Can Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig keep making Bond movies?
Spectre feels like an old Bond film. And it’s awesome.
It’s got the henchman, the opening gun barrel sequence, and the dashing white tuxedo. It’s got the quirky torture scene and the ejector seat in the Aston Martin. It’s got M,Q, and Moneypenny. But what really sent me back in time was the inclusion of Spectre, the organization that the second best Bond of all time so famously had major dealings with back in the day.
Once again Daniel Craig absolutely shines as 007. He plays Bond how he’s always played him: tough, smooth, and vulnerable. One thing I couldn’t help but noticing was how old he’s gotten. Casino Royale came out in 2006, making it almost 10 years since he’s taken over the role. Something in me wants him to be Bond one more time, but only if it’s just as brilliant as the past two, not worse.
The movie begins with a quote reading “The dead are alive”, before opening on the Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico. The camera pans down and fixates on one character wearing a skeleton mask–all we can see are his eyes, and they’re noticeably blue. More on the eye motif later.
Obviously this is Bond, and he’s following somebody. I won’t tell you much more except that a helicopter’s involved and it does aerial tricks resembling a master gymnist.
In true Bond fashion he gets suspended for causing quite the ruckus, and the credibility of the “00” program is questioned as well.
Just like Skyfall, there’s a major theme concerning the old and the new–as if you didn’t already understand that from the film’s title.
There’s drones, surveillance cameras, and computers now, so why do we even need people anymore? Bond answers this question by constantly being in the light on things the newly merged MI6 is in the dark on.
This culminates in a scene where Bond drops in on a chilling meeting between the heads of Spectre. This was one of my favorite scenes, and I don’t care if you thought it was boring. The lighting, timing, and dialogue made me a nervous wreck. When Franz Oberhauser(Christoph Waltz) comes in, every head in the room turns to him, and there’s a deafening silence for an uncomfortable amount of time.
Mendes did an incredible job on this sequence. Truthfully I’m scared of this guy because a large room full of people seem intimidated out of their minds. It doesn’t help when Hinx(Bautista) comes in and practically gouges out the eyes of a member of the panel for failing.
Let me talk about the eyes motif for a second. Metaphorically and sometimes quite literally, there are eyes everywhere. The main conflict of the movie deals with a program called “Nine Eyes” that feeds footage of intelligence agencies directly to Spectre. Q asks Bond how he knows Spectre exists, and Bond replies “I saw it.”
Perhaps the biggest in-your-face offering of the eyes theme is Blofeld’s (yes he’s in it) scarred right eye. It happens, and his eye turns a chilling white, just like the old Blofeld of the early Bond films. What’s the meaning behind it? More on that later.
The scenery in the next few settings are reminiscent of old. There’s a train scene that oddly resembles “From Russia With Love”, and a wintery Austria scene that resembles “On her Majesty’s Secret Service”.
Sandwiched between these scenes is one involving an old hotel that Mr. White used to stay in. There’s an important moment where Bond wakes up in the night to see a mouse on the floor, staring at him. After a few seconds the little animal scampers off across the floor, into a mouse hole. This minute sequence is actually very important thematically, as James Bond tells a secrity guard that he’s “Mickey Mouse” earlier in the film.
After Bond notices this mouse crawling into the hole, he realizes that there’s actually a hidden room behind the hole with important information regarding Spectre. I’d never thought I’d say this, but Bond IS a mouse in the sense that he is figuratively going behind the walls of a hidden operation and exposing it to the light of day. Great job, Mendes.
After the train scene we’re taken to the central point of Spectre’s operations. The center is housed in an actual crater that almost resembles the Volcano in “You Only Live Twice”. It’s here where we really meet Olberhauser, who turns out to actually be Blofeld.
Bond really goes through it in these scenes. He’s tortured with these odd drills that penetrate his skull, affecting parts of his brain. This is a gentle nod to the “psychological” theme of the film–with Madeleine Swan being an actual psychologist as well.
Blofeld argues that the eyes are the most important part regarding the mind. He says the man who had his eyes so famously gouged out earlier in the film was not himself anymore after that moment. They are what make us, us. Psychologically nobody believes that Bond is on to something regarding Spectre, because nobody actually sees them.
