Dr. No (1962)

Kicking off the Bond franchise in wonderful form is the inaccurately titled "Dr. No". The film rarely takes itself seriously and presents an enjoyable film without too much depth to it...what more can you ask?
"Dr. No" begins in Jamaica with the killings of two agents right when they were ready to complete a mission. Files are stolen, blood is shed, and we get the cigarette and vodka stained entrance of James Bond as first played by Con Seannery...er...that is Sean Connery (before his infamous "Jeopardy!" appearances).
Word gets to agent 007 that the mission has been compromised and Bond gets sent down to Jamaica so that he can work out the complexities of the murders, fixing the case that's gone awry. Right from the beginning, we get several quirks that we know will reappear many times throughout the series: James Bond is irresistible to women, he likes his drinks shaken not stirred, and you should never try to take over the world while he's still living.
The way "Dr. No" introduces characters feels like the way a television pilot episode would, it feels very care-free and unaffected by the need for constant plot and action.
With the amount of gun-fire that we are used to in action movies, it does seem odd to look at "Dr. No" as an action-flick. The amount of deaths that are actually seen carried out on screen probably number less than ten. The car chase scenes have all been done better in later movies, but let's give credit where credit it due...they do a good job with it.
Down in Jamaica, while dodging constant attempts on his life, Bond discovers that there is a mysterious island that one of the dead agents was investigating prior to his murder. Bond becomes deeply interesting in this island. All the natives fear it and there are legends of a fire breathing dragon that resides on the island, preying on all who dare come and explore.
But Bond isn't fooled by the fear and he decides that he will go try to find an elusive character known only as Dr. No, suspecting the man of nefarious plans.
The most glaring problem with the first Bond movie is its title. For a film named after the villain, one would expect him to be more present than he is.
We are constantly getting mentions of this bad guy but it takes forty minutes of the film before we ever hear his voice, after another fifty we finally get to see his face; but by that time there is little running time left on the film.
So what's wrong with changing the title?
The title itself comes from Ian Fleming's book, the public had yet to be introduced to the gentleman spy, and maybe the producers thought that it could be an area of confusion. It's one of the few moments in the franchise where a human name appears in the title.
The film has other faults as well, most notably the way it drags its campy dialogue out just a bit too long and how racist it feels. Yet when Bond introduces himself and walks around the room in a suit and tie, holding a drink, while his theme music is playing, it's hard not to enjoy this suave, sophisticated spy.
Con Seannery...darn it, did it again...Sean Connery is quite good as Bond, he seems effortlessly cool and collected, giving every other actor who played the iconic hero a high water mark to achieve.
Directed by Terence Young, "Dr. No" feels more like a mystery movie than a thriller or a true espionage movie. Instead of Poirot or Holmes, we get a slightly more macho character who does more of his thinking with his hands more like the Guy Ritchie representation of Sherlock.
Devilishly sly and containing some surprises "Dr. No" is in no way a great movie, but it accomplishes exactly what it intended to do...and it might be a bit smarter than one would assume; but just a little bit.

Score: ★★★

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