A VIEW TO A KILL: Cover Up Your Embarrassing Incompetence

A View To a Kill (1983) – The 14th James Bond Film; The 7th (of 7) Roger Moore Films – Directed by John Glen – Starring Roger Moore, Christopher Walken, Patrick Macnee, Grace Jones, Tanya Roberts, Robert Brown, and Desmond Llewelyn.

There is but one moment of anything resembling brilliance in A VIEW TO A KILL. It occurs right around the mid-point when Bond’s infiltration of the Zorin estate has been discovered and Bond tells Zorin, “My department knows I’m here. When I don’t report, they’ll retaliate.” Zorin, sensing the pathetic nature of Bond’s threat, replies, “If you’re the best they’ve got, they’re more likely to try and cover up your embarrassing incompetence.”

And that about sums up the movie, a tired, bland, dull movie in which James Bond (Roger Moore) is too old and slow to stay active in what has become a younger man’s game. Unlike OCTOPUSSY, which managed to make Bond’s age anachronistic and tragic to the world around him, A VIEW TO A KILL seems determined to put up a front that says, “Everything is normal. No sags under the eyes to see here.”

But, of course, there are.

Make-up and lighting do a decent job covering the lines of Moore’s distinctive face, and the hair has been given a trim to keep it neat, but effects can’t cover the athletic stiffness or natural sagging of the body. No disrespect to Moore, who has been a fantastic Bond in largely mediocre (but rarely offensively bad) films rarely ascend to his performance, but even he has admitted he was too old to be running around with the license to kill this time around.

Sadly, and for the first time in his 7-film tenure, Roger Moore is playing James Bond instead of embodying his alter-ego. The confidence, swagger, and general bad-assery are in the past. In VIEW, Moore is just a dude at a costume party trying out worn lines on women too young to know who he’s supposed to be. Where OCTOPUSSY found a way to work Moore’s anachronistic image and identity to deliver a tragic image of Bond, VIEW’s insistence that everything is fine takes on a pathetic quality. Local baseball announcers have become glorified homers/cheerleaders, with teams wanting them to be the club’s first line of PR instead of neutral observers, reporters, and analysts. Knowing this, ex-Red Sox play-by-play man Sean McDonough once said that what he tried to do was to be aware of this fact, but not say anything that would outright insult the viewer at home; if they saw something obvious, he shouldn’t try and pretend there something obvious hadn’t happened. The worlds of baseball and James Bond are separated by more than an ocean, but McDonough’s comment applies to the Bond franchise here – when we can see that Moore is too old to play the part he’s been given, the film shouldn’t try to pretend that he’s not.

Yet, it does.

There’s some humor between Bond and Patrick Macnee, and VIEW gains a spark when Christopher Walken is on screen but there’s no reason to sit through VIEW to see it because most of the time Walken is just cartoonishly ridiculous. Yeah, I know, it’s Chris Walken and we’re all just supposed to say how awesome he is, but he’s only awesome a few times in VIEW. And Grace Jones … good lord, they do the same thing with her character they did with Jaws when they turn the bad ass soft.

The opening half-hour has a lame plot involving horses and steroids but at least the sets are nice. We spend our time hanging out in luxurious submersibles, racetracks, and a French estate. Score one for set designs and location shooting. Unfortunately the action that accompanies these sets is forced and derivative of things we’ve seen before. The whole “Bond skis away from 629 enemy agents” scene has been done before and better in THE SPY WHO LOVED ME. (And even there it wasn’t so hot. Moore rarely looks comfortable in front of a green screen.)

Bond recovers a microchip, which leads to a plot about horse steroids, which leads to Zorin wanting to destroy Silicon Valley. Of course it does.

Tanya Roberts starts hanging out when the action shifts to the States and, I don’t know, VIEW had barely been hanging on when it was set at the French estate, but seeing Bond adventure around San Francisco in a stolen firetruck represents some kind of bottoming out. It’s a lame scene that’s horribly shot and edited. It’s easy to lay the blame at the feet of Moore because he’s the star but the whole production feels tired. I mean, explain this scene: There’s a fire at City Hall, some cop who looks like he’s walked off the set of Man vs. Food is all, “Is this your gun?” and then Bond steals a firetruck to lead the cops on a chase through the streets of San Francisco, endangering the lives of everyone he comes across.

For what?

There’s no immediate rush to get somewhere. He does it because he doesn’t want to be bothered to prove who he is and the movie makes us side with him because the rest of the cops are fresh out of the Police Academy films and will do anything silly and stupid that’s ever been done in a car chase involving cops in a movie ever.

A VIEW TO A KILL is boring, tedious, tired, and I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

Well, okay, one last thing. The title song is pretty darn good (especially in the context of the mediocre elevator music that’s come before it, it’s nice to hear a song with some tempo), but the titles just might be the worst in the series, which is fitting since this film just might be the worst in the series, too. A sad, pathetic end to the much maligned and severely under-appreciated Roger Moore era.

4 thoughts on “A VIEW TO A KILL: Cover Up Your Embarrassing Incompetence

  1. I never liked Roger Moore as James Bond. I actually liked George Lazenby and could never understand why he was traded in for Moore, who (IMHO) just made fun of the part instead of taking it seriously.

    Off to get some sparkling wine for the Royal Wedding! It’s a public holiday here in Britain.


    • Enjoy the festivities!

      Moore was in a tough spot replacing a legend and I think he made the right choice to make the character his own instead of playing Connery 2.0 but the movies largely let him down. I have a much higher opinion of him today than I did 2 weeks ago, though.


  2. I am very surprised you didn’t mention the use of “California Girls” by the Beach Boys when Bond is on his one ski. *shudder* That to me sums up the whole film.


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