Steven Soderbergh's Favorite James Bond Movie

Reviews
by Sam Adams
November 4, 2013 4:20 PM
7 Comments
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Everyone's a critic, and that includes people who make movies as well as people who write about them. In the past week, William Friedkin has thrown an elbow Terrence Malick's way, and David Cronenberg claimed that Stanley Kubrick "didn't understand horror." But Steven Soderbergh has always been more of a lover than a fighter when it comes to others' work, conducting a book-length interview with Richard Lester, serving as a guest interlocutor on commentary tracks, and now sticking up for the most beleaguered of James Bond movies: On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

For most people, George Lazenby's single-film turn as Bond is a Trivial Pursuit answer, but for Soderbergh, it's "cinematically... the best Bond film and the only one worth watching repeatedly for reasons other than pure entertainment (certainly it's the only Bond film I look at and think: I'm stealing that shit)." That assessment comes by way of his website Extension 765, where you can buy T-shirts decorated with obscure film references, read up on his favorite whiskey, and, evidently, read his thoughts on underrated franchise entries.

Soderbergh, with whom "retirement" evidently sits quite well, weighs in at length on the film, even standing up for Lazenby's performance while admitting that he never quite works as Bond, in large part because "Bond" was still unconsciously defined as "Sean Connery." Mostly, though, he just geeks out on the visuals.

Shot to shot, this movie is beautiful in a way none of the other Bond films are -- the anamorphic compositions are relentlessly arresting -- and the editing patterns of the action sequences are totally bananas; it’s like Peter Hunt (who cut the first five Bond films) took all the ideas of the French new wave and blended them with Eisenstein in a Cuisinart to create a grammar that still tops today’s how fast can you cut aesthetic, because the difference here is that each of the shots -- no matter how short -- are real shots, not just additional coverage from the hosing-it-down school of action, so there is a unification of the aesthetic of the first unit and the second unit that doesn’t exist in any other Bond film. And, speaking of action, there are as many big set pieces in OHMSS as any Bond film ever made, and if that weren't enough, there's a great score by John Barry, some really striking sound work, and what can you say about Diana Rigg that doesn't start with the word WOW?

Sodebergh isn't blind to the film's faults, and even has a few suggestions, including whacking out a chunk around 1:06: "It’s just Bond screwing chicks and stuff we learn eventually in other scenes." But as someone who owns an autographed picture of George Lazenby, he admits he's not entirely objective.
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7 Comments

  • AFW | December 10, 2013 11:20 PMReply

    In terms of Bond fandom, OHMSS is pretty much always #1. It's highly unappreciated outside of fandom though. The greatest Bond score, a solid performance from Lazenby, really strong in some points, amazing cinematography, stylised direction and a wonderful plot.

  • AFW | December 10, 2013 11:20 PMReply

    In terms of Bond fandom, OHMSS is pretty much always #1. It's highly unappreciated outside of fandom though. The greatest Bond score, a solid performance from Lazenby, really strong in some points, amazing cinematography, stylised direction and a wonderful plot.

  • BSmithy | December 10, 2013 10:12 PMReply

    My fave Bond movie and should be in anyone's top 3. Lazenby had an impossible task in measuring up to the audiences' expectations as to who Bond 'should' be at that time (Connery), and for a guy with very little acting experience I think he did fine and had fun with it. Would have loved to have seen him do another one.
    The script was the best, Rigg was incredible, and no one missed any of the gadgets that were already starting to disrupt story by this point in the series.

  • Sean | November 8, 2013 10:24 AMReply

    If Connery had done it, he would have been nominated for an Oscar. The great "what if" of the JB series.

  • Brad | November 6, 2013 3:37 PMReply

    I like the movie in a lot of ways but Lazenby. To me he's like Sophia Coppola in GF3. He stands out too often but not in a good way. There's too much cringing when I watch. Maybe that's the fault of the film as a whole and what they made him do, but after seeing Sean at his worst (was their ever a bad Sean as Bond?), it is still so far ahead of Lazenby's interpretation. Much of what you say about the film is correct though. No arguing that.

    Brad Renton
    http://onlinemoviesvault.com/bollywoods-most-expensive-alpha-male-stars/

  • BlueFox94 | November 6, 2013 1:56 AMReply

    Except perhaps Daniel Craig's first uttering of "Bond, James Bond" after nailing Mr. White, OHMSS has hands-down the most powerful Bond ending of the franchise:

    "There's no hurry, you see. We have all the time in the world."

  • J berns | November 4, 2013 8:53 PMReply

    I am also a fan. Want to point out that this film is the most faithful to the book. Of course it was Diana Rigg who made the film since she had a much better role than the typical Bond girl and was a real actress to boot. She is also great on Game of Thrones.

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