The fact that Ian Fleming's Martini-drinking super-spy still has an audience over 50 years later is a testament to the formula set up by the writer's novels and, of course, the movies which kicked off with the 1962 classic Dr. No.
Sean Connery shines as James Bond from the very first moment you meet him, casually smoking and winning some dough in a game of cards before walking away like a boss to the sound of his own theme, setting up a date with a beautiful stranger. He brings intelligence and an effortless charm to the character but he can also be tough and menacing when he needs to be, tossing minor enemies aside, killing off assassins in cold blood without giving it a second thought. Based on this performance, it's no wonder the world fell in love with this Bond, James Bond fella.
The film itself boasts all the tropes you'd expect in a Bond film: girls, guns, physically impaired villains with absurd aspirations, an underwater lair, a casino scene, a Martini shaken-not-stirred moment, car chases, all the good stuff. The opening credits are essentially just Monty Norman's masterful, immortal theme (performed by John Barry and his Orchestra) with some exotic drumming thrown in near the end to gently lead us towards the film's Caribbean setting. The intrigue is simple enough: MI6 agents are being specifically targeted left and right and it's up to 007 to find out who is orchestrating such ruthless attacks. Bond's search leads him to the "dragon" guarded island Crab Key where, supposedly, the infamous Dr. No is working on a mysterious, highly radioactive project. Her Majesty's top spy meets American ally Felix Leiter along the way as well as Ursula Andress' white bikini-wearing, sea shell collecting Honey Ryder, who contributes very little yet still makes an impact as one of the most stand-out Bond girls to date.
The titular villain, Joseph Wiseman's Dr. No is surprisingly absent for most of the film but the build-up to him and the world he's built for himself is inspired. You only hear his disembodied voice once about halfway through the film, which makes for an effectively creepy scene, and he finally meets our hero in person in the film's third act. Wiseman's stern, near robotic performance is so deadpan and cold it makes his dialogs with Bond all the more tense and suspenseful. Despite the fact that Bond disposes of him way too quickly, he remains one of the all time most memorable villains in the franchise.
The pace of the film may be a little slow by today's standards and the whole thing is pretty dated, feeling very much of its time but that's no bad thing at all. Going from SPECTRE and re-watching this one makes for an interesting contrast, though. Bond seems much more careful and professional in Dr. No, checking for intruders or cameras in his room, keeping a cool head as a poisonous spider crawls all over him. This is a three-dimensional yet very simple and driven 007 who doesn't let emotions get in the way of his job and through Connery all this comes across perfectly.
Whether Dr. No is the best of the Bond films is debatable but when it comes to classic Bond movies, it's hard to do more classic than this one. It sets up the formula with class, style and confidence, gives us the best 007 we could have ever hoped for right off the bat and leaves us wanting much, much more.
The film's good, very good.