You Only Live Twice (1967)
Bond Goes Japanese
It can save your life, this cigarette - Tiger Tanaka
For me the best James Bond movies were the ones which whilst having moments of wit and an array of gadgets were based in the real world. As such I am not a huge fan of "You Only Live Twice", I don't think it's terrible but with a story which ends up more science fiction than fact I just don't enjoy it. It's a shame as once again Sean Connery delivers a good performance as Bond and although things spiral out of control the first half is quite entertaining. But sadly it is the second half which flounders and it is that which causes my dislike, although at least it's more realistic than some of the Bond movies which were to follow.
After an American spacecraft is swallowed up by a larger spacecraft the American's immediately expect the USSR are behind this and with accusations flying another war could be on the cards. But the British Government suspect it is someone else and having tacked this spacecraft swallowing spacecraft landing in Japan they send James Bond (Sean Connery - Thunderball) to get to the bottom of this before the accusations escalate. Unbeknown to Bond the group behind the robbery are SPECTRE and he will have to deal with not only SPECTRE agents but Blofield (Donald Pleasence - The Great Escape) the evil genius behind it all.
Whilst the set up which sees a US spacecraft being swallowed up by another spacecraft is a bit OTT it works in the real sense of the 60s, the Cold War and the accusations which fly between the USA and USSR as the Russians are accused of stealing it. And it nicely leads into the first half which gives us Bond in Japan trying to track down who is behind this spacecraft theft as the British discover that it landed somewhere in Japan. To be honest the actual detail of this first half becomes unimportant as what you get is traditional James Bond action. And so we have Bond sneaking around, getting shot out, meeting beautiful women as well as a bad guy. It's what we have seen before but it is what you expect and feels for the most right.
In fact this first half has a well worked storyline and brings in another angle to Bond as for once we get a feeling that he has fallen in love with a woman, in this case Aki. And the friendship he forms with Aki's boss Tiger Tanaka is just as good as there is a respect which forms between them, almost a sense of being buddies.
The trouble is the second half to "You Only Live Twice" because it spirals out of control as it loses touch with reality. So okay the secret lair where this spacecraft is kept is brilliant, any secret lair in a volcano is good, and it is also good that once again it is the evil SPECTRE behind things. But from having Bond masquerading as a Japanese man to the outrageous big final battle it just goes overboard. The only good thing about this second half is that we finally get to see Blofield for the first time.
Aside from this problematic second half everything else about "You Only Live Twice" is 100% typical Bond from the flirtations with Miss Moneypenny to Q showing up with a nifty gadget, this time a DIY chopper. And of course at the centre of all this is Connery who continues to show how James Bond should be played, suave, sexy and dangerous although even Connery looks a bit uneasy in the part where he has to pretend to be Japanese. The rest of the cast is just as good and Akiko Wakabayashi is very good as Aki because not only does she come across as an action girl but also gets the connection to Bond right, that slight warmth she shows towards him. And whilst he only got a few scenes Donald Pleasence does come across as an evil genius as Blofield and has that look of evil about him.
What this all boils down to is that "You Only Live Twice" is not a bad Bond movie but because it all becomes a little too far fetched it is most certainly weaker than what had gone before. But despite this you still have Connery delivering everything you expect, you still have gadgets, action and wit and to be honest there is still plenty to like about the 5th Bond movie.
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