Release Date: November 12th
Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux
This must be up front. It’s time. Spectre should be the last James Bond film.
Don’t send your ‘Double-O’ section to hunt me down after making that statement, because this film, for all its faults, does have a good heart and I want this to be the final curtain for good reasons.
Daniel Craig is, once again, Ian Fleming’s 007 James Bond, trying to uncover the nature of a ruthless organisation, “Spectre”. Of any film series, this 53-year-old franchise has had more lasting gravity in the western consciousness than any other. But does Bond still hold true in a different age? Apparently so, by popular demand, this film harks back to more of the vintage Bond than ever before.
Many are quick to point out that Spectre is just many old Bond films rolled into one, and it is true that it is at times a clumsy effort compared with Skyfall, mainly because of a very convoluted plot. Spectre tips its hat in the direction of Live and Let Die (delightfully so), From Russia with Love and many more titles. Audiences everywhere call for a return to the world of the more classic Bond films and simultaneously want the new films to break the Bond formula. It’s an almost impossible line to walk for the filmmakers and it because of this expectation that the series has now been worn out.
There are great things about Spectre though. Thomas Newman’s score is unquestionably on par with Skyfall’s sizzling melodies. The opening sequence is pure genius and has some intriguingly brilliant symbolism. If this type of storytelling was more evident throughout the film it would have been the franchises most creatively told story.
Of all elements, it is Bond’s character arc in Spectre that is most deserving of praise. It is character which must be placed before anything else in a narrative and there are moments of brilliance in the writing, a meditative reflection on the more forgotten elements of the original character that Ian Fleming created. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Casino Royale are most similar to Spectre in this way. The famous quote from the original 1953 novel, Casino Royale, sums up the conflicting emotion of Fleming’s character that the film makers attempt to tap into:
“Surround yourself with human beings, my dear James. They are easier to fight for than principles."
What Spectre really needed to enhance this theme was more of Lea Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann with a longer on screen development between her and Bond. It also needed some serious cutting of certain sequences, particularly with Donna Lucia, the superfluous widow played by Monica Belluci (sorry Belluci fans). Had the film been streamlined, with focus more on these character elements it would have been extremely resonant as well as entertaining.
The reaching of an engaging moral high point for the character coupled with a sense of fitting finality to the climax, is why this is the right film on which to end the series. Even many years from now it may be watched as a chronological ‘last’ story. Daniel Craig knows this. We can see he wants out. Of considerable note in the lead up to the release have been his promotional antics that don’t need to be repeated. Personally, I think he’s given his all to telling this story and this is where he wants to leave it. Craig, and Bond are both victims of what people everywhere want; the Bond we had long ago, some kind of two dimensional fantasy we make into our own image.
The way that the four Craig films should be viewed is as their own retelling of the Bond stories, with Bond’s beginning, his zenith and, in Spectre, his end. They are a remaking of Bond culture for the Internet generation whilst simultaneously maintaining a strong sense of the old fashioned tangibility of its heritage, the larger than life panache that modern cinema so often lacks. Something old, something new, something borrowed something red, white and blue.