The latest James Bond “Spectre” opens with a scene set in Mexico City. Our hero, wearing a rather bizarre ‘skeleton suit’, is attending a parade on the Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. It’s a symbolic scene, anticipating the skeletons in the closet that 007 will have to deal with in the course of the movie. Bond is in the company of a woman but quickly dumps her: he’s got a job to do … we see him walking on a ledge, high above the city, stalking an Italian speaking man in a white suit, looking at him trough the telescope of a rifle … and then all of a sudden hell breaks loose: Before the credit-sequence fills the screen, Bond is almost crushed under the rubble of a collapsing building and must fight for his life inside and outside a whirling helicopter.
This is 2015. This is Bond. Welcome to the show.
Bond’s presence in the Mexican capital was even a surprise to his own service. It turns out that the late M. (who died in final minutes of Skyfall) left Bond a video message with a request to eliminate a murderer called Marco Sciarra. Bond is suspended by the new M. but of course disobeys any order and travels to Rome, to meet Sciarra’s widow (Monica Bellucci) and ask her about the ring he stole from her husband’s dead body. Bond is told that Sciarra worked for a criminal organization called Spectre, involved in terrorist actions all over the world …
In Skyfall we learned a few things about Bond’s origins and Spectre builds on the nostalgic feel of its predecessor. The film is constructed like a detective story, with Bond picking up clues that send him around the world, but also down the path of his own life: Skeletons keep tumbling out of the closet and while Bond is getting closer to the truth about Spectre, he also learns a few bitter truths about himself. The movie is also filmed in a highly referential style; the opening has clear references to Live and Let Die and Moonraker and throughout the movie older Bond movies are quoted. We get a fight on a train, a clinic high up in the Alpes and even Bond’s arch enemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld, or at least somebody who has adopted his name.
Reactions to the fourth Daniel Craig Bond were mostly positive, but most critics thought it was not as good as Skyfall. The personal angle that was welcomed in Skyfall feels a little forced here as if the movie is trying too hard to turn Bond into a man of flesh and blood, a person with his own grievances, capable of feeling sorrow and pain. Bond never grew old, only the actors did, and when they had become too old for the job, they were replaced by a younger colleague. The Craig Bonds have changed all this: Craig is a Bond who’s getting older and he’s actually getting a bit old for those flirtations with twenty-something women like Lea Seydoux (he felt more at ease with 51 year old Bellucci in the few early scenes they share).
There are no real complaints about the action sequences. The pre-credit sequence in Mexico City has a hypnotic beauty, Bond strolling over the rooftops, the whirling helicopter above the city, and there are at least two more genuine Bond sequences: the fight in the train and the car chase in the streets of Rome. Christoph Waltz is also a great Bond villain, slimy and menacing, but the problem is that he must share the honors as a villain with Andrew Scott as a double-dyed member of the British government with a hidden agenda. As a result both characters feel under-developed. With a running-time of 148 minutes Spectre is one of the longest Bonds and it’s definitely overlong: it should have ended in Blofeld’s headquarters in the Moroccan desert, after the torture scene. That’s were Bonds usually end: after the blowing up of the headquarters of a villain who threatened to blow up the whole world. But after the explosion we return to London for a grand finale that feels more like a postlude.
A nice, generally overlooked detail is that the 24th Bond has a nice (or if you prefer: not so nice) political message. Andrew Scotts character, baptized “C” by Bond, has plans to abolish the double-o section and link the secret services of at least nine countries. Bond and M. think that MI6 should remain independent. They both will vote for a Brexit in the upcoming referendum, that’s for sure.
Director: Sam Mendes – Cast: Daniel Craig (James Bond), Christoph Waltz (Oberhauser), Léa Seydoux (Dr. Madeleine Swann), Andrew Scott (Max Denbigh, also known as ‘C’), Ben Whishaw (‘Q’), Naomie Harris (Eve Moneypenny), Dave Bautista (Mr. Hinx), Monica Bellucci (Lucia Sciarra), Ralph Fiennes (Gareth Mallory, ‘M’), Rory Kinnear (Bill Tanner, the MI6 Chief of Staff), Jesper Christensen (Mr. White), Alessandro Cremona (Marco Sciarra), Judi Dench (Mallory’s predecessor as M)