"James Bond at 24" - Reviewing 'Spectre'

(L-R_ Daniel Craig, producer Barbara Broccoli, actress Naomie Harris and actor Christopher Waltz. (photo by Sean Gallup)

By Dominque Keith-Maher

The latest Bond movie, Spectre, opened up earlier this month, grossing, since it’s release date, 750 million dollars worldwide. Of course, this is no surprise given that it is a part of the James Bond franchise, which rarely falls short of bringing in massive audiences. What this film did manage to fall short on, however, was the body count. That, and some much needed depth in a few choice characters.

Bond was very pleasant for this film: he killed roughly an average of 15-20 people, all in kind and considerate ways: gunshot wounds for most, unintended bomb explosions for some, and a train disaster for another. This courteous and considerate Bond is definitely a symptom of his latest love interest, the lovely Dr. Madeline Swan. Her blond flowing hair, gorgeous accent and sweeping intelligence (she sports the “Dr.” title, so she must be smart, right?) is the latest “Bond girl” to sweep James off of his feet. This time, possibly indefinitely.

The duo travel across the world, in search of Spectre and the evil Franz Oberhauser, constantly being trailed by Mr. Hinx, the eye gouging, overtly large and two word super lingering villain. Bond and Swan uncover a plot twist that is so cliched, I swore I saw Tom Cruise sitting in the front of the movie theater pouting like an upset two-year-old.  But you have to get used to the cliches if you are going to see this movie. Favorite one liner, said dramatically:  “A license to kill is also a licence not to kill.” Annnnnd scene.

Sarcasm and jokes aside, Spectre is an overall good action film. As is true with all of the Bond movies featuring Daniel Craig, the visuals are fantastic, and the scenery is perfect. The women are lovely and have few lines and minor roles disguised as large contributions (our newest member stands pretty), and the large explosions and fight scenes are to die for, literally.

The combination of the writer, director and Craig manage to display a Bond that is aging adequately for an assassin at Bond’s age. No longer is Bond the flawless spy that lands perfectly as a train collapses behind him: he makes careless mistakes that set off a chain of reactions that consistently endanger his life and the lives of others. His instincts have begun to wane as he is led into traps (luckily in some cases); and as he is matched with someone a lot larger and younger that he is, it is clear that his physicality is diminishing. In short, when you go to see this film, be prepared to see Bond as a character who is reaching his end.

But that is not to dismiss his badassedness. Bond is still Bond and Craig is still Craig, which brings me to the sex scenes. One of the reasons why this movie isn’t a “great film” is partly the random sex scenes. Let’s be real: I’ve never murdered someone and my life hasn’t been in grave danger before, so I don’t know if those situations are great aphrodisiacs. But for Bond and his chosen love interests, they certainly are.

I am not sure if this is a way for the writers to make fun of Bond’s sex addiction or it was genuinely poorly misplaced, but either way, the sex scenes clearly disrupt the flow of adrenaline one normally gets from watching Bond narrowly evade death for two plus hours.

Let’s retreat a bit to discuss the woman who stands well. Dr. Swan and Bond apparently develop a strong relationship in the film. The reason why I choose to use, “apparently” is because I didn’t see this lifelong commitment coming. Yes on the sex, no on the commitment. Their relationship can be summarized in a sentence with a few semicolons: Bond endangers her life, then saves her; she hates him, then likes him (why??); she wears a gray dress, they fight, they have sex; she falls in love; he changes his life for her. Unless the sex was filled with Lucky Charms and pixie dust, there isn’t much supporting this relationship. The underdevelopment of her character causes their relationship to appear unnatural and strictly fabricated. The one major complaint that I have about this film is that it did not fully explain or paint a relationship that convinced me that this was the one that would really change Bond’s life. The others at least had some personality.

The one good thing that I will say about the film is that it managed to touch upon surveillance in a way that some action films did not execute well. This battle over surveillance between the Old World and the New World, although presented in a dualistic way, still managed to present a complex system where governments take into account the necessity of surveillance, yet block out the idea that total surveillance is the proper way of keeping a country safe. Targeting specific people and killing them is.

Overall, go see this film because it’s a Bond film. Yes, cliches galore, 2-dimensional women are everywhere and Bond doesn’t kill that many people, but again, it’s a Bond film. This franchise surpasses many of the other generic spy films because it has the normal spy film attributes, but it also displays a complex character as the dead-inside, PTSD-ridden, sex addicted, alcoholic individual that he is. Hollywood needs more truth. Go splurge on Bond.