As everyone knows, a piece of machinery isn't enough to set Bond into action. You need a piece of something else, and SPECTRE finds it in the form of Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), a beautiful cipher clerk in the Soviet secret service who's got the goods on the decoder. Under instructions from the über-evil Rosa Klebb (the fabulous Lotta Lenya), a SPECTRE operative posing as a Soviet official, Tatiana agrees to her mission: To put out the signal that she wants to defect to the West, and that she's willing to smuggle the decoder too, provided that Bond escort her safely through the Iron Curtain.
Bond smells something fishy, but he's too hot for Tatiana and too curious to uncover a scheme that's got SPECTRE's dirty fingerprints all over it. So, he jets off to Istanbul to rendezvous with Tatiana, only to become embroiled in spy-vs-spy brouhaha, alongside his local liaison Ali (Armendáriz), involving Russians, gypsies, and belly dancers. Still, this plot-within-a-plot isn't entirely like a red herring; though he doesn't know it, Red Grant (Robert Shaw), a steely-eyed assassin in SPECTRE's employ, is on Bond's tail and readying for the kill.
As things heat up, Tatiana falls for the suave Bond who, likewise, can't help but take a shine to the Russian, played by Bianchi with a fetching mix of innocence and sensuality. Russia was the second of three films (sandwiched between Dr. No and Goldfinger) in which Connery would mark out the cinematic persona to which every subsequent actor to play Bond has had the near-impossible task of measuring up. Indeed, one of the great pleasures of Russia is watching Connery etch out the mystique by which both he and Bond would forever be associated -- the wry machismo, the sarcastic quick-wittedness, and a temperament as given to shrewd observation as to violent action.
Decoder in tow, Bond and Tatiana slip aboard a train for the Balkans. The extended sequence that follows, in which the long-awaited confrontation between Bond and Grant takes place, illustrates what's so terrific about Johanna Harwood and Richard Maibaum's script. Unlike the gadget-addled shortcuts of many a post-Goldfinger excursion, the spy-work here is done the hard way, through old-fashioned intrigue and characters sizing each other up. The famous fight scene between Bond and Grant inside the train's cramped quarters is riveting enough, but more so is the gripping lead-up in which the insidious Grant tries to finesse his way into Bond's good graces. These scenes are sharply handled by both actors and aim for a notching-up of tensions that rely on subtle craft over blunt spectacle. In what is refreshingly a low-key Bond outing, director Terence Young, when called upon it, delivers on the action too. For an early '60s production, Young's staging of helicopter attacks, boat chases, and the aforementioned train showdown are all impressive.
In From Russia with Love, we find a James Bond movie with the sensibilities of a classic Cold War thriller -- its pacing is slow and deliberate as Bond puts together the pieces of the conspiracy against him, and its tone bespeaks the romantic exoticism of Soviet Bloc Eastern Europe. Here's a Bond movie closer to, say, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold than Moonraker; in other words, this is old-school Ian Fleming, free of the cartoonishness and excesses of later Bonds, and maybe the one Bond movie in which the spy and the world for which he was created are perfectly in sync.
Run time: 115 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 27th May 1964
Box Office Worldwide: $78.9M
Distributed by: United Artists
Production compaines: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Eon Productions, Danjaq
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Fresh: 47 Rotten: 2
IMDB: 7.5 / 10
Director: Terence Young
Producer: Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman
Screenwriter: Johanna Harwood, Richard Maibaum
Starring: Sean Connery as James Bond, Daniela Bianchi as Tatiana Romanova, Lotte Lenya as Rosa Klebb, Robert Shaw as Donovan 'Red' Grant, Bernard Lee as M, Eunice Gayson as Sylvia Trench, Walter Gotell as Morzeny, Francis de Wolff as Vavra, Nadja Regin as Kerim's Girl, Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny, Aliza Gur as Vida, Desmond Llewelyn as Q, Pedro Armendáriz as Ali Kerim Bey, Vladek Sheybal as Kronsteen, George Pastell as Train Conductor, Martine Beswick as Zora, Jan Williams as Masseuse, Peter Madden as McAdams
Like an antidote to vacuous blockbusters, this intelligent, thoughtful drama packs more intensity into a...
This biopic gallops through the career of groundbreaking gangsta rappers N.W.A, working its way through...
Basically the perfect summer movie, this lightweight drama has a great-looking cast and plenty of...
As the ghoul from the 2012 horror hit stalks a new family, this sequel's sharply...
After setting the scene with vivid characters and some insightful interaction, the plot of this...
Both the characters and the tone have been updated as a new generation of Grizwolds...
Amy Schumer makes her big screen debut with a script that feels like a much-extended...
Adopting a deliciously groovy vibe, Guy Ritchie turns the iconic 1960s TV spy series into...