Sunday, November 22, 2015

Spectre: Bond's Past, Present, and Future

The thing I love about the recent spate of Bond movies is that it features women I can actually respect. No simpering Bond girls here; instead it's a parade of women who can hold their own against 007 and give as good as they get. I am well aware that this is far from being the point of a Bond film, and based on some reviews, many men were grossly disappointed in Spectre because it didn't feature as much action or plot as they would like. But as far as I'm concerned, Spectre has everything I want in a Bond movie. Action, gadgets, romance, betrayal, and Daniel Craig.

Spectre serves as the culmination of the three movies that preceded it, and Bond is wrapping things up after the events of Skyfall. The villain he faces this time around, Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), is the head of the shadowy crime organization Spectre and has a mysterious connection to James's past. The two men are heading for a final showdown in the movie's third act, but along the way James has a brief dalliance with Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci) and then meets Dr. Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), who might be the woman he has needed ever since Vesper's death in Casino Royale (spoiler alert!). Back home in London, MI6 is being undermined by new management, thanks to the zealous Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott), who thinks drones and government surveillance solve everything and the 007 program is an antiquated notion. James certainly has his work cut out for him.

Every actor is delivering a pitch perfect performance and this is a quintessential Bond movie. Daniel Craig goes through the film with the right amount of brute force and cool elegance as he engages in action sequences that are epic in scope and satisfactorily death defying. M (Ralph Fiennes) is constantly snipping at and protecting Bond, Q (Ben Whishaw) exasperatedly provides help and tries to withhold his precious gadgets and cars from James's destructive grasp, and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) grudgingly has to save Bond's life as per usual while trying to have a life of her own. Lea Seydoux gives Madeleine Swann the right amount of vulnerability and self-possession to make her the perfect romantic foil and partner in crime for our hero. And Christoph Waltz is the ideal Bond villain, complete with a furry white cat, who delivers idiotic pronouncements with the required gravitas and manages to push all of James's buttons while ensuring his own destruction. 

Spectre might be Daniel Craig's swan song. While I would never object to him returning for about a dozen more Bond films, with this movie it seems like he has completed the arc of this particular iteration of 007 and it's now time for someone else to grab the reins. This movie featured all the old school Bond tropes but with updated modern characters who didn't feel like tired caricatures. If Craig doesn't return, I can only hope the franchise continues to feature a Bond who isn't afraid to get tangled up with powerful women and serve Her Majesty's Secret Service in as charmingly disrespectful a manner as possible. 

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