Thursday 29 December 2016

Movie Review: Octopussy (1983)

A tired paint-by-numbers entry in the Bond series, Octopussy rehashes familiar elements and delivers a tepid experience.

The death of Agent 009 in East Berlin and the sudden emergence of an ancient precious FabergĂ© egg trigger a new mission for James Bond (Roger Moore): find out who is suddenly cashing in on the sale of rare gems. At a London auction he quickly identifies exiled Afghan prince Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan) as a middle man in the international conspiracy, along with his beautiful assistant Magda (Kristina Wayborn) and vicious henchman Gobinda (Kabir Bedi).

Bond travels to India in pursuit of Khan, and uncovers a plot whereby Khan and local all-woman cult and circus leader Octopussy (Maud Adams) are enabling the sale of jewels to finance the private warmongering efforts of Soviet General Orlov (Steven Berkoff). It does not take long for Bond to seduce both Magda and Octopussy, but putting a stop to Orlov's plan will require a manic race against time.

Directed by John Glen (his second of five Bond efforts) and featuring the penultimate outing for Roger Moore, now 56 years old, in the role, Octopussy is the oh-so-familiar mix of dry quips, chases, gadgets, stunts and travel to locations that would have been exotic 20 years prior. With the stuntmen and second unit getting the lion's share of screen time, Moore mails in a lacklustre performance, unconvincing as an agent and less convincing as a lover. In the same year a rival, almost equally geriatric Bond in the form of Never Say Never Again was released, and neither set the world on fire.

The few good moments in Octopussy feature a Mercedes-on-rails chasing a train, while former real-life tennis star Vijay Amritraj shows up as an MI6 agent in India and uses a tennis racket to swat away some bad guys in yet another perfunctory chase. Kristina Wayborn and fellow Swede Maud Adams, both about 20 years younger than Moore, pretend to be interested and add decent doses of sensuality.

But otherwise this Bond goes through the motions almost in slow motion. India is condescendingly represented with wall-to-wall stereotypes of snake charmers and sword eaters. The villain Orlov is ineffective to the point of being dispatched early in the final reverse order elimination of bad guys. With both Magda and Octopussy at least partially rehabilitated from their evil ways after the sex-with-Bond treatment, Octopussy somehow designates the smarmy Kamal Khan, a middle man, as culprit-in-Chief.

The climactic race against a ticking bomb features Bond in a full-blown clown suit, and rarely has a film so perfectly captured the sad decline of a once dangerous secret agent.

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