Hear me out: why A View to a Kill isn't a bad movie

The latest in our series defending loathed movies is a plea to reconsider Sir Roger Moore’s silly but superb Bond swansong

I have championed A View to a Kill before. I have repeatedly exalted its star. I have explained how my friend Tom introduced me to the deathless tao of Sir Roger Moore. Life is far too short and miserable to take it all too seriously. So don’t.

I’ve even interviewed Tom about his love for Gold, Moore’s 1974 non-Bond masterpiece which essentially supplies the plot for A View to a Kill: a villain plans a calamitous flood to boost the price of a commodity he wants to control (microchips this time), only to be stopped by an ageing knitwear model and the women he seduces.

So when I was charged with making the case that A View to a Kill is not the subject of ridicule it has in some places sadly become, I discussed it with Tom. He’s currently surviving lockdown in south London with only pillows with Sir Roger’s face on them for company, which even he would admit is a bit odd.

Such devotees of Kill, as we true initiates know it, have developed a flourishing subculture. Among key artefacts one day to be puzzled over by digital archaeologists is this video about how Max Zorin, in this very 1985 entry in the canon, “finds a computer indispensable”.

There is also Robbie Sims, author of Quantum of Silliness: The Peculiar World of Bond, James Bond who I talked to for this piece and who tweets under the handle The Bubbles Tickle My Tchaikovsky. That’s a nod to Pola Ivanova, the oft-overlooked third Bond girl of Kill, after Grace Jones and Tanya Roberts. Played by Fiona Fullerton, she’s the statuesque Russian seduced in a hot tub into which Moore’s pensionable Bond presumably poured Epsom salts.

But if all that somehow hasn’t convinced you of the greatness of Kill … here goes.

A View to a Kill is a glorious romp, silly and camp but in a magnificently British way most successfully so when it’s actually trying to keep a straight face.

Christopher Walken’s Zorin is one of the great Bond villains, totally ridiculous but oddly actually quite evil, cackling behind tinted specs while machine-gunning his own staff. Moore thought that too strong for Bond but I think it channels a key Bond theme: actual nastiness and pain. Ian Fleming wrote the books, remember, and as Christopher Hitchens pointed out, he was a rum piece of work.

Then there’s Grace Jones’s May Day, perhaps the greatest Bond girl because she brings rare diversity and agency to the role and because she’s just so gloriously, utterly unusual. Her sex scene with Moore is one of the strangest ever filmed.

John Barry provides a stirring score, Duran Duran a stupendous title song. This is Bond as operatic nonsense, the Aida of the oeuvre, grandiose and silly but right.

Prey to the vulnerabilities of an ageing star, the joins are sometimes visible. Some of the back projection, while for example Roger is supposedly skiing, is laughable. The famous “quiche” scene, a quite magnificently weird bit in which Bond whips up a nourishing meal for Stacey Sutton (Roberts) using only what he finds in her cabinets, comes after a fight in which it is plainly not Roger kicking a bad guy flush in the head.

But those stunt doubles’ work is superb. There’s the Eiffel Tower chase and leap; there’s the car smashed in two and driven through Paris; there’s the firetruck chaos; there’s what Sims perfectly calls “the astonishing blimp denouement”, in which a slow-moving dirigible gets tangled up on the Golden Gate Bridge … and an airship gets into difficulty too.

Yes, it’s not Moore having an axe fight hundreds of feet over San Francisco Bay. But it is a stuntman, and his mate playing Zorin. And Zorin’s death, plummeting from said bridge, is touching. Yes, his scientist “father” created him in a Nazi lab. But Dr Mortner’s shout from the blimp is just heartrending.

“Max!”

It gets me. Every. Single. Time.

Moore thought he could’ve done another Bond but he couldn’t, really. The Living Daylights (also criminally underrated, like its star Tim Dalton) would’ve had to have been renamed The Snoozing Goodnights. The 80s were not a time when actors staring their 60s in the face or even waving them a long goodbye could be held upright by CGI and our insatiable hunger for content.

But what a note to go out on. Made by professionals, A View to a Kill is a glorious outbreak of fun. It’s not serious Bond but as I have written before, serious Bond is not, ultimately, something that deserves to be taken seriously.

A View to a Kill is the pinnacle of Moore and therefore the pinnacle of Bond.

The defence rests. For now.

  • A View to a Kill is available to rent digitally in the US and UK

Contributor

Martin Pengelly

The GuardianTramp

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