The hotly-anticipated 24th installation of the Bond franchise has arrived. It’s fair to say the film’s flashy marketing campaign and its record-breaking theme song have been all over the British press the last few months.
But behind all the smoke and mirrors, the film asks a real question. Do spies have a place in the modern world? Is James Bond’s life of posh cars, beach babes and a tax payer-lined expensive suit really an attractive premise? It would seem not in the Bond world.
Sam Mendes’ second attempt at directing a Bond follows directly on from the previous edition, Skyfall which looked at how the double 0 agents made sense in 21st century Britain, but this time the threat is imminent.
The film opens in Mexico, the words ‘the dead are alive’ appear and foreshadows the appearance of one of Bond’s own skeletons in the closet.
The first three or four minutes sees a single tracking shot following a skeleton mask-clad Craig at the beginning of his fourth Bond outing as he walk through the Day of the Dead celebrations, woman in tow, of course. He heads into a hotel, a bedroom and out on the balcony, gun in hand. All of that without one single cut away – For me, that was a great moment.
From that first shot it is very clear to see a different style from Mendes, rather than shooting with new technologies like 4K definition, the action is shot on 35mm by cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema. There was a real difference in texture throughout which gave a real eerie overlay to the whole production.
Bond headed to city on the orders of former M (Judi Dench) who returns for a brief cameo to give a message beyond the grave to assassinate contract killer, Sciarra with the expressed orders not to ‘miss his funeral’.
This means Bond has to head to Rome but his actions in Mexico did not go unnoticed and is grounded by the new M (Ralph Fiennes).
Managing to persuade Q to tell a white lie about his tracked location, Bond heads for the Italian capital and discovers that the man he killed in Mexico is part of a conspiracy that slightly ties together the plots of Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall. This adventure in Rome leads Bond on a zigzag trail to put a stop to the criminal organisation, SPECTRE and its secretive leader Franz Oberhauser (played by the brilliant Christoph Waltz).
Writers Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan and Jez Butterworth have seriously gone to work to make a return to some classic flamboyant Bond moments. A fist-fight in a helicopter, a late-night dash through the Roman capital with the cars to match, a fight scene in a dinner carriage of a train and a spectacular villain hideout in a meteor crater, if you’re a die-hard Bond fan then the formula is complete.
But if you’re like me and slightly cynical, I tend to look for a bit more depth to the plot, unfortunately you don’t get it. I think Craig is tired of being Bond and has certainly been vocal about it. His chemistry with new Bond girl Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), who is a doctor, is not present. It seems like her only purpose is to look lovely in a silky nightie although, that said, she does look lovely in the garment. The scene where they whisk off in the sun together at the end of the film comes across as if Craig is taking his daughter off to university.
Despite this there are some great performances elsewhere. Waltz is a true Bond baddie, he plays it on the camp side but his plot to take over the surveillance world sees the Bond series almost go full-circle and make a return to the traditional Bond films we know and love. The additional return of a henchman in the form of Hinx is great viewing and is almost a modern Jaws and Oddjob combined into one.
Andrew Scott as Max Debbigh or C (yes, his name does mean what you think it is), plays a truly arrogant almost under-baddie but almost repeats his performance of Jim Moriatry in BBC’s Sherlock.
If you’re like me and slightly cynical, I tend to look for a bit more depth to the plot, unfortunately you don’t get it. I think Craig is tired of being Bond and has certainly been vocal about it.