By Anna Formánková
Three years after the 50th anniversary of James Bond on screen, the franchise continues with what is expected to be the most successful Bond movie yet: SPECTRE. The embodiment of what Ian Fleming always desired to become returns on silver screen in the 24th instalment, the fourth adventure starring Daniel Craig as the iconic MI6 agent.
While MI6 tries to recover from the fatal blow that was the bomb attack on their headquarters in Skyfall and try to prove the legitimacy of their position in the government activities, Bond sets off on a hunt. After uncovering part of his family secrets in Skyfall, he goes on a ruthless mission the objective of which is unknown to all but him. SPECTRE is a movie entirely driven by Bond. He is on a mission from the very beginning; he is on the hunt, on the trail of somebody. You don’t know why, you don’t know what he’s doing there and that sense that something is out is also tied to the second part of the crucial story of Bond’s childhood,” says the director of the film, Sam Mendez, who returns to the franchise for the second time to direct yet another Bond adventure.
Even though not entirely clear at the beginning, the story which is to be uncovered in SPECTRE is not just another 007 one-off action; it is directly linked to the events of the previous films featuring Daniel Craig as Bond: “Ever since Craig slipped into the Bond tuxedo for 2006’s Casino Royale, something has changed. There is no reset button for Craig’s Bond. There’s continuity. . . . It’s now an epic . . . story told over the course of four films, with SPECTRE functioning as an explicit sequel to Skyfall.”
There are several features of the story that link back to the previous films: First, another aspect of Bond’s childhood is set to be revealed, possibly uncovering the connection between SPECTRE, sinister global criminal organisation, and Bond’s past. Also, Jesper Christensen reprises his role as Mr White, a villain character which first appeared in Casino Royale, reappeared in Quantum of Solace, and now comes back in SPECTRE to tie the loose ends of the Quantum organisation storyline. However, the most important return is the one of the SPECTRE organisation itself, connecting the latest Bond instalment with the classic 007 films and raising many questions regarding the main villain: Is Christoph Waltz’s Franz Oberhauser a new rendition of Blofeld, the head of SPECTRE? And what is his connection to Bond?
When it comes to the tradition of the Bond franchise – apart from sinister villain organisations – Bond girls are a must; in the Craig era one girl is not enough and SPECTRE is not an exception to that rule as it features two, very different, strong female characters: a young doctor Madeleine Swann and an Italian widow of an infamous criminal, Lucia Sciarra. When talking about her character, Madeleine Swann, the actress Léa Seydoux says: “She’s intelligent and very sensitive and human character.” Lucia Sciarra, on the other hand, is “an Italian widow with secrets; her Mafioso husband is killed and she risks the same thing happening to her,”comments on her part Monica Bellucci, who at the age of 51 breaks the stereotypical mould of Bond’s young love interests, becoming ‘the oldest’ – and probably the most sensual and charming – Bond girl to date. Even though both characters seem very different, “they both have great mystery [and] they both have depths,” creating great counterparts to Craig’s cold and distant Bond.
In Mr White’s words, SPECTRE’s Bond is “a kite dancing in a hurricane,”fluttering among SPECTRE, MI6, and the problems of his own past. The other characters which went through Skyfallwith Bond: M, Q, or Moneypenny, “help him and they all in different ways risk their careers and risk their livelihoods” for Bond. What is much different from the previous film is the fact that “Bond is the one who has more experience than they did and . . . he’s got a greater wisdom. And that’s very much what the movie is about: whether or not to pursue the life [Bond has] always pursued.”
The first impression of yet another return of Daniel Craig’s Bond is the familiar feeling of a grand 007 action adventure, although pondering about SPECTRE for a bit longer, some of the film’s issues start to come up to the surface. And this is exactly what SPECTRE is like: the Bond enthusiasts will definitely enjoy and appreciate Sam Mendez’s second 007 instalment; nevertheless, audiences unfamiliar with the Bond franchise archetypes might find the movie rather underwhelming in some respects.
SPECTRE offers everything a Bond film needs to have: plenty of fights and action, impressive vehicle fleet, (even more than one) Bond girl, a villain mystery (this time made double). But formally, the movie does not use its potential to the fullest. Offering a plenty of wonderful sceneries – including Mexico City, Rome, and the Austrian Alps – SPECTRE could make use of these and turn them into visually stunning jewels of the film; instead there is always a hint of the possibility, which is sadly never quite fulfilled.
The previously mentioned star cast does not disappoint, neither it surprises. Craig retains his Bond coldness accompanied by his trademark poker face, while balanced out by the passion and feelings of his Bond girls. Andrew Scott, in his character of Max Denbigh, channels vibes not dissimilar to his Jim Moriarty (BBC Sherlock), most of the time standing in for the main villain portrayed by Christoph Waltz, whose character sadly does not get enough screen time to allow for Waltz’s villain-portraying qualities to shine.
As for Thomas Newmann’s score, as usual it does not disappoint, however, many of the themes from Skyfall are repeated; on one hand, the soundtrack thus offers less new material, though on the other, it sets a certain level of familiarity between the film and the viewer, enabling the audiences to slip into the Bond movie experience more easily.
SPECTRE as a proper Bond movie retains the 007 standards in every respect; however, those standards are the reason why the film remains rather underwhelming. With SPECTRE the Bond franchise does not evolve, it rather stands still. Thus considering its predecessor, Skyfall, the 24th Bond instalment feels like a small step back.
Re:Views verdict: 70%
SPECTRE (Bond 24)
– in Czech cinemas from 5th November 2015
– Running time: 150 mins
– Directed by Sam Mendez
– Starring: Daniel Craig, Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Léa Seydoux, Dave Bautista, Christoph Waltz, Monica Bellucci, Andrew Scott,Jesper Christensen and others
– Official theme song & official website
–IMDB profile & Promo videos