James Bond – Spectre (2015) REVIEW
Director: Sam Mendes
Producer: Barbara Broccoli & Michael G. Wilson
Writer: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan & Jez Butterworth
Based on: James Bond by Ian Fleming
Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci, Naomie Harris and Ralph Fiennes
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Before beginning the review, it’s important to understand why the title means so much to James Bond fans. To anyone else, Spectre is simply another Bond title and most think it’s a title similar to Skyfall. However to a 007 fan, casual or longtime, Spectre means a whole lot more.
Before the first 007 film made it to the big screen in 1962, attempts to bring James Bond to life on the cinema screen had taken place. Ian Fleming, Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham had all come together scripting out a film that Fleming would eventually go on to release as Thunderball. Law suits were thrown around with McClory winning the rights to SPECTRE, Blofeld and the Thunderball script. Kevin McClory (his estate) held those rights for decades eventually settling in 2013 with MGM gaining full rights. This was a big win which allowed EON to bring Spectre and Blofeld back into the franchise. Now that you’ve been brought up to speed, let’s get onto the review.
Months after the release of Skyfall, director Sam Mendes flat-out stated he would not return for the follow-up, Bond 24. Soon after, Mendes had a change of heart and was happy to return as he saw the future of the franchise very appealing. With this news, most of the cast and crew from Skyfall carried over to Bond 24 with Daniel Craig being elevated to co-producer and cinematographer, Hoyte van Hoytema taking over from, Roger Deakins.
Writing of the script had been underway for many months already with multiple drafts handed in and a budget drawn up. However in November of 2014, only a month before filming was scheduled to begin, and a year before release, Sony Pictures Entertainment was hit by computers hackers in one of the biggest blunders of all time.
Confidential emails were released showing the internal workings of Sony Pictures with numerous people and pictures being effected, included Bond 24. Entire scripts leaked online in the following days of the initial attack, and emails containing script notes hit the internet with terrible consequences for what was to come. Soon after, Sony Pictures Entertainment was forced to release a statement confirming the hack and explaining the scripts for Bond 24, which were not received well for various reasons, were only early drafts.
Original screen writers John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade returned to helm the script, and Jez Butterworth was brought in to help give it a polish and give it a little push where needed. Needless to say, Sony Pictures was still reeling from the hack and was on the mend when it came to the script. Leaked emails also showed the budget was over blown and needed to be trimmed and with only a month till filming began, news was not good for Bond fans.
In December of 2014, the final cast and title was revealed to the world press. After some speculation, it was finally announced Christoph Walt would be the main villain of the piece as Franz Oberhauser, with Guardians of the Galaxy favourite, Dave Bautista playing henchman type, Mr. Hinx. Producers claimed that Spectre would return the 007 franchise to its roots with classic villains and henchmen archetypes making a comeback; something the Craig films had been lacking up to this point.
Special attention was given to the very beautiful, Monica Bellucci, who at the age of 50, was the oldest Bond girl ever. Although she was given so much press and her image was plastered on every form of media during filming, it was with great sadness Monica only had minimal screen time. Other casting news placed Sherlock‘s Andrew Scott as C, Lea Seydoux as Dr. Madeleine Swann and the other main cast of Skyfall all returning.
With cast and crew revealed, title of the film, Spectre and a shooting date locked in, Bond 24 began production with a 12 month gap till release. A tight schedule for any modern-day film.
The film begins with Daniel Craig’s first official gun barrel sequence and quickly opens on a day of the dead parade in Mexico City. Bond is tailing, Marco Sciarra, a terrorist planning to bomb a stadium. During an attack, a building is destroyed along with Sciarra’s men while Bond reaches a helicopter. It’s here a fight breaks out and Sciarra is killed while Bond manages to remove a ring from the terrorist.
Returning back to MI6, Bond is reprimanded by the new M, and grounded in London until things settle down. Bond meets C, the head of the Joint Intelligence Service and M finds himself at odds with C who claims MI6 is no longer needed in a modern era of drones and 24/7 surveillance.
Against orders, Bond travels to Rome to be at the funeral of Marco Sciarra as per previous M’s request (a returning Judi Dench). After preventing the assassination of Lucia Sciarra, Marco’s widow, she tells him of her late husband’s involvement in an organisation. Bond travels to the meeting which is replacing Marco and infiltrates it but he is identified by a person from his past, Franz Oberhauser. Bond escapes the meeting being chased by an assassin, Mr. Hinx but soon loses him and continues on to Austria to meet an old ‘acquaintance’, Mr. White. Bond learns that Mr. White is dying from poisoning and the Quantum organisation is actually part of this shady new group led by Oberhauser. Mr. White kills himself, but not before telling Bond to protect his daughter and bring down this organisation.
