Bond in Review: SPECTRE part III

Back in London, voting to enact “Nine Eyes” has passed, and M isn’t too pleased, while Max is beyond smug. I like that this film pretty much gave Ralph Fiennes’s M pretty much his own nemesis right out of the gate for him, allowing him to flex his acting muscles like his predecessor. As much as I like Bernard Lee and Robert Brown as M, they weren’t given that much to do except give Bond orders, worry about his mission was going, or berate him for either his behavior, quips, or not following the mission orders precisely or objectively.

Bond and Swann head to L’American-which is in fact a hotel where Mr. White used to vacation in North Africa, and may have some clue to where Oberhauser’s base of operations is. However, they find nothing. There’s a bit of development here, as Swann shows she’s not quite interested in Bond…yet, and they both get kind of drunk over some old drink of White’s.

However, Bond notices a mouse hole in the wall, which leads to White’s secret room-which includes some old mementos of Swann with her father (an old photo also shown in the title sequence), and for Bond, a video tape of Vesper being interrogated (Bond looks at it for a moment, but doesn’t watch it). Most importantly though, it’s got coordinates to Oberhauser’s base.

The next scene clearly indicates that Swann is a lady who can take of herself-part of the life of being raised by Mr. White with his shadowy connections and all that. There’s a fun little nod to Skyfall here as well .

Swann: What if I shoot you by mistake?

Bond: Wouldn’t be the first time…. (referring to Moneypenny shooting in the opening of that).

In London, M, Q and Moneypenny are coming to similar conclusions-that Bond is on to something. However, there’s little M can do about it now, since Max is pretty much taking control.

On the train, Bond changes into a white tux, an obvious nod to “Goldfinger” complete with red flower.

While Madeline also wears something a bit different. It’s obvious she’s starting to warm a bit to Bond  too. The scene here has some similarities to Bond’s dinner with Vesper after the game in Casino Royale, with her asking Bond why she chose the lifestyle of a 00.

Of course they’re so caught up in this conversation they failed to notice the car emptied (Probably the guests are all SPECTRE ‘actors’), and nearly miss Hinx charging on them.

Which leads us to another Bond train fight. Although in this case it’s a little less claustrophobic as they move from car to car, with blows and kitchen pans having no effect on Hinx at all.

Although wrapping a rope around him and weighing it down does, taking him out of the train. Although I doubt we’ve seen the last of Hinx, given how indestructible he’s been shown to be, and there’s precedent for returning henchmen with fellow mostly indestructible henchvillain, Jaws.

In the desert we get to Bond and Swann along the tracks, waiting. Is it just me, or does Daniel Craig wear sunglasses far more often than any other Bond?

Until they’re greeted by a sort of out of place Rolls Royce, and are taken to SPECTRE’s hidden crater HQ. Obviously intended to be an homage to SPECTRE’s similar base in You Only Live Twice, although IMO not quite as cool.

Here we’re properly introduced to our villain, Hans, and probably one of the biggest ‘small universe” moments in all of cinema. If you thought the Star Wars prequels went a bit overboard with connecting *everything* and *everyone* this is almost as bad, and sort of diminishes the previous three films. All though the scenes are sort of chilling with decent acting from Christoph Waltz, things are just a bit too

Basically Oberhauser is Bond’s stepbrother after his parents died and he was brought in by Oberhauser’s father. However, Oberhauser grew resentful of his father’s affection for James, and had him killed (The backstory is a slight adaptation of Octopussy’s backstory, with Hans taking the role that Smythe had in the original story) and he also faked his own death, then creating SPECTRE. By remarkable coincidence Bond then joined MI6, so Oberhauser somehow worked in a few ways to pain his stepbrother, including the whole mess with Vesper and M’s death (How exactly isn’t exactly made 100% clear, of course). He also goes by another name: Ernst Stravro Blofeld, based on his mother’s maiden name. He even wears a similar suit, and of course, the cat is back. Blofeld also reveals Max is his henchman, and that he’s behind “Nine eyes”.

