A View To A Kill (1985): Transitional Bond

I’ve never seen the 1980s Bonds all the way through — until now, but they say that Bond movies reflect the era that they’re made in. And this one certainly does — in terms of gender, ethnicity and Anglo-American relations.

Christopher Walken makes a superb villain — even in the grapple for life, suspended over Golden Gate Bridge, we wonder (as the audience) if it will be his movie and he will survive. His confidence is effortless — as is his immaculate hair.

Roger Moore’s suave, humorous Bond is certainly older — but still game as he dramatically skis to escape (to the sound of surfing music), tracks the villains through the American horse racing world and fails to jump off the Eiffel Tower (whilst Grace Jones parachutes beautifully to freedom). He is also joined by a former Avenger! Indeed, it is a Bond movie in which the villains appear to be winning, outsmarting Bond at every turn.

Here the Bond girls are definitely turning into Bond women. Truly this is Grace Jones movie — albeit that she has barely any lines. Ruthless, strong, intelligent, resourceful and athletic, but still beautiful, Grace Jones as Zorin’s hench woman May Day is able to plan her way out of danger (parachuting off the Eiffel Tower) or take the right tunnel to avoid being drowned or shot at by her former lover. She (not Bond) also saves the world as she bravely and nobly sacrifices herself to transport a bomb away from flooding Silicon Valley. A woman can die gloriously for the greater good too. Unlike Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts) Grace Jones doesn’t need to be rescued — infact she rescues and leaves Bond conflicted between who to choose — here we see friendship between Bond and Bond woman, definitely a new thing!

Stacey Sutton is also a nod to the brave new world of strong, powerful, high earning women in their shoulder pads and heels, and yet the movie and the writers can’t decide what to do with her. On one hand she is a geologist, researching Max Zorin’s plans behind the scenes; in the other a screaming woman who falls, trips, fails to look behind her, suddenly can’t climb in heels or drive, and endlessly needs to be rescued from burning buildings, air ships, a quarry and the Golden Gate bridge. She also sets a pattern for the love interest who survives to the end, whilst Grace Jones’ character is the one who dies tragically along the way. For a geologist, the Stacy Sutton character seems to switch inexplicably from resourceful woman to dumb blonde, back and forth, throughout the film — as the next moment she can whack a villain over the head with an object to hand or try to wrestle a villain. She can climb so high up a step ladder, then suddenly needs to be rescued being unable to climb any higher. I appreciate that she has heels on, but still! On the other hand, she could be an ordinary woman caught up in extraordinary circumstances and undergoing a lot of shock and trauma (similar to the character of Camille in Quantum of Solace); whilst Grace Jones is just extraordinary. You also have to worry about this character around the fire scene — all that big hair achieved by lots of hair spray, a disaster in waiting….

The theme song repeats throughout in a number of clever way, including the demolition of a wedding cake on a boat in Paris, and what a song it is!

The airship in a shed was inspired genius, as is Max Zorin’s disposal of his henchwomen and excavating team of miners through drowning and shooting at them — he is a true Bond villain. But also very 1980s, he has the suit, the hair, the shades, the money, the desire to create a microchip monopoly by flooding or blowing up Silicon Valley — very ruthless 1980s celebration of money at any cost. He also has an interesting way of disposing of Bond through nastily rigged horse racing at his French Chateau.

A further interesting theme in this movie is consent — previously Bond had been portrayed as forcing women, who then relented to resisting Bond because, well, he is James Bond. Here Bond is much more respectful — he doesn’t force Stacey Sutton to wake up when she’s fallen asleep — he respects her space. He also isn’t sure if he wants to sleep with the powerful Grace Jones; we see more of Bond’s thought processes and sexual pleasure is much more a mutual, consent given process; a hint of the equality Bonds to come in the era of Daniel Craig.

Most of all, this is a lot of fun (with its focus on American-Anglo relations); the police car chase over the very much opening bridge after Bond in a fire truck (still very much Smokey and the Bandit era) is terrific. There are the cheeky Bond jokes — Bond escapes a painful collision with groin heigh objects; henchman are comically boxed on a conveyor belt; the police chief threatens his team with paying for their damaged police cars out of their wages before his is ignominiously crushed too; the switching of cassette tapes with Fiona Fullerton in a jacuzzi with a dubious East European accent. But does Stacey Sutton’s skirt really need to be ripped off? And I’m very glad that we’ve moved on from Benny Hill era Bonds of Q always locating and spying on Bond in an intimate and inappropriate moment — this ending just feels creepy now….

However it is also an interesting movie in terms of progression of characters, relationships and the portrayal of the society it’s mirroring (such as focus on health, exercise, conspicuous consumption and leotards!).

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