Informing Madeleine Swann of her father’s passing, Bond says he needs her help in locating L’American but she is kidnapped by Mr. Hinx. Using a small plane, Bond gives chase while Q, who has arrived, analyses the ring of Marco Sciarra. After rescuing Madeleine, Q informs Bond the ring, and Oberhauser are linked to his previous three missions, Le Chiffre (Casino Royale), Dominic Greene (Quantum Of Solace) and Raoul Silva (Skyfall) as agents of this new group, Spectre.
Bond and Madeleine head for L’American in Tangier and in the hotel room which Mr. White often used, Bond uncovers a secret room with evidence pointing to Oberhauser’s location in the desert. Mr. White had been investigating him and left all this for Bond to find. While heading to the new location, Mr. Hinx attempts to kill Bond, but fails.
In the desert, Bond and Madeleine are taken to a large base inside a crater. Oberhauser then reveals his entire plan. Spectre has been financing C’s Nine Eyes Programme and funding terrorism around the world of forcing the Nine Eyes Programme into effect. This will allow C to hand over all intelligence to Spectre and allow them to be one step ahead of everyone. Oberhauser and informs Madeleine that when Bond was an orphan, he was taken in by Franz’s father and out of jealously by the treatment Bond received, Franz killed his father and “himself” and taking the name, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, he formed Spectre.
Blofeld then tortures Bond by drilling into his skull, but Madeleine uses Bond’s watch to blow up the machine and wound Blofeld. They both escape the base, watching it explode from afar. Thanks to a recent staged terrorist bombing, C’s Nine Eyes is put into effect. Now back in London, Bond informs M of C’s allegiance with Spectre and they head to his building before the Nine Eyes Launch. Along the way, Madeleine is kidnapped as is Bond with M heading for C. Q prevents the Nine Eyes from launching and in a struggle, C falls to his death.
Taken to the old MI6 building which is scheduled for demolition, Bond breaks free of his kidnappers and locates Blofeld, now scarred and disfigured, who allows Bond to escape or save Madeleine from somewhere within the building. Blofeld then triggers the countdown for the bombs and leaves in a helicopter. Bond saves Madeleine, escaping moments before the building comes down. Unbeknownst to Blofeld, Bond chases the helicopter and shoots out the engine bringing it down on a bridge.
Wounded, Blofeld crawls from out of the wreckage as Bond stands over him with his gun. Madeleine watches from a distance, and Bond decides to toss his gun away instead choosing to leave with his love, as M arrives and arrests Blofeld. The following morning, Q, alone in his lab, is met by Bond who picks up his now repaired DB5 and drives off, with Madeleine, possibly having retired as a Double 0 agent.
I’m in two minds about Spectre, and even though the film has been on repeat for the better part of a month in preparation for this review, I’m still puzzled by it. Do I like it or not?
You see, for the most part, Spectre is an entertaining movie. It has wonderful sights, good casting, some fun sequences and a few missing elements back in the franchise. However on the flip side, we have a sub plot lifted from the previous film, a boring villain with motivations that make zero sense, a dull female lead, forgotten cast and a terrible third act that rumours and leaked emails predicated a year before release.
Direction from Sam Mendes is on point, no complaints here. The opening to the film, giving the illusion of one continuous shot, is really well done but does have some obvious cuts. Even though the previous films had their funny moments, I appreciate the injection of humour here. Craig manages to pull off those moments without looking silly or forced. As a matter of fact, he seems very Roger Moore like in his delivery; tongue in cheek.
I enjoy the theme song, Writing’s On The Wall, by Sam Smith and love how the theme is placed throughout the film as a love theme. It is done well and works without lyrics too. Music by Thomas Newman doesn’t do much for me. As a matter of fact, it’s Skyfall 2.0. At points of Spectre, the score is lifted directly from its predecessor and then abruptly cuts to a new pieces. It feels rushed and very uneven to the point I’m convinced only part of the score was complete for the film with the rest being place holder. It leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth.
The script for Spectre was always an issue according to the Sony email leaks. I won’t waste your time listing the ridiculous changes made to the third act, but they are easily obtainable online. All I can say is the last third of this film is an absolute mess. Again, my opinion and would love to hear your thoughts. But the entire third act of Spectre is all over the place.
