When it’s on: Saturday, 25 August (3.00 pm)
The pre-credits sequence of A View to a Kill tells you everything you need to know about what was wrong with Bond during this period. Removing an item from a dead man frozen into some snowy waste, 007 is soon being pursued by Soviet soldiers across the icebergs. Despite seeing this sort of thing many times before, it’s thrilling enough, and then he loses his skis, getting about instead by snow surfing on some broken vehicle’s equipment, and the music pipes in with California Girls by The Beach Boys. Like it wasn’t entertaining enough already, guys?
The use of heavy-handed humour during an action scene – is there anyone who finds this sort thing actually funny? – reeks of a lack of confidence, a sentiment that runs through the entire film. It’s Roger Moore’s last, the venerable actor by this point the wrong side of 55 and commenting that it’s time to bow out when he’s older than his leading lady’s mother. She’s Tanya Roberts, one of those sure signs that what you’re watching belongs to the 1980s (along with femme fatale, Grace Jones). One of the more insipid, screechy heroines, Roberts has little to do but wait around for Bond to rescue her, otherwise making her performance in The Beastmaster from earlier in the decade look good. Jones has more business in A View to a Kill, and looks as though she’s quite enjoying herself, swapping blows and bedtime romps with Moore. A shame her character takes a ridiculous about-turn in loyalties at a crucial point in the narrative; heavens, please don’t let it be a result of Rog’s sexual prowess!
There’s a combination of great set pieces and poor ones; sometimes the good leaks into the poor, such as Bond’s escape from the burning City Hall of San Francisco merging into a police chase through the streets that involves a comedy cop, your man driving a fire engine and for reasons that make absolutely no sense finding himself hanging off the end of a wayward ladder. Also ridiculous is the pursuit across Paris, which slaps the face of any occasion that someone refers to Bond as a ‘secret’ agent. The climactic fight on the upper reaches of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is rather better and somehow pulls off the danger of scrapping hundreds of feet in the air when the whole scene was filmed as a combination of trick photography, model shots and recreating the Bridge at Pinewood. There’s a glorious inventiveness to how this stuff has been conceived and put together, and it makes me a little sad that such trickery has been largely overhauled with CGI. Oh well.
What saves A View to a Kill from despair is the casting of Christopher Walken as chief villain, Max Zorin. Nominally the head of a microchip contractor, it emerges Zorin is attempting to corner the market by destroying Silicon Valley, whilst his past is mired in Soviet attempts to genetically engineer perfect human beings. The result, Bond is told, was children with superior intelligence but clear signs of psychosis, a sinister development that Zorin largely lives up to. The scale of his megalomania is rather refreshing – in flooding Silicon Valley, he’ll kill millions of people, but who’s counting, right? There’s a casual disregard to everyone around him, even his own people; in one moment of nastiness that scales new heights within the franchise, he personally trains a machine gun on miners working for him. Moore found this scene utterly distasteful, suggesting it removed the fun tone of the movies, but it works rather well, giving enough impression that here’s a villain who’ll go to any lengths to achieve his ends.
A View to a Kill: **