Spectre – Review

Seydoux in Spectre.

Seydoux in Spectre.

– Don’t you see I’m grieving?
– No I don’t.

At the cinema, sometimes you just want pure entertainment. You want the biggest screen possible and that overflowing popcorn bag.

This week was all about the release of Spectre, the latest James Bond episode directed by Sam Mendes and starring Daniel Craig as 007, the agent with a “licence to kill”. After the last episode, Skyfall, Spectre seems to be a continuation of what we started to discover about Bond’s past.

Following Dench’s M’s death and her replacement by Ralph Fiennes who “grounds” him in England on account of his insolent behaviour, Bond (another elegant, focused and dark performance by Daniel Craig) is already planning a new escape and, whether he wants to or not, needs to face his demons. We learn that elements of his past may be linked to a large rogue organisation that is trying to control the world, this time through global surveillance.

A new director of security, C (played with annoying smugness by Andrew Scott), threatens to close down the “double 0” programme and replace human intelligence with machines and cameras. This ambition, we learn, is actually the work of Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) whose only hobby, it seems, is to terrorise. Bond’s path leads him to Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), who helps him find clues that lead to Obserhauser and his destructive world of surveillance.

A large part of the fun when it comes to Bond films are the locations. In Spectre, Sam Mendes takes us around the world again – from London and its calm but electric night lights and empty streets at dawn, to Mexico City’s Día de Muertos parade and its mix of blacks and orange-reddish colours, and from Rome’s luxiously lit hills and narrow streets to the Moroccan dessert and city of Tangier.

A very strong sequence takes place in the Austrian Alps, where the emptiness of the snowed in mountains is balanced with the advanced technological centre where Bond and Q meet Swann. Next to this modernity, the train ride that Bond and Swann take in Morocco is beautifully vintage. Those costumes! Bond’s brown suit next to Swann’s white silk outfit at the isolated Moroccan train station are visually outstanding.

There were some interesting shot choices throughout the film, like the tracking shots in the opening sequence and in Rome, following Monica Bellucci through her home (the actress was terribly underused in this movie!).

The fight choreography is also impressive. Even though I didn’t enjoy the mexican helicopter fight so much, the one on the Moroccan train made up for it, as Bond was truly threatened.

Apart from Craig, a big selection of theatre actors light up the screen during this film: Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear, Andrew Scott and of course Ben Whishaw as the lovely cat-loving Q. Waltz’s villainous character is quite old school: yes, the fear that surveillance represents is very current, but the image of the villain being able to press a button to destroy the world has been seen many times. I think I preferred Javier Bardem’s Skyfall villain for his darker psychological weight.

My personal highlight in this film was Lea Seydoux. She mixes grace, independence and ambition as Madeleine and her knowledge makes her similar to an agent herself. While I do like her staying with Bond, I can’t help but wonder how it would have been with Bellucci’s Lucia.

I believe this is the final episode for Daniel Craig, whose Bond has fallen in love. With so many questions about his past answered, and his hesitation at killing his nemesis, will he continue?

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