Up until arriving at the desert, Spectre was firing on all cylinders and really hitting most of the marks for a classic Bond film, but the entire revelation of who Blofeld is, the reason for Nine Eyes and the forced love between the Bond girl and 007, it’s just all off.
After 40 years, Blofeld finally returns to the 007 franchise in complete lacklustre style by, Christoph Waltz. I watched him in a few films and always thought he was a good actor, but I draw the line at good. After so many years away from the franchise, Blofeld’s return requires a lot better than a good actor though. During my Quantum Of Solace review, I made mention how Dominic Greene was portrayed as a Blofeld type character, and I stand by that. He blows Waltz’s performance right out of the water and never looks back. I find Franz Oberhauser to be a complete waste to the script, especially considering actors and producers spent months denying Waltz was playing Blofeld, when it was plainly obvious based on the film title, Spectre.
The character was a wasted opportunity and he comes across like a selfish child who only wanted his father’s attention. And the way the film plays it, and it’s the only way I can take it, is that Franz/Blofeld spent billions of dollars just to mess with Bond’s life. The entire part of them being foster brothers is borderline laughable especially consider it adds absolutely zero to the film. It could have just as easily been rewritten that Blofeld was in charge of Spectre and Bond had proven to be a thorn in their side for so many years/missions and needed to be dealt with personally. Done, problem solved. No convoluted half-brother crap. No, it was me all along. Just classic Blofeld at the core trying to destroy Bond.
It frustrates me beyond words because only years after getting the character Blofeld and Spectre back, I personally feel, they’ve already ruined them. Unless they somehow manage to recover come Bond 25.
I guess I have to talk about obvious evil douche, aka C, aka Max Denbigh as played by Andrew Scott. Again, it was so obvious this guy was shady from the moment he stepped into M’s office, and even while watching the film, I’m not sure if the surprising reveal to be working for Spectre was actually meant to be a reveal. Let’s just say, C’s entire mission is to prove the double OO division is antiquated (same subplot as Skyfall) and replace them with drones and surveillance. All C does for the story is give M someone to glare at and a bad guy on home turf. Pointless.
Ralph (yes Ralph, not Rafe as he pronounces it) Fiennes is serviceable as M here. I mean he does his best with the subplot given to him and I do like his performance, but with his acting calibre, I just wish Ralph was given a little more to play with. Naomie Harris, returns as Moneypenny, and doesn’t get a chance to show much of her skills here simply being the secretary her character was destined to be. After Skyfall, I was hoping for a little more but that seems to have been given over to Ben Whishaw as Q. This guy is fantastic and completely sells the awkward computer geek and at the same time, he really sells the stereotype. Hope to see more of him out in the field come Bond 25.
Some of the new cast to join is Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx. Originally the casting was calling for the character to be a henchman in the vein of a Jaws or Oddjob, and for the most part, that is what he is. But Mr. Hinx is more than that, he’s an assassin for Spectre and an actual member. Even has metal thumb nails which allow him to poke out the eyes of his targets. Very cool to see, but never used again which is a bit of a shame. He appears throughout the film eventually meeting his demise(?) after a brutal punch up with Bond. The scene itself is a call back to the classic era films with lots of hand-to-hand combat, Max damage and zero music for the most part. Big fan of the character and stunt choreography during these moments.
In a small and absolutely wasted role is Monica Bellucci as Lucia Sciarra. Now just to begin, I’m not complaining about the casting of a 50-year-old woman as a Bond girl, no. Far from it. Monica Bellucci is one of the most gorgeous women to ever grace cinema. From the first time I saw her in Matrix Reloaded back in 2003 to now, Monica is damn sexy, and ages gracefully in front of her very eyes. Now in saying that, her character and her talents are just wasted here.
When the cast was announced, I presumed (maybe stupidly) she would be getting a larger role, however it seems l was way off. I haven’t timed it, but pretty sure it hovers around six minutes of actual screen-time. Still, in those six minutes Monica does more for me than the next woman.
And the next is, Lea Seydoux as Dr. Madeleine Swann. I just need a moment here, from the very first teaser poster revealed for Spectre, a bullet hole in a piece of glass was shown. Now, instantly everyone thought of Tracy from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and that fatal moment in the closing minutes. Add in the fact that Spectre was back along with Blofeld, and you’ve got yourself a possible remake. As we know now that wasn’t the case, however there are some elements which make me believe they attempted to retell the story, or at least the romance.
