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Moonraker (1979)

Main image of Moonraker (1979)
35mm, colour, Panavision, 126 mins
DirectorLewis Gilbert
ProductionEon Productions
CompaniesProductions Artistes AssociƩs
 Danjaq LLC
ProducerAlbert R. Broccoli
ScreenplayChristopher Wood
Original novelIan Fleming
PhotographyJean Tournier
MusicJohn Barry

Cast: Roger Moore (James Bond); Lois Chiles (Holly Goodhead); Michael Lonsdale (Hugo Drax); Richard Kiel (Jaws); Corinne Clery (Corinne Duour); Emily Bolton (Manuela)

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British agent James Bond is assigned to investigate the disappearance of a US-British 'Moonraker' space shuttle as it is transported across the Atlantic.

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Much criticised on release for its elaborate set-pieces and self-deprecating humour, Moonraker (d. Lewis Gilbert, 1979) has aged well, and can now be seen as one of the most entertaining Bond films. Its mixture of extravagant action and wry comedy has been influential on the action genre and it celebrates many of the qualities audiences love about Bond.

Influenced by the success of Star Wars (US, 1977), the narrative amalgamates Dr No (d. Terence Young, 1962) and You Only Live Twice (d. Gilbert, 1967). The megalomaniac seeking to destroy civilisation and replace it with his own race is a pulp staple, and resembles The Spy Who Loved Me (d. Gilbert, 1977). But Moonraker is faster and more spectacular than its predecessor, and the outer-space setting inspires special effects supervisor Derek Meddings and designer Ken Adam to produce some of their best work. The film is a technical triumph, both in terms of its model work and its special effects, despite its relatively low budget. The action scenes are staged with pace and style and laced with a likeable sardonic wit, anticipating the American action blockbusters of the next two decades.

Roger Moore is by now well established as Bond , with an easy charm and self-mocking wit which contrast with the bullying, macho style of Sean Connery. He has toned down the brutality and misogyny, playing up the charisma of a hero who is as much at home in a space shuttle as in a casino. This works particularly well here in his scenes with Michel Lonsdale's Drax, a beautifully underplayed villain who gets all the best dialogue. Moore's casual style is well matched by Lois Chiles, who makes Holly Goodhead a thoroughly liberated woman who is quite able to look after herself. There is also an obvious rapport between Moore and the regular cast, with Desmond Llewellyn on particularly fine form.

There is an expansive, almost luxuriously relaxed feel to Moonraker, born of a confidence that the Bond series can afford to send itself up while still providing the thrills. Bond has virtually become an indestructible superhero some distance from the figure in Ian Fleming's books, but because Moonraker doesn't take itself seriously, this seems appropriate. As a celebration of the traditions of the Bond movies - exotic locations, thrilling action, beautiful women - it works remarkably well and is an effective summation of the Roger Moore era.

Mike Sutton

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Adam, Ken (1921-)
Binder, Maurice (1925-1991)
Furst, Anton (1944-1991)
Gilbert, Lewis (1920-)
Lee, Bernard (1908-1981)
Llewelyn, Desmond (1914-1999)
Moore, Roger (1927-)
James Bond