The James Bond franchise needs no introduction and as the trade of spying is as old as humankind and its tendency to go to wars, i.e, as long as our histories go, it also goes in the circles like everything else in life. The James Bonds of sixties through eighties might score very high on the flamboyance and glamour aspects of the series but they would not hold the same appeal to the millennials. And hence the Bond series started re-drawing Bond’s life when Daniel Craig came on board in 2006 with Casino Royale – still in his casual clothing and open to the ideas of normal life and love.
In that first film, he suffered heartbreak and started the journey of chasing a phantom that seemed keen on making sure that every woman in his life died. He tracked a few down in Quantum of Solace and came back from death himself in Skyfall. With Skyfall though, it seemed like all the pieces were in place – there was a new M in form of Mallory who could use a gun to kill enemies himself – not just an office figure, there was a new Eve Moneypenny, a capable field agent herself, there was a new Q who looks like any nerdy teenager of the 21st century and then there were the gadgets he could conjure. It looked like Bond’s dark journey of self-discovery and losses could end and he can go on to become the quintessential, a little bit filmy spy, who would always win against the odds.
|Producer||:||Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson|
|Screenplay||:||John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth|
|Based On||:||James Bond by Ian Fleming|
|Story by||:||John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade|
|Music By||:||Thomas Newman|
|Cinematography||:||Hoyte van Hoytema|
26 October 2015 (UK)
06 November 2015 (US)
|Starring||:||Daniel Craig (James Bond), Christoph Waltz (Ernst Stavro Blofeld), Léa Seydoux (Dr. Madeleine Swann), Ben Whishaw (Q), Naomie Harris (Eve Moneypenny), Dave Bautista (Mr. Hinx), Andrew Scott (Max Denbigh), Monica Bellucci (Lucia Sciarra), Ralph Fiennes (M – head of MI6), Rory Kinnear (Bill Tanner), Jesper Christensen (Mr. White), Alessandro Cremona (Marco Sciarra), Judi Dench (Mallory’s predecessor M), and others…|
But Spectre proves that that is not the case – not quite. To the dark, haunting past must we return for another Bond tale, albeit with breathtaking visuals, absolutely fantastic fight sequences, not-so-scintillating Bond girls and seriously psychopathic villains.
The film opens in Mexico city on the day of the dead – Dia De Muertos – a Mexican holiday celebrated in remembrance of the dead of the family – a bit like the Indian custom of Shraddha (श्राद्ध) observed in memory of the loved ones who are dead.
In the Mexico city, this day is being celebrated with a lot of pomp, with tens of thousands of people roaming the streets, all clad in costumes and masques, making it a perfect place for disguises and plotting conspiracies. James is here, chasing a Marco Sciarra based on a message the late M (Dame Judy Dench) left him. The sequence is really something to enjoy on the screen. At the end of it, Bond has stopped a bombing attack, acquired a stylish ring with an Octopus symbol on it, and miraculously survived.
But as usual, he did all this going rogue, so M is forced to give him a disciplinary talk. Now the MI6 of today also has its political traps and M is facing a new rival in Max Denbigh who has all the right connections in the British government and would dearly love to see all human agents replaced with technology. Max wants to close the OO section and is also actively seeking to establish an intelligence collaboration program called Nine Eyes which will give him and his unknown masters uncensored access to intelligence gathered through nine different agencies.
As you can expect, James and Max don’t get on well. Although on suspension, James Bond decides to carry on with his mission and romps off to Rome in a car stolen from none other than MI6 itself. He attends the funeral of Marco Sciarra, seduces his widow – a stunning fifty-year-old Maria Belluci who gets only few minutes on screen – and finds out where the meeting is.
And we meet an organisation who has been behind every other organisation that Bond has ever come across. His Octopus ring gets him in the secret meeting where the chief is selecting an assassin to murder ‘The Pale King’. Considering the long-standing fact that Bond villains are usually clever people, the chief knows Bond is here. He addresses him personally – shows his face for a moment and says “Cuckoo”.
And the chase begins. Bond gets out and into his fancy car followed by the Henchmen. And escapes, of course.
With Moneypenny’s help he learns that the Pale King is Mr White whom he has met before. He tracks him down only to find that Mr White is already dying of Thallium poisoning. After giving Bond a few clues, Mr White commits suicide. Bond notices the cameras in the house and realizes that his archenemy is probably watching his every move.
Bond tracks down Mr White’s daughter, another beautiful Bond girl – Dr Madeline Swann – who reluctantly joins him only after escaping a spectacular chase through snow clad Austrian mountains that involves cable cars, skis and planes. In middle of all these, Q puts together the facts that the Octopus ring is the emblem of the organisation called Spectre and finally Bond figures out that the head of the organisation Blofeld is none other than Franz Oberhouser from his own childhood and what we have seen through last few films is Franz’s personal vendetta against James Bond himself.
James and Madelline follow the eight legged monster into his lair and leave it thinking they have killed him. But Blofeld came back from death once, so why not the second time?
What will the modern face of evil look like? Is Big brother watching you for your safety or to control your lives? Is information collection and analysis same as “intelligence” gathered by spies?
Rest of the film does answer some of these questions and we think you might enjoy it better on the celluloid or LED screens 🙂 .
The name Spectre is apt and the symbolism of it is only strengthened by the pre-title sequence being set in suitably named festival of Dia De Muertos. The Dead are never dead in this world of spies. This sequence is quite an opening with its spectacular filming and computer generated graphics that converts 1500 extras into a crowd of thousands of people. These pre-title sequences are becoming a signature in the Daniel Craig Bond movies.
The film is predictable as it draws on same old tried and tested threads to bind the plot together and make an adventure story of it. So, it isn’t originality, but execution that makes the film worth watching. Daniel Craig wears his James Bond suits comfortably and delivers the wisecracks with panache.
But it’s the villains – whether it is the small role of Max Denbigh played by Andrew Scott or that of the main villain played by Christoph Waltz. We have admired Andrew Scott‘s acting as Sherlock Holmes’s archenemy Moriarty before in the English series Sherlock where he managed the sinister to acclaim and he doesn’t disappoint here, either.
Christoph Waltz plays a psychopath who is quite comfortable with being one. He is intelligent, capable, visionary in his own mind, wronged by family in his opinion, and quite single minded when perusing a target. He knows all the weaknesses of his enemy and pushes all the right buttons to get a reaction, to organise a chain of events to unfold just as he wants. Even when he is beaten and on the ground, he manages to say the things that would injure his enemy. He did remind me a bit of the Joker from ‘The Dark Knight’ who turned the psyche and principles of the Batman into a weapon against him.
The film’s link to Ian Fleming’s works is the character of Fran Oberhouser from Octopussy and the organisation Spectre mentioned in Thunderball. It is interesting to note that Ian Fleming gave his own birthday 28 May 1908 to his villain Ernst Starvo Blofeld, the head of SPECTRE.
However, Ian Fleming himself was sued in 1961 for using this concept in the novel. After decades of litigation the involved parties finally settled it outside court in 2013, when MGM bought all the rights to using Spectre track.
All in all, two and half hours of action packed, predictable, feel good thriller.
7 out of 10.