Film Review: Spectre

  
The twenty-fourth Bond film is at long last here. Daniel Craig returns for his fourth adventure as 007. Spectre has come in with a fair amount of expectation considering the success of its predecessor Skyfall. Does Spectre measure up as one of the top tier Bond films? Or is it among the ranks of Diamonds Are Forever, Octopussy or A View To A Kill? 

First things first. Spectre gets an automatic 1.5 points out of 5 from me simply because we have the iconic gun barrel back to open the film. I was fine with the creative method they used in Casino Royale but after Quantum of Solace and Skyfall both placed it at the end, I got worried that this would be the future. Thankfully that was not the case and Bond begins proper once again. Let’s add another 0.5 for the excellent pre title sequence. Most notably the opening shot of the Day of the Dead. I am not a fan of Thomas Newman’s scores for either this or Skyfall, yet the music for this first 3 minutes is brilliant. And the cinematography, while it is not Roger Deakins is very well done as well during this scene. 

  
How do you follow up Skyfall? This was a question on everyone’s mind going in. Skyfall brought new audiences to the series and it saw a financial success it had never seen before. However to Bond regulars like myself, it did not feel like a Bond film. A common train of thought was that Skyfall is a great film, not a great Bond film. I think this thought reflects my thinking as I loved Skyfall but it would not rank in my top 10 as seen on this page previously. Spectre attempts to satisfy both parties regarding this matter. The audience who wants a more light and traditional Bond film and those who enjoy the introspection and examination of Bond that began with Casino Royale. 

The problem is that in trying to serve 2 masters, Spectre ends up serving none. One thing it does have going for it is that is the most traditional Bond of the Daniel Craig era. You have Bond, a girl, a villain, his henchman and a big lair. Also car chases that unlike Quantum of Solace you can actually follow. It references the series history. Almost too much at times. I literally sat in my seat and could match up movie to movie. I think it was at least 5 references to past films. 

  
A negative I have about the film is that it really seemed lazily written. This results in the split personality the film has. It does not know if it wants to be like an old school Bond film or a deeper study such as Skyfall or Casino Royale. But one thing that the latter film has is balance of those elements and Spectre did not achieve that. Also what was lazy is tying the Craig era into 1 overarching story. I don’t believe they were written like that with the exception of Quantum after Casino, but it makes no impact on the film because it didn’t feel like a build up to this moment. Also it was way too long with moments that really felt inconsequential. I’m sure 20 minutes could have been shaved off for a leaner product.

As far as acting goes Daniel Craig is fine as expected as Bond. He has a few more quips this time around. Lea Seydoux as Madeline Swann was fine as well. Even though there could have been more of her. It seemed like there was a start to develop her a bit more but then it moves on we never really get too much of her. Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx was a fearsome force equal to Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me. There is a great fight scene with him and Bond and Swann on a train akin to From Russia with Love. Yet the end of that fight is basically a slide whistle moment from The Man with the Golden Gun. Lastly Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser. A man shrouded by mystery that’s part of Bond’s past. Honestly I wasn’t surprised by the film’s reveal here, but like the rest of the film it’s so blah in execution it could see it coming. Waltz, when actually given screen time of which there wasn’t much, is just as charismatic and engaging as he was in Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained.

  
Spectre is no where in the bottom tier of Bond films. It does not belong with Diamonds are Forever, Octopussy, A View to a Kill or Die Another Day. But for me I guess it’s in the middle. It tried to walk a line, but got its footprints all over both sides of the line.

Final Rating (3 out of 5) – Too long, fine acting, predictable moments, all over the place tone wise, great action scenes (particularly the pre title scene), played like a Bond greatest hits album.

  

The Bond Thing Finale Part 2

Moment of truth folks. My top 5 revealed!

5) Licence To Kill

Timothy Dalton’s second and final outing as 007 has him taking on Franz Sanchez. A drug lord responsible for the maiming of his friend Felix Leiter and the death of Leiter’s wife Della. It was a certain change of pace from previous entries. Drawing it’s influences from the 80s action films that were the standard at that time, we got a much darker and violent film than expected. Dalton was ahead of his time as Bond. It would take 16 years after this film before the world was ready for a serious interpretation of 007.

4) The Living Daylights

  

After A View to a Kill, the world was ready to move on past the campy route Roger Moore took with the character. We got Timothy Dalton. I love this entry because I feel Dalton was the only actor who got close to Ian Fleming’s character as written in the novels. This is a pretty much spy/espionage/international intrigue adventure. It’s dated a bit because of the Cold War references and Joe Don Baker’s Brad Whitaker is a buffoon of a villain, but I feel this is really a strong entry in the franchise.

3) GoldenEye 

 

 Bond is made modern after a six year gap from Licence To Kill. Pierce Brosnan steps in with the humor of Roger Moore and the physical presence of Sean Connery. For the first time in the series, the Cold War is a memory. This movie just does a bang up job at reinventing 007. Plus it brought forth one the best games ever for the Nintendo 64.

