Dr. No Reviews
Similar to Daniel Craig in his debut in Casino Royale, Connery's Bond isn't spoiled by souped-up secret gadgets - his most exotic upgrade is a Walther PPK with a silencer - but some of the more lasting trademarks of the franchise are already in place. Like a strictly business commanding officer, M (Bernard Lee), the flirtatious banter with Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) and a staggeringly gorgeous Bond Girl in Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress, who sets a ridiculously high standard for future Bond girls).
The low-key mystery plot (where Bond is dispatched to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of a fellow agent and finds himself in the middle of a plot to disrupt the U.S. space shuttle launch at Cape Canaveral) and the resolutely human-sized drama of it all makes this one of the sanest of all Bond pictures. Although somewhat rough around its edges, every series has to start somewhere, and this low and tame adventure is, again, the perfect franchise-starter. it is astonishing how well this film holds up and is every bit as engaging, suspenseful and entertaining as any of the more recent editions to the Bond mythos with bigger budgets, more expansive sets and exhilarating stunts.
Sean Connery is still my favourite Bond of all time; yes, beyond Daniel Craig and Roger Moore. Aside form the fact that Connery was the first to portray Bond on the big screen, he gives Bond a personality that every other Bond actor has tried to build upon by various means, but never fully eclipsing him. What makes Connery's Bond so good is that he projects a confidence while still being extremely suave, yet he can also become cold-blooded at a second's notice; plainly said, he has by far the most dexterity and range of any of the Bonds, and the 1960s were the 007 franchises' first Golden Age.
Looking back at it, as a story, Dr. No isn't at all the most three-dimensional, and it indeed suffers from the flaws of EON having to eliminate all of it's story-arc ties with Dr. No as a novel being in the middle of the 007 series. Aside from it's story limitations, it is a resounding smash as a spy and suspense film, although not nearly as good and seamless as it's successor film.
With the Bond multi hundred million dollar budget films that are getting doled out every three or four years these days, it's often difficult to remember the limitations that the Bond films earlier on (especially in the early sixties) had to deal with. This is especially the case of Dr. No as it was the first in the franchise, and thus dealing with even a more paltry budget than it's immediate successors. Despite the limitations, though, the classic Hollywood influence does seem to seep into and shine in this film, although I think they could have structured it a tad better overall.
Aside from being the first film of the series, Dr. No is also quintessential to the franchise as it was the film that introduced all the "Bondsy" stuff which would more or less be continued throughout the series to varying degrees and make the 007 films the ones we know and love to this very day (the martini, the suits, the gadgets, the small exotic sports cars, the elaborate lairs and villains, etc.). And although in comparison to Thunderbolt and From Russia with Love, the climax seems somewhat lesser-dramatic and kind of left me wondering if that was all as the credits began to roll, but as a debut spy film made in a time when The Beatles were still playing dingy clubs, it's a pretty damn good one.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: It is outdated of course - full of silences and slow paced action, but some of the acting is more than wooden and, despite the wait, a very one-dimentional villain. And as with most franchise-firsts, the plot's not as developed as it could be.
VERDICT: The one that kick-started it all remains a classic for good reason
First Bond film deals with mysterious criminal on an island planning to put an end to the US space program. Full of sly wit, truly sensational action, and a great villain. Plus a knockout performance by Sean Connery.
In this chapter of Bond's adventures, Sean Connery is shipped off to Jamaica, where the station chief has not been returning contact. Upon his arrival, Bond discovers that the chief has been killed and that there seems to be some sort of shady conspiracy afoot. Almost immediately, the action sets off, with agents coming out of the wood work trying to get the jump on our hero, who always manages to fight them off using some rather slapstick looking fighting moves.
Eventually, Bond meets a local by the name of Quarrel, and together they attempt to travel to a nearby island that the locals are afraid of, in an effort to track down the reclusive Dr. No, and ask him about what has happened to the station chief.
Dr. No establishes many of the tropes found in later installments of the series: the iconic James Bond Theme, car chases, daring escapes, trained foot soldiers, beautiful women that assist Bond, intelligent and powerful super villains, secret bases, wise cracking one liners, and a comedic relief buddy for the hero. The production of Dr. No was overseen by 007 creator Ian Fleming, and the location of the shoot for the film was near his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica.
Perhaps due to its low budget, Dr. No has an alluring charm that few other films in the series were able to match. The story and motivations of Connery seem much more grounded in reality, even when accounting for the over-the-top motivations of No. The action is pretty poorly executed in that Star Trek sort of way, but it's still entertaining and keeps you engaged. If anything the film serves to remind you that action is there to facilitate the story, and not the other way around.
TL;DR - 8/10
Dr. No isn't talked about much when people make lists of the greatest Bond films, and that's a bloody shame. The film is a brilliant start to the series, and is boosted by its low-budget charm and the efforts of the cast and crew to pull off a brilliant film. Not only a must-see for anyone who likes the franchise, but also a must see for anyone that enjoys the spy/action genres.