Monday, June 17, 2013

Dr. No: James Bond Begins

Movie Review: Dr. No

Director: Terence Young

Reviewed: 15 June 2013

jamesintexas rating--***1/2

"Dr. No" is not the first James Bond novel by Ian Fleming, but it exists as the beginning of one of cinema's most enduring franchises. With its iconic gun barrel sequence and its thrilling music, "Dr. No" introduces the character of James Bond to audiences in a very deliberate, methodical way. Bond (Sean Connery) is seated at the card table, wearing a black tuxedo, a cigarette hanging insouciantly out of his mouth: "Bond, James Bond." Connery sells that moment and dozens more like it, and the character grabs hold of our consciousness. Bond has knowledge of cards, drinks, and fine art. He thinks in this film; at two points, he realizes that another person close to him is nefarious and reacts coolly. His first onscreen murder is a brutal one, rooted in avenging the deaths of a Jamaican British agent and his secretary.

Bond travels to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of fellow agent Strangways and a possible connection to a plot to topple U.S. missiles from Cape Canaveral by sending them off course. Bond's spying consists mostly of noticing details: drivers of cars following him, a woman trying to take his picture at the airport, a suspicious secretary. He eventually travels to the mysterious island of Crab Key, the home of Dr. No, in order to investigate radioactive samples taken by Strangways. There, Bond meets the iconic Honey Rider (Ursula Andress), rising from the ocean, and together with islander Quarrel (John Kitzmuller), they must hide from Dr. No's henchmen in the interior of the island. It all builds to a drawn-out conversation between Dr. No and Bond in an elaborately decorated lair.

Joseph Wiseman has only two scenes as Dr. No (three if voice-work counts). He appears rather late in the film (1 hour 24 minute mark), and the film suffers from his lack of presence. Since Bond escapes from his prison cell by crawling through air vents, the climax builds rather quickly. It mostly involves creating a nuclear meltdown and some grappling with Dr. No above a bubbling pool of radioactive water. Quarrel's character, unfortunately, is played as James Bond's servant ("Fetch my shoes!") and for cheap laughter and does not earn such a horrible death. Ken Adam's set design is striking with its verticality and scenery that looms over its characters. The music is fun as is the sensation of watching an actor, a director, a filmmaking team behind to uncover how to make the hero and legend of James Bond, a knight for the modern age on a quest to save the world.

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