As a James Bond fan awaiting the release of Spectre, I decided to return to the classic Sean Connery Era, concluded by You Only Live Twice. I’m not counting Diamonds Are Forever and Never Say Never Again, considering how obscenely terrible both of those films were. That being said, this 1967 action caper, despite its clichés and weaknesses, is a worthy addition to the Bond canon and is fun to watch.
After the enormously critical and commercial successes of Goldfinger and Thunderball, audience expectations towards quality were understandably elevated even further. This might be one reason why many viewers like myself consider You Only Live Twice to be inferior to its predecessors. Perhaps another reason why the film isn’t as popular as other entries in the canon are the small flaws that sporadically occur. In regards to execution, the action lacks the grittiness and spectacle of both earlier Connery films as well as the Daniel Craig Era, and some of the blue screen shots are absolutely atrocious. Although it’s clear that Roald Dahl is not as comfortable and/or competent writing a James Bond film as he is with his children’s books, the script is acceptable, and after the first 30 minutes, maintains a good pace.
Grant you, You Only Live Twice is not a perfect movie, but it does nail all the elements of a Bond film. The enigmatic Blofeld is finally revealed to us in a menacing fashion, with his scarred face and spooky German accent. However, his 5’6” frame and inner cowardice betray the ominous presence first established in From Russia With Love. Both Bond girls are sexy (especially Mie Hama in her white bikini as a nod to Ursula Andress in Dr. No) and are plausible love interests for 007. Nancy Sinatra’s haunting rendition of the title song is another memorable element of the film. However, nothing beats Ken Adam’s meticulously crafted volcano lair, which apparently cost as much as the entire budget of Dr. No, and boy, did that investment pay off.
Ultimately, You Only Live Twice is one of those movies in which you can’t help but turn your brain off and just have pure fun while watching the movie. Yes, the plot of a super-villain who has some oddly complex plot up his sleeve is the horse that we have seen beaten throughout the late 20th century. I suppose that this predictability from the film makes us feel more comfortable with the plot. In short, You Only Live Twice is great entertainment, and suffices as Sean Connery’s last performance as Bond before seemingly stepping out for the last time. Even though he made it abundantly clear that he’s “always hated that damn James Bond”, the remaining vestiges of the charisma that he established in Dr. No are exhibited in the last film of a great epoch that would not be manifested again until Daniel Craig’s performance in the unsurpassable Casino Royale.
Rating - ☆ ☆ ☆ ¾
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