Ranking From Russia With Love

I previously ranked some of the James Bond movies here, here, here, here, here, and here. I haven’t seen this one since high school and have long meant to re-watch it, since I remember it as one of the better Bond films. And I was right! It just felt classic, with a tight plot and some cool scenes. We’ll see how it does under this blog’s Bond-rating rubric.

Since the Bond movies are formulaic and their quality is based on how well they fulfill the formula, I created a little rubric to rank the Bond movies, with several categories a movie can get points in. A Bond film gets 2 points if the movie is one of the top 4 Bond movies for a category, and 1 point if it’s in the top 9 (newly expanded from Top 8), plus a couple special categories. Here are the criteria, with a maximum of 14 points available:

Story/Plot–2 points–Is the plot coherent and logical? Are the stakes high?  (2 points, top 4; 1 point, top 9)

Action–2 points–Are the stunts exciting? The car chases thrilling?  (2 points, top 4; 1 point, top 9)

Villain–2 points–What’s a Bond movie without dastardly villains and their henchmen? (2 points, top 4; 1 point, top 9)

Setting–2 points–The Bond movies are all about exotic locations. (2 points, top 4; 1 point, top 9)

Gadgets, Vehicles, Lairs–2 points–What’s the cool stuff?  (2 points, top 4; 1 point, top 9)

Bond girls–2 points–The ladies, oh yes, the ladies. (2 points, top 4; 1 point, top 9)

Sean Connery or Daniel Craig?–1 point–These are the best Bonds (no need to debate) and get an automatic extra point if appearing in the film.

Musical theme–1 point if in the top 5

From Russia With Love
Story/Plot–Young, female Russian diplomat Tatiana Romanova at the Soviet embassy in Istanbul has contacted the British Secret Service. She has fallen in love with James Bond (without ever having met him, just from his photo and dossier) and wants to defect, but only to him. She will bring along a Lektor decoding machine, which British and American intelligence have wanted to get their hands on for years. M thinks it’s a trap, but can’t pass up the chance to get a Lektor machine, and sends James Bond into the breach. In fact, Tatiana is working for Soviet spy chief Rosa Klebb, who she doesn’t realize is actually loyal to secret terrorist organization Spectre. This is one of the best, most coherent, believable, and interesting plots of any Bond film, easily putting it in the top 4. (2 points)
Action–The fight scene near the end on board the Orient Express is classic, a Russian raid on a gypsy camp in Turkey where Bond is staying is wild, and the final boat chase is exciting and requires some real cleverness by Bond, not just driving fast with lots of stunts. Top 9. (1 point)
Villain–Blofeld is the villain, but we never see his face. The henchman, Red Grant, a prison escapee Spectre has trained as a master assassin, is no big deal, though. I do have a lot of love for Kronsteen, Spectre’s master planner who is also a chess grandmaster, allowing the movie to barely squeak into the Top 9. (1 point)
Setting–Most of the movie is in a beautifully filmed Istanbul, with some attempt at actually getting a feel for the city. Parts of the beginning and end are in Venice. Top 9. (1 point)
Gadgets, Vehicles, Lairs–This was early in the franchise, before the late 60s and 70s heyday of cool gadgets and cars. Still, there’s a specially fitted-out suitcase with more hidden guns and knives than you would think could fit in it and that you have to open in a very particular way or get a face full of tear gas. Let’s say Top 9. (1 point)
Bond Girls–Tatiana Romanova, played by Italian actress Daniela Bianchi, is cute enough, but doesn’t really come across as having much personality. A couple young gypsy women who James Bond has to settle a dispute between hardly rate. This doesn’t make it into the Top 9, which allows Thunderball back onto the list. We’ll see how this affects the overall ranking, below. (0 points)
SC or DC–Theme song comes across as some kind of generic lounge thing. (0 points)
Total: 7 points

Rejiggered points for other movies:
A View To a Kill moves from Top 4 to Top 9 for Story/Plot (-1)
Thunderball moves back into Top 9 for Bond Girls (+1)

And, here are the updated results:
1) The Spy Who Loved Me (12 points)
2) Casino Royale (10 points)
3, 4) Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (tied with 9 points)
5) Skyfall (8 points)
6) From Russia With Love (7 points)
7) Thunderball (6 points)
8, 9) Spectre, The Man With the Golden Gun (5 points)
10, 11) Die Another Day, Live and Let Die (4 points)
12, 13) A View to A Kill, Diamonds are Forever (3 points)

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