Sean Connery was the first person to portray James Bond in a film the first being Dr. No which was soon followed by From Russia With Love.
Connery first appearance was indeed in Dr. No, but I decided instead to review him for this film as this film asks him a little more to do well still showing the type of qualities he brings to the role of Bond. Connery is the very first to portray Bond therefore having quite the challenge in finding exactly how to portray the spy. There was the earlier portrayal of Bond by Barry Nelson in a television program that did not serve the character very well giving a rather undistinguished performance, what really would not give Connery any basis to go on. Connery instead had to go all or nothing in his portrayal as James Bond as it was his star making role too.
The most important facet of Connery portrayal of Bond in all of his films is his charisma. Connery was charming fellow in his previous lesser known efforts like Darby O'Gill and the Little People, but as James Bond he goes to a whole new level Bond. Connery is just owns the screen as Bond he has so much presence as Bond that Connery made it pretty obvious that he was a star. He amps it up even more as Bond and it is something particularly special to watch all on its own. Connery also makes it an essential facet to James Bond. As an operative he is also working this charm, and makes his way through many situations because of it. This is something Connery makes look absolutely effortlessly which is perfect for Bond.
Connery does something special as Bond which is he portrays a character who is very much full of himself, yet Connery never comes off as pompous in the role. Instead despite not striving for so he makes Bond immensely likable in perhaps his upfront unabashed manner. Yes his Bond knows he is great yet Connery makes his Bond worthy of the greatness. Well he is that great there isn't any effort in bringing out this assurance in Bond, Connery just meets with such a particular style that he meets that quality one definitely wants in the character. He never alienates the audience despite being someone they would never be or never even meet. It is the cliched line, but Connery honestly does make Bond the man you want to be.
Connery is just perfectly slick and suave as Bond. Everything he does has such a energy and realizes the character so brilliantly. Connery just is Bond and goes along the film so effectively so. There are so many ways the Bond could falter so easily without Connery in the lead, but he doesn't because of Connery strength in the role. For example there are the quips that Bond makes throughout the film some are quite terrific in their simplicity such as after facing off against Red Grant "You Won't Be Needing this Old Man", but than some are not nearly as good such as "Yes She's Had Her Kicks". Connery delivery each is so good that even when the line is not particularly good they don't fall flat as they would have in lesser hands.
Now these earlier Bonds are fairly breezy in tone and Connery fits that quite well throughout offering the right humor to the proceedings when needed. Importantly though, particularly in From Russia With Love, when there is a more serious moment required he can bring that weight when necessary. Connery is great in the way he can switch between the natures of the role without there being a disconnection. He play so well in the lighter fashion for most of the film. When there is a more dramatic moment though such as when Bond faces off against Red Grant who is played by Robert Shaw so he easily could have just the film stolen him by the great Shaw, but Connery holds his own and meets the demands of the scene incredibly well.
I like Connery's performance in From Russia in Love the most because he does give the hints of the darker nature of the spy method in this portrayal as Bond. This mostly has to do with his treatment of the film's bond girl Tatiana Romanova. He of course romances here but Connery actually is quite good in showing that this really is just part of Bond's job, and although he might as well enjoy it it isn't love he has. This is evidenced by the scene where he roughly interrogates here as well as when there on the run and he rather coldly tells her that he will leave her behind if she does not get moving. Connery portrays this coldness well as perhaps even the true nature of Bond when it comes to the tough decisions, and he is terrific in showing this more lowly nature effectively.
Connery had some tough shoes to fill in the role of Bond just by the way the character was in the novels. Connery though did not fill the shoes instead he threw them away and made Bond his shoes. He absolutely made the part his own and could not be better Bond in this film as well in Dr. No and Goldfinger. Also through the brief but important moments showing the more shadowier nature of the game, suggests that he very well could have taken Bond to different places if it had been required of him. I pondered the rating for this film in particular and thought 4.5, but since he is perfect the Bond in this film with this film being his greatest challenge as the character I will not hesitate in my rating. It is true his Bond quality went down in the later films as he clearly became tired of the series, but going by his very best in the role he set the standard all actors who would take the role in the future would have to live up to.