Spectre: Review – New Bond Film Leaves Viewers Shaken AND Stirred

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Spectre
Directed by Sam Mendes
Written by John Logan
Music by Thomas Newman

Stunning locales, amazing stunts, beautiful (and smart!) women – Spectre, the newest film in the 007 franchise, has all the traditional Bond hallmarks. Daniel Craig’s fourth – and please don’t let it be his last – outing as Bond is definitely worth seeing, but I can’t rank it among the best of the Bonds.

The first 10 minutes are deliciously basic Bond – the camera pans through an amazing Mexico City Day of the Dead parade. Craig, even in a mask, is unmistakable by the way he walks – he has one of the best walks in current-day cinema. He is working on his own, unsanctioned, tracking an assassin named Sciarra. I’m sure you’ve seen a bit of this opening sequence – where a piece of an exploding building demolishes the roof of the building Bond is on (and if you haven’t seen it, it’s in the trailer below) – that’s just one tiny part of a terrific scene that includes a fight in a helicopter twisting, turning and nearly falling out of the sky over thousands of Day of the Dead revelers.

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Watch the opening credits closely (not just for the half-naked Craig) – shown in the background are pictures of characters from the last three films. Just a warning that you may want to be prepared for this film and do a little homework – watch the last three Craig Bonds, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, before you sit down for this one. I’ve seen Casino Royale several times, rewatched Skyfall yesterday afternoon, but haven’t, I don’t think, watched Quantum all the way through. That was one of the problems with this film – you don’t want to think you have to study up before you go to a movie, but it might help you get through the fairly convoluted plot of this one.

It turns out that Sciarra is an assassin employed by a world domination organization called Spectre. Bond has just killed Sciarra, and must now trace him and try to bring down this very scary group, led by the even scarier Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), who has a past relationship with Bond. Just as Quantum was a continuation of the Casino Royale story, Sceptre continues on a story started in Skyfall, where we learned that Bond’s parents were killed when he was a child. The relationship between the two is central to why Oberhauser does what he does – but I would have loved to know more about it! And I doubt we’ll ever get an in-depth look at it, unless someone does a “young James Bond” movie series. Which would be cool. Oops, sorry, my mind wanders… young James Bond. Very interesting.

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There were a couple of problems with this film, beyond the homework required to understand. I’ve still got a major “huh?” problem  running through my brain, and may have to see it again to try to figure it out – another character, the father of Bond’s love interest, seems to have appeared from nowhere, but references to him in the film make it sound like he’s someone we should know from the past (and admittedly, I’m not the most well-versed Bond scholar). The film was dark – not as in moody, although that too – but felt like almost every scene was filmed at twilight. This made me a little sleepy, despite the explosions, gunfire and car chases.

It runs probably half an hour too long, which results in slow pacing at time. One whole mini storyline – the obligatory terrified woman held in virtual slavery by scary men who Bond attempts to rescue and then sleeps with – could have been eliminated, as it didn’t really add much to the plot.

With Dame Judi Dench’s exit from the series, we have a new M – Ralph Fiennes, introduced in Skyfall. And in nerd overload, Andrew Scott plays the new head of Great Britain’s secret service – YES! Moriarty and Voldemort in a fight to the death! Returning from Skyfall is Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), with disappointingly little to do, and Q (Ben Whishaw), still snarky, brilliant and cute as a button. The Aston Martin used in the movie was created for the film, and isn’t available for purchase (and I knew you were planning to run out this weekend and pick one up), but Daniel Craig revealed on the Today show that the models wrecked in the filming will be available for auction in a charity benefit.

But there are some great things in this one as well – The aforementioned Aston Martin is terrific. The scene where Bond discovers the car’s capabilities – or not – is fun. Q has provided a gadget or two (although there’s an unbelievable, and odd, chemistry test that seem more like “we need to get this in, and there’s nothing that can really do this, so we’ll just make it up”). And there’s a fight on a train – they never disappoint. The women in this new series are beautiful, of course, but are also smart, capable, ruthless and resourceful. Léa Seydoux (Grand Budapest Hotel, in case you can’t place her) as Dr. Madeleine Swan, is a great Bond girl (if a trifle young-looking for the resumé that James quotes to her). The music – both Sam Smith’s theme song,”Writing’s On The Wall,” and Thomas Newman’s score, are exciting. The score is used well, never overpowering, and incorporates the traditional Bond theme in terrific ways.

Will Daniel Craig return as James Bond? Recently he was asked that question and responded with “I’d rather slit my wrists,” but he’s been on every talk show recently, and has backpedaled – he says it was really Bond fatigue, but he’s getting over that. He even asked one audience if they think he should do another one, and the roars of approval, and his reaction to them, seemed to indicate that there’s a definite possibility (he’s one of the series’ executive producers). I can hear all you Connery purists screaming at me, but Craig really is the best Bond – as close to author Ian Fleming’s conception as they’ve come. I’ve provided a link below to one of several Bond film ratings articles, and I have to say that I disagree – all the ratings I’ve seen put Craig’s Casino Royale as one of the best, if not THE best, Bond movies, but I think Skyfall was a better film. Ranking just these four films, I’d put Skyfall first, then Casino Royale, and put this one between Casino and Quantum. They’re all fun and fabulous, and I highly recommend all four!

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Want some James Bond cuteness? On Friday, Ellen DeGeneres arranged for an 8-year-old Bond “expert” to meet his hero, and attend the premiere. I can’t find a stand-alone video, but go to Ellen’s Facebook page and scroll down a little bit. But here’s a promo from March with behind the scenes material:

 

Inside the world of James Bond

Ranking the Bond Films

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Erin Conrad