This is the 24th James Bond movie. Bond was the ultimate British Spy created by novelist Ian Fleming in 1953. The first Bond movie was Dr. No in 1962 and he’s being going since then. Chances are you have your favorite Bond, your favorite Bond film, and your favorite Bond song (they might not all be from the same movie). For me, it’s Roger Moore (you tend to favor the first one you became familiar with, although I did enjoy Pierce Brosnan). Live and Let Die for the movie (you can’t beat Yaphet Koto, TeeHee, Geoffrey Holder as Baron Samedi, plus a very young Jane Seymour!). And for favorite song - Nobody Does it Better (and You Only Live Twice, and Diamonds are Forever, and the World is Not Enough, and …I like a lot of the songs).
In case you are unfamiliar with the Bond movie formula, it begins with the graphic gun barrel shot over the Bond theme and Bond walking in from the right. As he turns and shoots into the camera, blood drips down as you zoom out into the cold open. You then get an action sequence that either will or will not play into the rest of the movie. The credits sequence is next where the theme song plays while naked lady silhouettes dance (remember, these started in the 60s). Usually, the main part of the movie starts with Bond walking into M’s office at MI6 to get his mission, he flirts a bit with MoneyPenny, M’s assistant, then M will ask him, “Bond, what do you know about so-and-so?” Bond will respond with some information, then M sends him to Q to get his gadgets before he heads off on a mission to stop some insane super-villain from taking over the world. And while formulaic, that’s what I want from a Bond movie.
The Spectre cold open takes place in Mexico where Bond is following a suspicious man through the Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico City. His target, Sciarra spots him, setting off a bomb in a hotel room, causing the hotel to collapse and Bond to have to chase Sciarra on foot through the parade and eventually battle him in a helicopter over the center of the city. Bond is finally throws Sciarra to his death while keeping his ring with a curious Octopus emblem on it. Cue credits sequence over the new Sam Smith song, Writing’s on the Wall.
Back in London, Bond stops by M’s office to get lectured and taken off field duty. M’s a bit upset because he’s in the midst of a power struggle with C, the new head of the Joint Intelligence Service, who is joining MI5 and MI6 as well as creating “Nine Eyes”, which will link the intelligence of multiple countries world-wide.
Bond checks in with Q, steals the Astin Martin that was prepped for 009, and heads to Italy to attend Sciarra’s funeral where he makes eyes at the widow Sciarra. He follows her home, saves her from two hitmen, beds her, and learns from her this shady organization is meeting that very night in Rome.
He uses the ring to gain entrance to the meeting, witnesses the step-up of Mr. Hinx to take on Sciarra’s assassin role, then gets made by Franz Obenhauser, who not only seems to be in charge, but Bond recognizes from his past. Bond then car chases through Rome with Mr. Hinx. He gets help from MoneyPenny to track down the elusive Mr. White – who is leftover from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.
White is already dying, but gives Bond some info on SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion. They first appeared in the novel Thunderball in 1961…and the movie Dr. No in 1962), and reveals that he has a daughter, Madeline Swann. Sure enough, Bond finds her in Austria – just before she is kidnapped by Spectre agents, leading to Bond bringing a plane to a car chase through Austrian mountains. Bond rescues her and Q helps them learn that Oberhauser seems to be the leader of this organization. Swann mentions the hotel L’Americain in Morocco, where her father did some business.
Bond discovers that White had secret room of videotapes, charts, and photographs which leads them to a train for their next destination. Hinx attacks on the train, but Bond throws him off the train. Bond and Swann get it on just before arriving at what appears to be a secret crater base in the middle of in the desert.
Of course it belongs to Oberhauser, who explains that the base essentially collecting intelligence, and that he is working with C in London. He straps Bond to a chair and talks a lot (a lot) about how he and Bond were sort-of step brothers, how he is about to drill holes in Bond’s head, and how he’s now going by the name Ernst Stavro Blofeld. I’m not even going to say spoiler alert here. If you know anything about Bond lore – you saw that coming miles away. Bond uses the watch Q gave him to escape and grab Swann. Don’t worry about how they got through the desert, apparently that’s not important.
They get back to London (how?) and meet up with M, Tanner, Q, and Moneypenny. M and crew go to get C, while Swann tells Bond she needs to leave, because she can’t ‘live this life anymore’ despite the fact that she loves him (what?). She leaves, Bond heads back to the old MI6 building to have another confrontation with Blofeld, who has again kidnapped Swann. Bond rescues her and then brings a boat to a helicopter chase. He eventually causes Blofeld’s helicopter to crash, and instead of shooting Blofeld – allows him to be taken into custody by M. Swann, instead of walking away like she just said she was going to – waits around to walk off with Bond.
Just like Skyfall, this movie is directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Jarhead, Revolutionary Road, and Away We Go). It is really beautiful. Some of the scenes were just stunning, the entire opening sequence during the Dia De Los Muertos Celebration was gorgeous, and the shots of the train through the desert were amazing. The direction and cinematography were fantastic. I also love the worldliness of the movie. It moves swiftly from Mexico to England to Italy to Austria to Morocco back to England. It’s what a Bond movie should be, and it really helps the story to shoot in those amazing locations. The action sequences were also pretty great, especially the airplane/car chase through the Austrian mountains. I liked the story – it was overly complicated at points, but I thought it was a good Bond story and really got back to the roots of the hero. I was a little disappointed in general, but I think because my expectations were too high.
- Beyond the cinematography, I was thrilled with the majority of the cast: Ralph Fiennes as M, Rory Kinnear as Tanner, Ben Whishaw as Q, Naomie Harris as Money Penny were all great, and it was really fun to see them all get some more action out of the office. Especially M’s confrontation with C.
