The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Best Bond: The Spy who Loved Me is often described as one of the best Bond films and unanimously the best Roger Moore Bond film. It is described like this because it is awesome. Following Live and Let Die’s aimlessness and Golden Gun’s pointlessness, The Spy Who Loved Me tightens up to be a simple story about spying. It has some exotic locales, good baddies, great action, Barbara Bach kicking ass and a great theme song. The plot plays out like a remake of You Only Live Twice but on a grander scale. This does unfortunately mean that there are 100% less ninjas but it also means there are 100% less attempts to disguise James Bond as a Japanese man by combing his hair differently.
The Spy who Loved Me succeeds where previous Moore Bonds fail by simply not being boring. There is no second act flab or long meandering scenes of nothing. We move from set piece to set piece with barely a pause and the action is tightly filmed. The comedy isn’t cheesy and the main bad guy, while barely being in the movie, is intimidating and interesting and also passes off the heavy lifting to Jaws, one of the most iconic Bond villains, who is used to terrifying effect in this movie as he goes around murdering dudes by biting their necks. The gender politics shift a little in this movie as Barbara Bach’s Russian secret agent shows herself to be capable and inventive, until she is captured and needs rescuing because, after all, this is a Bond film.
Darker Bond: This movie also has something that rarely appears in the Moore films: Darkness. Moore has two scenes which stood out to me as signs that he could have been a darker, more ruthless Bond. One scene in which Bach mentions Tracy Bond’s death and the light in Moore’s eyes goes out and he tells her to stop talking. I will always feel that Tracy Bond’s death is the defining Bond moment and the fact that it gets mostly ignored is a travesty. I found that throughout the whole series that any movie that mentioned Tracy ended up being a better movie but more on that later. The other scene has Bond fighting a henchman on a Cairo roof and the bad guy finds himself holding onto Bond’s tie, dangling over the edge of a building. Bond quizzes him for info and once he has his answers he pulls the tie away, leaving the henchman to fall. It is about as cold-blooded as Bond gets and is a hint of a darker timeline Bond in which Roger Moore is remembered as the dark, remorseless Bond.
Overall: The Spy Who Loved Me is one of the best Bond films and manages to be so good that it enhances the movies around it. It makes the first two Moore Bonds feel like practices before this main event, and makes sitting through the earlier two movies completely worth it.