I have always wondered how James Bond managed to stay relevant for over 50 years. After all, he’s a misogynistic, alcoholic, murderous psychopath. Not exactly the ideal hero in today’s society. Yet, somehow, we still enjoy Mr. Bond. Perhaps he makes us nostalgic for a simpler time, perhaps he shows that, deep down, we kind of like his attitude. Either way, this is a conundrum, and one of the main themes of Spectre (2015).
Spectre Royale begins with a great opening Bond sequence. The first shot is several minutes long, following Bond as he attempts an assassination in Mexico City. From there, its off to the horses with an action-packed sequence. The mood is set, Daniel Craig is now officially Bond (The first three movies were about him becoming Bond, not being) and we’re all ready. That is, until Sam Smith’s The Writing’s on the Wall plays as the Bond song. The credit sequence is a good one visually, with Chanel ad style lighting and heavy on the octopus imagery. But Sam Smith’s song…
I have a general rule for Bond songs. Never, under any circumstance, have a man sing the song. Perhaps that might be viewed as sexist (Just to let you know, it is) but let me ask you, how many good Bond songs can you name that had a male singer? Now, how many good Bond songs can you name that had a female singer? Exactly. Sam Smith, I most certainly won’t stay with you if you keep on singing Bond songs.
The story is about M’s (SPOILER ALERT for if you haven’t seen Skyfall (2012)) dying wish to Bond. She wishes that he investigate a man called Sciarra. When Bond does, he realizes he is linked to an international criminal and terrorism syndicate called SPECTRE. Bond then butts heads with the leader, played by Christoph Waltz. Meanwhile, Bond fears replacement as a new intelligence secretary called C is trying to dismantle the 00 program and replace people like Bond with drones. The pressure is on Bond, and he might not be able to handle it all, were it not for the therapeutic touch of lust in the form of not one, but two Bond girls. Lucky duck.
From Spectre with Love is somewhat of a record breaker for Bond films. Apart from budgetary behind-the-scenes records, Spectre of Solace also has the oldest Bond girl in Monica Belluci. Much press surrounded the 51 year old Italian actress being a Bond girl. Thus, I was expecting a substantive role. While she is most definitely a Bond girl, she is in the film for perhaps a total of ten minutes. A Bond girl, but a brief one at that. The other Bond girl, Lea Seydoux, (famous among high-class cinemaphiles and low-class pedophiles for her role in La Vie d’Adele (2013)) has a much larger role, being the principle female character.
Then, there’s Christoph Waltz as the Bond villain. Waltz has shown he can excellently portray bad guys, what with winning an Oscar for being a Nazi. I walked in expecting him to be a good villain. Expectations were met. Waltz isn’t necessarily a physically intimidating villain, nor is he exceptionally violent. Acts of violence occur around him, but he doesn’t order them outright. He is a good villain because of how he toys with Bond. He gets into Bond’s head. That’s what makes him an outstanding villain.
Spectrepussy isn’t all shaken martinis and Aston Martins though. It does have problems. It is certainly not better than Skyfall, or Casino Royale (2006), although it is still a mile ahead of the fever dream that was Quantum of Solace (2008). It has some issues regarding the script.
The script doesn’t feel proofread, rather a bit more like a second or third draft. For example, Bond does sleep with the previously mentioned Bond girl Monica Belluci (she’s a Bond girl, that’s what happens to them). That’s not out of the ordinary. What is though is how he does. The way he initiates sex is… rapey, to say the least. Another example of a script problem is just before the film’s climax, Bond busts his way out of the building and watches it as it explodes spectacularly. However, there is no reason for the building to explode. No fuel was set alight, no critical point was hit, no button pushed. Bond killed a few people and walked out as it exploded for no reason.
Another problem is the action scenes. No action scene in the movie is bad, in fact the opening and ending ones are quite well made. They are well choreographed and incorporate nice Steadicam shots, but they lack tension. There is an interesting fact that Skyfall was the second Bond film to show Bond ever getting shot. That doesn’t happen to him here either. This creates a problem where we see Bond as invincible, which robs the action scenes of tension. We don’t worry about Bond because we know he’ll survive. We can’t get on the edge of our seats, which is terrible for an action movie.
The direction, however, saves the action scenes. Sam Mendes does a great job of creating tension in the quieter, dialogue scenes. His choice of lenses and lighting are superb, creating an eerie image of Bond’s villains and foes. His shots are well chosen, conveying power in something as simple as an angle.
Overall, GoldenSpectre is a film stirred, not shaken. It limps about in the pivotal action scenes and has somewhat of an unfinished plot. It is taken care of by its excellent Bond villain and somewhat of a fascinating political opinion, but it doesn’t feel like a modern Bond. Daniel Craig’s Bond was designed to eschew Bond conventions, favoring a modern take on the Ian Fleming character. Craig embraces more traditional Bond characteristics in Spectre Another Day, making the audience realize just why he intended to play a different, modern Bond in the first place. Perhaps the film is right about the 00 program being out of date, how wonderfully symbolic.
On Her Spectre’s Secret Service gets a 5.5/7