Film Review: James Bond in Spectre
Editor: This review contains some spoilers about the film. If you just can't help yourself - be warned!
The 24th instalment in the James Bond movie franchise, Spectre, was released in British cinemas exactly a month ago - deputy correspondent, JWH98, watched it a day after release and gives this review:
When Spectre was released in the UK on October 26th, I was buzzing with anticipation: after all, this is the 24th instalment in the astronomically popular James Bond motion picture series which began with Doctor No fifty-three years ago! Both the posters and subsequent television trailers captivated me to watch it for myself ? and, overall, I was not disappointed by the end product that awaited me on the big screen. Despite the rather disjointed plot, which left me wondering why Bond decided to spare the life of the malevolent Franz Oberhauser (aka Blofeld) instead of mercilessly shooting him on a bridge across the Thames, the action scenes were simply terrific as usual along with Daniel Craig's convincing performance as the heroic British secret agent.
I watched Spectre with my grandma and auntie at the Regal picture house in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, on the night of October 27th (during Autumn half term, of course). The screen itself was virtually full with eager viewers, the three of us included, which came as no surprise considering the blockbuster film we were about to view.
After what seemed like an eternity of the usual advertisements of cars, deodorant and other movies, the familiar sight of Bond firing through the barrel of a pistol appeared ? this was somewhat absent from the previous instalment in the franchise, the otherwise excellent Skyfall (released in October 2012, this marked Judi Dench's swansong as M due to quitting the role and being replaced by the acclaimed Ralph Fiennes for Spectre and beyond). The opening scene - Bond concealing his face behind a skull mask whilst accompanying a mysterious woman at the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico City - was gripping because I initially assumed that this figure was in fact the villain and not Bond himself, as his identity was masked. Of course the chase, which culminated in 007 grappling with the pilot of a helicopter a mere few hundred metres above Mexico City's central square, was of epic proportion and instigated my high hopes and expectations for this film.
Next came the whimsical, dreary and very slow-paced theme tune, Writing's On the Wall, sung by the young British musical superstar that is Sam Smith. Personally I would have preferred a more adrenaline-pumping rock theme performed by a band such as Muse, akin to the superb theme tune to 2006's Casino Royale (You Know My Name by Chris Cornell, the former frontman of metal rock band Soundgarden), to heighten the audience's excitement.
After the theme song and opening credits subside, Bond returns to London and holds a brief meeting with M (as well as meeting C, who turns out to be the secondary villain) before jetting off to Rome where he visits the widow of Sciarra, the assassin who he kills in the opening sequence. Sciarra's widow is portrayed by Monica Bellucci, the Italian actress who I thought would star as the main Bond girl: I was proven wrong, however! The predominate female star of Spectre is actually the daughter of the elusive rogue Mr. White, Dr Madeline Swann (played by French actress La Seydoux). She is discovered by Bond in the European Alps, subsequent to her father committing suicide in front of Bond to rid himself from the effects of thallium poisoning. Bond is tracked to the Alps by the shrewd but fairly comedic Q, played for the second occasion by 35 year-old Brit Ben Whishaw, who plays considerably more of an integral part throughout this Bond movie than he did in the previous one since he is instructed by M to carefully trace the movements of 007.
The newly-formed couple of Bond and Swann are then whisked from the mountainous terrain of the Austrian Alps to the sun-scorched bay of Tangiers in Morocco; a sudden change of scene that seems quite needless in my eyes. Nevertheless, this change of scene is relevant to the storyline - they locate Mr. White's secret room within the L'Americain Hotel, taking the train to Oberhauser's complex deep in the arid Moroccan desert. The torture scene that happens during Bond's encounter with Oberhauser/Blofeld is frankly disturbing and isn't intended for the faint-hearted: strapped to a chair and utterly helpless, a pair of needles are inserted into the temples of Bond's forehead which led to some of the audience trying to avoid catching a glimpse of the hero yelling in pain as needles are drilled into his skull!
Although Bond and Swann both manage to escape from the clutches of Oberhauser once again by exploding his desert retreat, they stumble across him once more in London when their aim is to arrest 'C', who really shouldn't have been in the plot whatsoever, in order to prevent his hacking organisation Nine Eyes from going online. Predictably, Swann is rescued from underneath the damaged MI6 headquarters, 'C' accidentally tumbles off the edge of a skyscraper to meet his end and the primary villain is apprehended by M and his secret service authorities. Despite his helicopter being destroyed, Oberhauser manages to survive (albeit he is scarred and blind in one eye) which, in my opinion, is possibly the most unrealistic moment of the entire film. Finally, Bond and Swann drive through London in the closing scene aboard a classic Aston Martin DB5; essentially a throwback to the films starring Sean Connery in the 60s.
To conclude, I did indeed enjoy Spectre as a spectacle; its action scenes were exhilarating and well filmed yet the plot was disappointing and not up to the standard of most Bond movies. Therefore I would rank it 3rd out of the four Craig outings as Bond, but it is still a film worth watching if you get the chance.
Rating: **** (4 stars out of 5)
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