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"Our Game Is Our Game, Mr. Bond"

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#1 Guy Haines

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Posted 18 November 2015 - 12:56 PM

I've never done one of these reviews before but here goes. And be aware it does contain some spoilers, so if you haven't seen the film yet.....you have been warned!


SPECTRE started out with a drawback unique in the Bond series, I think, in that thanks to the imaginatively named "Guardians of Peace" (or "GOP") much about it was in the public domain if one bothered to look as early as late last year. Did this spoil it for me? Not really, because I took the leaks with a pinch of salt. I expected re-writes and they happened.


As for the finished product - for the most part very good indeed in my view. A curious mix of classic 1960s/70s Bondery and the attempts at depth of character we saw in Skyfall. Not a perfect mix - some of it seemed a bit bolted on and out of synch with previous Craig Bond movies, particularly during the Rome car chase when there were a couple of very brief humour lapses. But for the most part the long time fan such as yours truly and the casual viewer could find much to enjoy.


Mr Bond undeniably a bit lighter in touch this time, but you still can't mistake Daniel Craig's blunt instrument of a Bond for Roger Moore's debonair gentleman. At times the attempts to make Craig's Bond into late Connery/early Moore seemed a bit forced but in the end this is still unmistakably Craig's unique take on 007, not a 90 or 180 degree turn in another direction. And I noticed that, like Monty Python's East End villains "The Piranha Brothers" - see first series of Python for them! - Bond uses.....sarcasm. And to M, of all people. Quote; "You're right sir. You do have a tricky day ahead." One of my favourite lines in the film!


The Ladies - Sadly, Stephanie Sigman's role is to turn up in disguise, take Bond up to the hotel room, wait to be seduced and be somewhat disappointed. Pity really. And when I noticed the main film poster listed "With Monica Bellucci" I knew that the famous Italian actress would be in what is basically a cameo, albeit a crucial one to the story, but she plays the part well - the black widow who thinks she's doomed and that Bond has made an already bad situation worse. How 007 gets her out of it is a nice touch.


Which leads us to Lea Seydoux as Madeleine Swann. Lovely and at the same time interesting and I think there's a part of that character that we still don't know yet - maybe we'll find out in a future film. Bond seems smitten - so does she but is she holding back something or has doubts she can't avoid about our man? Either way this fan has fallen for her!


The Villain (or "You Don't Have To Be Mad To Work For Him, But It Helps")


The subject of much speculation, including all kinds of convoluted stuff from me on this site. In the end the question of who he is was quite simply settled in a way I should have seen coming but didn't. We were expecting him, to coin a phrase. But at the same time he was who Christoph Waltz said he was. Then again, the film's called SPECTRE, we've had a thirty or more year wait for the return so a movie so titled without "himself" as the bad guy would be like Hamlet without the Prince, in my opinion.


SPECTRE the syndicate seems to have changed a little bit - gone with the times - terrorism of the dreadful type we have seen in real life in past weeks, white slavery, drug smuggling, political and financial corruption - but the board meeting seems like something out of an old fashioned horror film, all darkness at one end of the room with a supreme being you can't see. And what a waste of personnel - in the old days one had to have seriously messed up to get bumped off in the board room. Here? The typical death in the villain's presence seems to be a bit like the old football chant "Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough!"


As for the villain's fiendish plan - well on the face of it control of the world's CCTV seems a bit of a come down compared to hijacking Vulcan bombers or US/Soviet spacecraft. But this is likely what a modern version of SPECTRE would do - take over the world from within, infiltrate, force governments to give up the liberty of the people in the name of security whilst ensuring it has a head start on any plans to tackle its schemes, through corruption of the "Nine Eyes" combined intelligence project. In previous incarnations SPECTRE was an opportunist crime syndicate give to issuing "pay up or else" ransom demands. Now it is much more ambitious. It doesn't blackmail governments - its wants to covertly own and control them. This might not have the same visual impact as a volcano rocket base or a space laser beam, but is much more sinister - SPECTRE, the would be shadow government of the world.


