After more than 50 plus years of martinis, girls, guns, and gadgets you might think Bond is over and done. Not true, not true, not for a second and it continues with the latest installment “S.P.E.C.T.R.E.,” a direct sequel to 2012’s “Skyfall” and the fourth installment with Daniel Craig.
Continuing with the rebuilding the myth of Bond that began with Craig in 2006’s “Casino Royale,” to rebuild the myth of the hero also meant well, we must rebuild the villains as well. So what is S.P.E.C.T.R.E. you ask? Is it a terrorist organization? Is it a secret society? Does it link all of the past Craig Bonds together? Does it tie in to Bond’s past? Yes, yes, yes, and that’s classified.
Also back on board, becoming one of the few directors to do more than one turn in the director’s chair, Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes (a director who was greeted with mixed reaction until his excellent Bond debut). And does he pull out all the stops you ask? You better believe it! From an over the top chase/fight/shootout in Mexico City, parts of which look like they’re done in one continuous take, an edge of your seat car chase through the streets of Rome, to a plane/car chase through the Austrian Alps. Obviously sparing at no expense to dazzle us all, maybe that’s the explanation as to why the film, according to insiders could be not only the most expensive Bond of all time but THE MOST expensive film ever made. At a rumored $300 to $350 million-dollar budget even James Cameron is shaking his head in disbelief. But not resting on spectacle credit Mendes for making sure that his Bond villains are top notch. Picking the second straight Oscar-winner to take their place as Bond’s nemesis, Christoph Waltz who plays the head of the mysterious S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Franz Oberhauser. Who is he exactly you might ask? Well, you’ll have to see it to know for sure but let’s just say his real name and identity has links to Bond’s orphan past and will have Bond’s many fans fist pumping in the theaters going: YES! And then we have our “Bond Girls” the amazingly sexy Monica Bellucci (yes amazingly sexy at 51, the eldest to play a Bond girl, breaking the record of Honor Blackman, who was 37 upon her Bond debut) and the breath takingly intense French actress Lea Seydoux who is also tied in with this mysterious organization who….RATS ALMOST CAUGHT ME! Not gonna say a word, you’ll just have to see it yourself.
Now the question some will ask is how does it compare with the last outing “Skyfall.” Does it match-up or surpass it? Is it worth the budget? Is it worth the three plus years of waiting to see the follow up to the most successful, in terms of gross, awards, and critical acclaim, of ALL of the previous Bond films? Sadly no, no, and no it doesn’t come close. The plot seems to drag on a bit too long then there’s a subplot involving the new “M,” the always great Ralph Finnes, trying to keep the “00” active and the new head of MI-6 from shutting them all down. It’s a worthy pay off but by the time it comes you just want them to get on with it! Stop the bad guys and blow stuff up already! It walks and crawls when you want it to sprint.
But finally you have what has been my biggest complaint about Bond and I know many of his fans will debate me on this, Craig himself. Finally, after four outings and 9 years showing something that ALL of his predecessors remembered to do with Bond that Craig had forgotten: SHOW A SENSE OF BLOODY HUMOR It looks like he’s finally having fun with the role thankfully, just check out the action/reaction he was with the new “Q (an ever wonderfully droll Ben Whishaw).” But despite of that he still brings his usually beat you with my bare hands approach that made him the obvious choice of the EON producers and execs who were obviously reacting to Bond’s new American competition, Jack Bauer and Jason Bourne. But he still makes you long for the old days of Bond who seemed to manage to save the world with smirk, a vodka martini, and a cell phone that turned into a machine gun. The campiness is gone with Craig; it’s partly welcomed by the new generation but for those who grew up with Bond, like myself, too bad.
But is this the last outing for Craig as Bond one might ask? Judging by the ending, which I WILL NOT even attempt to say a word about, maybe? And judging by recent comments/interviews with Craig (recently quoted in London’s “Time Out Magazine” as saying “I’d rather slit my wrists than play Bond again, I’m over it at the moment”) I’d say no. But then again…..who knows? His predecessor Pierce Brosnan ousted from the tux and Aston Martins after four films as well. Not many actors have managed to have the impact on the character, so even if it is his last, it’s a worthy exit.
Written by Jason Greathouse
3 ½ out of 4 stars
A cryptic message from the past sends James Bond on a rogue mission to Mexico City and eventually Rome, where he meets Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci), the beautiful and forbidden widow of an infamous criminal. Bond infiltrates a secret meeting and uncovers the existence of the sinister organisation known as SPECTRE.
Meanwhile back in London, Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott), the new head of the Centre for National Security, questions Bond’s actions and challenges the relevance of MI6, led by M (Ralph Fiennes). Bond covertly enlists Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) to help him seek out Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), the daughter of his old nemesis Mr White (Jesper Christensen), who may hold the clue to untangling the web of SPECTRE. As the daughter of an assassin, she understands Bond in a way most others cannot.
As Bond ventures towards the heart of SPECTRE, he learns of a chilling connection between himself and the enemy he seeks, played by Christoph Waltz.