Unlike “Live and Let Die” and “Man With The Golden Gun”, which sort of tried to distance themselves a bit from the Bond format with slightly less ambitious plots and attempts to stick to current popular films of the era (although this would still become a trademark of later Roger Moore films, with “Moonraker” taking on Star Wars and “Octopussy” having a bit of the more exotic nature and gross-outs of Indiana Jones), “Spy” largely is influenced by Bonds of the past, but also manages to have a style all it’s own. It also, in many ways, sets up new supporting cast characters for Bond-Defense Minister Frederick Gray-who in fact gives Bond his assignment in the beginning of the film instead of M (although M does appear in a few scenes ordering Moneypenny to withdraw 007 from his Austrian mission, and in an Egyptian MI6 base working with Bond’s findings).
And also M’s opposite number, General Gogol of the KGB, who would serve as both ally and enemy to Bond in future films.
Both characters would appear in all following official Bond films, with their final appearance in Timothy Dalton’s first film, The Living Daylights (In fact Gogol was going to have a larger role in “Living Daylights” but due to illness John Rhys-Davies played his replacement instead).
Apart from the watch and compressed air rifle in Live and Let Die, and Scaramanga’s (not Bond’s) various gadgets in Man with The Golden Gun, “Spy” more than makes up with it with the Lotus E-spirit “Wet Nellie”, which like it’s predecessor the Aston Martin is loaded with several anti-personnel features, most of which are utilized in it’s submersible mode (although it makes good use of a cement spray on a murderous motorcycle villain).
Here it’s got not only the ability to go underwater, but missiles, torpedoes, mines and oil-some other gadgets are also used in the film, such as a ticker-tape watch, a firing ski pole and a number of other gadgets seen (but not used by Bond in the field) in Q’s lab.
The Macguffin of the initial part of the film is the submarine tracking system, although it’s not really the focus of much of the film like the Solex from Man With The Golden Gun-in fact it’s mostly useless since the key microfilm is missing technical information. However, a transparency on the film allows Bond to uncover a vital clue as to who is stealing submarines.
Roger Moore’s somewhat toned down from Man With The Golden Gun, with him being far more likable-although in the initial scenes with Anya he seems a bit full of himself (Especially when Anya has trouble starting Jaw’s truck), it’s far more relaxed than the colder, more aggressive Bond from MWTGG, and fits Roger Moore’s acting style much better.
Particularly well done is a scene in which the two size up each other in the Mojave club, naming each other’s favorite drinks and reputations-although Anya hits a sore spot when she brings up Bond’s wife Tracey (Killed after their wedding on Her Majesty’s Secret Service). Moore plays the reaction pretty well.
Speaking of Anya, Barbera Bach’s delivery is a bit flat, but she’s much, much better than Moore’s more ditsy Bond girls, and is pretty competent on her own (being sort of a female Bond herself), apart from the train ride scene-and let’s face it, even Bond has a hard time with this guy, and anybody would be caught off guard if they saw this in their closet:
Speaking of villains and henchmen, this film of course introduced Jaws, who is played more or less equally as both a nasty menace and to a lesser degree comic relief (Which to a degree, so was Oddjob). Unfortunately things would kind of go in the latter direction more with “Moonraker” in which he also appeared.
Although not quite as memorable, Curt Jurgens is pretty good as Karl Stromberg, who at this point is one of Bond’s most insane villains. While other Bond villains are more or less after money and power, Stromberg pretty much wants to wipe out civilization using the stolen sub’s nukes so that most of humanity will be forced to move to his underwater cities (represented at least in part, by his “Atlantis” Base).
Both “Atlantis” and Stromberg’s Super-Tanker Liparus are also a return to large Bond set design. While both Live and Let Die and Man With The Golden Gun had some interesting villain lairs such as Scaramanga’s funhouse, they were much smaller and scale and lacked the look of SPECTRE’s volcano fortress or Goldfinger’s Fort Knox.
Atlantis has a fancy HQ for the villain and an interesting design both inside and out:
But it’s the Liparus which is the clear star, especially since it’s hold able to capture three submarines is where a good deal of the action of the film’s final act is set.
The set was so massive a new set was built for it, and it’s now called the 007 stage. It’s been used for other Bond movies as well as several other features down the line, although it’s almost been destroyed by fire two times.
The film uses pretty effective lighting and editing tricks, to give the film an effective look with some interesting reveals, such as lighting going off during the Pyramid presentation early in the film, revealing Jaws emerging from the darkness.
The film’s music is a bit dated and “discoish”, especially the Bond ’77 theme used in a few of the action scenes, including the opener and classic parachute stunt. Still, it’s pretty effectively edited in, especially in the Egypt scenes, and often gives a bit of an eeriness to it-and of course, Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better” is a classic opening tune (and used in instrumental form in other parts of the movie as well). Marvin Hamlisch must be a big David Lean fan, since Maurice Jarre’s Dr. Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia themes are used in the film (although in an interesting context, the last one kind of played for laughs).
The film’s got some interesting bit roles in it too. Shane Rimmer’s kind of fun as Bond’s American Captain Ally:
as is Milton Reid as the lesser henchmen Sandor, who gets a good fight scene with Roger Moore (although he’s obviously outmatched by Bond) and is one of Bond’s colder kills, as he knocks Sandor off a building after he’s holding on to Bond’s tie for dear life.
and let’s not forget Catherine Munro as the flirtatious but deadly Naomi, Stromberg’s secretary and also helicopter pilot:
There are a few things the film doesn’t do so well-Anya’s revenge storyline-when she finds out that Bond was the agent who killed her fellow KGB boyfriend in the film’s opener-is kind of tacked on a bit too easily resolved too-even though it’s set up early on, it doesn’t really add that much to the film apart from once again putting the two agents at odds.
But overall, it’s a vast improvement over the first two Roger Moore’s, although it’s momentum would be sort of hurt by it’s immediate sequel “Moonraker”. “For Your Eyes Only” thankfully restored some credibility to Bond, and while “Octopussy” divides some, I still think it’s a decent Bond film. Unfortunately, Roger Moore’s Bond went out with a whimper in “A View To A Kill”. But I’ll cover those later.