James Bond is sent to infiltrate a diamond pipeline running from South Africa to the USA…
When Diamonds are Forever hit the big screen, the writers pretty much abandoned Ian Fleming’s tale of diamond smuggling, retaining a few key features (such as the characters of Wint and Kidd, the dentist smuggler, Tiffany Case and Peter Franks, and the Las Vegas location) but jettisoning the rest, including, somewhat surprisingly, the town of Spectreville as well as the villains of Fleming’s work, the Spang brothers. This adaptation, therefore, is the first to return to the roots, and, with a few reservations, it does a good job of realising Ian Fleming’s original.
This is the fifth Jarvis & Ayres Bond production, and they’ve gone further back in the canon than previously (I’m holding out hopes for Moonraker next – maybe even using the script from the Bob Holness version?). As ever, the period detail is impeccable – the sound effects and foley work really pull you back to the Cold War period – and they’ve assembled a strong cast, including Stacy Keach as Ernie Cureo, Bond’s taxi-driving helper in Vegas. Lisa Dillon makes a good Tiffany Case while Jared Harris’ Spang is more fey than I’d expected but it’s a reading that works. Mark Holden and Michael Lopez’s underscore is fun – it feels as if every so often they’re wandering ever-so-slightly near to the Barry theme and then shy away.
Toby Stephens has settled well into the role of 007 – in terms of running time, he’s actually played the role longer than Daniel Craig (at least until SPECTRE comes out), and one more play will give him more exposure as Bond than Pierce Brosnan! John Standing makes a good M, but I really wish that Archie Scottney’s scripts would stop rewriting the relationship between the two men – some of the dialogue is painful. The comment about ABC being only 2 letters longer than M’s name is the sort of smart-alec line I’d expect from a cocky ten year old, not someone who respects his boss in the way Bond does M. It’s a small thing, but it jars because it’s the only element that really does go contrary to Fleming’s writings.
Verdict: A strong version of one of Fleming’s less well known Bond tales. 8/10