You Only Live Twice Film Review
You Only Live Twice is the fifth Bond movie in the long, continuous series and stars Sean Connery as the ever-smooth James Bond. The film follows James Bond and he travels over Japan, eventually ending up on a small island in search for evidence a mysterious space vessel to prevent the United States and Russia from all out war. The film includes all of the major components in the ‘bond formula,’ including guns, violence, women, and the ever-charming James Bond. Although there are many negative reviews of You Only Live Twice, it’s film style compares to other films released in the 60s and the plot can help us explore what makes Bond movies so enjoyable.
As I was watching You Only Live Twice, I couldn’t help compare it to other movies we have viewed in this class that were released during the same time period. I saw many similarities between You Only Live Twice and North by Northwest, an Alfred Hithcock spy thriller. First, both characters were very similar. Both James Bond and Roger Thornhill (North by Northwest) are very similar and since North by Northwest was released before the first bond film, it is clear Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman – the producers of the James Bond films, based parts of the bond character off of him. Another similarity I found is how the storyline was told. I really enjoyed this aspect of You Only Live Twice, as it seemed each scene we learn a little bit more about the plot. This increased the suspense of the film and made me pay attention to every little detail. An example of this in You Only Live Twice is near the beginning when Bond first arrives in Japan. He first meets Dikko Henderson where we learn a little more about the plot. We then learn even more about the plot as James Bond meets “Tiger” Tanaka and meets the leaders of Osato Chemicals. Lastly, You Only Live Twice has similar formal techniques to North by Northwest. The use of the establishing shot as James Bond travels from mainland Japan to the small island allows the viewer to understand the story even further.
I also tried to gain insight into what makes Bond films so good. I believe that a strong component of what makes Bond films work is the social impact each movie displays. The general plot of every bond film is the same, but by major minor changes and incorporating social issues is a major reason Bond films work. In You Only Live Twice, the obvious social issue is the space race and the increased tension between Russia and the United States. There were also hints in the movie which covered women’s liberation issues, most notably when “Tiger” says “Rule number two: in Japan, men always come first. Women come second.” I believe another large component of the Bond films that make the franchise so successful is the Bond character himself. Much like the movie Shaft, movie-goers look up to James Bond and want to be him. He has the “it” factor. Looking at James Bond, we see he wears nice clothes, drives expensive cars, travels the world, and entertains with gorgeous women. A major part of the success of the Bond films is because he is ‘cool.’ Based on his review of You Only Live Twice, it seems Roger Ebert believes a core component of the bond formula is gadgets. He feels You Only Live Twice doesn’t utilize the gadgets scenario correctly. He states “This time it’s a lightweight one-man helicopter that can fire machine-gun bullets, missiles, rockets and flames. So far, so good. But instead of working the helicopter into the plot, the film immediately demonstrates all these goodies.” The reason I bring this up is that I agree that once James Bond gets into this dorky-looking helicopter and puts on the weird helmet, he doesn’t look ‘cool’ anymore…
Although You Only Live Twice gives us a glimpse into what makes Bond films successful, many reviews believe this film does not have the successful bond formula. According to a review by Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, You Only Live Twice “is evidently pegged to the notion that nothing succeeds like excess. And because it is shamelessly excessive, it is about a half-hour too long.” I agree that the beginning of the film had great pace, but once we found out James Bond needed to become ‘Japanese,’ to infiltrate the island, I began losing interest in the film. Nonetheless, I although the movie was a little lengthy, I enjoyed the overall storyline and felt You Only Live Twice was an entertaining film.