As it goes, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was originally going to end with Tracy and Bond driving off after the wedding and fade into the credits. Then Diamonds Are Forever was begin with Tracy being shot and killed with the remaining time spent on Bond going after Blofeld. That was all compressed into On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which isn’t a bad thing, but now look how Spectre ends. Bond and Madeleine driving off together as the screen fades and credits roll. Blofeld is still alive and will seek revenge. Only problem is, Madeleine is not even half the woman Tracy was.
With Tracy, I felt the love and romance between her and Bond and actively rooted for them to be together. She was a strong capable woman who needed Bond as much as he needed her. It wasn’t forced or draining to watch on-screen. Now with Spectre, it’s the complete opposite. Madeleine isn’t likeable and doesn’t help Bond at all. The romance is…fine for the most part, but otherwise a little forced and most important of all, Madeleine doesn’t have nearly the presence as Tracy.
You’re probably asking, why compare the two? Its simple, the producers are, which means I can too.
Even with the comparison to Tracy removed from the equation and completely disregarding On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Madeleine is not a very good character. Lea Seydoux is gorgeous, and has the acting chops to land the role, but looks are irrelevant here (although the evening dress she wears). Lea isn’t given enough to work with, her character is mostly absent from the beginning half and when finally introduced, she’s kidnapped, seduced and saved at the end. I’m sure she’s a strong character, because Mr. White tells us so, but show don’t tell us.
When it comes to Madeleine surviving and leaving with a retired(?) Bond at the end, it brings up mixed emotions for me. Will Bond 25 pick up with her death? Will she even survive into that film? Needless to say, whatever happens after the credits role is up in the air, but if producers want to kill her at the beginning of the next film, I feel like it’ll just be a repeat of Vesper’s death and Bond’s arc all over again. And I just don’t know if I’m ready to go through it all again.
I’ve gone on way too long and I apologise, but I have a passion and intend to finish this series of reviews off passionately.
Now we’re down to James Bond 007 himself, Daniel Craig. Not only has this man been an actor, writer (during the writers strike of Quantum Of Solace), now he adds co-producer to his name. This man has been passionate about James Bond from the moment of his casting telling fans and critics to just wait and judge for themselves. He proved everyone wrong when it came to Casino Royale with his hard edge and no bullshit approach. This was a new Bond for a new generation. But over time those qualities kind of melted away to where we find ourselves now; a mix of old and new.
I said in my previous review, Skyfall, how I felt it was a great conclusion to Daniel Craig’s outing as 007. It showed the character (and actor) had aged and come full circle since his introduction and it was justified if the licence to kill was passed onto someone else. However then I started watching Spectre over and over and I realised that Daniel Craig is still relevant. As much as Spectre as a film upsets me, Craig wins me over every time. He still has the charm and good looks. The man can handle himself in the action moments and looks intense when spilling out the dramatic moments. But most of all, this film allowed him those brief cheeky moments I loved with Roger Moore.
I know it was a conscious effort by producers and writers to add elements of humour, and frankly it worked. Ordering a vodka martini at a health retreat and being survived an organic mess in a cup was fantastic, especially coupled with Craig’s next line. I mean he doesn’t even need to try to be humorous, it just works through the awkwardness of the situation.
With four films under his belt, and a whirlwind production of roughly a year, I can understand (but don’t appreciate) him ragging on the franchise and him not wanting to come back. It doesn’t help that people discuss his replacement WHILE HE IS STILL JAMES BOND, but I get it. We’ve all worked those days and don’t want a single thing to do with anyone or work itself. But as I said, four films later Daniel Craig is one of the best Bonds to ever be and Spectre only helps solidify that.
I know currently rumours are Daniel Craig has turned down millions upon millions to return for two more films, which means this may be the final for him. But I don’t care. I’d rather him go out like this, then make another film with the quality of Die Another Day. Either way, he was a brilliant addition to the franchise.
Spectre isn’t a great film. It’s a film that unfortunately was hurt by rushed filming and script issues. I feel that it sits in the shadows of Skyfall, a billion dollar earner and much-loved movie, and fails to live up to the hype of using the name, Spectre. I appreciate the final moments, and the fact Blofeld could, and I’m sure will, return, but the weak female lead doesn’t do much for me. The third act is a mess and ruins what could have otherwise been an enjoyable film. It is still worth watching, but not necessarily with your full attention.
James Bond will return in Bond 25