Review: 'From Russia With Love' (1963) Dir. Terence Young
Updated: Aug 20
Sean Connery returns as James Bond 007 for a sequel that eclipses the original in terms of scale, size and storytelling...
Evil organisation SPECTRE devises a plot to steal a Russian cryptographic device; the Lektor. Agent Rosa Klebb (Lenya) recruits assassin Donald “Red” Grant (Shaw) to ensure their success. Unwitting cipher clerk Tatiana Romanova (Binachi), is also recruited to contact British Intelligence with a plan to defect with the Lektor.
SPECTRE foresee that MI6 will send their best man, James Bond (Connery), to recover the Lektor, so they can extract revenge for the death of Dr.No. Bond arrives in Turkey where meets Kerim Bey (Armendariz) who has been contacted by Romanova with the plans for defection.
Bond meets with Tatiana and she provides all the information needed to steal the Lektor, as Bey devises their escape route from the country. However, with Red Grant on their trail, Bond must battle SPECTRE again, escape with the Lektor and protect Tatiana at all costs...
Building from the strong foundations laid in 1962s ‘Dr. No’, EON start to inject the elements that would fuel the Bond franchise for over 50 years with the inclusion of the pre-title sequence, the globe-trotting, the extensive action sequences, the sprawling criminal threat and the gadgets. Yet the story is never lost in the action genre totally, this retains a lot of the slow-burning, investigative espionage elements from Ian Fleming’s novel – the Cold War threat, the faceless enemy bringing governments to the point of conflict and the confrontation between warring intelligence services.
In fact, most of the first decade of Bond films stayed grounded by a thrilling espionage tale of good spies vs bad spies and avoiding the threat of a new world war.
This second outing is probably the best Connery film in terms of giving us a faithful interpretation of James Bond and what he stands for - the Cold War threat is never lost during the adventure.
With another great turn from Sean Connery, easily capturing Bond’s dangerous and charming side (not averse to slapping a few women here and there to get what he wants), he does look like he’s enjoying himself in the action sequences and great moments shared with co-stars Daniella Bianchi and Robert Shaw. Shaw does a good job as the square jawed assassin working for SPECTRE who acts as a mysterious, menacing presence over the course of the film until the final act where he dishes out memorable dialogue and violence. His character is never over-used and played for dramatic effect; he is restrained and professional, and more like 007 than any other villains who have come since.
Also, a big thumbs up to Daniella Bianchi, sandwiched between two iconic Bond girls (Honey Ryder being the “first” and Pussy Galore with “that” name), Tatiana comes across as plain and ordinary, and almost forgettable, but it’s sad that she is overlooked because she is one of the best Bond girls in the first few decades of films – she’s undeniably beautiful, sweet and morally conflicted, giving her character a little depth and intrigue rather than just a basic bimbo who Bond needs to save after having sex with her. Bianchi manages to help drive the plot and be more than just helpless, being involved with the Lektor theft and also giving Bond lots of decent conversation and conflict rather than just kisses and sweet nothings.
With more action sequences than its predecessor, we have more ingredients of the Bond canon start to form with more vehicles being involved such as a short, sharp speedboat chase, a dangerous helicopter duel and the almost Hitchcock-esque battle of wits on the Orient Express, one of the more enjoyable and tense sequences.
EON starts to enjoy James Bond a little more, throwing him into battles with organisations who are the epitome of culturally significant threats, but one that our hero can thankfully defeat, giving the audience a sense of hope and escapism from daily lives. Bond is still the man every man wants to be, now proving he can fight and charm with lethal effect.
Also, the villains are more definable - the mysterious image of Blofeld and the white cat, along with the sheer strength and evil streak in the brutal guise of Red Grant and Rosa Klebb; it's these factors that would be capitalised on for that authentic, larger-than-life Bond feel.
From small steps in 1962 to sheer confidence and steady expansion of the lore here in 1963. It had everything and more - global espionage, danger and action. Where to go now? Up up up!
'From Russia With Love' is an EON Productions production