Disguised as a certain Col. Toro and found out, James Bond (Roger Moore) turns to his captors and the man that he is impersonating and says, “Small world—you’re a Toro too.” The unflappable, suave and sybaritic secret service agent is back in Octopussy with new contraptions, ripostes and women clinging to his pant leg, and he is as welcome as summer weather. With few exceptions, the Bond films are as reliable as anything the movies have to offer: witty, sexy, ingenious, smoothly professional and felicitously formulaic. The plot, once again, is improbable, but the Bond series trades on the charm of the improbable. A monomaniacal Soviet general bent on weakening NATO’s defence barters Soviet art for a nuclear bomb. The plan is that when the bomb explodes at a U.S. army station in Germany, NATO will assume that it is an accident and call for unilateral disarmament. Then the Soviet tanks will start creeping across Europe. Only one man, of course, can stop the disaster.
Agent 007 is one of the few outsized heroes of modern popular fiction who could practically slip through the eye of a needle. As always, he finds himself in a variety of tight squeezes: locked in a deep-freeze room, fighting a henchman on the top of a train and then on top of an airplane. One villain wields a terrifying weapon, which is a cross between a delicatessen meat slicer and a boomerang. During rest periods Bond fends off lethal women, including Octopussy herself (Maud Adams), a smuggler involved in the bomb plot who commands a small army of Amazons.
Women are likely to take exception to the title, Octopussy, and, as in the past, to the image of women presented in the Bond films. But the Bond heroines are beautiful, smart, independent-minded, strong and gifted with a sense of humour. And Maud Adams as Octopussy has a softness in her features that humanizes what could have easily been a stock creation. As for Bond himself, Roger Moore fits much more snugly into the role than he has before.
The villains are much weaker than Oddball and Jaws, but Octopussy has enough cliffhanging set pieces and enough whiplash editing to satisfy jaded retinas. The Indian locations, shot by Alan Hume, are quite spectacular; even the theme song, All Time High, sung by Rita Coolidge, is sweetly romantic. Amid all the playful violence is a curiously disruptive scene in which Bond looks at a murdered associate and says quietly, “No more problems.” The Bond films have always taken the time to bow to the losers.
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