And as for the villain - Christoph Waltz, like many playing Bond villains, isn't afforded quite as much time as we might like but makes the most of the screen time he has. He creates a villain of global ambition but at the same time focused on a petty personal issue with 007 - though admittedly not as much as many of us feared. The whole "big reveal" about his true identity, whilst crucial to the plot as only Bond knows his real identity at first, is in the end treated almost casually. "So you call yourself this now? So what?" seems to be Bond's attitude. It's as if the youthful connection was essential for Bond to track Oberhauser/Blofeld down - but once he's done the job the familial link is no longer central to the story. Its done its job in allowing Bond to find his nemesis - and Bond, notably, refers to the villain by the name he uses, as if that character's former life really did end in the Austrian snow.


It's a great performance from Waltz - a villain who is as contented torturing Bond like a youth pulling wings of flies as focused on controlling the world. There's a hint that in the end Ernst Stavro Blofeld can't really shake off Franz Oberhauser, a spiteful little juvenile delinquent of a man and failure as a person.


The Henchman - formidable. Built like a ten ton truck. A bit underused I thought. But Dave Bautista is fearsome, and if nothing else is Bond's most sartorially dressed muscle bound opponent. There's potential for a comeback in the next film, perhaps? We'll see.


"The Men (and Woman) From the Ministry" - Ben Wishaw has really made Q his own. I felt he did in Skyfall, but even more so in SPECTRE. Even though his Q is a youthful whizz there are traces of the old Q there. The pride in the Aston Martin. The reproach when Bond dumps it. But there's something new as well - the worry about his job all too present in real life. In the end he's an asset to Bond and the film. Naomie Harris has also made Moneypenny her own - she's not the woman who pines after Bond, more a female best friend and ally, but who has a life of her own (I was amused when Bond phones her up late at night and is amazed to find she's at home with a male partner - it seems it's OK for 007 to have a social life, but he is astounded when others he works with do!).


Rory Kinnear's Tanner is another underused character in the movie, which is a pity given he is a fine award winning actor. Maybe next film? And then we come to Andrew Scott as Denbigh - "C" and the entirely intentionally butt of as near a knuckle gag as ever we've had in Bond. Villain? Undeniably in the end - sorry if you're reading this and haven't seen SPECTRE yet. But his motives? Not quite the same as our main maniac I think. He struck me as a bureaucrat who regards the traditional way of doing things as an inconvenience and is even prepared to enter into a pact with the devil to get around this. His contemptuous remark about democracy betrays this. As a character, Scott portrays Denbigh as a young, over promoted high flyer, a legend in his own mind of the kind we all at one point encounter in a typical office environment. And did anyone notice his very dark eyes? Blofeld had them in the books - but "the eyes have it" with "C" in the film.


Ralph Fiennes as M - commanding but has not quite got Bond under control. But then again he's fighting his own internal battles to keep his department going. In the end he earns the respect of the old Whitehall team, and Bond, and pretty much has some effective scenes of his own, notably facing off against "C". And it's good to see how the team - M,Q, Moneypenny and Tanner - "Bonded" as it were in the end to fight a common threat.


My Enemy's Enemy - a special mention for Jesper Christensen's Mr White. Not quite in as fine a fettle as his first two films, but given a bit more time on screen and again a key player. We are still no nearer knowing who he really is and we never will now, save in one respect. It was a nice touch in this film attempting to tie up loose knots to bring him back and in the end there is almost a grudging respect between Bond and White.


 The Song and the Titles -though I'm a fifty plus fogie and I don't keep up with modern sounds, the song has grown on me. It has touches of the sinister we expect from a Bond theme. The lyrics are appropriate to the themes of the movie. That said, Sam Smith's falsetto takes some getting used to. The titles - erotic, exotic, downright weird at times. If the octopus motif was a bit overdone the "shards of glass" featuring past characters was a nice touch.


