MI6 trawls the archives to see how critics of the day received Sean Connery's final outing as James Bond in the 1983 'rogue' film "Never Say Never Again"...

Time Tunnel: Review Rewind
23rd February 2011

New York Times - October 7th, 1983
One of the key questions of the current film season can now be answered: This is the better Bond, and by a wide margin. It's not a matter of casting - though Sean Connery makes a welcome return in ''Never Say Never Again,'' Roger Moore has certainly done nicely with the role - but rather one of creaks. Last summer's ''Octopussy'' reworked the same old Bond formula in all its anachronistic glory, with 007 winking his way through the usual intrigue, a figure of devilish charm and inexhaustible vigor. In ''Never Say Never Again,'' however, the material has been successfully updated. Here, time has caught up with Bond - and he's very much the better for wear.

''Never Say Never Again'' finds Bond taking the health cure after all those years of high living. Packed off to a spa, and berated for a past checkered with too many martinis and too much white bread, he's subjected to herbal enemas and various other indignities. When a sultry woman tells him she'd like to see him in half an hour, it's for a massage. However, Bond still travels with a suitcase packed with vodka and caviar, and he hasn't lost his flair for adventure. After fighting a murderous giant and nearly wrecking the health facility, he's off to the Bahamas and Monte Carlo for what's at least in part a remake of ''Thunderball.''

As directed by Irvin Kershner, ''Never Say Never Again'' has noticeably more humor and character than the Bond films usually provide. It has a marvelous villain in Largo, the globe-trotting playboy who implements a SPECTRE scheme to hijack two American cruise missiles and hold them for ransom. Largo, superbly played by Klaus Maria Brandauer (who starred in ''Mephisto''), is wickedly competitive with Bond and fiercely possessive of the beautiful Domino (Kim Basinger), who's virtually a prisoner on a yacht that's bigger than most battleships. You don't need any of Bond's special sleuthing equipment, provided for him by Q (Alec McCowen) in a brief but delightful scene, to guess which one will wind up with the leading lady.


With Bernie Casey and Edward Fox as Bond's colleague and boss, respectively, and with Barbara Carrera gorgeous but awfully overwrought as a deadly rival, Mr. Connery is in lively company. He combines the wry reserve of yesteryear with a hint of weariness that, in the context of the screenplay's insistence on adventure, is genuinely amusing. In his post- Bond career, Mr. Connery easily proved himself to be an actor of far more resourcefulness than his 007 films had indicated. In ''Never Say Never Again,'' the formula is broadened to accommodate an older, seasoned man of much greater stature, and Mr. Connery expertly fills the bill.

''Never Say Never Again'' is rated PG (''Parental Guidance Suggested''). It contains what one character calls ''some gratuitous sex and violence,'' and it wouldn't be a Bond movie without them.

Variety - October, 1983
After a 12-year hiatus, Sean Connery is back in action as James Bond. The new entry marks something of a retreat from the far-fetched technology of many of the later Bonds in favor of intrigue and romance.


Although it is not acknowledged as such, pic is roughly a remake of the 1965 Thunderball.

World-threatening organization SPECTRE manages to steal two US cruise missiles and announces it will detonate their nuclear warheads in strategic areas unless their outrageous ransom demands are met.

In short order, Bond hooks up with dangerous SPECTRE agent Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera), who makes several interesting attempts to kill her prey, and later makes the acquaintance of Domino (Kim Basinger), g.f. of SPECTRE kingpin Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer), who enjoys the challenge presented by the secret agent as long as he thinks he holds the trump card.

What clicks best in the film is the casting. Klaus Maria Brandauer makes one of the best Bond opponents since very early in the series.

Carrera lets out all the stops, while Basinger is luscious as the pivotal romantic and dramatic figure.

And then, of course, there's Connery, in fine form and still very much looking the part.

Chicago Sun-Times - October 7th, 1983
Ah, yes, James, it is good to have you back again. It is good to see the way you smile from under lowered eyebrows, and the way you bark commands in a sudden emergency, and it is good to see the way you look at women. Other secret agents may undress women with their eyes. You are more gallant. You undress them, and then thoughtfully dress them again. You are a rogue with the instincts of a gentleman.

It has been 12 years since Sean Connery hung it up as James Bond, 12 years since "Diamonds Are Forever," and Connery's announcement that he would "never again" play special agent 007. What complex instincts caused him to have one more fling at the role, I cannot guess. Perhaps it was one morning in front of the mirror, as he pulled in his gut and reflected that he was in pretty damn fine shape for 53. And then, with a bow in the direction of his friend Roger Moore, who has made his own niche as a different kind of Bond, Sean Connery went back on assignment again.

