Never Say Never Again (1983) – Irvin Kershner

Sean Connery returns to his iconic role of James Bond, in this non-canon film that is basically a beat for beat remake of the classic 007 film, Thunderball. And there’s a reason for that.

Going head to head with Roger Moore’s Bond outing of Octopussy, Warner Brothers had the rights to make a 007 film thanks to Kevin McClory retaining the film rights for Thunderball which he came up with the story for alongside James Bond creator Ian Fleming and Jack Whittingham.

Connery was wooed back to the role one last time, and arguably delivers one of his best performances as the secret agent. Now, a little older, his boss, M (Edward Fox) is less than impressed with his style, and sees him as very much a member of the dying, old guard. But Bond isn’t going to give it up yet. He has one last mission to take on, to stop Maximilian Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer,whose performance as Largo is the more enjoyable of the two depictions) who has stolen two nuclear weapons from a USAF jet.

Assisting him is Largo’s girlfriend, Domino (Kim Basinger), and standing in his way is Fatima Blush  (Barbara Carrera). Q branch helps out a little, but, well, budget cuts.

Never-Say-Never-Again-1983-16

There are some great locations, though none are used as well as they could be, and the other thing that makes a Bond film is blatantly missing from this one. The James Bond Theme. The score by Micheal Legrand is, sadly, pretty forgettable, and doesn’t really work at all. You expect to hear that familiar theme at some point in a Bond movie. The theme song, performed by Lani Hall is easily dismissed but for the little earworm of the echoing “never, never say never again.”

There are some cool sequences, and its great to see Bernie Casey take on the role of Felix Leiter, but overall, the film comes as a bit of a letdown. The plot couldn’t stray from the basic narrative of Thunderball, so you knew what was going to happen, and generally how.

Still, the underwater photography, though nowhere near as expansive as Thunderball, is nice, and the opening sequence is a lot of fun.

It really was great to see Connery back in the role, as an older 007 (though Moore was a couple of years older then him when he was making Octopussy which was filmed at the same time). And, for the most part, the film works, though the editing and pacing feel decidedly uneven, and even running at over two hours, it doesn’t feel like it does the story as much justice as it could have.

And the less said about Rowan Atkinson’s turn in this film, the better. He’s great, but completely out of place here.

It’s an interesting detour in the Bond cinematic realm, but even with Connery, it couldn’t compete with the franchise.

This James Bond wouldn’t return…

never_lead

 

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