Saturday, November 21, 2015

007 James Bond: SPECTRE

Based on the novels of Ian Fleming, SPECTRE is the story of James Bond trying to uncover a criminal organization that is threatening the world just as the MI6 is under threat of shutting down. Directed by Sam Mendes and screenplay by John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Jez Butterworth from a story by Logan, Purvis, and Wade, the film has Bond encounter the organization that puts the world into chaos as Daniel Craig plays Agent 007 for the fourth time. Also starring Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, Dave Bautista, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jesper Christensen, Andrew Scott, and Ralph Fiennes as M. SPECTRE is a thrilling yet exciting film from Sam Mendes.

The film plays into not just the recent events James Bond had encountered with mysterious organization known as Quantum but it all finally ties together when he not only uncovers what Quantum is part of but who is running this secret organization. Even as it relates to not just Bond’s past but also the emergence of a new world order as MI6 is being shut down by a new organization that wants to put the entire world under total surveillance. For Bond, this new criminal threat as well as the possibility of MI6 being shut down not only prompts him to go at it alone against the advice of M but also lead him to clues as it relates to a man named Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) whom Bond had known as a child and thought had died.

The film’s script doesn’t just play with Bond coping with aspects of his past and the new threats he is dealing with. He also is forced to go alone as MI6 are unable to be directly involved as M, Q (Ben Whishaw), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), and Bill Tanner (Rory Kinnear) are all under surveillance from this new organization that is to replace MI6 where M had to fight to keep MI6 going. While Bond would create things that would put MI6 under further scrutiny such as the film’s opening sequence in Mexico City which has him trying to go after an assassin that is related to this secret criminal organization under the orders of the previous M. He would also turn to an old nemesis in Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) who would reveal not just what Quantum had become but asked Bond to protect his daughter in Dr. Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux) who knows some things about what her father did as she would help Bond.

The script would also play into the growing sense that the world is changing as it makes Bond and M uneasy where the latter has to deal with Max Denbigh aka C (Andrew Scott) who wants to get rid of MI6 for a joint security organization as he believes surveillance on everyone is good for the future. It plays into this conflict of the old ways vs. the new ways where Bond is a representation of the old ways as he is about trying to figure out what is going on and make the decision to pull the trigger if necessary. While M and Bond do agree that their old tactics do have faults, they at least produce results which does prompt the latter to go deeper into what he is trying to uncover and why Oberhauser is alive. Even as it becomes clear about what is trying to do and why he is targeting Bond of all people.

Sam Mendes’ direction is definitely thrilling from the film’s cold open which begins with this intricate and gripping tracking shot where Bond is at the Day of the Dead ceremony in Mexico City as he is watching out for an assassin. It definitely opens the film with a bang while it establishes what Bond is going after and what it will lead him to. Shot in several locations such as Mexico City, Rome, London, Tangiers, and the Austrian Alps, the film does play into the emergence of a new world order emerging where there are several things happening while Bond would travel by himself as he is aware that he’s being watched under the new rules forcing his associates to cover for him. While it is largely a suspense film with lots of action and extravagant set pieces, Mendes does know where to slow things down as well as play into the formula that is often expected with Bond films. There are elements of humor in the film which definitely gives a nice balance to the action as it often comes from Q and Moneypenny while infusing bits of drama and character development into the story.

Notably the relationship between Bond and Dr. Swann as the latter is hesitant to trust Bond but realizes what he is doing while being the one person that could bring some redemption for her father. Mendes’ approach to compositions with its usage of medium shots and close-ups do help build up the drama while the wide shots allow Bond to be wherever he’s at to cope with what he’s facing When the film’s third act takes place in Tangiers where Bond and Dr. Swann with Oberhauser, it is clear that something is up but also there is a lot more that is being revealed. Especially in what he is up to where some of it isn’t surprising but it does have this payoff that Bond is up for a challenge with so much at stake. Overall, Mendes crafts an enthralling and entertaining film about a spy saving the world from an evil criminal organization bent on creating a new world order.

Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography from the usage of the exterior lights for scenes set in Rome and London as well as playing up to some of the cold atmosphere of the scenes in the Alps as well as some crafty interior lighting for scenes in Tangiers. Editor Lee Smith does excellent work with the editing as it is straightforward while knowing when not to cut while creating some unique rhythms and jump-cuts for some of the action sequences. Production designer Dennis Gassner, with set decorator Anna Pinnock and supervising art director Chris Lowe, does amazing work with the design of places where Oberhauser conducts his business and meetings as well as Bond‘s home apartment and other rooms such as Q‘s workshop.

Costume designer Jany Temime does nice work with the costumes from the dresses that Dr. Swann and the other women wear to the Tom Ford suits that Bond wears. Hair designer Zoe Tahir and makeup designer Naomi Donne, with prosthetics makeup designer Mark Coulier, do terrific work with look of the characters in terms of the hair and such as well as the look of a character late in the film. Special effects supervisor Chris Corbould, along with visual effects supervisors Steven Begg and Mark Curtis, does fantastic work with the special effects as it relates to some of the action sequences along with some of the hacking devices from Q.

