The Weekly Bond Countdown: #10 – A View to a Kill (1985)

A View to a Kill will always be a personal favourite of mine.  Whether it is on TV, a digital download or a blu-ray disc, I always make time for it.

Why?

Because A View to a Kill was the first Bond film I watched when I was growing up.

Around the early 90s, this young girl sat in front of her 4×3 wooden framed analogue TV (remember those TV sets?  The ones where the picture would jump and the only way to fix it was the smack the TV until it settled?), transfixed by this film.  I just love everything about it and in some way, it will always be my ultimate guilty pleasure Bond film.

Right from the start, you have an awesome ski chase (because it wouldn’t be Bond without a ski chase!).  It is then followed by what I call the most impressionable (and memorable) Bond opening credits.  Gorgeous neon effects + one of the best Bond songs from Duran Duran makes a great combination.  The opening credits are bold, sexy and daring, epitomizing what the 80s was about – over the top and outlandish in fashion, style and make-up.  If its sole design was to get everyone excited for the film, then it certainly worked on me and as a blu-ray enthusiast, the opening credits looks amazing in high definition.

What I’m about to write might sound melodramatic.  I guess another reason why I love A View to a Kill lies with the film score.  A good composer can analyse a scene and create music to suit the mood.  The greatest of composers can create music that taps into your very soul, taking the audience through every emotional spectrum that lies within you.  Hans Zimmer (Gladiator), John Williams (Saving Private Ryan), Mark Snow (The X-Files), Danny Elfman (Edward Scissorhands), Howard Shore (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) and Michael Giacchino (Up) are some of the great composers who do that very thing and John Barry belongs in that group.

The track “Wine with Stacey” is one of the signature themes from A View to a Kill.  Who would have thought that slowing down a Duran Duran track would sound so beautiful and romantic?  John Barry knew!  And if you thought he couldn’t get any better, John Barry ups the ante with the track, “Golden Gate Fight”.  This track is grand and epic, highlighting the danger and suspense for Bond, like a spiritual brother of the music from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

There is something about John Barry’s Bond music in this particular decade.  Apart from the awesome Bond music he created during the 60s, the 80s Bond soundtracks (in particular A View to a Kill and The Living Daylights) are equally as good.  Thomas Newman (Skyfall) and Michael Kamen (Licence to Kill) do respectable jobs as composers on their respective Bond films, but Barry does something that goes the extra mile.  His music gives Bond his character and persona and the only composer that comes even close to Barry’s work on the Bond films today is David Arnold (Casino Royale).

As a young kid listening to these epic themes whilst watching A View to a Kill for the first time, I think it is safe to say that I fell in love with John Barry and his music, right there and then.

Ok melodrama over – let’s get on with the good stuff!

Christopher Walken as Zorin has got to be one of the best Bond villains ever!  EVER!  It’s a bold statement from me, but it is completely justified.  As mentioned in my Tomorrow Never Dies review, Walken has the ability to switch personalities – he can be charming in one scene and then turn into a calculating, crazy psychopath in another.  In other words, he had no problems changing the game, no matter who got hurt. His epic showdown with Bond on the top of the Golden Gate Bridge is a case highlight point; not afraid to get his hands dirty and yet he laughs at the face of death.

In some ways I like to think Javier Bardem as Silva (Skyfall) was channelling the spirit of Walken from A View to a Kill.  Same hair colour does help!

If Christopher Walken is one of the best Bond villains ever (in my view), then Grace Jones has got to be one of the best Bond girls.  Yes I said it and technically, she wasn’t the Bond girl in this film.  Tanya Roberts (Stacey) was.  But Grace Jones’s performance as May Day is something I hold dear.  In real life, Grace Jones is eccentric.  In A View to a Kill, her eccentricity is perfect from her clothing to her Dr. Evil style laugh after she escapes from Bond in Paris.  I dare you to call her name silly, because she will probably wait for you in the back seat of your car, waiting to choke the living daylights out of you. She is beautiful and powerful both in terms of physical and mental strength.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a character like her especially in the Bond franchise.  So when she was betrayed by Zorin and left for dead in the mines, I love the fact she gets her revenge on him and switches her allegiance to Bond.  For Zorin who is a calculating character, I bet he never saw that coming!  May Day had last laugh.

If there are negatives from A View to a Kill (yes sadly for me this is true), then there are two.  One is Tanya Roberts as Stacey.  She has a little more sense than Goodnight (The Man with the Golden Gun) but clearly she is not a fighter.  She often finds herself in damsel in distress situations, often yelling “James!” to save her like the fire at the Town Hall or hanging dangerously from the Golden Gate Bridge.  That screaming can do your head in, but in some situations, where she is not helpless, she is useful.  I guess her character trait was there to balance out the awesome strength of May Day.

But the biggest negative (and it hurts to say this) is Roger Moore.  There’s nothing wrong with his performance.  I personally think it is one of his best. But he was old!  Roger Moore retired from Bond at the age of 58!  In high definition the wrinkles are a lot more visible than I remembered L.  This might sound cruel, but it reminded me of Steven Seagal and his films today.  The close up shots would definitely be him.  The mid and long-range shots, heck, even the back of his head – you KNOW it’s not him.  It was his stand-in or stunt double or whatever.  In A View to a Kill, the transition between Moore and stunt double is so obvious, especially on some of the key sequences.  It sadly spoils the illusion of Bond going to extremes to get the job done and the actor doing his own stunts.  I guess you could argue (for continuity sake) that from Bond’s inception in 1962 in Dr. No to A View to a Kill in 1985, Bond’s ageing was factor.  He was playing the same character after all!  But I’m glad Roger Moore stepped down from the role after this.

Take nothing away from him, he was the longest serving actor to play Bond (seven films altogether).  His interpretation of Bond is far removed from Fleming’s original intent, but he made Bond his own and why many (and it’s not surprising) consider him the best Bond or at least up there in contention.  While Sean Connery avoids the attention of playing the iconic hero, it’s Roger Moore who became an ambassador for the whole franchise.  From his many interviews, he always had something positive to say about his experiences as Bond and has shown great rapport between himself and being on set with the cast and crew.

That makes him more than just any actor.

That makes him a legend.

The Countdown So Far:

Check back next week Wednesday to find out which Bond film comes in at #9

Author: Kelechi Ehenulo

Creator and writer of Confessions From A Geek Mind. Loves sci-fi and LEGO - couldn't ask for a better combo!

5 thoughts

  1. I agree with most of your points, but my rating would be a lot lower. I think A View to a Kill was the first Bond movie that I saw at the theater when I was a pretty young kid. It’s fun, and I have some nostalgia, but it’s also pretty much a mess. The two negatives are huge for me, despite the fun from Jones and Walken. I don’t think it’s crazy to have it at #10. Having it any higher might be a different situation.

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    1. Completely understand – it just works for me purely on a guilty pleasure level despite the faults. If I hated it, trust me it wouldn’t be placed this highly! Jones and Walken are the main reasons for my love of this film but if Dalton did this film rather than Moore, A View to a Kill might be a lot different.

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  2. This isn’t one of my favourite Bond films. Saying that, Walken and Jones are a deliciously savage duo who have the required weirdness. Unfortunately Stacey Sutton is just a real annoyance throughout the duration of A View to a Kill.

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    1. OMG yes she is. There was no need for that amount of screaming from Stacey! For a lot of people A View to a Kill is not their favourite and that’s fair. It’s certainly not the best. But it’s a film that got me into Bond in the first place and that’s why I love it – faults and all. Grace Jones is amazing. Really wish the new Bond films do more female villains. It’s always a nice change especially in the Bond world where women are seen as objects of desire.

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