The music - I prefer Thomas Newman's new score to his previous. It is much more in keeping with a Bond score - the Monty Norman interpolations are more numerous, even though some tracks are undeniably derived from Skyfall. And the tracks musically depicting Lucia and Madeleine are exquisite. A good job.


The script and the storyline - a contemporary problem - intelligence, surveillance and the relevance of the field agent these days with a plan to subvert all this. But as with Quantum Of Solace and the water supply plot, it seems secondary to Bond's main aim of finding the man behind everything that has happened since his first Double O mission. Indeed the man who seems to be battling the attempt to control "everything" seems at times to be M himself. The script has several decent one liners, with M given the best of the lot - not one to be typed out at work or anywhere else though! Much has been made of the "lighter" approach in SPECTRE compared with previous Craig films, but in the end although there are nods in the direction of late Connery/early Moore humour, they are just nods. There are no double taking pigeons of gondola hovercraft in this film - it remains a typical Daniel Craig Bond film.


And it features some great set pieces. The Day of the Dead scene leading to an extraordinary helicopter fight - how they got away with that I don't know! The car chase across Rome at night - pure Bond-v-villain with the amusement of 007 having not quite got the hang of the DB10. The Austrian scenes - different as the aircraft chasing bad guys in cars was, I can't help thinking a trick was missed in not involving Bond on skis at some point. Quite how that would have been written in I don't know.


The fight aboard the train - several nods to previous Bonds there and a "Jaws" reference - but the movie not the villain. And the inevitable mayhem in the villain's HQ. (Which seemed a bit like a cross between an ultra modern hotel, and oil refinery with an amateur astronomy club's observatory stuck on for good measure :-) )


And then the final showdown back in London. People I've spoken to - not CBn-ers but friends who have seen the film - thought the end a bit of a let down. On repeated viewing, although it seems rushed, I can see why the film ended there. And as for the final meeting on the bridge - rather leaves things open ended, doesn't it?


Behind the camera It's all directed in a very accomplished manner by Sam Mendes and the cinematography is fine also, if seeming a bit bland in the desert scenes - probably not much could be done about that. The "one shot" Day Of The Dead scene in particular is well done, as others have commented. Mendes gets the best out of actors, but, undeniably I think the film doesn't have quite the emotional depth of its predecessor. In part I think this is because it is trying to be two films at the same time - a classic Bond movie of your dad's age (and mine!) and a worthy sequel to Skyfall, following up the themes of that film. It doesn't quite succeed at being both simultaneously - the classic era is in the past and some of the touches seemed to me a bit anachronistic, and Skyfall has themes in it probably best left in a one off movie about Bond than carried into a sequel.


SPECTRE is, however, a confident, very, very entertaining movie, well directed and filmed and for a Bond film, as with Skyfall, well acted. One can see there were script issues, but they were ironed out enough. It is in my top ten. I shall see it again - and again! - before its run ends. And I of course look forward to adding it to my DVD collection next year!


One more thing - of all the schemes for Ernst Stavro Blofeld to hit upon - controlling CCTV? One of the very things your own Guy Haines in his new role since last May gets the odd complaint about! Still, at least I know what to say next time it comes up on the doorstep - don't blame me - blame SPECTRE!

#2 Dustin



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Posted 18 November 2015 - 02:56 PM

One more thing - of all the schemes for Ernst Stavro Blofeld to hit upon - controlling CCTV? One of the very things your own Guy Haines in his new role since last May gets the odd complaint about! Still, at least I know what to say next time it comes up on the doorstep - don't blame me - blame SPECTRE!

Hah! For you SPECTRE has added value then.

Great review there, Guy; glad you liked it. Some fine observations re. M and Denbigh. I shall give them more attention on second viewing.

#3 Guy Haines

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Posted 19 November 2015 - 12:03 AM

One more thing - of all the schemes for Ernst Stavro Blofeld to hit upon - controlling CCTV? One of the very things your own Guy Haines in his new role since last May gets the odd complaint about! Still, at least I know what to say next time it comes up on the doorstep - don't blame me - blame SPECTRE!