- Along those lines, Andrew Scott (chillingly evil as Moriarity on Sherlock) was spectacularly slimy as C. Of course, he’s so slimy that at no point do you trust him, so his ‘surprise’ reveal as a villain is no surprise, but he’s still pretty great.
- Christoph Waltz is the ideal casting for Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the iconic head of Spectre and Bond’s main villain throughout the years. He even has the cat! I love that he did not get killed at the end of this so I fully expect that we will see him back soon. Waltz is so great at villainy that he just seamlessly slid into the role. I did find the whole “I was jealous of you when we were children” motivation a little ridiculous, but hey, he’s also interested in collecting the world’s intelligence. And the scar at the end? Perfect!
- Bringing Jesper Christensen as Mr. White back was fine, but really, I am ready for a stand-alone Bond movie. I didn’t think it was necessary to interconnect these last four so much. And since they really seem to be building towards re-doing the storyline from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the next one will likely be interconnected as well.
- I have no problem with Bond getting captured, but I’m tired of him getting tortured, especially uselessly. Blofeld straps Bond to a chair and proceeds to talk at length about how he’s about to drill holes in his head, and one of them will make it so he won’t recognize Madeline, or any woman going forward. Honestly – that would have been interesting had it worked, and would play into Bond’s serial womanizing. However, It doesn’t seem to work. Bond gets drilled and seems to be just fine. If the torture wasn’t going to do anything, why not just have him use the watch to escape prior to that?
- I wish we had gotten to see Agent 009. Bond steals the car that was prepped for 009, and the music kicks in that was prepped for 009. I wish that had paid off in 009 showing up at the end and helping out with the final fight. Some fun stunt casting could have been used there as well. But no – it’s just mentioned a few times, then never brought up again.
- I was so excited when I found out that Monica Bellucci was going to be in this movie. Nevermind that there was finally a Bond lady the same age as Bond (in fact, she’s three months older than Craig), she’s an incredible actress and one of the most beautiful women in the world – along the lines of other Italian screen sirens like Sophia Loren and Isabella Rosellini. I am furious that she literally has two and a half scenes in this movie. Bond harasses her at the funeral, follows her home, and leaves her for the meeting. She’s capable of so much more, and they just did not use her. I would have loved for her to be revealed as a villain at the end, either pulling Blofeld’s strings or partnered with him.
- Lea Seydoux is fine as White’s daughter, but felt flat in most of the scenes. Also – she tells Bond to stay away from her in one scene, then tells him she loves him in the next. There’s about a 25 year age difference between her and Craig, which is off-putting. She is first presented as a smart, capable doctor, but then quickly devolves into another weakly written Bond girl who constantly needs to be rescued. I did like was when she told Bond she was done. However, she then promptly gets captured and needs rescuing. After the rescuing, why did she not walk away? She already said goodbye! It would have been far more powerful for her to leave at the end.
- I am a huge fan of Dave Bautista, so I’m thrilled he’s in this. Now – interesting henchmen with a ‘gimmick’ are traditional Bond, so I’m happy that he fit that mold. Jaws had his teeth, OddJob had his hat…it would appear that Mr. Hinx has silver thumbnails that he uses to eye gouge. At least, that’s what I thought – he uses it once, then it is NEVER MENTIONED AGAIN. It’s such a cool henchman gimmick! Why wouldn’t he be clawing everything and anything with those nails? What a waste. I’m actually fine with him not having any lines, that fits the ‘henchman’ motif, but in the version I saw, the one line he had as he’s being thrown from the train is clearly “shit!” and was poorly dubbed to “shoot!”.
- And finally, my biggest issue with this movie is Daniel Craig, which is a shame, because I was really in favor of his casting as Bond when it first happened. I’m tired of him bashing Bond in interviews, and saying how he would rather ‘slit his wrists’ then play the character again. Fine, we don’t want you there if you don’t want to be there. In Skyfall, he at least seemed to be more comfortable with the character. I was really hoping he would bring more fun to the role here. He is great in the action sequences, but I want to see that he’s enjoying the role, not that it’s a chore. He’s got one more in his contract, but just let him out of that and let’s move on.
My only requirement for the next Bond is that he be British. Beyond that, I’d like him to be tough, gadget-smart, and suave-charming. Craig is tough, not sure I buy him with the gadgets, and I don’t really get the suave from him – he’s more demanding with his ladies then charming. My personal choice has been Idris Elba, but he’s getting older, and really focusing on his DJ side career (you heard me right). If there’s one thing I learned from Man From U.N.C.L.E. this summer, it’s that Henry Cavill would also do an amazing job. Hell – cast a young unknown who will be thrilled with the role and do a great job for years to come. Here’s a random list of potentials with Jacob Anderson at the top.
Other suggestions: Nicholas Hoult, Theo James, Aml Ameen, Sam Clafin, Lucien Laviscount, Aaron Taylor Johnson, Daniel Kaluuya. And finally, Jay Ryan – yes, he’s technically Australian, but so is George Lazenby…and if the next one is On Her Majesty’s Secret Service based…I’m just saying…
7 out of 10 – I liked it, I really did, but I didn’t love it, even though I wanted to. It really needed to be shorter, you could have easily cut a half-hour from it and not lost anything. Gained points for all the gorgeous globe-trotting scenes. Lost points for not enough Monica Belluci and for Daniel Craig in general.
Bonus Video 1: I always think of Craig as that dude with the terrible American accent from Tomb Raider.
Bonus Video 2: My favorite Monica Bellucci movie – Brotherhood of the Wolf.
Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews