You Only Live Twice

You Only Live Twice


Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

In many ways, the fifth Bond in the series is undoubtedly a turning point. For one thing, it’s the first instalment to essentially discard Fleming’s original source material. For another, it sees a host of new behind-the-scenes faces join the 007 team including director Lewis Gilbert (who’d become a mainstay during the Moore years) and screenwriter Roald ‘James And The Giant Peach’ Dahl. Most of all though, it’s the film that saw the super-spy become larger-than-life.

After both American and Russian spacecrafts mysteriously disappear in orbit, each nation blames the other, leaving the world on the brink of war. Investigating, James Bond (Sean Connery) is dispatched to Japan where he works alongside Japanese Secret Service leader 'Tiger' Tanaka ( Tetsurô Tanba) and his assistant Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi). Trying to locate SPECTRE's secret base, Bond comes head to head with their leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasance)...

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If Thunderball was where the excess began to get out of control, You Only Live Twice is where things (literally) explode. A far cry from the gritty espionage of From Russia With Love and the well-balanced fun of Goldfinger, here we get too extravagant and the suspension of disbelief is racked up several notches. Cars being picked up by magnets, rockets that gobble up spaceships, piranha pools for dispensing with traitors (okay, so that’s cool), constructable helicopters - it’s all too much. And then there’s that base…

However, while the logic is also a bit spotty (Bond has to die so he can operate freely… hold on, isn’t he a secret agent?), there’s still enough 007 goodness to make it worthwhile. There’s a punch-packing fight in Osato’s office, Nancy Sinatra’s theme tune is gorgeous and there’s a few trademark one-liners (“request permission to come aboard”). The second half is undoubtedly weaker, with James going oriental and proceedings becoming OTT, but early doors Connery gets to strut about in his charcoal suits and do some actual spying…

Speaking of Sean, despite being arguably too comfortable in the role, he remains very watchable. Interestingly, while he announced this would be his swansong in the tux (okay, so he doesn’t wear one here…whatever), he returned after a one-flick gap in Diamonds Are Forever (still watchable) and years later in unofficial effort Never Say Never Again (not so watchable). Though the majority of the supporting players don’t make much impact, Pleasance gives a definitive performance as the so-far-unseen Blofeld. You can almost imagine Mike Myers taking notes.

The moment where the franchise really fell in love with going over-the-top, You Only Live Twice sets the tone for so many future Bonds. Though you could argue it marks the end of Connery’s prime years, his 007 would live again. But only twice.

Reviewed on: 03 Aug 2009
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James Bond heads off to Japan in Roald Dahl's wacky adaptation.
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Director: Lewis Gilbert

Writer: Roald Dahl, Harold Jack Bloom, based on the book by Ian Fleming

Starring: Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, Tetsuro Tamba, Teru Shimada, Karin Dor, Donald Pleasence, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn, Charles Gray, Tsai Chin, Peter Fanene Maivia, Burt Kwouk, Michael Chow

Year: 1967

Runtime: 117 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: UK


EIFF 2009

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