A VIEW TO A KILL (United Artists, 1985)

Entry Source: The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia by Steven Jay Rubin


★  The fourteenth James Bond film produced by Albert R. Broccoli. US release date: May 24, 1985. Budget: $30 million. Worldwide box office gross: $152.6 million (US domestic gross: $50.3 million; international gross: $102.3 million).[1] Running time: 131 minutes.

The Setup

Recovering the body of agent 003 in Siberia, James Bond (Roger Moore) finds a unique microchip, impervious to damage from electromagnetic pulses, which Q traces to a company called Zorin Industries. Bond, now teamed with agent Sir Godfrey Tibbett (Patrick Macnee) first meets the company’s owner, Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), and his bodyguard, May Day (Grace Jones), at the elegant Ascot Racecourse in England, where the agents uncover Zorin’s plot to enhance the performance of his racehorses via steroid-releasing implants. Bond also meets California state geologist Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts), to whom Zorin gives a $5 million check. Zorin turns out to be a genetically enhanced former KGB agent gone rogue, who intends to corner the world’s supply of microchips by destroying California’s Silicon Valley with a massive double earthquake.

Behind the Scenes

Despite the fact that the previous two Bond films, For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy, had found success by returning to the From Russia with Love formula of putting intrigue ahead of bombastic adventure, in A View to a Kill the filmmakers decided once again to return to the Goldfinger model of outrageous fantasy. In many ways, A View to a Kill is a veritable remake of Goldfinger—but it fails in every way that film succeeded.

Max Zorin, like Auric Goldfinger, is out to to corner the world market on a valuable commodity—microchips instead of gold bullion. Instead of nuking Fort Knox, he’ll destroy Silicon Valley with earthquakes. It’s a logical plan as the schemes of Bond villains go, considering the valley’s proximity to the very dangerous San Andreas Fault—but the film makes no effort to establish the larger threat. In Goldfinger, a simple explanation uttered by Bond underscored the danger to the free world if the US gold supply were irradiated for fifty-eight years. But no one ever explains how Zorin’s monopoly on microchips threatens life as we know it. As a result, there’s no reason for the audience to care about microchips, Silicon Valley, or the story.

A more interesting plotline is teased early in the film: the notion that Zorin has developed a microchip that is impervious to magnetic pulse damage. A villain who could wipe out every computer in England, including early-warning systems, while his own systems are protected, is a credible and chilling threat. But the idea, once raised, is never elaborated upon. (Interestingly, the concept of an electromagnetic weapon targeting England would be resurrected a decade later as the ultimate goal of the Janus crime syndicate in GoldenEye.) Similarly, the entire sequence filmed in France at Zorin’s estate has nothing to do with the film’s main plot, though it’s delightful to see Patrick Macnee in a largely comedic role.

Christopher Walken, meanwhile, was the ideal person to play the maniacal genius Zorin, but the character itself is bland and poorly realized. The sequence in which he and his henchman Scarpine (Patrick Bauchau) casually machine-gun his own workers in the Main Strike Mine is a case of literal overkill. And yet A View to a Kill is also a Bond movie with very little action. The snow-surfing sequence in the pre-credits teaser is well made, but once again it’s ruined by a goofy musical score—the Beach Boys and James Bond just don’t mix. The raging-fire sequence in San Francisco City Hall, though suspenseful, just rehashes what audiences had already seen in the disaster movies of the previous decade (e.g., The Towering Inferno). And the nutty fire-truck chase through San Francisco belongs in a Ghostbusters movie, not a Bond film. The action in the Main Strike Mine is fantastic, and includes some excellent production design work from Peter Lamont. But didn’t Steven Spielberg cover the same ground in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom a year earlier?

A View to a Kill is also a surprisingly tame entry in the series romantically, perhaps presaging the safe-sex Bond films of the late 1980s. The only titillation comes from a brief liaison between Bond and KGB agent Pola Ivanova (Fiona Fullerton) in a hot tub. On the other hand, Tanya Roberts, a beautiful, sexy, and very photogenic actress, spends most of the film in conservatively cut formal dresses and coveralls—quite the miscalculation.

The few high points include the Main Strike Mine action—the best part of the film—and John Barry’s score, which is reminiscent of Goldfinger and repeats instrumental elements of the catchy Duran Duran title song at key moments.

 

The Cast
Role
Actor/Actress
James Bond Roger Moore
Max Zorin Christopher Walken
Stacey Sutton Tanya Roberts
May Day Grace Jones
Sir Godfrey Tibbett Patrick Macnee
Scarpine Patrick Bauchau
Chuck Lee David Yip
Pola Ivanova Fiona Fullerton
Bob Conley Manning Redwood
Jenny Flex Alison Doody
Dr. Carl Mortner Willoughby Gray
Q Desmond Llewelyn
M Robert Brown
Miss Moneypenny Lois Maxwell
General Gogol Walter Gotell
Minister of Defense Geoffrey Keen
Achille Aubergine Jean Rougerie
W. G. Howe Daniel Benzali
Klotkoff Bogdan Kominowski
Pan Ho Papillon Soo Soo
Kimberley Jones Mary Stavin
Butterfly Act Compere Dominique Risbourg
Whistling Girl Carole Ashby
Taiwanese Tycoon Anthony Chin
Paris Taxi Driver Lucien Jerome
U.S. Police Captain Joe Flood
The Auctioneer Gerard Buhr
Venz Dolph Lundgren
Mine Foreman Tony Sibbald
O’Rourke Bill Ackridge

 

The Crew
Role
Crew Member
Director John Glen
Screenplay by Richard Maibaum
Michael G. Wilson
Producers Albert R. Broccoli
Michael G. Wilson
Associate Producer Thomas Pevsner
Director of Photography Alan Hume
Music by John Barry
Title song performed by Duran Duran
Production Designer Peter Lamont
Art Director John Fenner
Construction Manager Michael Redding
Set Decorator Crispian Sallis
Costume Designer Emma Porteous
Production Supervisor Anthony Waye
Production Managers Philip Kohler
Serge Touboul
Ned Kopp & Company
Leonhard Gmur
Jon Thor Hannesson
Assistant Director Gerry Gavigan
Second-Unit Director and Photography Arthur Wooster
Ski Sequence Director and Photographer Willy Bogner, Jr.
Camera Operator Michael Frift
Casting Debbie McWilliams
Action-sequences arranged by Martin Grace
Driving stunts arranged by Remy Julienne
Title Designer Maurice Binder
Special Effects Supervisor John Richardson
Sound Editor Colin Miller
Editor Peter Davies

 


[1] “A View to a Kill (1985),” The Numbers, accessed July 17, 2020, https://www.the-numbers.com/movie/View-to-a-Kill-A.