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Sunday, June 15, 2008

NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN


NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN (1983). Director: Irvin Kershner.

This remake of Thunderball is even longer than the original, but it has its pleasures. An "aged" Sean Connery is perfectly able to go through 007's paces with aplomb, even if he could probably act the role in his sleep by now. As Blofeld, Max von Sydow goes for a grandfatherly approach that radiates absolutely no menace whatsoever. Klaus Maria Brandauer is not a bad actor and adds a few nuances to his portrayal of the rather child-like Maximilian Largo, but he doesn't have enough dynamism and presence to make a major Bond villain. As his mistress Domino, Kim Basinger is attractive but hardly the simmering European sensualist of other Bond beauties. Barbara Carerra wipes her off the screen – and nearly steals the picture – as the sexy Fatima Blush, Largo's fiendish assassin. Bernie Casey makes a solid African-American Felix Leiter, although he has little to do. James Fox isn't bad as a comparatively buffoonish “M.”

Although somehow the movie isn't as good as the original, it does have some excellent sequences. There's a rousing, splendid fight between Bond and a hulking hired killer that takes the duo from one end of Shrublands to the other, nearly wrecking the health spa in the process. There are some amazing shots when a Great White pursues Bond into an underwater wreck, shoving its toothy snout into doorways in a startling manner and trying to get a big bite out of our hero. A tabletop “Domination” game with lethal jolts of electricity for the loser replaces the milder gambling sequence between Bond and Largo in the original. The underground grotto set where Largo keeps some of the bombs is strikingly designed. In Thunderball Largo's yacht was named Disco Valenti; here it is called “Flying Saucer,” which is the English translation. Largo's estate, Palmyra, has been moved from Nassau to North Africa [although most of the story still takes place in the Bahamas]. The underwater climax follows the novel more faithfully than the first film version: Domino spears Largo as he fights with Bond. There is no hydrofoil chase and the ending is much less thrilling and satisfying than the end of Thunderball; in fact, it's rather flat.
Director Kershner keeps things moving. The title tune is a lesser Bond theme, and in general the music is mediocre, although the cinematography is superior. Lorenzo Semple Jr.'s. screenplay is occasionally campy.

Verdict: Whatever its flaws, Never Say Never Again does have plenty of entertainment value. ***.

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