The summer is over and so is the season of summer blockbusters. Between you and me, the last couple months have been a movie slump, and the last legitimately entertaining movie this year was Ant-Man. Jurassic World was mildly entertaining, and Age of Ultron was a complete let down.
But 2015 was not a complete cinematic dud. If summer of 2015 blue balled you in the action adventure department then you’ll love the 4th and latest installment of the Daniel Craig James Bond franchise. I’ve been anxiously looking forward to Craig reprising his role as the infamous 007 since the first teaser trailer came out a year ago, and after having caught an early screening on Tuesday, November 3rd, I can tell you it was well worth the wait!
We’ve seen Bond show down in a battle of wits against global money launderer, Le Chiffre, in Casino Royale. We’ve seen Bond do…. uh…. do something in South America having to do with water or oil or something, in Quantum of Solace with [enter villain here]. Then we watched Bond battle skeletons from the MI6’s deep, dark closet against the menacing Silva in Skyfall.
Now, get ready for what I consider to be the fourth, and best installment in the decade running franchise. In Spectre, super spy James Bond is caught in the crossfire when traditional espionage and intelligence gathering collides with modern day data scouring and drones. In an increasing age of terrorism and geopolitical unrest, governments around the world start to question if the world still needs traditional spies and boots on the ground, when we have drones, satellites, and wire-tapping at our disposal.
In the film, intelligence agencies from the world’s most powerful countries are called to action to combine their intelligence gathering operations and systems, to create a type of new world order of counter terrorism. When this audacious overreach is met with resistance by M, James Bond and his entire department – who are considered obsolete and antiquated – are either merged with existing departments, or are shelved entirely. Acting outside their legal jurisdictions, Bond, M, Q, and Money Penny work to stop a mysterious villain that threatens the freedom of the world, as they struggle to stay one step ahead of the enemy. Bond discovers that the person steering the course of humanity’s future may also be a shadow from his past.
Spectre was thoroughly enjoyable. Much of the plot and many of the characters may seem recycled from pervious movies, including Bond movies, because they are. But Columbia did more than rinse and repeat with old ingredients, and in my opinion managed to take kitchen scraps and turn them into an entirely new delicacy that will leave you hungry for more.
In fact, part of the appeal of Spectre is that is harkens back to the golden days of Bond. The main villain, Franz Oberhauser is a new age version of Ernst Stavro Blofeld from the original Bond films who also ran SPECTER, the same villain that Mike Meyers parodied as Dr. Evil in Austin Powers. They even went so far as to explain how this classic villain received the trademark scar across his right eye.
But the good old days villainy didn’t stop there. While Oberhauser was the brains, David Bautista was the brawn, and played the very formidable Mr. Hinx. My opinion is that Hinx is a new age version of Oddjob, a ruthless and well-dressed villain from the 1964 movie Goldfinger, who kills people by throwing a steel rimmed top hat. Mr. Hinx breathes fresh life into the role and brings a very physical, intense, unnervingly calm, and intimidating performance with him. This is the first time in the Daniel Craig franchise that James Bond was not only challenged mentally, but physically.
Daniel Craig delivers his usual and appreciated, primed and polished performance. I’ve come to appreciate his interpretation of James Bond. Spy, yes. Womanizer, yes. Fashionable, always, but still someone very much mired in tradition, and a real man’s man who is tough as nails yet still emotionally vulnerable. James Bond is anything but a new character to audiences, but just like mom’s Thanksgiving dinner, is a tried and tested recipe for success.
There are several beautiful Bond love interests in Spectre, but if one gets the title of Bond Girl, it would be Léa Seydoux. She played the character of Madeleine Swann, and as fate would have it is the daughter of a former enemy of James Bond. Personally, I wasn’t a fan. She’s young enough to be James Bond’s daughter, whined a lot, and had that prickly European demeanor. Plus, I mean come on. She’s no Eva Green.
We also got a fair amount of screen time of Ralph Fiennes and M, Ben Whishaw as Bond’s secret help and accomplice Q, Naomi Harris as the always lovable Moneypenny, Christoph Waltz as the puppet master Franz Oberhauser, and a short romance scene with the timeless beauty Monica Belluci.
Some possible SPOILER ALERTS in this next paragraph.
As I was watching Spectre, I couldn’t help but think that the movie was very similar to last year’s hit, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Spectre = Hydra
The first major similarity is that both movies feature a shadowy organization that is attempting to usurp an established, well intentioned intelligence gathering apparatus, in the name of sacrificing freedom for security. In Winter Solider, Hydra has infiltrated SHIELD and is trying to take it over from the inside out, and Captain America is trying to stop them. In Spectre, said organization is trying to swallow up MI5 and MI6 from the outside in, and James Bond is trying to stop them.
What’s more, is that both organizations are found to be responsible for a long series of horrible and violent events that are seemingly unrelated, with the sole purpose of creating enough chaos to get the masses to willingly give up their freedoms in return for a Big Brother type organization.
The figure heads behind each organization are both German. Red Skull / Johann Schmidt is a German Nazi, and actor Christoph Waltz from Spectre is of actual German Austrian descent.
Even the respective mascots are the similar. Both Spectra and Hydra’s emblem sport a multi-tentacled creature, one being a hydralisk and the other an octopus.
Righteousness as a Relic
Captain America is commonly referred to as “a man out of time”, and his old school and righteous ways are considered antiquated. James Bond might not be as virtuous as Cap when it comes to his drinking and philandering, but’s still got a strong moral compass. Bond and his companions are referred to as antiquated, their methods outdated, and their purpose obsolete.
Ralph Fiennes’ role as M, Bond’s superior within the organization, is very similar both in function and in character to Samuel Jackson’s role as Nick Fury within SHIELD. In both movies, the director and soldier don’t see eye to eye, but when confronted with a larger moral dilemma, work together towards a common goal of restoring freedom.
I think there is an unspoken moral to this common story as well. Change is neither good nor bad. Change is simply change. Good or bad depends on the change, and how it is used. And just as you should be wary of people who adamantly oppose any kind of change, one should be equally wary of someone who blindly lambast the past, or tradition.
The story was well crafted and very neatly wrapped up a lot of loose ends, weaving together the other films since the relaunch. The acting was of course, what you would expect from such a legendary, decades spanning franchise. The romance was sprinkled on without overshadowing the main story, and Bond was very much a strong yet vulnerable character that audiences will be able to relate to. And of course, there was plenty of action to get you through the cinematic lulls. All in all, I think Spectre was a great movie on par with Casino Royal (2006). Some people might say it’s more of the same Hollywood product; car chases, martinis, womanizing, boat chases, plane chases, pretty much lots of chases, explosions, fast cars, crazy gadgets, etc. Which is exactly what I want out of my James Bond! I found it very entertaining and will probably end up buying it on Bluray when it comes out. I give Spectre an A-.