Hah! For you SPECTRE has added value then.
Great review there, Guy; glad you liked it. Some fine observations re. M and Denbigh. I shall give them more attention on second viewing.

Take it from me Dustin, we have bigger problems at the moment - just glad SPECTRE hadn't bought into municipal waste disposal right now!

Oddly enough, the film mentions that Nine Eyes wasn't government funded but paid for by private enterprise. In other words "outsourced", something we encounter in local government all the time, along with "shared services" - and what is "Nine Eyes" if not a shared service?

When I go to see a Bond film I expect to be taken out of my world - not inadvertently reminded of it! ;-)

#4 DaveBond21



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Posted 19 November 2015 - 12:27 AM

Wonderful review - thanks Guy. I agree with almost all of your points and I am also looking forward to seeing it again in the next week or so.


Now get back to doing the job we elected you to do!  ;)



#5 chrisno1



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Posted 24 November 2015 - 02:28 AM

A very thorough review. I wanted to quote a few things, but it'd take me too long. Suffice to say, I did enjoy Waltz's performance, but you are right he has very little screen time - for most of the movie Bond is essentially chasing those 'shadows' so predominant in Skyfall - and that odd thing about being his 'step-brother' (I use the term loosely, he isn't, they were just two kids, one who hated the other) is treated casually by everyone - writers, actors, composer, etc.

I mean, why did they bother? It has no relevance to what Blofeld is trying to achieve. He has a plot, he has a goal, why mix into it some sibling rivalry? I can't take seriously a mega-bad-ass villain whose over-riding motive is jealousy evoked from two winters in his adolescence. 

Purvis and Wade tell us they are Fleming nut jobs, who read everything about him, love his books, etc etc - so what the hell were they thinking here? (well, maybe it wasn't them, but someone ought to have slung on the brakes in production and said "Why's no one mentioned this before?") This is the sort of psychoanalytical rubbish which doesn't deserve to be forcefed to a Bond audience. Generally OO7 is fun, thrilling and devoid of too much deep thought, that gets in the way of the action. Here it isn't just in the way, its completely irrelevant.

#6 Guy Haines

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Posted 18 December 2015 - 07:11 AM

Thank you chrisno1 and all who have replied so far. I too think the link between Bond and Franz Oberhauser is irrelevant, and I think the screenwriters gradually came around to that without junking the idea completely. It's there to allow Bond to identify the villain early on, even though he, Bond, is disbelieved by Q and Moneypenny, yet when Bond finally is reunited with Oberhauser it's as if it didn't matter. There's no "how could you Franz?" comment from Bond when Oberhauser reveals himself as the big bad - unlike the scene in GE when the ex-006 is revealed as the film's villain, to Bond's shock. Bond appears unfazed, unflappable when Oberhauser announces his new name. And Blofeld himself quickly explains how Bond was once the "cuckoo" in the family nest and acknowledges how young Bond's presence may have led Franz to kill Hannes and set the son off on a life of crime - but there's no "I set up SPECTRE to get revenge on you, James" scene.

There is, admittedly, the scene in the CCTV room when Blofeld says he is "the author of all your pain" to Bond. But I've argued on other SP threads that this is ESB clutching at coincidences - he couldn't have foreseen any of the deaths which caused Bond anguish, he just knew of them and taunts Bond about them.

But all of this could have been accomplished without the young Bond link - in the end it seems to have been added to give a "Skyfall" type motivation to Bond which, frankly, wasn't necessary when going after Blofeld. It's there if you care, but in the end even the writers decided not to make too much of it, imho.

#7 Professor Pi

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Posted 18 December 2015 - 05:16 PM

And if they wanted to do a twist, leave Franz as Oberhauser and Max is ESB.  Bond kills the villain, returns M's office and sees C stroking a white cat!