Sound designers Christopher Assells, Ann Scibelli, and Peter Staubi, along with sound editors Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg, do superb work with the sound to play into the many sound effects that occur in the action sequences as well as in some of the film‘s quieter moments to build up its suspenseful moments. The film’s music by Thomas Newman is wonderful for its bombastic orchestral score that play into the action and suspense while knowing when to be low-key for its drama while creating some variations of the franchise’s theme music. The film’s song Writing’s on the Wall by Sam Smith is an OK song that has its moments but Smith’s singing is just terrible.

The casting by Debbie McWilliams and Nicole Schmied is great as it features some notable appearances from Stephanie Sigman as Bond’s date in Mexico and Alessandro Cremona as the assassin Bond goes after in Mexico. Monica Bellucci is wonderful as the assassin’s widow Lucia who would give Bond some crucial information about Oberhauser while Jesper Christensen is terrific in his role as former Quantum figure Mr. White who would also reveal Bond some information as well as urging Bond to protect his daughter. Andrew Scott is fantastic as Max Denbigh aka C as a government official who wants to get rid of MI6 for a new security organization as he brings a smugness that is just fun to hate. Dave Bautista is superb as Oberhauser’s henchman Mr. Jinx as a henchman that doesn’t say anything but uses his actions and power to do the talking as he’s a fun henchman to watch.

Rory Kinnear is excellent as MI6 chief of staff member Bill Tanner who aids M in trying to keep MI6 from being shutdown while Naomie Harris is brilliant as Moneypenny as M’s secretary who helps Bond uncover some information that would relate to the secret organization. Ben Whishaw is amazing as Q as Bond’s quartermaster who provides him with some inventions and stuff while providing some witty banter that is essential to the series. Ralph Fiennes is incredible as M as Bond’s boss who copes with not just Bond’s tactics but also MI6 being shut down where he tries to deal with C and maintain his idea of the old ways.

Lea Seydoux is remarkable as Dr. Madeline Swann as Mr. White’s daughter who joins Bond in uncovering the secrets of this organization while being someone who is very smart and not afraid to throw down where Seydoux brings some depth to the character. Christoph Waltz is phenomenal as Franz Oberhauser as this mysterious man who knows Bond very well as he is the mastermind of this organization where Waltz brings a lot of charm and personality to a villain that could be Bond’s greatest opponent yet while bearing many attributes that is typical of the old ways but reinvent for a new world order. Finally, there’s Daniel Craig in a sensational performance as Agent 007 James Bond as this spy who is trying to save the world from evil where he copes with not just elements of his past but also in maintaining the role that only he knows as it’s changing for an uncertain future. It’s a performance that his Craig not only be the badass and be serious but also display some humor which shows he’s having fun as it’s definitely Craig at his best.

SPECTRE is a marvelous film from Sam Mendes that features Daniel Craig in another winning performance as Agent 007. Along with a great supporting cast that include standout performances from Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, and Ralph Fiennes as well as thrilling action sequences and sprawling technical work from its crew. The film definitely stands as one of the finest films of the James Bond franchise in terms of its entertainment value as well as provide enough intrigue for audiences to be captivated by. In the end, SPECTRE is a riveting and exciting film from Sam Mendes.

James Bond Files: The EON Films: Dr. No - From Russia With Love - Goldfinger - Thunderball - You Only Live Twice - On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Diamonds are Forever - Live and Let Die - The Man with the Golden Gun - The Spy Who Loved Me - Moonraker - For Your Eyes Only - Octopussy - A View to a Kill - The Living Daylights - Licence to Kill - GoldenEye - Tomorrow Never Dies - The World is Not Enough - Die Another Day - Casino Royale - Quantum of Solace - Skyfall - No Time to Die

Non-EON Films: Casino Royale (Climax! TV Episode) - Casino Royale (1967 film) - Never Say Never Again

Bond Documentaries: Bond Girls are Forever - True Bond - Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007

Sam Mendes Films: (American Beauty) - (Road to Perdition) - (Jarhead) - (Revolutionary Road) - (Away We Go) - (1917)

© thevoid99 2015


Chris said...

I also had praise for the cinematography. I was entertained and agree the surveillance idea felt up-to-date, although I thought Waltz was bland and the ending was underwhelming. I didn’t want all that homage to the older films, though I realize some people think that’s fun.

ruth said...

I wish I could agree w/ you here Steven. As a big fan of the Bond franchise I find this to be lacking in so many ways. The villain and Bond girls are lame, underusing the talents they have at their disposal. The cinematography is the only thing going for it, and that opening scene is indeed superb. If only I could say the same about the entire film.

thevoid99 said...

@Chris-I don't mind homages to older films as long as it says something in the story while I think what Mendes and the writers are going for is something that is to continue. I liked what Waltz did as it really plays into exactly the kind of villain Bond needed to face and more.

@ruth-I understand your qualms as I think expectations were high after Skyfall. I wasn't expecting much other than just a Bond film that was entertaining and I got what I wanted. Plus, I think this is just setting up of bigger things to come.

Alex Withrow said...

Great review! I'm not sure why this movie is being slightly shit on. I dug its slower pace. It was more of a thinking man's Bond film, which I appreciated. And yeah man, that opening tracking shot was insane.

thevoid99 said...

@Alex-I didn't think the film was slow or overlong. Then again, I was having too much fun watching it and investing in what was happening. Plus, it had the tone of the Bond films of the past as well as this sense that everyone is having a good time. And yes, that opening tracking shot was fucking great.