- Posted by Giaco Furino
- On November 6, 2015
- 0 Comments
- 007, james bond, spectre
I’m of a specific slice of a generation who, when asked to name our favorite James Bond film, answers: Goldeneye… on the Nintendo 64. Growing up alongside the internet, I’ve seen the world transform into a truly digital age. I don’t know a time before Mario, but I do know a time before AOL. Questions of privacy, which I try not to think about too hard in an effort to live a non-paranoid life, are at the center of Bond’s newest outing, Spectre. For a movie about a handsome man shooting people, there’s a lot going on in Spectre.
Directed by Sam Mendes (who directed the previous installment, Skyfall) and written by four screenwriters over the course of its life, Spectre follows Daniel Craig as James Bond, 007, the British spy with the license to kill. In this film, he’s on the hunt for the head of a huge crime syndicate, and has to team up with Dr. Madeleine Swann, the daughter of an old enemy (played by Léa Seydoux), to track down the villain. I’ll stay out of spoiler territory, except to say that Christoph Waltz plays the head of said crime syndicate. Meanwhile, MI6 is being taken over by another security company that wants to disband the 00 program and connect the world in global surveillance.
These new Bond movies continue to grow and mature. Casino Royale came out of nowhere punching, swinging, running, jumping, and kicking into life. Quantum of Solace was a bit… messy. Skyfall is, in my opinion, one of the best Bond films ever made. And now we’ve got Spectre, a patient, plotting, thoughtful movie. What a world we live in to get a slow-paced 007 movie. At times the film almost felt sleepy, not lazy or unfocused, but careful, like a hiker slowly choosing which moss-covered rock to step on next.
When action does strike, it startles. Dave Bautista plays a huge, hulking assassin who seldom speaks. And when he finally attacks Bond it’s shocking. The music cuts out for the first half of the fight, and we’re left with the sounds of fists punching, men grunting, and heavy breathing. Bautista’s character, Hinx, is handled very interestingly. He’s this huge presence on screen, and he looks like he’d be this slogging monster, but he’s quick as a whip. And when he gets ahold of Bond, he strikes quickly and sends him smashing through the scenery around him.
Daniel Craig’s Bond may be my favorite Bond on film (don’t shoot!), and I’m trying to figure out why. Maybe it’s because he’s always, deep down, a little pissed off. While he has great one-liners, and looks good in a suit, he’s still a kinda-short, angry looking dude. We see him get frustrated, we see him laugh and ruefully accept the prospect of death a few times. He’s hardened, he isn’t even all that dashing anymore. That’s the Bond I remember from the first time I picked up Ian Fleming’s novel Casino Royale, more soldier than dashing, brought into his first major mission because he’s the best gambler in MI6. There’s a ghost of the old-school in this 21st century Bond.
Christoph Waltz follows in the footsteps of the Craig-era Bond villains that came before him. He’s sardonic, modern, a bit dorky. And through all that there’s a dead-eyed ruthlessness that only shows its face a few times, but when it does the effect is quite chilling.
This Bond film suffers from the same messy gender politics that all Bond films suffer from, of course. He beds the girl he’s saving, and then they go adventuring together (or in this case, she says “No” to him at first and then they have sex after their lives are put into danger). So go into the film aware of that. Léa Seydoux is a top-rate actor, and added so much to the character of Dr. Swann despite the confines of the role. And yes, all the recent Bond girls have more agency than the series has ever allowed them before, but it’s not even close to enough, the basic Bond formula won’t allow it. These still aren’t 100% real characters.
The film’s advertising hangs its hat on The Day of the Dead opening sequence, but the movie’s initial setpiece doesn’t last long and isn’t up to snuff with Skyfall’s opening Istanbul train sequence. And while I wouldn’t say the plot is unfocused, I think it makes a few leaps that most movies wouldn’t. I don’t think this is a bad thing (we don’t need our hand held every step of the way), but I do feel the movie strained within its limits at times. There’s also an attempt to loop the action into Bond’s backstory, and that’s a modern convention that we shouldn’t feel bound to.
Amidst Spectre’s flying bullets, exploding buildings, and maniacal henchmen, there exists a careful, contemplative movie. I wanted to go on this journey with James, I wanted to dress well and hike through Austria with him, I wanted to fight against mass surveillance (although that’s all the work of Ralph Fiennes’ M, Bond’s off the books on his own personal mission). I’m afraid this movie won’t do terribly well at the box office, it feels at half-speed compared to films like Fury Road and Furious 7… but that’s not a bad thing! See this movie, take your time with it, go in without expectations and soak in our new era of Bond.
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