Certainly one of the most remarkable phenomena in all of entertainment is the continued worldwide popularity of the James Bond films, despite running through numerous actors, plots, scenarios, degrees of fidelity to the original Ian Fleming novels (which I read as a teenager). And most recently of course, we now have a man, Daniel Craig, who not only looks the part more than almost all of his predecessors (some still prefer Sean Connery), but also has brought a raw, fresh, sensibility to the franchise that has gotten it beyond the ‘Bond as dandy’ portrayals of Brosnan and Moore. See for example, the new poster—– If this Bond is more difficult to identify with in all his macho daring do, paradoxically, he is easier to ‘bond’ with, so to speak, because he seems more believable, not a comic book character. In short, Craig is much more what Fleming seems to have had in mind, and full marks to Barbara Broccoli the daughter of Cubby who was the originally keeper of the director’s flame of these films, for having the wisdom to go that way.
So what should we make of this latest Bond film? While it is not the best in franchise history, or even the best of the Craig-Bond films, it is still quite entertaining, even though one’s willingness to suspend one’s disbelief at some impossible things that happen is regularly tested in this film. Indeed, there were places I just ended up laughing, because Bond not only proves able to do seven impossible things before breakfast, he’s even able to escape impossible odds, a myriad of bullets, and all with hardly a scratch, again and again. This is where plausible adventure tips over into parody at points. And of course, like all Bond films it raises the usual question— In a world of good and evil all mixed together, are tainted means justified by good ends when it comes to the good guys?
On the plus side, the usual bevy of interesting and exotic locales is enjoyable— Mexico City during the Day of the Dead, Tangier and the Algerian Desert, beautiful Austria in the snow, as well as London of course. Also on the plus side is the new ‘Bond’ girl Lea Seydoux, who may appear slightly familiar from her role in the low rated Robin Hood movie in 2010. Ralph Fiennes is fine, as usual, as is Ms. Moneypenny and Q. But the masterful choice was to get Christoph Waltz to play the diabolical villain and head of Spectre— Mssr. Blowfeld aka Franz Oberhauser. Equally brilliant was the choice of Andrew Scott aka Moriarty in the Sherlock/BBC franchise, as the bad guy inside MI6. There’s enough Menace in this movie to even scare Dennis! Bond has much to overcome. And of course the cinematography is spectacular as usual. It might even be worth seeing in IMAX, though you may find yourself quivering under your seat from time to time if you do.
What of the plot and the dialogue? Well, it suffers from one too many chase scenes, one too many explosions, did I mention chase scenes and explosions. There is the occasional dash of wit here and there, but more could have lightened the mood and produced some smiles along the way. As it is we hurtle with Bond towards an expected cataclysm, because of course technology is thought to be able to replace real agents in the field, just as today some think we can drone our enemies to death, but I drone on. Bond is decidedly an old school spy, in a brave new world and while he likes the gadgets and the girls that come with it, he’s not thrilled with being consider obsolete– not surprisingly. MIA of course is Judi Dench who bowed out in Skyfall, and she is definitely missed as a sort of crabby maternal figure keeping Bond from going completely rogue.
As thrillers go, Spectre was not spectacular, but it was a fun ride. Like that roller coaster you always wanted to try that had very high highs and some low lows, and leaves you exhausted, be aware that when you strap yourself in for this film there will be never a dull moment…… but there will be moments when you are gripping the arm rests rather hard.