A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.
It’s easy to say you’re a James Bond fan these days. Truth be told, Daniel Craig helped bring Bond back to the world of realism after Pierce Brosnan’s final debacle “Die Another Day,” in which his Bond escaped a tidal wave by parasailing off a melting glacier and then saved the world from the villain’s space laser. Not since the days of Roger Moore had a Bond film succumbed to such ridiculousness and as such, Mr. Brosnan was shown the door. Enter…Daniel Craig. A relative unknown, he made a big impact in 2006’s “Casino Royale,” which was a welcome return to form for Bond. Gone were the pithy one-liners and for some, it was a little too much. While it’s good to remember that Bond is an assassin, the occasional throwaway line helps to relieve tension in many of his cold-blooded kills.
“Skyfall” was the first James Bond movie to make over $1 billion dollars at the worldwide box office so I’m sure the producers were concerned about finding a story that could live up to its predecessor. Well worry no more. While “Casino Royale” was a magnificent, rip-roaring adventure, “SPECTRE” is Craig’s first real outing as the British spy. The end of “Skyfall” introduced us to the world of Bond we’ve all come to know and love; Miss Moneypenny’s office, situated directly outside of M’s, Q’s lair, filled with memorable gadgets and Bond’s quick wit which thankfully, the producers have brought back. This is the Bond we have witnessed throughout his progression over the years and it was sadly missed in Craig’s last three outings.
At the behest of an old friend from Bond’s past, he pays a visit to Mexico during the Day of the Dead to track down and kill a bad guy named Sciarra. He does so but only after destroying an entire building in the process and once back in London, Bond is questioned by M (Ralph Fiennes) as to why he was there, unofficially. Bond is, as usual, evasive with his answers and as a result, is taken off active duty. According to M, the head of the Joint Intelligence Service, C (Andrew Scott), is at his wit’s end after Bond’s Mexico fiasco and is considering shutting down the 00 section once and for all, calling them obsolete.
Having managed to take a ring from Sciarra before his death, he enlists Q to decipher the hidden codes embedded deep within it and asks Moneypenny to do some research for him while he disobeys M’s orders and makes his way to Rome. Once there, he meets Lucia (Monica Bellucci), Sciarra’s widow and after seducing her, she informs Bond how and where to track down a man he has been searching for for a very long time, her late husband’s employer who goes by the name of Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) and who runs the mysterious organization known as SPECTRE. After a brief introduction and escape through the city streets of Rome by Oberhauser’s henchman Hinx (Dave Bautista), Bond discovers the location of the elusive Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), one of his enemies who made his first appearance in “Casino Royale.”
White informs Bond that he left SPECTRE because he felt that Oberhauser was becoming too unstable and he feared for his daughter’s life, Madeleine (Léa Seydoux). Before taking his own life, Bond assures him that he will look after her but only on the condition that he gives him Oberhauser’s location in the desert. After an exciting chase in the snow-covered Swiss mountains, Bond rescues Madeleine and they make their way to Morocco where he finally comprehends who Oberhauser really is, a face that goes all the way back to his childhood and one that has caused him grief throughout his entire life.
For me, a Bond movie is not a Bond movie if it doesn’t include the quintessential gun barrel sequence at the beginning of the movie, in which Bond walks out in front of us, seemingly unaware of our presence and then quickly turns and fires at us, followed by blood trickling down the screen. “Casino Royale” had a somewhat alternate opening that actually worked but both “Quantum of Solace” and “Skyfall” had this sequence placed at the end of the movie, a huge no-no in my book. The gun barrel sequence helps set the tone, it always has and always will and I was praying that they would finally return Bond to his former glorious self. Thankfully, they did.
“SPECTRE” feels like the Bond movies of old, but without the exaggerated set pieces and over-reliance on far-fetched and nonsensical gadgets. Daniel Craig has never been better and Christoph Waltz relishes his role as the ultimate Bond villain. I have to give kudos to director Sam Mendes for bringing Italian actress Monica Bellucci into the Bond universe. For a woman who is in her fifties, not the typical temperament audiences have become accustomed to in a Bond girl, she puts most of them to shame by simply standing there in her conservative funeral attire, not the long-established, time-honored, scantily clad bikini. Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw as M, Q and Moneypenny, respectively, have assumed their roles admirably, even though Judi Dench’s M, Desmond Llewelyn’s Q and Lois Maxwell’s Moneypenny will never be forgotten.
In theaters November 6th
For more info on James visit his site at www.IrishFilmCritic.com