Spectre is the 24th bond film made by Eon productions, and the fourth one to feature the Blond Bond, Daniel Craig. What with the production team having so much experience, and the fact that the 23rd Bond release was the hugely successful Skyfall, audience expectations for quality entertainment from Spectre are high. Being a huge Bond fan myself, and yes, I have seen all of them, I was hoping to be blown away by this new release.
The opening scenes are set in Mexico, during the Fiesta del Muerto – Day of the Dead. A stunning tracking shot starts high above the parade before zooming in on a skull-masked 007. In and out of the costumed crowd, into a hotel, down hallways, onto a ledge and along rooftops we seamlessly follow Bond as he tracks down a mysterious target. Several shots and one collapsed building later (surely a reference to the collapsing building in Venice that Vesper was drowned in during Casino Royale) Bond is engaged in a full on fist fight with both the pilot and his target on a helicopter above the festival crowds. Action at its best. We discover 007 is working on his own rather than for MI6, embarking on this particular mission after receiving a message from his past.
Time has been moving on for British intelligence. The new M, played by Ralph Fiennes, is struggling against a determined and cocky colleague Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott). Denbigh has the codename ‘C’, and one of the best lines of the movie is M establishing what the C actually stands for. Plenty of one liners and quips reflect the addition of a new writer English playwright Jez Butterworth to the previous Skyfall team. Fiennes is developing his new role as M well, and we are provided with a little more information about his background.
C is working on creating a multi-national information gathering computer network, big brother style. This new surveillance system, to C’s great satisfaction, is intended to eliminate the need for the 00- programme. Bond remains unperturbed by this development, operating as usual completely under his own instruction and disregarding any orders. To the extent that he superbly acquires a rather nice new set of wheels actually intended for another agent from under Q’s nose. Q has more of a role in this film, he even makes it out of the lab. Clearly tolerant of Bond’s inability to look after his technical gadgets, Q does manage to remind him that not everyone can be as reckless as Bond… “I have a mortgage and two cats to feed.” Although I still miss the original Q Desmond Llewelyn, Ben Whishaw is shaping up nicely as a hopefully longterm replacement. Naomie Harris is back as Miss Moneypenny, and this time we see that she does actually have a life outside work. Rory Kinnear is again playing Bill Tanner, the MI6 chief of staff. He is my least favourite MI6 member, but that might be for the reason that I can’t help seeing him as his dad Roy Kinnear, better known as Veruca Salt’s father in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
Now to the villains. Christopher Waltz is Franz Oberhauser. A villain from Bond’s past, he is the head of the organisation Spectre. This evil organisation has not been seen since it battled with Connery’s Bond more than 40 years ago. For aficionados, Spectre’s logo of an octopus can be spotted in the opening credits and several other places during the film. The discovery of Oberhauser’s close connection with Bond is another piece in the Bond puzzle. Waltz manages to portray extreme malevolence with ease. I found him creepy enough in the film Big Eyes, and his role in Spectre takes it to a new level. His henchman Hinx (professional wrestler and actor Dave Bautista) disappointingly had no special features like Oddjob’s hat or Nick Nack’s miniature size, but was convincingly tough and psychotic.
Romance is as usual on the cards for our intrepid 007, and this time it was refreshing to see, albeit briefly, a Bond Girl who is actually older than he is. Played by the striking Italian model and actress Monica Belluci (yes, she is actually 51), is a recently widowed (but clearly not mourning) connection to Spectre. Also winning Bond’s attention is the somewhat younger (30yo) Dr Madeleine Swann, French actress Lea Seydoux.
We are fed a few more tidbits on 007’s childhood, and also reminded about the personal defeats he has encountered in his last few adventures. Bond is forced to reflect on both the loss of the remarkable Judy Dench’s M in Skyfall, and the woman with whom he was prepared to give up the spy business for, Vesper from Casino Royal. Old villains are back to haunt him. He does however maintain his ability to never appear stressed. Remaining cool calm and collected is part of his modus operandi. Looking stylish is also a major requirement. Never having a suitcase with them doesn’t seem to prevent Bond and Dr Swann changing into impeccable outfits to suit every occasion. It’s about style, not mundane reality.
Spectre is full of edge of your seat action, it’s frankly amazing Bond ever makes it out of a scene intact. The story moves with speed through Mexico, London, Rome and Morocco. We even get to see snow and gondolas – I was half expecting Jaws from Moonraker to pop up threatening to bite through a cable. For the Bond enthusiast, it’s pleasing to note plenty of references throughout the film to previous Bond movies. The Day of the Dead fiesta instantly brought to mind the Live And Let Die opening with a New Orleans funeral parade – but on a much grander scale. Other nods to previous Bonds include the villain’s fluffy white cat, and of course a car with a handy ejector seat.
I found Skyfall slightly superior to Spectre. Without giving any spoilers away this film’s end was a bit too Hollywood and not framed in the usual Bond style. However it was definitely entertaining, action packed and promises James Bond will return. Whether it’s Daniel Craig or not we will have to wait and see.