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Well, it’s finally happened. We started in January with Dr. No and now we have finally reached Spectre (2015), the most recent of the James Bond films. It goes without saying that after the runaway success of Skyfall (2012), anticipation for Spectre was at a near fever pitch, especially since it was assumed (correctly) that the SPECTRE organization would finally be making it’s long awaited return to the franchise for the first time in 44 years. Which automatically led to another question: would Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the villainous leader of SPECTRE (and played by numerous actors in the past) also be making his return? The answer, thankfully, was yes. While Donald Pleasance remains my personal favorite actor to play the part (in You Only Live Twice), Christoph Waltz absolutely nailed the role here in Spectre.
The fourth Daniel Craig film sees Bond in trouble with M, yet again. It would seem in the opening adventure in Mexico City that Bond has gone off on a “mission” of his own choosing (i.e. MI6 didn’t authorize it), to assassinate a terrorist before they can execute a plan to blow up a packed stadium (this takes place during the height of Day of the Dead festivities). M demands an explanation, but Bond refuses to give one, so Bond is officially put on leave until further notice and is banned from leaving the country.
Times are changing rapidly for MI6: now as in Skyfall, the organization is being viewed as more obsolete than ever, and Max Denbigh (nicknamed “C” by a not-impressed Bond) seeks to have the agency replaced by the “Nine Eyes” global surveillance network. But there is much more at stake here than anyone realizes (even Bond). Since Casino Royale, a single entity has been manipulating world events, bringing everything to a head at the climax of this story. And if Bond should fail in his mission, there might be no stopping the enemy this time, because SPECTRE has returned.
I’m going to come right out and say it: Spectre is not as good as Skyfall. Now having said that, Spectre is still an awesome film. It has a little bit of everything: car chases, romance, high stakes, and a number of witty one-liners that could only come from a James Bond film. And yet, it doesn’t quite meet the bar that Skyfall set, but that’s no crime, since Skyfall may be the perfect Bond film.
One of my favorite characters has to be Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista). Hinx is a villain in the mold of the classic Bond henchmen (think of Oddjob and ESPECIALLY Jaws (you know, the tall guy with titanium teeth in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker). I enjoyed watching him so much that I secretly hope they find some way of “resurrecting” the character for the next Bond film. Another element that I loved? The classic “gun-barrel opening” FINALLY returns to its proper place at the beginning of the film.
For the musical score, Thomas Newman returned once again to compose the music for this film. According to director Sam Mendes, the final film contains over 100 minutes of music (and believe me, that is a LOT of music for any film). I really enjoyed the music for this film, it contains an appropriate mix of the classic James Bond theme, while at the same time using new motifs to emphasize the swiftly changing events of the story (the music for the car chase in Rome in particularly good, especially when the cars pass through St. Peter’s Square).
The theme for the title sequence was titled “Writing’s On the Wall” and performed by Sam Smith. The song immediately received mixed reviews, with many comparisons being made with Adele’s “Skyfall” (with the latter being described as a much better Bond song). I don’t think it’s very fair to compare “Writing’s On the Wall” with “Skyfall” because, let’s be honest, “Skyfall” is an excellent piece of music. Certainly this latest Bond song has some flaws, the most noticeable being those moments when Smith goes into falsetto. If this were anything BUT a Bond film, I wouldn’t have an issue with it, but this IS a James Bond film and that makes the falsetto feel out of place. The strongest part of the song (for me) is the brief refrain “If I risk it all/Could you break my fall?” If he kept that quality of voice that he used in that moment throughout the song, I think it would have been better received.
Now on a final note, let’s talk about the ending of the film. Was I the only one who expected Madeleine Swann to be killed out of nowhere as James walked over to her? The tension was so thick, that I kept expecting something to happen. I also can’t forget the fact that Bond let Blofeld live (remember how Blofeld kept his eyes locked on Swann and Bond as they walked away together?) I’d be shocked if the next Bond film didn’t feature Blofeld out for revenge in one way or another (because in four Craig films, this is the first time Bond has let an adversary live). It was rather symbolic actually, that moment when Bond stood over Blofeld on the bridge.
On the one side stood M, representing Bond’s duty as a Double-0 agent. But on the other side stood Madeleine, representing the side of life that Bond had kept locked away ever since Vesper died: the possibility of a life away from murder and death, the possibility of a life filled with love. And in that moment, Bond chooses love, by letting Blofeld live, by throwing his gun in the river, and by steadfastly walking AWAY from M and choosing to go with Madeleine. It will definitely be interesting to see where the story goes from here. Hopefully we don’t have a repeat of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but only time will tell.
Of course we know James Bond will return, but the big question is, will it be Daniel Craig, or someone new? As much as people (including myself) would like to see him return for a 5th outing as 007, the truth is that Craig is now 48 years old, and assuming it takes at least two years for the next film to begin filming, that would make him 50. Given how physically demanding the role of James Bond has become, I would not be surprised if we see someone new when the 25th Bond film rolls out. And if that was indeed the finale of Craig’s Bond, I can’t think of a better exit than driving off with his lady love in that gorgeous Aston Martin.
And for the time being, that concludes Introducing James Bond.
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