My opinion subject to change on the 1967 007 film You Only Live Twice. Sean Connery's "last" James Bond movie with some questionable choices.
With a screenplay by British author Roald Dahl, 1967’s “You Only Live Twice” starring Sean Connery really shows it's age. That said, it has an excellent plot and story. The plot revolves around James Bond needing to solve a mystery described as “the big one”, just like every other James Bond movie, before the villains can start a world war. It works. It's a great story that is exciting and fun to watch.
There's an excellent helicopter sequence and some pretty good fight scenes as well. There is, however, some pretty bad stuff too. The acting it is mostly OK. In large fight scenes the acting is terrible. They would fit better in Adam West’s comedic Batman series than in the serious moments of 007.
The ending climax is way better than I expected in the context of the film. It's exciting, fits just right, and ends exactly as a Bond film should end.
The sets and cinematography are very good for the most part. There are some great action moments and the helicopter sequence is superb, except for the miniature work in it. The miniatures themselves look good, but the footage of them often looks very bad. In some shots the motion of the miniatures looks unrealistic while in others the cinematography is so bland it is jarring. The intro is a miniature heavy sequence that looks just terrible. It's supposed to be building tension and it was mostly building laughter in my house. The green screen work here is often obvious. There's a moment that I believe James Bond's arm disappeared. He's wearing short sleeves and his arm wasn't visible below the sleeve.
There is the misogyny you would expect from James Bond but, some of it is played so blatantly that I think it must've been meant as a joke at Bond’s expense. When “You Only Live Twice” was being filmed it was meant to be Sean Connery's last 007 film. He was getting frustrated with the character and he didn't like that people were saying “Sean Connery is James Bond”. It seems reasonable that there would be moments in this movie that are poking fun at Bond.
The racial depictions in this film are … mixed. Some of them are good and some of them are very bad. I think this film could be generously described as racially insensitive. Most of it takes place in Japan. I’m no expert on Japanese culture but, it seems pretty exaggerated here. In many parts it seems the filmmakers were trying to be respectful while at other times they were either fetishizing or mocking the culture.
The worst moment though is when Bond is “turned Japanese” in order to disguise himself to infiltrate a small Japanese village. It makes sense in the context of the story that he would disguise himself as a local, but it’s terrible. The disguise is very bad and could only fool someone at great distance. It's hard to see it as not racist. The only possible explanation, other than racism, in my mind is it was meant as a joke. It's done so poorly and it’s done as a sort of makeover montage with lighthearted music. I think it may have been meant to be funny. If it was meant to be a joke, it doesn’t land today. If they remade this film today they would take this “turning Japanese” part out and the plot would hardly change. It makes so little impact on the story it’s a shame the filmmakers put it in at all.
The language in the film is pretty clean including, as far as I can tell, no racial slurs. I was really expecting that there would be some slurs. Again, that suggests to me that they were mostly trying to be respectful to Japan in this movie.
Smoking and drinking are scattered throughout. The sexual content is pretty tame for 007 and there is a moment where Bond actually accepts no for an answer. That’s more than can be said for the previous film Thunderball. Innuendo is pervasive.
I give this movie a 6/10. If you like James Bond, watch it. If you don’t, don’t watch it. If you haven't seen very much Bond “You Only Live Twice” is not a good introduction to the series. I think you would probably not continue if this was the first 007 you saw.