The movie is called "Never Say Never Again." The title has nothing to do with the movie -- except why Connery made it -- but never mind, nothing in this movie has much to do with anything else. It's another one of those Bond plots in which the basic ingredients are thrown together more or less in fancy.

We begin with a threat (SPECTRE has stolen two nuclear missiles and is holding the world at ransom). We continue with Bond, his newest gadgets, his mission briefing. We meet the beautiful women who will figure in the plot (Barbara Carrera as terrorist Fatima Blush, Kim Basinger as the innocent mistress of the evil Largo).


We meet the villains (Max von Sydow as Blofeld, Klaus Maria Brandauer as Largo). We visit exotic locations, we survive near misses, and Bond spars with the evil woman and redeems the good one. All basic.

What makes "Never Say Never Again" more fun than most of the Bonds is more complex than that. For one thing, there's more of a human element in the movie, and it comes from Klaus Maria Brandauer, as Largo. Brandauer is a wonderful actor, and he chooses not to play the villain as a cliché. Instead, he brings a certain poignancy and charm to Largo, and since Connery always has been a particularly human James Bond, the emotional stakes are more convincing this time.

Sean Connery says he'll never make another James Bond movie, and maybe I believe him. But the fact that he made this one, so many years later, is one of those small show-business miracles that never happen. There was never a Beatles reunion. Bob Dylan and Joan Baez don't appear on the same stage anymore. But here, by God, is Sean Connery as Sir James Bond. Good work, 007.

Post Gazette - October 8th, 1983
The name is Connery, Sean Connery. But to millions of movie lovers around the world - and despite numerous other fine roles - he will always be James Bond. That he's back as Bond after an absence of 13 years is only part of the good news. The other parts is that "Never Say Never Again" is as good, even better, than the earlier Bond films.


Through the novelty has long worn off and the Bond films seemed to flounder for a while, relying heavily on gadgetry and special effects, Connery shows us that their strength was always in the character.

Who can resist the suave, charming rake? The superman who is all the more lovable for his weaknesses? The dashing, witty, intelligent secret agent who knows when to use his fountain pen grenade but not when to resist the temptation of a pretty woman?

Connery slips back into the role as if it were a comfortable pair of jeans. He's aged, but that glint is still in his eye.

Bond's nonchalant delivery somehow seems too glib when delivered by Roger Moore (who nonetheless has done a credible job in the role), but Connery makes the dumbest lines sound urbane.

In "Never Say Never Again," a title thought up by Connery's wife as a lesson to the man who swore he'd never again play Bond, it's explained that Bond has been semi-retired and relegated to teaching the tricks of his trade - a graceful way of acknowledging the passage of time.

The new head of the British secret service calls Bond back into the ranks, gives him a lecture on the ravages of "too much red meat, white bread and dry martinis" and sends him off to a fancy fitness retreat to purge those toxins.

Of course, in two seconds flat Bond becomes embroiled in SPECTRE's latest sinister plot - to hold the world for ransom with two stolen nuclear cruise missiles. The villains include SPECTRE's head, Blofeld (Max Von Sydow), and the beautiful Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera), a true femme fatale who wears extravagant costumes and wants to annihilate Bond all by herself. Then there's Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer), one of the wealthiest men on earth and an evil, although amusing entrepreneur who runs his business from the computer room of Adnan Khashoggi's magnificent yacht.

With the help of Felix (Bernie Casey), and American agent, and the usual crew (but a different cast) - M (Edward Fox), Miss Moneypenny (Pamela Salem) and Q (Alex McCowen) - Bond fights to make the world safe once again, winning the heart of Largo's stunning mistress, Domino (Kim Basinger), in the process.

"Never Say Never Again" is a classy production with location shooting in the Bahamas and the south of France. The special effects are used sparingly but to great effect. The real action comes from some thrilling and well-choreographed fight scenes, most notably one in the hospital and another inside a Moorish castle.

At more than two hours the movie does seem a bit long, and there are several scenes that could have been cut of tightened. But Irvin Kershner's excellent direction keeps things moving, and the screenplay by Lorezno Semple Jr. is almost like a Greek tragedy in the way the character's fatal flaws become their undoing.

"Never Say Never Again" is great fun and it's a pleasure to have Connery back. Sorry, Roger, but nobody does it better.


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