The saga continues. After a false fresh start, it’s Roger Moore’s turn to step into Bond’s shoes with Live and Let Die.
007 is tasked with solving the mystery of three murders across the globe, all MI6 agents. As ever this takes him all over the world and he meets bad guys, women, shoots guns etc etc. This is the eighth film in the series and we’ve learned by now that it’s not about what he does, it’s about how he does it.
Despite being superficially the same as the others, this is a genuine change of direction for the franchise. The camp tone that was so irritating in Diamonds are Forever actually works in Moore’s hands.
He’s the definition of nonchalant. While Connery was always ready, clenched fist and hand on gun, Moore gets out of danger with a smirk and a raised eyebrow. It sounds silly but he’s so good at it one can’t help but be charmed.
The other changes they make are more hit and miss. There’s no crazy villain trying to take over the world, just a gangster running a drug business. However, even with the apparent simplicity of the story it still manages to be overly convoluted.
Trying to ‘get real’ hurts the film too. The villains simply aren’t that threatening. Not that everyone should be Dr. No but it’s hard to imagine why they send Bond on a errand that frankly should be a matter for the local police.
The producers also clearly attempted a shameless cash grab by imitating the then popular Blaxploitation theme. Bondsploitation. It can be fun to watch at times for the fish-out-of-water value but mostly it makes the film feel too much of its time. No one really wants to see Bond tackling the ‘issues’.
There’s a lot of good though. Jane Seymour stands out as the ‘Bond girl’. She’s only 20 years old here and it really shows. She manages to lend a genuine vulnerable air to the role without hamming it up. However, it is slightly unsettling to watch Bond shamelessly try to screw a teenager using some rigged tarot cards. He’s only one step away from slipping a pill into her drink…
Also good is the theme tune. It’s the first break from a big band style song and it’s a true classic. McCartney still plays it live on stage.
There are some very slick action sequences in Live and Let Die. It’s a shame they are often swamped by really boring ones or just wind up being overly long and losing our interest.
The boat chase is the best example of this. It feels like it’s never going to end, we don’t really know why there even is a boat chase, never mind where it’s actually supposed to be happening (the Bayou I presume?). A shame, because it is punctuated by moments of true greatness. One of the boat jumps broke a Guinness world record. It’s ambitious footage spoiled by a very poor edit.
Live and Let Die has not aged well. It’s confusing and keeps trying to bring race into the plot for no reason. However, one can’t help but enjoy Moore’s performance and if this film does anything, it makes us want to see where he goes with the character.