Review: Live And Let Die [1973] - dir. Guy Hamilton

In his first turn as James Bond, Roger Moore infiltrates a gang of narcotics smugglers in voodoo-infested Jamaica. His daring exploits lead him on a number of incredible chases. Digitally restored.

OK, so how do you review a movie that has been reviewed a million times before, well that question has kept me up most of this past weekend. My first thought was to go back and describe how I first felt as 6 year old child being taken by my Dad to a small ABC cinema in Liverpool on the day of release to see my FIRST Bond film, but then I realised all I had left in my head from that encounter was velour seats, little pots of raspberry ripple ice-cream, some crocodiles and Baron Samedi... so then I looked at the option of doing it the usual way, look at the script, the actors, the action, then I had a minor epiphany and realised the only way you can ever review a Bond film is bu how it sits within the canon of the rest of the work... so here goes (it's worth a punt!!).

As the 8th in the series Live and Let Die is probably the closet Bond got in the 60s, 70s and 80s to realistic, rather than the overblown antics of Goldfinger, the giant volcano lair of You Only Live Twice and the next 7 in the series that followed it. Live and Let Die was definitely grounded within the 'real' world of the time, with realistic villains, a feasible plot revolving around heroin and some locations that smacked of 1970s inner city deprivation, this film had a contemporary feel, although still much maligned as an attempt to 'cash-in' on the blaxploitation genre, my firm belief is that Guy Hamilton managed to deal with possibly the most difficult of Fleming's novels with a delicacy he had not shown in previous Bond outings as director (Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever).

As for Roger Moore, well this movie will always remain (in my humble opinion) his finest moment as Bond, at that point in time he was 'made' for the character, suave, smooth, immaculate, with a cold ruthlessness that never resurfaced in any of his performances thereafter. As with all of the actors who have played Bond their first is always their best, Connery with Dr. No, Brosnan with Goldeneye, Craig with Casino Royale (at this point we will not count Timothy Dalton due to the fact that his second outing, Licence to Kill kick started the 'new' Bond era, not Goldeneye, as many would have you believe...), maybe it's the lack of complacency, or the thought of filling some 'big' boots that makes the first 'new' Bond films both edgy and expectant.

As for the supporting cast, Jane Seymour's Solitaire is both handled delicately and with a seriousness not always evident in Bond leading ladies, as for Yaphet Kotto as Kananga, what can I say, he brings not only a lightness to the role but also succeeds in being as suave and confident as Bond himself, giving his character an even more dangerous edge.

So on to what everyone looks for in a Bond movie, the action! Following one of the most low key pre-credit sequences in Bond's history it only takes a scant 11 minutes before the pace ramps up and then we spend the next 100 minutes totally embroiled in a series of brilliant set piece chases and, for the last time in Moore's tenure as 007, some pretty aggressive fight sequences. The stand out, still, has to be the legendary motor boat chase, inspired and quite frankly even by today's standards a masterpiece of thrills and tension, and not a digital effect in sight (see that Wanted, who needs computers to be spectacular!).

To conclude (and to quit my rambling) Live and Let Die is still one of the strongest of 007's screen outings, Moore at his peak, the series at it's high point in the theatres and more importantly giving us what we want, action, adventure, wit and some sexy moments along the way for both the girls and boys... go watch it again, it's worth it.


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