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Wow! It’s been 3 years already? Huh. Time for another outing of 007, then!
MI6 agent James Bond returns for more explosions, girls and the return of some old enemies.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 9 years since Casino Royale, the first Bond film to star Daniel Craig. Back then there was an uproar over his blond hair and blue eyes along with his appearance which isn’t exactly un-handsome, but far more in the way a Laurence Dallaglio way than a Pierce Brosnan way. There still is a website called http://www.danielcraigisnotbond.com. A lot of people were really not liking his casting.
Yet here we are years later and I can freely say it. Daniel Craig is the best James Bond we’ve ever had. Not only is the man charming as hell, but his “rugged” appearance makes you believe this man could beat the snot out of you. He also has had some of the best acting in Bond history, particularly in Casino Royale, where he had to laugh while being tortured in a way I simply can’t describe and where Bond finally experienced love with a woman rather than feeling like he’d won a trophy for all the murdering he’d done. I like the classic bonds of the 60s through into the 90s in a more historical curiosity than genuine love. Craig has been my introduction to Bond.
And now his tenure is over. Yep, it’s over. Those people over in the Daniel Craig hating corner can stop typing and yelling and can see this past decade of darker, more complex Bonds which started as a reaction to Bourne, the terrible reviews of Die Another Day and 9/11 as an apocryphal part of Bond’s otherwise completely perfect and untainted history.
Can I blame them? It’s almost impossible to treat all of the “official” James Bond films (starting with Dr No in 1962, not including Never Say Never Again) as canon. I mean the guy changes his face every few years, pretty much never ages and whose origin story is 44 years into the series’ run! The only other explanation is that 007 was a time lord a whole year before Doctor Who began to air.
I honestly have no idea where Daniel Craig’s era lands chronologically in the series. All I know is that it feels like a four-part origin story that feels at once far-more self-contained and yet connected to the previous entries. Throughout, Craig is transforming little by little into the legend. What we need now is for the Young Bond series to come to the big screen for the prequel to the origin.
The title of this spy thrill-ride is in reference to (and I won’t give a spoiler warning as it’s pretty much integral to James Bond lore) the name of the terror organisation which acted as the mega baddy through many of Bond’s early adventures.
The main baddie is played by Christolph Waltz, one of my favourite living actors (oddly enough behind Javier Bardem, player of Skyfall‘s antagonist). Here he’s doing his classic super polite psychopath routine again which was always meant for roles like this. So he does a good job. The only problem is that he goes from being the nemesis of Bond who hurt Bond (or at least Daniel Craig’s Bond, depending on your view of the mythos) to someone with a personal connection to Bond. This comes off as forced and way too OTT. I can see why they did it. A personal qualm between Hero and Villain is something great stories strive for. But there is a point at which it becomes comical.
Spectre feels like a “proper” 60s Bond movie. The grit has been weaned organically away from the past 4 movies apart from the odd overly violent bit which shows us how brutal the world of spying is. In this way I feel that “twist” I just mentioned does make sense in the reality it is presenting.
This vibe continues into the Bond girls. Yes, spoiler alert, Bond still manages to find two attractive women in every single mission who are willing to sleep with him. You can call him a misogynist and a bad role model for men acting as the ultimate pubescent fantasy, but who cares, he’s James Bond, man!
These ladies come in the two traditional categories. The one who sleeps with the assassin for no reason after what appears to be some form of sexual assault and the main one that still goes to bed with Bond but has a bit more depth and a little bit of an attachment to her.
While these tropes are deeply, deeply unsettling when you stop and think about them, the way they handle it here, without much of the irony seen in this year’s Kingsman: The Secret Service and with actresses who seem to be at least close enough to Daniel Craig’s age, comes across as reasonably good. For some reason, though, I bought the “will-sleep-with-Bond-at-a-glance” lady’s relationship with our spy friend more seriously than the “main” girl. That is a sign something got a bit lost in the writing room when they tried to make the words “I love you” make sense!
The side-plots tie in quite well with the whole end-of-an-era feel, though by the end I believe some questions are still to be answered in future scrapes. Ralph Fiennes proves himself as a fine replacement to Judi Dench as M. Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw are simply perfect once again as Moneypenny and Q respectively.
The action’s really good. While I preferred Skyfall‘s lensing by Roger Deakins, Sam Mendes returns with Hoyte van Hoytema as his new DP to give a good look to this picture. The opening action sequence is arguably an upgrade from Skyfall and the opening number by Sam Smith accompanied by one of the greatest title sequences I’ve ever seen is a far cry from simply titles projected onto belly-dancers from From Russia With Love.
Let’s then rank the Bond films of my favourite Bond:
Casino Royale (2006)
Quantum of Solace (2008)
The flaws I’ve casually mentioned in the writing of this review aren’t enough for me to say this is a bad Bond movie, but I don’t think it’s as great as some people are saying it is and it certainly isn’t as great as Casino or Skyfall. I think I might marathon these movies when I have 10 hours free.
As much as I adore Daniel Craig as Bond in all these movies, he’s leaving at the right moment. Other Bond actors didn’t have the luxury of a story arc in their movies and left due to such factors as poor writing, lack of box office or the fact that they’ve aged beyond being able to realistically be a secret agent. I will probably never be James Bond, but I’m glad Mr Craig has had a good run in the Aston Martin.
Wait, is he not quitting till 2020? Internet make up your minds, I have a review to post!
Recommended Scenario: When you want to see some good old-fashioned beating of bad-guys.
P.S My pick for James Bond would be someone I’ve never heard of, to give them a shot at the title.
If what I have written tells you that you would like this film, you can book tickets to see it at your local Cineworld here.