Review: 'Diamonds Are Forever' (1971) Dir. Guy Hamilton
Updated: Nov 19, 2020
With "one-hit wonder" George Lazenby departing as 007, Sean Connery returned for one last official adventure...
MI6 agent James Bond (Connery) is sent by M (Lee) to investigate an international diamond smuggling ring. Posing as professional smuggler Peter Franks, Bond makes contact with American smuggler Tiffany Case (St.John) in Amsterdam to follow a trail of diamonds.
With professional assassins Mr Wint (Glover) and Mr Kidd (Smith) on their trail to erase all links to the smuggling ring, Bond and Case, with the help of CIA agent Felix Leiter (Burton), track the diamonds to a research base in Nevada where the diamonds are being used to construct a giant satellite.
On investigating more, Bond finally discovers who is pulling the strings behind the smuggling ring; SPECTRE leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Gray). Bond must find out where Blofeld is operating the satellite from before he can use the weapon to annihilate any city he chooses and hold the world to ransom…
Why this is generally slated as much as it is? I don't understand. There are worse Bond films out there for sure. It’s probably a little more light-hearted and “fun” than previous films and edging into the territory that Roger Moore successfully broke away from the darker spy thrillers of the 60s, but Sean Connery is such a welcome sight as James Bond after George Lazenby. For an older Bond, we still see him in lots of the action scenes and to be honest he looks like he’s enjoying himself a lot more than he was in his previous few Bond films, which adds to the enjoyment of having him back.
With an interesting story based on diamond smuggling and actually more of a crime-thriller for the first half that has Bond join the dots via some great minimal action sequences and character development, such as the elevator fight between Bond and Peter Franks, is a refreshing take that avoids huge action and chaos in favour of plot development and a clever idea. I
t's not the most memorable, don't get me wrong - it's VERY ordinary in terms of tone, cultural significance and the threat we see and it could at times be an American cop show we are watching rather than the exploits of an international super-spy. It's loud, proud and surrounded by the glitz and glam of Capitalism in all its glory at the turn of the 70s.
For the first mission to take part mostly in America, this is a new style of Bond film, but it does keep both feet on the ground at least and never goes off kilter to be something you don't identify with.
Jill St. John is a great Bond girl; full of sass, attitude and quite a radical change from the 60s bikini clad eye candy…well, except from the finale…but she stands her ground, talks tough and can look after herself. Charles Gray does a good enough job as Blofeld but it's obviously nothing spectacular or threatening with his charming smile and polite British accent – you wouldn’t mind sitting down for tea with this chap rather than fear for your life as you did with Donald Pleasance in ‘You Only Live Twice’.
The bonus inclusion of darkly comedic and ruthless killers Mr.Wint and Mr.Kidd more than make up for the ho-hum assortment of villains here who favour machine guns and thick American accents over dastardly plots and deadly methods of attack.
Overall, it’s got some well-staged action like the Las Vegas car chase and the oil-rig confrontation, and just a good deal of fun without going overly stupid or too dark. It's clear the series was turning into a more adventurous and wider reaching take on Bond (70% of the film taking place in and around America), but that adds to the enjoyment of these Bond adventures where nothing was taken TOO seriously and they weren’t afraid to shake things up, and this paved the way for Roger Moore to follow suit with the mix of comedy and danger and also seen more as a globe-trotting spy.
My opinion of Sean Connery has changed a lot with repeat viewings, more than I thought it would as to how much I enjoyed him in this outing. Without him in 1969, I didn't know how much I missed him and he provided a much needed link from his era to Moore and thankfully erased the blip that was Lazenby.
Back to form for Bond with all the required elements present and Connery to ease you back in. And if we ignore Blofeld in drag, then this is a rather fun outing.
'Diamonds Are Forever' is an EON Productions production