2) Casino Royale 

 

After Die Another Day, Eon Productions decided to go back to the beginning. The early part of Bond’s 007 career and Ian Fleming’s initial Bond novel. Daniel Craig takes over and gives such a fine performance as a blunt instrument who is slowly transformed into an ultimate weapon. Great action sequences which include a chase through Madagascar that is one of my favorite moments in the series. Bond goes back to basics and it’s a great ride.

1) Dr. No  

 

The first Bond movie was not the first one I ever saw. It is not the best. The Bond formula is raw. But it is my favorite. It stands out as our cinematic introduction to 007. It is iconic more than anything and that is alright with me. It’s a straight forward movie with a straight forward story. It is its own thing and because it’s a first effort has no obligation to its future. Sean Connery has such presence as he travels through Jamaica to find out about a missing collegue. If there never was another Bond film, I would be happy with this as it is the only Bond entry I watch more than once in the year.

And that brings a close to The Bond Thing. James Bond may return, but I certainly had a lot of fun and I look forward to the release of Spectre on November 6th here in the U.S.

The Bond Thing Finale Top 10 Bond Films Part 1

This has been a fun venture naming some of my favorite things relating to the Bond films. I know I fell behind with posting each day, but now we are at the big moment. My top 10 favorite Bond films. This is before I’ve seen Spectre so perhaps this list changes after I see it and I revisit. And yes folks there is some Roger Moore on my list. This is a list of the 10 Bond’s I enjoy the most. Not nescearily the ten I think are the best. 

Let’s commence with the mission with numbers 10-6. 
10) The Man With The Golden Gun 

 
9) Moonraker 

 
8) You Only Live Twice 

 
7) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service 

 
6) From Russia With Love 

 

The Bond Thing Days 16-20

Next up for The Bond Thing as I continue to play catch up, the countdown is my top 5 moments in a Bond Film.

5) “Now speak or forever hold your piece.” From The Man With The Golden Gun

  

Roger Moore usually gets a bad rap during his run for being too campy. My most recent viewing of his movies changed my opinion on his era as light-hearted and fun fare. He was however at time capable of using humor in some brutal ways. Here in The Man With The Golden Gun he points a rifle at a man’s groin to acquire information about Francisco Scaramanga. What makes this scene fun is that it is not an empty threat as Bond does fire the rifle to confirm that the sights were in fact off by one inch. See folks, Sir Roger is capable of being that brute that Sean Connery is praised for.

4) “That’s a Smith & Wesson. And you’ve had your six.” From Dr. No

  

During the briefing with M in Dr. No, Bond’s superior reminds him that he has a license to kill not get killed. In that same scene we see Bond get his now standard Walther PPK. And we get the see him use that gun and that license. In a pretty understated scene Bond sets up Professor Dent who is connected to the disappearance of MI6 agent Strangways by waiting in the dark knowing Dent will come to kill him. Dent arrives and empties his gun into the bed only to be surprised by Bond behind the door. They talk, Dent reaches for the gun and shoots at Bond. The gun is empty. And Bond does what he does best and shoots Dent dead. Ian Fleming made a cold blooded killer and we see his vision realized on screen.

3) “You left this with Ferrara I believe” From For Your Eyes Only

  

Sir Roger makes another entry here with another show of brutality that we didn’t get to see very often with Moore’s take on Bond. Bond cause assassin Locque to crash his car on the edge of a cliff. The chase before it is also pretty well filmed and tense. It’s pretty funny to see Roger Moore running up these steps to chase this car. But once the car is hanging over the edge, Bond tosses the pin that Locque left in the car when he killed Ferarra, a man who was assisting 007 in his mission. We hear the rocks sliding and Bond finished the job by kicking the car over the edge and Locque to his death. A rare dark moment in a light era of 007.

2) “Whoever she was I must have scared the living daylights out of her.” From The Living Daylights

  

This scene for me solidifies Timothy Dalton’s run as Bond. Which was over way too soon. It’s the capstone to the the entire opening of the film after the credits. Bond meets agent Saunders at an opera house to plan the defection of a soviet general. Bond is tasked to protect him from the sniper expected to kill him. It really feels like a pure espionage moment lifted right from Fleming. This scene is an adaptation of the short story from which the film gets its title. Dalton sells it perfectly and his interaction with Saunders at the end shows us this isn’t the aloof Bond we got with Roger Moore. This man doesn’t give a damn and it shows. Dalton was criminally unappreciated as Bond and this scene and movie are solid entries.

African Rundown From Casino Royale

  

Casino Royale reintroduces us to 007 by presenting us with his first mission as a 00-Agent. Bond is in Madagascar hunting down a bomb maker. The man soon flees and Bond is in close pursuit. This is a thrilling and breakneck chase on foot through the streets, a construction site and finally to an embassy where Bond finally has the man cornered. This is my favorite because we see the recklessness and abandon 007 throws himself into his mission at this early stage. This sets up where Bond begins and the rough edges are smoothed out by the end of Casino Royale.

