Daniel Craig, all pursed lips and murderous glare, returns as 007 in a film adventure that seeks to wrap up everything that went before, writes Jay Stone
Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Running time: 148 minutes
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
By Jay Stone
James Bond is back, or at least he appears to be. That rather tightly-wound gentleman with a look that comprises — marvelously — both gastric distress and existential angst, the one with the pursed lips and jug ears, pinched but confident, oddly handsome and always beautifully dressed for the occasion even though he appears to travel with no luggage beyond his gun. It’s Bond, he insists. James Bond.
Daniel Craig, who burst into the scene in 2005 with Casino Royale, remains a dour presence in the new Bond movie, Spectre. He’s still all torment and glare, although he is allowed a few lighter moments, perhaps as a valedictory — Craig says this is his last Bond film. His more realistic interpretation of the iconic British spy, once hailed as a refreshing change from the baroque Pierce Brosnan years, has itself turned mannered: even Craig’s distinctive lurch, shoulders forward, arms dangling dangerously, has infected the rest of the cast. Ralph Fiennes, who plays the new M (Judi Dench having been dispatched in the previous movie), has adapted the Craig walk, as well as his attitude of indomitable pessimism.
The movie itself is a globetrotting mess. It’s been designed as both an origin story and a recapitulation of all that went before, as well as a critique of the modern world. That part is my favourite: the Double-0 department, made up of spies with a licence to kill, is being disbanded in favour of a new system of world-wide surveillance to be run by a prissy bureaucrat nicknamed C (Andrew Scott). It falls to M to defend the old, acoustic method of assassination, the golden days of having a killer look his victim right in the eye before he shoots him. That was spycraft. Not like the crap they try to sell you today.
Otherwise, Spectre flies madly off in all directions, bring it with it all the trademark tics and gadgets of the Bond genre: a fancy Aston Martin that fires flames from its tailpipes, martinis that are stirred rather than shaken (or is it the other way around?), exotic locales (Mexico City, Rome, Austria, Tangiers), sexy babes, and a mad villain who lives in an isolated redoubt and wants to torture Bond to death rather than just kill him. This is a big mistake, of course, and one you think wouldn’t be made by this particular bad guy, who has an inside track on the Bond legend.
His name is Oberhauser, and he’s played by Christoph Waltz with none of the flamboyance you might expect from this mannered actor. Oberhauser represents all of the Bond villains wrapped into one, and the result is a muddled bad guy who lives at the periphery of Spectre. Even his idea of torment — he’ll erase Bond’s memory, as if this was an Alzheimer’s drama — is no fun. Goldfinger would eat him for lunch.
As for the rest of it, Bond is on the trail of a shadowy organization (aren’t they all?) that is creating havoc all over the world. Disowned by his own bosses, he goes of with just a few trusted confidantes, including Ben Whishaw’ Q and Naomie Harris’s Moneypenny, the only people he can trust.
Along the way he meets up with several welcome new friends. These include Monica Belluci, playing the widow of a dead terrorist, who is being advertised as the first age-appropriate “Bond woman.” She has little more than a cameo, however, and her tryst with Bond takes place in front of a full-length mirror — Bond pressing against her so he can see his own face — creating a trope of narcissism that is irresistible. The main love interest is Madeline (Lea Seydoux, all recovered from the tribulations of Blue is the Warmest Color), who’s the daughter of another dead terrorist. You can see why Bond hangs around these guys: their legacies are stunning.
Director Sam Mendes, who did better with Skyfall, speeds us into and out of many glittering palazzos, luxury mansions and so on, but there is also an untoward number of dark alleys and crumbling warehouses in Spectre. For all his panache, this Bond is a sour creature and his world is both confounding and black.
He always looks good, however, and you can count on him to get the girl, kill the bad guy and not wrinkle his beautifully fitted suit in the process. Let’s see your new fangled killer drones try that.