Film Review: Spectre
In 2015, Sam Mendes released Spectre, the 24th film in the James Bond franchise. Starring Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen, and Alessandro Cremona, the film grossed $880.7 million at the box office. Winner of the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song as well as the St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Award for Best Song and the Empire Awards for Best British Film and Best Thriller, the film was nominated for multiple other awards including the Satellite Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Visual Effects, Best Art Direction and Production Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound (Editing and Mixing) and the Saturn Award for Best Action or Adventure Film.
After a suspension for making an unsanctioned hit in Mexico City, Bond finds a cryptic message from his past that leads him to a sinister organization. At the same time, M is fighting political forces in his efforts to keep the Double-0 program alive. However, Bond’s search takes him to the revelation of a group called SPECTRE that is seeking to take complete control of the world.
Not the worst entry in the franchise or even that of the Craig era, Spectre is a moderately decent film that not only brings back Bond’s greatest enemy, but the most sinister organization he’s ever faced as well. The film did very well in its core plot of showing how the previous films featuring Craig as Bond all fit together as one overarching plot, with SPECTRE being a remnant from the Quantum group in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace and Raoul Silva acting as either under contract or as an agent for the organization in Skyfall, where the disorder following his destruction of the MI6 offices and death of M made it easier for SPECTRE asset Denbigh to take control of British intelligence. Interestingly, it might also seem a bit laughable that Blofeld would have created SPECTRE to get back at Bond and MI6, but with the realization that the CIA was in bed with Quantum, its leader being former Mossad, and Canadian intelligence being penetrated, the only thing in Blofed’s way is MI6 and to get them out of the way, he has to remove Bond, their best operative. The setup and realization of everything that’s happened over the course of the four Craig films is very well done and makes for two-thirds of a great film.
However, the film practically falls apart in its third act following the destruction of Blofeld’s lair in Africa. It’s unfortunate as the film is displaying the strengths and talents of not only Bond, but M and Q, with the latter two confronting Denbigh, stopping the launch of his global network and killing him and Bond saving the girl and getting the best of Blofeld. Ultimately it ends up with an anticlimax where Bond all of that happens, but culminates in Bond chasing Blofeld by boat with the latter in a helicopter and the former able to down it by shooting it with a pistol and when the two of them come face to face for the last time, Bond chooses not to kill him. While it may be proving M’s point about a Double-0 agent having a license to kill and a license not to kill, Bond’s act of mercy makes no sense whatsoever, taking both the immediate context and his past into consideration. Within the film itself, Blofeld is the head of what’s practically a terrorist organization that’s caused the deaths of many and as a Double-0 agent, he should know that making the use of his license to take a life is the correct course of action. Further, taking his past into consideration, Bond has killed adversaries for much less and him sparing Blofeld’s life here only makes sense for the man to turn into his greatest nemesis in subsequent films.
As a character, this incarnation of Blofeld is also an incredibly mixed bag. On one hand, the film does well in making him into such an inhuman villain with him being a once sociopathic boy that murdered his own father for loving Bond when the family took him in as an orphan and following that created a criminal organization that finances and carries out worldwide acts of terrorism. Said organization also creates allies that involve themselves in human trafficking, prolong wars and erode governments. What's more is that when Blofeld is revealing all of this, he’s doing it with quite a lot of joy.
On the other hand though, while the villainous nature of Blofeld is very well seen, it feels the film laid all its cards on the table regarding the character. In the span of this one film, the man is first seen in the shadows, given an alias, exposed, has his face seen, gets his iconic scar and is established as Bond’s greatest villain. Compare this to how the character was treated in the Connery era. SPECTRE as an organization was mentioned in Dr. No, where Blofeld was never named or mentioned as the head with only his body being partially seen in the next film, From Russia With Love. Blofeld is then seen and heard in Thunderball, but only in the beginning with his face and voice effectively hidden. It’s not until You Only Live Twice, the fourth film with SPECTRE having an active role in anything, that Blofeld’s face is actually seen and that’s in the climax after it’s been obscured the whole film. This film effectively pulled a trigger that unleashed everything and did so too early when it could have easily done much more teasing in regards to the character. It might actually be the biggest indicator that the Bond franchise has lost much of the subtlety that made it such a well-loved series in the first place.
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