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Dr. No

November 23, 2010

Dr. No (1962)
Director: Terence Young
Actors: Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Joseph Wiseman

Dr. No

Synopsis: British agent, James Bond (Sean Connery), is dispatched to Jamaica to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a fellow agent.

Review: Watching Dr. No again – the original Bond movie that spawned the whole franchise – it’s interesting to focus less on the stock elements that went to make the series so iconic and familiar, but the more lean, realistic edge that pushed Dr. No closer to the territory of a conventional spy flick. I was drawn to the quietness of the action, and how – when killing occurs in the film – it actually feels quite shocking and ruthless, rather than the irrelevance and unreality of danger and death in the middle/late Bonds. Helping that sense of realism is the tautness of the plot, with Bond dispatched to one single location (Jamaica), offering a compelling and more engrossing contrast to the bland globetrotting Bond of later movies.

Dr. No also has a nasty, almost macabre feel to it – not only in the cold-hearted killings it depicts, but in mining an air of almost classic horror to showcase the malevolence of Doctor No. Dr. No also offers compelling enough evidence for my favouring of Sean Connery as easily the most interesting incarnation of Bond. Everything about Connery suggests the necessary level of physicality, insouciance and intelligence in Bond, and I absolutely love the scene of him walking out of the casino in London having won a wad of cash at the film’s opening – more suggestive of his domestic bachelor routine and civil service roots than anything else in the whole franchise. Perhaps the best sequence in the whole film though (and maybe even the whole series) is the moment where Bond kills the devious Professor Dent. The ingenious way he entices Dent into a showdown; casually waiting for him while playing a game of patience, then killing him after he knows Dent has used all his bullets, is a masterclass of suspenseful filmmaking and wonderful acting by Connery. Admittedly there are one or two silly moments (villains trying to kill Bond with a tarantula rather than simply shooting him), but that aside, Dr. No is a necessary port-of-call for those looking to trace the surprisingly low-concept, pared-down opening to the Bond series. (November 2010)

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