Review of 'Dr. No'

1st film in the 'James Bond' series

dr_no.jpg The British intelligence station chief in Jamaica, John Strangeways, is assassinated. MI6 agent James Bond (Sean Connery) is sent to investigate and determine whether it is related to a case involving the radio jamming of rocket launches from Cape Canaveral. On his arrival in Kingston Bond survives an attempted kidnapping attempt but learns nothing from his assailant after he takes cyanide. His investigations take him to interview a reluctant local fisherman Quarrel (John Kitzmiller) who reveals that despite having no interest in geology Strangeways had been collecting rock samples throughout the Jamaican islands. Detecting radiation in Quarrel's boat Bond manages to convince a reluctant Quarrel to take him to “Crab Quay” despite Quarrel's conviction there is a dragon…

As Bond's first outing “Dr No” manages to firmly establish our view of the character for the many films to follow – The sophisticated, elegant secret agent who always seems to win out in the end…and get the girl (or girls). Here Bond is a bit milder and the action a little less intense but this allows us to soak it all in and understand the character better. Here we are also introduced to the familiar Bond music but, sadly, that is really the only music on the soundtrack likely due to the limited production budget.

So the film will probably now bore most audiences but those patient enough to watch will appreciate the gentle pacing and suspense it manages to build. Despite the limited budget the sets are still quite amazing and the cinematography fantastic - Vibrant colours, minimalist framing…this is no-nonsense film-making. Dr. No's lair could easily be found in any contemporary film with little adjustment. This is definitely a film ahead of it's time.

The cast performance is adequate with Connery really seeming to easily conveying the relaxed, sophisticated Bond despite this only being his first outing though background material shows that this is largely due to the efforts of the director, Terence Young, who could easily have played Bond himself as he pretty much lived the character - Intellectual, discerning, and physically attractive…very much an image of Fleming's Bond. Ursula Andress as Honey Rider, despite her lack of acting experience is OK on the screen but, frankly, acting is not required for her role. She is here for eye candy and there are no apologies for this. Joseph Wiseman as Dr. No himself sets the standard for future Bond villains, cold, brooding, aloof and convinced of his own self importance. In other words: A man whose character flaws easily set him up for defeat at the hands of 007.

A good start to the franchise that but likely too slow, brooding and lacking in big set pieces for most modern viewer's taste. Indeed, even the sexism found throughout the series is notably tuned down a great deal here. This film is not afraid to delve into their characters…something we never have time for in future instalments. It is worth spending the time watching “Dr. No” to see how it all began and understand the characters we have seen time and time again over the years.

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2020-01-05

Directed by: Terence Young

Studio: Eon Productions

Year: 1962

Length: 110 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure

Other reviewed films in the 'James Bond' series:

Other reviewed films by Terence Young: