Friday, 30 October 2015

Film Review: Spectre (Bond 24)

Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Belluci, 
Ben Wishaw, Christoph Waltz

Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred. An Aston Martin. Beautiful girls. Amazing stunts. Great fist fights.

You could say that Spectre has it all. Opening up with a daring sequence in Mexico, celebrating the Day of the Dead, we see various figures wearing skeleton costumes. James Bond (Daniel Craig) is in one of those costumes, looking for his prey. Just before he manages to do that, there's time for a quick liaison with a Mexican beauty.

What follows is an extensive sequence with a helicopter, as 007 battles to stop the man, Sciarra, getting away. Bond eventually gets his man, and, as is customary with the franchise, we are treated to great visuals and a bombastic song.

Or are we? Any singer would have felt pressure to follow up Adele's Oscar winning Skyfall, but Sam Smith's Writing on the Wall is not just a bad Bond theme, it is a poor song in general. I have heard that people say it sounds like Michael Jackson's Earth Song. It doesn't.

What is it about the fourth film for an actor in the franchise? Pierce Brosnan's last outing as Bond was in 2002's Die Another Day. Madonna's theme song was awful - even though she is generally good, the song didn't fit, the film is generally considered the worst of the series, and in that I agree.

Fortunately, Daniel Craig's fourth turn as 007 is a great film, not hampered by a terrible song. Sam Smith became part of a select group of male singers to pen a Bond theme. He follows such luminaries as Matt Munro (From Russia With Love) and Tom Jones (Thunderball). The song, ultimately, was too big for Sam, and would have perhaps been better sung by a female vocalist. When the talk was about the song being about an emotional Bond, I didn't buy that at all.  Daniel Craig is a man's Bond, and women like him too.

If you can put the song out of your head, the next part of the film focusses on Bond being chastised for not being in Mexico on official government business. M (Ralph Fiennes) is even harder on Bond than his predecessor ( played by Judi Dench).

Not for the first time in the series, 007 is told to stand down, and worst of all, is told by Q (Ben Wishaw) that he cannot have the new super Aston Martin. That car is going to 009. 

It's not all bad. Bond is given a watch. When asked 'what does it do?' Q replies dryly, "It tells the time."

Spectre feels a lot like a pre-Christmas present to Bond fans. It cleverly links the three previous Craig movies, but there are generous nods to others in the series. So Spectre does not offer much in originality, but as a huge fan of the series, that hardly matters. 007 fans watch the movies to be entertained, and Bond 24 is a hugely entertaining movie.

Despite second billing, Monica Belluci doesn't have much screen time. But she is a stunning looking woman for 51, and the brief love scene with Bond is well done.

C is a new character and immediately locks horns with M. The idea is to link the Nine Eyes framework together so that it will be a kind of Bilderberg group for the digital age. Everyone in our world fears this kind of thing, and in Spectre it is used to chilling effect. The 'baddie', played by Christoph Waltz, is the mastermind of the organisation, and I really felt the initial scenes with him harkened back to the Sean Connery era Bond, with its Cold War overtones.

However, there is a problem with a number of post-Connery films. The movies all tend to lurch towards two and a half hours long. Even Skyfall (2012) suffered from a bloated final third. One wonders just how good a two hour Bond film would be.

Christoph Waltz plays Oberhauser, who is a whizz with a computer and uses one to inflict a lot of pain on 007. The scene isn't as intense as the 'rope' scene in Casino Royale, and again, there's a lot of deja vu about Spectre. It seems like it wants to please fans of the early movies with modern 21st century update.

There's nothing wrong with that. Spectre does what it does - entertains. Some reviews say that Daniel Craig has brought no humour to the series, but I disagree - some of his lines and situations are truly funny and enjoyable.

Better than Quantum of Solace, strong when compared to Skyfall, but way behind Casino Royale, Bond 24 can be considered a solid addition to the series.

If Spectre is to be Daniel Craig's swansong as 007, I think he is signing off the series on a high.

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