The ‘needle torture’ scene, although far less gritty than the one in Casino Royale, is pretty nasty, and is actually based on part in a scene from the non-Fleming James Bond novel, Colonel Sun (Which also inspired “Die Another Day”) Specifically this passage (although in the context of the film, it refers to Hinx’s gouging of another man’s eyes in the earlier scene):

As you know all too well, dear Madeleine,
a man lives inside his head.That’s where
the seat of his soul is.Now, James and I were
both present recently
when a man was
deprived of his eyes.
And the most
astonishing thing happened.
Didn’t you notice?
He wasn’t there anymore.
He’d gone even though
he was still alive.
So in this brief moment
between life and death,
there was nobody
inside his skull.

However, Bond is able to escape due to his watch, which explodes and then sets off a chain reaction which destroys the crater base-and which Bond believes also kills Blofeld (The fate of the cat is, at the moment, unknown). However, Bond still has to stop “Nine eyes”.

This was, at the time at least, one of the largest explosions ever filmed.

Bond meets with M and co. at a safe house called Hildebrand-another nod to the short story the Hildebrand Rarity-where they start to work out a way to stop Nine Eyes, mainly by Q hacking into it. M and Q take on Max, with Q shutting down Nine Eyes and M having taken away Max (“C for careless”)’s ammo magazine. I’m not sure, but I think this is kind of a reference to Casino Royale opener, where Bond did something very similar to crooked station chief Dryden.

A brief struggle ensues, and that’s the end of “C” as he falls.

Meanwhile, Bond has problems of his own-Swann has left because she doesn’t want to get any more involved in Bond’s world, but both she and him are kidnapped by Blofeld, who is very much alive and now scarred similarly to Donald Pleasence’s version of the character. I’m surprised he’s not bald as well.

He’s given Bond three minutes ( a possible Goldeneye reference?) to find Swann before the old MI6 building explodes. Bond’s able to do so although Blofeld taunts him with shooting range stuff  with pictures of M, Vesper, Silva, Le Chiffre and Mr. White, as well as himself. Once again, poor Dominic Greene, as is Camille, is left out. I guess they want you to mostly forget Quantum of Solace ever happened.

Bond is able to find Madeline, escape in a boat, and also take out Blofeld’s helicopter, causing the villain to crash. However, Bond doesn’t kill Blofeld, instead having something else to live for.  M then arrests him.

Bond stops by Q’s office to pick up his old Aston Martin DB5, now fully restored after getting badly damaged in Skyfall, and then leaves-perhaps to retire with a life with Madeline. Although this is kind of a bit vague, but I guess it’s written as part of an ‘out’ for Daniel Craig, should he not choose to do another one (Still up in the air).

However, as those who know Bond history realize, the last time Bond tried to settle down, retire from Her Majesty’s Secret Service and left Blofeld alive, it didn’t exactly end well for him.

But we’ll see where that goes.

Overall, SPECTRE is sort of an average Bond film. The film’s humor and action is well done, as was the case with SPECTRE, although some of the grittiness of earlier Daniel Craig films is mostly lost as they try to be moving him even closer to the typical characterization of James Bond. Also, the story, which tries to tie all the Craig films together and reintroduce SPECTRE and Blofeld as the villains, comes across as a bit clumsily put together.

Right now, Bond is at a bit of a crossroads. While it appears the studio is eager to get underway on a new Bond film, Daniel Craig has still not made a final decision whether he’ll want to stay or not. During SPECTRE’s press tours he often made statements that he found the production very trying for him and his family (including wife Rachel Weisz), and he is getting older as well. It remains to be seen whether the next movie will continue with Craig-and possibly featuring another storyline involving SPECTRE (and possibly Madeline’s death?) or if it will feature a new James Bond, possibly suggesting another ‘reboot’ to the continuity, or perhaps, like the old days they’ll just ignore that the actor looks completely different.

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