Sophisticated Mayhem and Polished Lovemaking: From Russia With Love Review

Courtesy of United Artists

Bigger and more explosive, From Russia With Love is both a proper sequel to Connery’s Dr. No and a Cold War thriller. 

Following Dr. No’s demise, SPECTRE, the most evil organization in the world, is back at it again, this time with a plot to heat up tensions between the United States and Russia while simultaneously capturing a decoding device known as Lektor. A Russian cipher clerk, Tatiana, says she wants to defect from the Soviet Union and help MI6 retrieve the Lektor but on one condition…Bond must be the one to help her escape. 007 must travel to Istanbul into what is most certainly a trap. 

From Russia With Love holds what must be one of the most surprising opening sequences in the Bond franchise; we first witness 007 stealthily traversing through a hedge garden, gun in tote, however, he is being followed. A large blonde man stalks Bond, almost like a cat-and-mouse game. Eventually, he catches Bond and garrotes him to death…we’re shocked! Bond? Dead? In the first few minutes of the film!? And then all is explained as the assassin, revealed to be part of SPECTRE, tears a prosthetic mask off the victim – it was only a training exercise. Not only does this scene capture our interest right away, but it effectively establishes our villain, Red Grant (played by Robert Shaw), and how dangerous he is (a scene that follows shortly thereafter depicts Grant being punched in the stomach with brass knuckles, and him not even flinching). 

Courtesy of United Artists

In his second Bond directorial effort, Terence Young reuses many of the same beats seen in Dr. No. When we first see the actual Bond, he is once again with Sylvia Trench, except this time he gets to skip the pleasantries. Then his time with her is cut short, as he is requested to see M in his office, where Bond will receive the rundown on his next mission. 007 then travels to the exotic location he is told to go to, this time being Istanbul, and at the airport a mysterious person follows him. Once he arrives at the hotel he will be staying at, he checks his room for hidden cameras and bugs, while his theme loudly accompanies him. 

While the exposition may feel rehashed to some, I believe the reiteration is to Young’s advantage; his experience from his previous film allows him to produce a more tightly organized sequence of events, which will help him generate clarity later down the road, as the film’s Cold War plot grows increasingly convoluted. This idea of experience being beneficial doesn’t only apply to the director, but to Connery too, who appears to be even more confident and comfortable in the role; this development will be a continuation throughout his later films. 

Some great lines he delivers include, “red wine with fish, well that should’ve told me something,” and after he defeats Rosa Klebb, an ex-SMERSH operative who fights Bond with a poisoned toe-spike, “yes, she had her kicks.” 

Courtesy of United Artists

In this adventure, Bond is joined by a colorful collection of characters, most notably Pedro Armendariz’s affable Kerim Bey, and the beautiful Daniela Bianchi’s Tatiana Romanova. Not only is she one of the most attractive Bond girls, in my opinion of course, but she also plays a uniquely vital part to Bond’s mission and holds her own well; Tatiana manages to conceal her true intentions from Bond for the majority of the film, survives to the end, and ultimately saves 007’s life – these elements making her one of the more memorable Bond girls in the franchise. 

Up until the film boards the Orient Express, the pacing is inconsistent, but from then on From Russia With Love is an exciting thriller, especially for its time. Bond finally faces off with Red Grant, who proves to be as much of an intellectual challenge as a physical one, participates in a boat chase, and every time you think he is safe and out of enemy reach he is thrown back into the ring of danger. A UK press ad said the film had sophisticated mayhem and polished lovemaking…I couldn’t agree more. 

From Russia With Love is a great second installment to the Bond franchise. 8.5/10

Author: Teddy Frederick

Where to start? I'm a shift supervisor at Starbucks, which is where I spend most of my week. I am also a part-time student seeking an associates degree at Anne Arundel Community College. But my most identifiable trait is my love for movies; I have been reviewing them since 2017.

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