In James Bond’s fifth film outing, we find Sean Connery looking a little worse for wear since Thunderball. He’s not quite fit for purpose, a little chubbier but also just older and more tired in general. This sums up You Only Live Twice, it’s very average.
An American space shuttle gets plucked out of space by what is a suspected Russian space-shuttle-poacher. When the same thing happens to the Russians, relations between the two countries get heated and the world is brought to near war as they blame each other for the disappearences. I know, it makes no sense they still blame each other at this point but ok fine.
Turns out it’s the handy work of SPECTRE inc., an evil coroporation hell bent on wrecking the world for profit. They also struggle to deal with one incompetant British spy but whatever. They are really smart and bad. James Bond is brought in to sort them out and give them a damn good hiding. He’ll probably mess it up a few times along the way but he’ll get there.
The film is long and convoluted, despite the over-arching idea being quite simple. It takes everything a little too far. For example, there’s a car chase where Jimmy’s intelligence girlfriend calls a helicopter in to help them out. It arrives with a huge magnet and plucks the car off the road before dumping it back into the ocean. Fairly entertaining. However, we are then treated to a shot of James watching this happen from a TV screen in the car. So they send two helicopters, one with the magnet and one with a camera that then somehow feeds back to the car, just so they can watch the magnet at work? Actually now I think about it they seem to have a live feed of everything in this film. It’s like a 60s ‘Paranormal Activity’.
It’s a sprawling mess of a story, we see Japanese weddings, ninja training, a mini helicopter, hollowed out volcanoes… It feels like it was a way to crowbar lots of cool little ideas into one place. Interestingly, the screenplay was one of Roald Dahl’s only two, the other being ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’.
I’m being harsh, You Only Live Twice is mildly entertaining. However I think it’s the first film where James Bond really shows his true colours as a bit of a dick. Moneypenny offers him a phrase book and he smarmily reminds her of his first in oriental languages. You want to hit him in the face repeatedly. He not only knows the exact temperature sake should be served at, he tells us all that he knows. In Goldfinger you knew he was a man of the world. Here, he keeps having to remind you.
This film, much like Connery, tries too hard.