Film Fox: Spectre
Having waited three years for Spectre, Double O Seven devotees were hungry for another formulaic frolic and their favourite secret agent didn’t disappoint. However, the same was not the case for filmgoers in search of fresh material and evidence of an evolution of Ian Fleming’s “blunt instrument” with a more modern remit. While the locations were new – the adventure took James to Mexico City, Rome, Austria and Morocco – there was a strong sense of déjà vu throughout the film’s 2.5 hour duration.
Following the hugely successful Skyfall, regarded by many as the best of the Bonds and the franchise’s box office record breaker, was always going to be tough and Judi Dench’s ‘M’ was conspicuous by her absence. However, in my eyes, Ralph Fiennes’ debut was adequate compensation - personally, I think it was a serious oversight not to have cast Fiennes ten years ago, either as 007 or a Bond villain.
In keeping with tradition, the movie opens with a thrilling, high-octane feast for the senses with incredible cinematography and spectacular stunts. An ambush in the Zócalo (Mexico City’s central square) during the Day of the Dead parade (with 1,500 ghoulishly dressed extras) results in an airborne tussle between Bond and one of three terrorists, the other two of whom Bond has dispatched. When Bond has done away with both the villain and his pilot, he seizes control of the helicopter and flies it away, over some of the most beautiful parts of the city. This opening scene, combined with a powerful title sequence (with Sam Smith’s ‘Writing’s on the Wall’) makes for one of the best movie intros of all time, in my mind – what a shame that the film, as a whole, didn’t match up.
This story sees Bond take on a global crime network (Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion), which debuted in the first 007 movie, Dr No, following instructions contained in a video legacy left by M before her demise at Skyfall. Unfortunately, the saga is somewhat disjointed, with the scenes connected to one another by a weak storyline. The usual car chases and carnage, shootouts and colossal explosions woven into the tale seem almost gratuitous. And our hero strolls in and out of enemy territory rather too nonchalantly these days, miraculously dodging bullets while single-handedly dispatching teams of gunmen.
For all its failings as a film, though, I thoroughly enjoyed every scene, partly due to the beautiful locations. It is a visual extravaganza and glamorous as ever. Beautiful Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire is used as a film location for the ‘Palazzo Cadenza’ secret meeting where Bond first encounters his nemesis. And the palatial home of Italian widow, Lucia Sciarra, played by Monica Bellucci, is the perfect backdrop for the movie’s first steamy scene.
The inclusion of a mature Bond girl was one refreshing break with tradition that Spectre did make and the film was all the better for her powerful and seductive presence.
Premier Bond girl is the intelligent and beautiful Dr Madeleine Swann – not from the enemy camp this time, but tracked down by Bond following her father’s murder by Spectre members.
Possibly the last time Daniel Craig reports for duty at Mi6 HQ – he is apparently yet to decide whether or not he’ll return for a fifth film - it is hinted, as he drives away with Madeleine at the end, that his Bond may be ready to return to civilian life. Perhaps the numerous homages to previous productions throughout the film and the reappearance of the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger signal the end of an era. Somehow, though, I suSpect(re) not.