This is perhaps one of my favorite (and best) Bond films of the series. Taking what worked on "Dr. No", "From Russia With Love" starts incorporating more of the elements that have come to be known for James Bond. This one continues to be more on the serious side and even less ridiculous than even the first film.
STORYLINE: SPECTRE returns as a force to reckon with (they were only mentioned in "Dr. No") as a plan is hatched to pit British Intelligence and the Russians against one another in Istanbul as James Bond is sent to recover a top secret decoding machine from a supposedly defecting Russian woman. Neither realize that they are just pawns in a greater game of power with plenty of identities and lives are thrown about. Can Bond overcome his pawn status and reach the other end of the board and turn the tide?
PLOT 5/5: The plot to "From Russia With Love" not only feels insanely realistic but comes across that way too. The mysteriousness of SPECTRE and their games of deception seem almost too real to be in Bond film form for this movie. This film also starts to incorporate some of the more known Bond features, most notably the addition of gadgets (although not at all out of the range of plausibility) and a dancing girls title sequence, which actually fits into the story with its dancing gypsy theme. This film is almost a character driven piece about Bond and Tania (his Russian defector) leading the stage as they steal the decoder and flee from the country. It's still far more serious than many of its follow ups which I thoroughly approve.
BOND 5/5: Connery returns as Bond for this one and follows up to his work previously nicely. He still retains a serious tone, but it would seem that filmmakers and writers decided to try and make him less cold (although that does come through in many scenes like when he interrogates Tania on the train). The attempts at humor work better here with his one liners and he seems more caring towards women too - hell, even the girl from the opening of "Dr. No" returns for a cameo here and mentions he trip to Jamaica. Connery is still as suave as ever and even more likable here. He seems to have a little more room to do his own thing here.
VILLAIN 5/5: This is actually a complicated category here. There really is no 'villain' persay in this film. Its more like SPECTRE itself is the villain. Some say that Colonel Klebb is the villain and Grant is her henchman (which seems to be the widely regarded way) but Klebb doesn't really run the show here (she is only the middleman really). She does appear a few times and has a nice fight with Bond at the end, but the film is stolen by Grant. Our paranoid maniacal hit man is both scary is ridiculously smart. He almost seems too good to be just a henchmen. When he threatens Bond to shoot him until he licks his shoe, you fucking believe him. He is this shadow that is always there and watches over shit so it goes the right way. This is also the first time Blofeld appears (well his hands do) as the head of SPECTRE and referred to as Number One. Truly I think he should be the villain of the film if there is one because even the chess master plays only a part of the entire evil of the organization. All of them though are memorable and devious as villains with Grant definitely making one of the best rivals to Bond ever.
BOND GIRL 5/5: Oh, Tania Romanov. She set standards for Bond girls to come. She is merely a pawn in this whole Russia/British plot, but her integral part in the story and chemistry onscreen with Connery is something to be impressed with even for Bond girls.
Thusly, "From Russia With Love" is not only one of the best Bond films, but a damn solid film period. It ranks at the top for sure with its insane plot movements and great acting on both sides of the line. This is one I never tire watching and is one of the peaks of the franchise.
Written By Matt Reifschneider