Starring: Sean Connery, Mie Hama, Tetsurô Tanba
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Running Time: 117 mins
You Only Live Twice is a British film and the fifth instalment in the James Bond series. After a series of mysterious disappearances of spaceships in Earth’s orbit, Bond tracks down the culprits to Japan, where he must join forces with a team of ninjas to prevent the potential outbreak of World War Three.
This film, whilst moderately entertaining, is an example of a Bond film that places too much importance on style over substance. Yes, it’s a classic and cool style, but it’s always a disappointment when the intelligent story and the actual intrigue is absent, while the madness of the doomsday plot runs riot and never really excites you.
Before I get into why this is a disappointment, let’s quickly have a look at what makes it fun. James Bond travels to Japan this time to save the world, and his adventures and presence there are definitely very enjoyable to watch, as he manages to swiftly fit in with Japanese culture while still retaining his suave and seductive character that makes him so cool to see.
Also, the plot, although it’s totally ridiculous, is imaginative enough to be a lot of fun. Featuring spaceships basically eating one another in space, a VOLCANO LAIR, and the impending threat of all-out war between the US and USSR, there’s a lot of high stakes here, and the entertainment value of that is helped all the more by the fact that most of the action is pretty well done, and always a joy to watch.
So, that’s why this isn’t a bad Bond film, but the fact remains is that it’s not the best that 007 can be. The most classic Bond films, i.e. Dr. No and Goldfinger, managed to expertly mix enjoyable action with an interesting and genuinely exciting story line, but that is where You Only Live Twice really falls down.
You want to be able to support Bond, but also fear for him and sympathise with him, however this is the first example of a Bond film where he is basically indestructible. Of course, we know he’s not actually going to die, but the best-written stories still manage to create enough sense of danger and weakness surrounding him for you to fear for his life.
But at no point here does it ever seem threatening enough that Bond will die, meaning that this film is ultimately just a series of action sequences where he gets the job done easily and that’s about it. Fortunately, the formula has a good charm to it, and that’s why this is still fun to watch, but you still need something more intelligent, original and exciting beneath to make a properly good Bond film, and that’s why this gets a 7.1 from me.