Bond In Review: SPECTRE Part I

This will close out “Bond in Review” for a while. I still intend to, at some point, start with the first few films (Dr.No To Live And Let Die), but I decided to do this thing in a ‘mid-maraton’ so I’ve recently seen those films, and so I’ll wait a bit longer for a ‘refresh’ viewing and review.

“Skyfall” of course was a huge success, and so director Sam Mendes was asked to return for another film with Daniel Craig. This time, the film would bring  back SPECTRE, the criminal organization which faced Bond in the 60’s and 70’s (and also in the unofficial Bond film “Never Say Never Again”), and also tie it to the Quantum storyline from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace (and even a bit with Skyfall as well). The organization and it’s leader-Ernst Stravro Blofeld (The bald guy with the white persian cat) had pretty much been unused due to complicated rights issues, although Blofeld “sort of” showed up in the opening scene of “For Your Eyes Only”.

“Spectre” is the first Bond film to really open with a proper Bond gunbarrel, with a white background. “Casino’s” happened after the opening scene, and was hardly traditional, with Bond in a bathroom and casual wear; and both Quantum and Skyfalls were at the end of the film.

Although none of the Craig gunbarrels have used the ‘swaying’ effect (presumably the death of the guy pointing the gun at Bond). We then cut to these words:

Which, in a way, is very much one of the themes of the movie.

The film then cuts to a long, scrolling shot of the Mexican Day of the Dead festival/parade in Mexico city. Bond-in a skull mask and top hat reminiscent of “Live and Let Die’s” immortal henchman, Baron Samedi. He’s tracking someone-Marco Sciarra. The long shot continues for a while, but with two ‘cheats’-when Bond enters the hotel I think, and when he exits to take a shot at Sciarra.

Bond appears to be with a woman who wants to take him back to her hotel room, but Bond really just needs the hotel balcony to get a proper angle on Sciarra.

He overhears something about a ‘pale king’ before taking out Sciarra, which unexpectedly has an explosive effect-and Sciarra escapes. Here we see a bit that the film seems to be more humorous, as Bond offers a bit of a quip and lands softly on a couch after the explosion.Bond follows him again as he runs to a helicopter, leading to a tense action scene with Bond wresting with him on-board a helicopter with civilians below, the most civilian-endangering Bond helicopter scene since Tomorrow Never Dies. 

Eventually Bond is able to kill Sciarra, but then wrests a ring from his hand, with a strange Octopus logo.

Which then changes to the opening credits, with Sam Smith’s “Writing on the Wall”. Like SKYFALL, it’s sort of a melancholy song, but not quite as catchy. The “Octopus” imagery seen in the opening has gotten some criticism, but the Octopus is pretty much the signal of SPECTRE, and in fact would also inspire various other criminal organizations in fiction, most notably “HYDRA” in Marvel comics. The opening also shows footage from previous Bond films of Vesper, Le Chiffre, Silva and M (No Quantum stuff though!), stating in a way that it’s tying them all together.

We then return to London. The new M Mallory is not too pleased with Bond’s behavior, as this was not sanctioned. He orders Bond to stay in London. Mallory is already under pressure from Max Denibh, who wants to create a new intelligence agency called “Nine eyes” which will not require the 00’s. Bond dubs him “C”.

Moneypenny of course grills Bond about why he went to Mexico city, and we get a posthumous cameo from Judi Dench’s M, ordering the hit on Sciarra and telling Bond not to miss the funeral in Rome. She also shows him an old photo and records recovered from Skyfall, showing a photo of young Bond with a man and a third figure wih his face burned out.

Bond also stops by Q’s office with Tanner, and it’s remarked that the old MI6 building is being demolished.

Here, we get the reveal of Bond’s new car, the DB10, as well as a new watch. Bond also asks for Q to make him ‘dissapear’, although Bond has tracers in his blood to make sure he doesn’t stray from London (Somewhat similar to Casino Royale’s device)

Following M’s orders he attends Sciarra’s funeral in Rome, talking to his widow (Monica Belluci). He also appears to almost catch the eye of a man in attendance.

After the funeral she follows her back to her villa, where in a nice scene with classical music in the background, he takes out two men sent to kill her and starts to put the moves on her, starting to learn that Sciarra was involved in some ‘organization’. It should be noted that Monica at age 50 when the film was made is one of the older Bond girls, but honestly it’s not noticeable at all.

Although after this scene, she doesn’t really show up in the rest of the film. Bond sees that she’ll make it out of Rome safe, with the film name-dropping Felix Leiter. So she’s one of the few Craig girls to survive.

Bond-using Sciarra’s ring-is able to sneak into the meeting, where the group are discussing human trafficking, the drug trade, and also getting rid of somebody called “The Pale King” much like Sciarra. While the scene is nice and atmospheric, the nostalgic Bond fan in me wishes the SPECTRE guys had a bit of a number naming system like in the novels and earlier films (Blofeld was No.1 in the films at least, with others like Largo being no.2, etc.)

One of SPECTRE’s agents make his claim for taking out the Pale King by killing another one by headbutting him, gouging his eyes out and breaking his neck. His name is Mr. Hinx (Played by John Bautista) and he’s pretty much in the mold of Oddjob and Jaws-the strong, silent type.

However, Bond is compromised-by the chairman no less-who knows who James is-and Bond recognizes him, with disbelief.

Oberhauser: All that excitement rang a distant bell. And now, suddenly this evening, it makes perfect sense. Welcome James….it’s been a long time….and finally here we are….Cuckoo!

As the title card said, “The Dead are alive….”

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