You Only Live Twice (1967) Film Review

James Bond returns to one of my favourite Bond films as a child and the test is whether my child self was articulate in films by watching it again 13 years later to see if the film has held up.

After the United States of America launches a rocket into space, an unnamed satellite catches the rocket and engulfs it. America blame the Russians but the British Intelligence suspects another party had a hand in the capture of the rocket. It is James Bond’s mission to go to Japan, where the unnamed satellite landed and find out who is catching these rockets.

You Only Live Twice was one of my favourite, if not my favourite James Bond film as a child and upon rewatching it, there are some big flaws that makes the film a little hard to watch. The film is shot mostly in Japan and it is stunning. Watching these James Bond films in order, you get to see the whole world on film and Japan looks just magnificent. It is nice that each film tries to shows each corner of the world. However with it being set into Japan, James Bond get ‘ Japanised’ where he gets turned into a Japanese local. It made me wince a bit and would totally not be acceptable in today’s cinema. Early Bond films have these uneasy moments. You Only Live Twice has a few, along with Bond being able to seduce women by a single look. Bond has never really been a pioneer in strong female roles.

Getting past the contextual problems of Bond, You Only Live Twice has some really fun moments. The portable helicopter brought in by Q was a joy to behold and flying over a Japanese island in a dogfight with other helicopters was a great action scene. The ninja training academy was also a good change of pace to see James Bond in choreographed fights. This film had one of my favourite shots so far from the franchise. While Bond is being chased on the roof of a building, the camera pans out and focuses on Bond running away from the bad guys and beating them up. It was a good shot that made me say out loud, ‘that was a good shot’. This is something I don’t really do while watching a film but it was very impressive.

This film could be seen as when the franchise jumped the shark. The plot to swallow up rockets in space could be seen as bit too far out, even for a Bond film. The outlandish plot did not really detract from my enjoyment, sometimes the lunacy of Bond is one of it’s many attractive qualities. This is another fun installment with wacky gadgets and a wacky plot that fulfils the enjoyment of a typical Bond film.

However, You Only Live Twice has a few setbacks that could let this film down. Blofeld was a disappointment, for a few films he was seen as an intimidating figure and he turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. He had very little screen time and he didn’t live up to the continued mystery of Blofeld. It treads on similar ground of the predecessors and the formula of Bond at this point is getting a bit stale and at this point needed to do something a bit more unique.

You Only Live Twice is a good bond film that retreads on similar ground. It is wacky and fun but has an underwhelming villain. It does create the tropes of having an secret base with a volcano but doesn’t do much with it. If you can get past the uneasiness of the racial insensitivity then You Only Live Twice is a fast paced romp that is fun, outlandish and just mad!


Rating – ★★★ 1/2

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