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Spectre: Bond at Stratospheric Heights

By Andrew Burgon /
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November 16, 2015

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Image by from Hamburg, Germany / CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Director: Sam Mendes
Written by: Ian Fleming, John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Andrew Scott

The Veil Finally Opens to Reveal Spectre

Spectre is a heavily formulaic Bond film that leaps over a number of other Bond films in terms of the sheer ‘punch’ of it’s dazzling scenes. Despite this and it’s elaborate attempts to please the audience it somehow fails to ascend to the grand heights of classic Bond films.

The film opens with aplomb in Mexico city during the Day of the Dead celebrations. It’s a morbid yet fascinating scene as we follow Bond (Daniel Craig) all decked out in a skeleton costume and his masked companion through the crowd to a room. From there it’s a venture out onto the rooftops and within 30 minutes Bond has toppled a building, wrestled with a villain for control of a spiraling out-of-control helicopter and thwarted a stadium explosion. A riveting, jaw-dropping start to Spectre!

Back at MI6 headquarters a short while later Mallory grounds Bond for his unauthorized actions. Bond keeps his motivation a secret and continues to follow the leads he has with the help of Q (Ben Whishaw) , Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and a car he stole from Q branch! The journey has him prying information from a widow (Monica Bellucci) on the day of her husbands funeral. Spying on a Spectre meeting.  Tracking down a dying Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) and then his daughter, Dr. Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux). Then there are the inevitable run-ins with the brutish assassin Mr. Hinx and the head of Spectre himself, Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz). It’s a thrill ride that takes us to Mexico, London, Rome, the Austrian Alps, Tangier and the Sahara.

Meanwhile, M has to contend with the merger of MI5 and MI6 and eventually the demise of the ’00’ section. This is, however, the least of his problems. There’s the comprehensive new global surveillance system that’s being spearheaded by C, Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott). No prizes for guessing whose pulling Max’s strings. With the help of Bond, Moneypenny and Q Mallory intends on arresting C and stopping the launch of the Nine Eyes surveillance program.

During the movie a number of references are made to other Bond films. In particular, we find out that the villains Bond has encountered especially in the previous three movies – Le Chiffre, White, Greene and even Raoul Silva – were all tentacles of an organization called Spectre. SPECTRE stands for Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion. At the head of this organization lies Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) who has a somewhat dubious tie-in with Bond’s past.

While I found Spectre enjoyable and spectacular I had to work a little at suspending disbelief especially when scenes were over-the-top. A crazy but spectacular out-of-control helicopter scene where Bond is only concerned about one bad guy and carelessly oblivious to the crowds he’s putting in harms way below. Bond’s insensitive seduction of a widow on the day of her husband’s funeral. How that a few shots of a gun caused a massive, spectacular chain reaction explosion at a Spectre base. Another scene has him ejecting from his car even though he is only being chased by one man. His gun not working or something? It’s as though they were thinking how can we take these scenes up to the stratosphere but in so doing I felt they were completely disregarding the lengths of which I can suspend disbelief. Neither did they seem to worry about entering nonsense territory. Still, it was entertaining!

Christoph Waltz did come across as the cold villainous type but somehow failed to shine in that roll. The character was just too bland and limited. A far cry from the exuberant, lively and over-the-top characters he is famous for playing like SS colonel Hans Landa in ‘Inglorious Basterds’ and the bounty hunter King Schultz in ‘Django Unchained.’

I would have liked to have seen M in a more invigorated role. He is afterall a former lieutenant colonel in the SAS (Special Air Service). This special forces unit undertakes a number of roles including counter-terrorism, hostage rescue and direct action. He could have been a break-the-mold, kick-ass ‘M’ character but seems content to stand around or sit down and do the talking while others do the grunt work.

Dave Bautista, a professional wresting champion who played Drax the Destroyer in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ plays a memorable assassin even though he doesn’t say much. He was a pure brawler on screen whose ferocity, toughness and strength are bound to raise eyebrows.

The new Bond girl Léa Seydoux (the assassin in the movie Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) was radiantly beautiful and delightful. Initially, Bond thinks it’s necessary to teach her how to use a gun but it quickly becomes apparent that as the daughter of an assassin she has picked up some things from her father. Humorously, Bond decides to skip hand-to-hand combat probably assuming her father had that covered to! While her role failed to register strongly with a number of critics she slips on those bond girl shoes effortlessly. Her  presence also made for a picture perfect ending where Bond drives off with her in an ultra-cool car in what we naively hope will be a ‘live happily ever after’ story.

As always, Daniel Craig continues to please as Bond. If he were to opt out of playing the role now would be the best time. The character he plays has given up his life as spy and assassin for the woman he loves. (The ending probably turned every guy in the movie theater green with envy). The alternative is a tad unpleasant to think about. For Bond to relive the purgatory of yet another love in his life flaming out and the start of yet another relationship in the following movie. If he left the franchise now we would always remember Daniel Craig as the Bond who lived happily ever after.

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