The Bond Thing will conclude with my top 10 Bond Films.

The Bond Thing Days 11-15

Continuing my catch up, I present today my 5 Favorite Bond Theme Songs:

5) The World is Not Enough – Performed by Garbage (1999)  

An oily backdrop sets the tone for this title track that I never paid much attention to in the past, but this song really is one the highlights of the film. A key lyric sticks in my mind because it also was a line in the film. “There’s no point in living if you can’t feel alive.” Really poignant. It really shows how this could have been an awesome film during the Brosnan era.

4) A View To A Kill – Performed by Duran Duran (1985)
 

This is clearly an 80s song and it reflects the time perfectly. Sad that the film itself is one of series low points. But it’s the Bond film released in the year of my birth so I give it a pass. Plus I rock out big time to this when I play my music.


3) On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – Performed by the John Barry Orchestra (1969) 
 

An instrumental theme opens the 6th film in ther series. A brisk jazzy tune that plays as we recount Bond’s cinematic moments until that point. The worst part? It’s too short! If only it could make the 3 minute mark. But Barry crafted this perfectly to fit the tone of the film.


2) Goldfinger – Performed by Shirley Bassey (1964) 
 

This is the one that started it all. And probably the most iconic song in the series. Shirley Bassey commands the track on the first of her 3 Bond songs. I love the big band sound and the unabashed 60s vibe we get. Bond made a big evolutionary step with this film and the song matches perfectly.


1) Skyfall – Performed by Adele (2012)

 

Skyfall comes in at number one for me because it is almost a modernization of the sound we first met in Goldfinger. We all know Adele’s talent and she handles it well. This song basically gives us the direction this film was going in, yet it took a second viewing to catch that. Skyfall was the movie that really made Bond at long last a box office superstar and this song is the icing on that cake.

The Bond Thing will return with my 5 favorite Bond Movie Moments.

The Bond Thing – Day 6-10

So this is one of those weeks where life has gotten in the way, therefore I hadn’t been able to bring you The Bond Thing over the last couple weeks. Well today we are playing catchup.

This list will consist of my top 5 Bond Girls. Like the previous list it may not be in line with public opinion, but just my 5 favorite in the series.

5) Camille – Quantum of Solace 

 Because Quantum of Solace is so polarizing people tend to forget about Camille. Played by Olga Kurylenko, she is similar to Melina Havelock of For Your Eyes Only in that revenge is her story. When we meet her in the film she has already put her plan into action by appearing to work with Dominic Greene. She meets Bond and it’s clear that the two of them are on similar paths. There is even a great scene in the climax where Bond is tutoring her on killing someone for the first time. Camille is one of my favorite highlights from a mid-tier Bond Film.

4) Solitaire – Live and Let Die 

 
I’ll be 100% honest. I don’t think there is much if any character to Solitaire. This is purely a superficial pick because I find Jane Seymour so damn sexy. She was sexy then and still is now. Now that I’ve gotten my immaturity portion out the way let’s move on!

3) Honey Rider – Dr. No 

 
The first major Bond Girl has a iconic appearance and outfit. Honey appears about halfway through Dr. No and another piece of the Bond Formula is in place. Ursula Andress really gives a good performance as an experienced young woman who really can handle herself.

2) Fiona Volpe – Thunderball

  

Even though Thunderball is not one of my favorite films in the series, there is no mistaking that it has hands down the best trio of women Bond interacts with. Fiona Volpe is one of those and my favorite of the three. Played with energy by Lucianna Paluzzi, Volpe is a SPECTRE agent tasked with killing Bond. She is quite lethal and is one of the first and few women that really is an equal to 007 in terms of personality.

1) Vesper Lynd – Casino Royale 

 

This was a tough one. I didn’t know whether to choose Vesper or Tracy, Bond’s late wife. I decided on Vesper because what Tracy did in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, I felt Vesper did much more. By that I mean revealing the actual humanity to the man that is James Bond. Eva Green gives a passionate performance. One of my favorite moments for her is when she and Bond meet on the train and they are profiling each other. Bond feels he has the upper hand but when she breaks him down even though he is smiling we clearly see she has gotten to him. Vesper brings dimension to 007 and that makes her my favorite Bond Girl.

The Bond Thing will return with my 5 favorite Bond Theme Songs.

The Bond Thing – Day 5

Day 5 closes out this category with my favorite Gun Barrel/Pre-title sequence.

1) Casino Royale (2006)
  

My favorite sequence is the one that breaks with Bond convention by not only not having it to open the film, but have it built into the pre-title sequence.

It’s a really tense seen where a pre-Double O Bond corners a corrupt section chief and we get to see the 2 kills that are required to gain Double-O status. Shot totally in black and white we see how visceral Bond’s first kill is and how it is not an easy thing to do. Upon executing the section chief, we cut back to where his first target is not quite dead and Bond quickly turns and we get that iconic pose. In that moment Bond begins. 

So there is the first five days of The Bond Thing. The Bond Thing will return with the category of 5 favorite Bond Girls.