to the movie to be rather disappointing.
Sean Connery makes his debut as James Bond, he was the first actor to play him. He makes a strong impression; he is suave and delivers the witty lines excellently. At the same time, he is very believable as a dark character and cold blooded killer, being particularly realistic in the action scenes with his physicality. Connery also benefits from being front and centre in this movie. Generally, the rest of the cast are pretty good if underutilised. Ironically the weakest link is Dr. No himself, as played by Joseph Wiseman. Problematic casting and yellowface aside, the main villain shows up with 30 minutes left of the runtime. While those types of villains can work, Dr. No doesn’t leave much of an impression outside of having metal hands and apparently being really smart. Even some of the side villains like the assassins pretending to be blind are fairly weak as antagonists go.
Terence Young directs Dr. No, and his work is pretty good. They definitely had a lower budget here compared to the later Bond movies, but they still pulled off a fair amount. Some of the technical elements still hold up well surprisingly. The green screen is definitely dated but otherwise it has good production designs and makes use of the locations in Jamacia. There are also some impressive set pieces with good action scenes. This movie also introduces the iconic James Bond theme by John Barry. The one problem is that the theme is used a bit too much throughout the movie, almost to the point of parody.
I wouldn’t call Dr. No by any means one of the best Bond movies. It is definitely dated from a technical and writing perspective, and it can be pretty slow and boring at times, especially in the second act. However, it is definitely one of the most unique entries of James Bond considering its before it became a large and successful franchise. It’s interesting seeing it as a relatively gritty spy thriller with a focus on espionage. Additionally, it was directed well, and Sean Connery is great as James Bond.