(This is a revised version of a Persona Paper post.)
The movie starts with Bond sneaking around this compound at night being followed by this other guy, Grant. Eventually, Grant kills Bond, but we soon discover it was just some guy in a Bond mask. The compound is a training center for SPECTRE, who are unhappy with Bond after the events of Dr. No.
We then see a meeting between the head of SPECTRE Blofeld (who we only see as some guy holding a cat), Kronsteen, and Klebb, who has just defected from SMERSH, the Soviet counterintelligence agency in the Bond universe. Kronsteen has devised a plan to frame the British for stealing a Lektor encoder from the Soviets, kill Bond and recover the Lektor, and then sell it back to the Soviets. The plan involves Klebb to instruct a young woman, Tatiana Romanova from the Soviet embassy in Turkey to contact the British that she wants to defect with the Lektor, but she’ll only do it if they send Bond, who she has fallen in love with from his file. Tatiana doesn’t know she’s working for SPECTRE, she thinks it’s all some grand Soviet plan.
In London, they know it’s a trap, but Bond goes anyway. He arrives in Istanbul and makes contact with the Turkey Station chief Bey. In Istanbul, the intelligence community is very relaxed with nobody doing anything violent. But Grant is there and he kills one of the Bulgarians working for the Russians, so a bit of a war breaks out. A bunch of people are killed and at one point Grant even saves Bond’s life by shooting someone before they got the drop on Bond.
But Bond makes contact with Tatiana – she shows up in his bed – and they make a plan to steal the Lektor. They do so and Bond, Tatiana, and Bey get on a train. Unfortunately, one of the Russians staking out the train station sees her and also gets on. Bey and Bond tie up the guy, but then Grant kills the Russian and Bey, making it look like they killed each other. This throws off Bond’s escape plan of getting off the train at a certain point to be picked up by one of Bey’s sons.
At the next normal train stop, Bond sends a message to M to have someone meet them in Zagreb. But Grant overhears this and gets off the train first at Zagreb. He finds the agent sent to meet with Bond, kills him, and takes his place. While eating dinner with Bond and Tatiana on the train, he drugs her. After she falls asleep, he moves on Bond. But instead of just shooting him, he wants to enjoy it. But Bond tricks him into opening his booby-trapped briefcase and kills Grant.
Bond and Tatiana get off the train, flee across the country being chased by a helicopter and some speed boats, but Bond defeats all of them and they end up in Venice.
Blofeld is unhappy with this failure, and has Kronsteen – who had promised that nothing could go wrong with his plan – killed. He then sends Klebb to finish the job. She shows up in Bond and Tatiana’s hotel room as a cleaning woman. But Bond overpowers her and Tatiana shoots her.
When I reviewed Dr. No, I wrote that it didn’t have the same feel as the later Bond movies that I had grown up with. In that regard, From Russia with Love is an improvement. A tricked out briefcase isn’t the most interesting of Bond gadgets, but at least it’s something. And the pace seems more like what I’d expect from a Bond film. At least until they get on the train. The train bit seemed to go on for a long time. I’m not saying Bond has to shoot someone every ten minutes, but half-an-hour of people talking on a train isn’t what you think of when you think of Bond.