A View To a Kill, Roger Moore's swansong as James Bond, took a hold of the computer age as he recovers a chip from the body of Agent 003 in Siberia only for Q (Desmond Llewelyn) to discover that it comes from Zorin Industries, headed by manic madman Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), where the microchips can be manufactured to withstand the magnetic pulse damage from a nuclear explosion. It's with this tactic that he plans to take over the world by dismantling the strangehold that Silicon Valley has and rendering every other company's tools useless with a flick of the wrist.
Whilst having dinner together, Bond witnesses M. Aubergine (Jean Rougerie) being killed at their table after he plans to expose Zorin's horseracing sale scam of the century, causing Bond to head off after his killer, May Day (Grace Jones), although by that point he does not yet know her identity.
The rest of the cast fills out with Bond girls Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts) and Pola Ivanova (Fiona Fullerton), a character who was a jockey in the original novel but became racehorse trainer Sir Godfrey Tibbett for the film and was played by Patrick Macnee, whose Avengers co-star Diana Rigg was briefly married to Bond, in his Lazenby incarnation, for On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones co-stars in films two and three respectively, David Yip and Alison Doody, also make an appearance. (Synopsis from dvdfever.co.uk.)
Given the number of inferior Bond films produced during Roger Moore's tenure, it's sometimes difficult to determine which is the absolute worst. Many bestow that dubious honor on A View to a Kill, but I still have to give the nod to Moonraker, which is by far the most consistently insipid of the lot. A View to a Kill rises at least a notch above the worst because the first half of the film features some fine, suspenseful storytelling, with the distinctive air of a serious Bond thriller. Unfortunately, after the death of Tibbett (Patrick Macnee) and Bond's arrival in San Francisco, the film rapidly falls apart, becoming little more than a series of ridiculous stunts, bad acting, and contrived plot devices. The exception would be Bond's climactic fight with Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) atop one of the girders of the Golden Gate bridge. It's extremely well-choreographed and, although some of the matte shots are obvious, it gives the distinct, unsettling impression that it's actually happening at dizzying heights. It's a rare, excellent moment in a film so flawed that it's no wonder so many fans hold it in contempt.
Barry's musical score, however, is one of the best in years, with several touches derived from his most masterful composition—On Her Majesty's Secret Service. "Snow Job" (Track 2) features an action theme that is appealingly reminiscent of "Ski Chase," with its swirling bass rhythms and soaring brass, yet it manages to forge new ground with the addition of screaming electric guitars and hammering percussion. The cut is one of the highlights of any Bond album; and yet, in the film, the piece is spoiled by a disastrous filmmaking decision: the insertion of the chorus from the Beach Boys' "California Girls" when Bond turns a snowmobile skid into a personal snowboard to escape from his pursuers. As with the slide whistle effect during "Let's Go Get 'Em" in The Man With the Golden Gun, and the Tarzan yell during Bond's escape in Octopussy, the entire mood of the scene is ruined by the insertion of such idiotic, inappropriate humor. Thank God the album is devoid of this unnecessary interlude and we can hear Barry's superb music as it was meant to be.
Initially, my impression of the title song, performed by Duran Duran, was none too favorable, since it reeked of mid-80s cliches, laden with electronic burps that made one think the stereo was on the fritz (sadly, an effect repeated all-too-recently in Madonna's piece-of-shit hit Die Another Day.) However, with the passage of time, "A View to a Kill" has managed to hold up, despite its almost nonsensical lyrics*, as a decent, action-oriented piece that shines like the Akhbar Shah in comparison to many other pop soundtrack pieces that have surfaced in the interim.
"May Day Jumps" builds up in characteristic Barry form, culminating in a soaring brass chorus as May Day (Grace Jones) leaps gracefully from the Eiffel Tower and parachutes to safety, while Bond is left to pursue her in a stolen, half-broken-down cab—which by the time he is finished with it is half the car it used to be.
"Bond Meets Stacy" and "Wine With Stacy" offer Stacy Sutton (Tanya Roberts), our ostensible heroine, more dignity than she deserves, given her wooden acting job. These tracks utilize flute and strings to interpret the main title theme, and the arrangement of the former sounds almost as much like a theme by Ennio Morricone as John Barry. The latter is somewhat more mellow, with a hint of darkness amid the deeper string melodies.
Strains of Thunderball underlie the woodwind-and-string based "Pegasus's Stable," which scores a scene that begins suspensefully enough but ends with the Bond's adversaries being dispatched in ridiculous fashion—presaging the tone that will soon come to dominate the film. "Tibbett Gets Washed Out" is a clever title for a sad moment in the film—the demise of Patrick Macnee as Bond's closest ally. Heavy drums and stuttering horns dominate the composition, reminiscent of "Hip's Trip" from The Man With the Golden Gun.
The majestic action theme from "Snow Job" is reprised in "He's Dangerous," again reminding the listener how strongly the music of a scene can affect its visual impact. "Bond Underwater" has a definite Thunderball-like atmosphere, comprising low, heavy percussion and melancholy but suspenseful strings, ending with a strong brass build-up. More suspense with a Thunderball-like edge resounds in "Airship to Silicon Valley" and "Destroy Silicon Valley," the location being the object of Max Zorin's catastrophic designs. "May Day Bombs Out" features clamoring trumpets above the whirling strings to highlight May Day's change of heart when she realizes she has been betrayed by Zorin; in revenge, she foils his plan by riding to her death atop the bomb that was meant to initiate an earthquake and cause a devastating flood in Silicon Valley.
"Golden Gate Fight" brings back the "Snow Job" action theme for the third and final time to highlight the excellent, climactic fight atop the Golden Gate Bridge. The arrangement is a bit shorter than the previous two, with a heavier, martial beat and more prominent guitars. It's a rousing finale for the album's action music, leading into an abbreviated version of Duran Duran's theme song for the closing titles.
Until recently, the CD soundtrack of A View to a Kill was only available as a Japanese import, usually quite expensive. Now, with the remastered editions available from Capitol-EMI, it can be picked up at a very reasonable price (usually under $15.00). Unfortunately, the new release does not feature any extended or previously unreleased tracks.
By the time A View to a Kill saw its theatrical release in 1985, Roger Moore had gone well past his prime as the cinematic James Bond, and it's a shame he wasn't given a more respectable vehicle—something with the integrity of For Your Eyes Only—for his final fling. While John Barry's score was a triumph, it seemed that the movies had just about run out of steam, and until The Living Daylights came out in 1987 with a new cast and new direction, everyone had begun to wonder if James Bond truly would return.
Meeting you with a
view to a kill
Nightfall covers me
Dance into the fire
The choice for you
is the view to a kill
Dance into the fire