Spectre (Sam Mendes, 2015)
Bond is back! Even if it’s somewhat reluctantly, with Daniel Craig recently decrying his role in the films that catapulted him into the spotlight. Although contracted to do one more Bond film after this one, he’s on record as saying he’d rather slash his wrists than do another one (yes, poor him with his £39 million pay check). Only time will tell, but for now we have Bond 24, a.k.a. Spectre. The question on everyone’s lips: will it be as good as Skyfall?
Audiences have become accustomed to a spectacular opening in any Bond film, and Spectre is no exception. Beginning at the Day of the Dead festivities in Mexico, Bond wastes no time in throwing himself into the action – after a cheeky pash and leaving a hot nameless brunette in a hotel, he’s off to shoot at things and do battle aboard a helicopter. When all is done and dusted we’re treated to a stunning opening credits sequence, its only flaw being the unnecessary sexualisation of woman, but then it’s Bond, so we saw that one coming a mile off. Sam Smith gets the gig this time around with ‘Writing’s on the Wall’, which is a vast improvement on the unforgettable songs from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, though not quite as stellar as Adele’s ‘Skyfall’. It does, however, manage to evoke the old-school style of Bond whilst still sounding very current.
Back in London, the 00 program is in danger of being shut down, with MI5 and MI6 having recently merged to form the Joint Intelligence Service, led by Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott). Bond’s latest exploits get him suspended indefinitely by the new M (Ralph Fiennes), causing him to go rogue with the assistance of Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw). He soon uncovers the SPECTRE organisation, headed by megalomaniac Blofeld (Christoph Waltz). Throw in a Bond girl/damsel in distress in Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) and all the elements are there.
The screenplay by John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Jez Butterworth is satisfactory – they keep the audience guessing as much as they can, although there’s something vaguely disappointing about knowing that Bond is always going to come out on top. There are some relevant themes concerning government surveillance, although the answer is no, this film is not as good as Skyfall. They went full throttle there, and it was going to be hard to beat it. Nor does it quite match the heights of Casino Royale, but rest assured it is better than the lacklustre Quantum of Solace. Spectre brings these films together, hinting at more to come before Craig says goodbye.
There’s no denying that the Bond films aren’t overly kind to women – even Daniel Craig, bless him, has pointed out Bond’s misogyny – with all women positioned as little more than sex objects throughout the franchise’s history. There have been improvements, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a Bond film where he doesn’t need a one-night stand with a foreign hottie to prove his manliness? Or how about we have a gay Bond? Or even… dare I say it… a female Bond? The traditionalists will complain that Bond must remain a white straight male, but… why? The times are changing – get with it. Much has been made of an older Bond girl (yes, they’re still calling her a girl) being in Spectre, but fifty-one year old Monica Bellucci only has about four minutes of screen time, and barely serves a purpose other than to go weak at the knees for Bond. Oh, and this “older woman” is only four years older than Daniel Craig.
Thirty-year-old Léa Seydoux is the female lead (she’s more age-appropriate for a forty-seven year old man apparently) and follows in the footsteps of Marion Cotillard with her French charm. Madeleine holds her own ever so briefly, before being relegated to the damsel in distress role. She tells Bond she loves him after knowing him for about five minutes, and it’s difficult to say which was the most cringeworthy moment in the film – this, or when they rip each other’s clothes off after he saves her life. Seydoux is a talented actress, but her role certainly could’ve been written better.
Christoph Waltz is a compelling villain, as always. However, it’s starting to get old watch him play the same sorts of characters again and again. For a two-time Oscar winner he is surely capable of more. Ben Whishaw is adorable as Q, and Ralph Fiennes is a worthy replacement for M. As Moneypenny, Naomie Harris doesn’t get a whole lot to do. What a shocker.
After the intensity of Skyfall, Daniel Craig gets to heave himself out of his previous dark state and try some somewhat lighter material in Spectre. He remains utterly enjoyable as Bond, and though I haven’t seen too many of the previous Bond films, he is arguably the best. His reign as Bond has been a wholly successful one, but it seems time to pass the gauntlet, with Tom Hardy, Hugh Jackman, Idris Elba, and Damian Lewis the apparent frontrunners. #HARDY4BOND
The visuals are top-notch, with dazzling action sequences aplenty, and a sharpness to the slower scenes. Director Sam Mendes has once again proved his mettle, though the rumours of a potential Christopher Nolan-directed Bond in the future make me want to skip ahead to the new collaboration to come. Hardy and Nolan? Yes? Yes! In the meantime, Spectre is worth a watch. Just take the depiction of women with a grain of salt.