All the eyes of the world are turned to the intelligence agencies, and it’s because of this that Spectre is winning.
The brilliance of Mendes is that he uses the most defining physical feature of Daniel Craig as a theme in the movie. The eyes are so important psychologically because they can both trick us or reinforce our belief in something.
The ending of the film is one of the most memorable in recent memory. Bond is in the middle of a bridge, with a gun pointed towards Blofeld. On one end of the bridge is M, and on the other is Madeleine Swan. He clearly has a choice to make between his job and love. Instead of shooting Blofeld, Bond throws the gun away, and chases Mrs. Swan–she actually lives. It’s a happy ending for Bond, and it ties everything off in such a way that I’m not sure whether I want this ending to be ruined.
A part of me just wants to believe Bond is happy.
This movie is tough to put my finger on. Yes, we see the return of Blofeld, memorable henchmen, and Spectre, but I wanted to see more of them.
Hinx, which is Bautista’s character, has this thing where he likes to crush people’s eyeballs with his thumbs. This is distinguishing enough, but couldn’t he do it a little bit more? It seemed like Jaws wrapped his teeth around anything he could find.
Mendes was going for that timeless henchmen, but to do that you really need timeless characteristics. Hinx was cool, but I doubt audiences will consider him a part of James Bond lore, just because he didn’t distinguish himself enough. I needed maybe two more pairs of eyeballs decimated for me to reconsider.
Now, let’s talk about Blofeld. Christoph Waltz offers up a noticeably un-bald version of the character. He’s definitely quirky, but once again Mendes needed to dump maybe one more cup of quirkiness into the mixing bowl for him.
Blofeld has a fascination with meteors, small drills that make people go insane, and killing parents. The torture scene is one I’ll never forget, and it made me cringe even more than the famous “cut-out-chair” scene from Casino Royale.
Lea Seydoux was beautiful in this film, and she’s one of my favorite Bond girls of all time. She’s strong, smart, and is impervious to Bond’s advances at first, which makes her a much tougher love interest than most.
Monica Bellucci was cool too, but her scene with Daniel Craig was awkward and I think her age caught up with her. She’s still beautiful, but something about it felt weird to me.
From a bigger picture, this movie is a celebration of Bond–but I’m afraid this is what ultimately accounts for its biggest failure. They were too busy trying to copy old aspects of the grand Bond movies that they forgot to make something wildly original and iconic in and of itself.
I’ll never forget Javier Bardem as Silva in Skyfall. He had this retainer-like thing that kept his face in place, and he had an off-the-wall personality that was unpredictable. Le Chiffre cried blood! I’ll never forget that.
With this one we got a regurgitated bad guy and a henchman that’s kind of like Oddjob regarding his strength. That’s not to say that Waltz didn’t bring more to the character, but we’ve seen him before.
One of the best things about Daniel Craig’s time as Bond is the connection between films. Quantum of Solace was a sequel to Casino Royale, and Skyfall was kind of a distant cousin of the first two. Spectre ties all these movies together. Remember that “organization” they talk about in Casino Royale and Quantum? That one is directly connected to Spectre.
Overall Craig offered us a vulnerable Bond that felt more like a person. Craig’s 007 really falls in love twice over the course of four movies, and it seemed inevitable that he would ride off into the sunset with somebody he loved, because that was a part of his version of the character since the beginning. This vulnerability is what elevated Craig’s Bond beyond Connery’s.
If you can remember, Casino Royale was when he first kills people, earning his 00 status in the first five minutes of the film. In “Quantum” Bond is still struggling with his duty of killing others, you can see it in his face during certain scenes. And then in Skyfall M dies, and Bond is severely affected because of it.
“Does it bother you, killing all those people?”
This quote from Vesper Lynd changed everything for Bond in Casino Royale. It does bother him. He does have a heart. He does care about his country. He does want to do the right thing.
Daniel, if this is in fact your last Bond, then it’s high time for a huge thank-you. You resurrected this cartoon character that famously surfed a tidal wave in Die Another Day into somebody more human that audiences could relate to. You did this while also keeping Bond suave, tough, and smart.
Here’s to you: The best Bond of all time.