I recently re-watched North By Northwest. Loved it, and you may be saying “of course,” but this is the second time I’ve seen it and the first time I’ve loved it.

Several years ago, I went through a Hitchcock phase that kind of turned on me. I was watching quite a lot of Hitch, and all of a sudden I started hating the stylization and the weird sense of artifice. I saw NxNW during this period and hated it.

Anyway, now I love it. And it’s very clear to me that this film is the prototype for the Bond formula. Not just because Hitchcock almost directed the first Bond film, or because Cary Grant almost played 007, but because the structure and narrative of the film is, fundamentally, a Bond movie.

The film is famous for very specific set pieces: The airplane attack in an empty field, the climactic climb on the face of Mount Rushmore, the redcap search. It has a sensual encounter on a train with a mysterious woman who may be a spy and may work for the enemy, knows what she wants and is sexually forward. An implication that the hero is a ladies’ man, and a random woman makes a suggestive remark about him. Not globe-trotting, there is nonetheless a good deal of travel: New York, a train in transit, Chicago, Indiana, South Dakota, with a stop (not by our hero, but by the audience) in Washington, D.C.

It’s the structure that gets me: NxNW is broadly 1. Establish character, 2. Action sequence, 3. Meet villain, 4. Action sequence, 5. Comedy sequence, 6. Exposition, 7. Set piece, etc., straight through to the end. The action and set pieces are self-contained. You can watch the airplane attack without knowing anything about the film and enjoy it for its pacing and awesome sense of danger. And cool explosion at the end.

Marc Forster should have watch North by Northwest before making Quantum of Solace: He’d have learned something.