Haunted by the ghosts of movies past, the new Bond film is still a cracker Dir: Sam Mendes 2hrs 28mins (PG13)
Empires collapse, stock markets crash, dynasties die. Yet on one thing you can rely: the wheels of the James Bond franchise keep turning, said Stephen Dalton in The Hollywood Reporter. That was proved beyond a doubt with 2012’s Skyfall, the 23rd film in the series, which became the highest-grossing British movie of all time. No surprise, then, to find that the follow-up, Spectre, boasts the same leading man (Daniel Craig), same director (Sam Mendes), and same writing team. But has all “the breathless anticipation” for it been warranted? I’m glad to say, the answer is “yes”, said Brian Viner in the Daily Mail. Crammed with beautiful women, great gadgets, dazzling stunts and witty oneliners, Spectre is a “joyride” of a film.
“The dead are alive.” Those four words flash up onscreen to launch a breathtaking pre-credits sequence in which 007, clad in a skeleton costume, almost botches an assassination, said Robbie Collin in The Daily Telegraph. The words tell us that we are witnessing Mexico City’s deliciously morbid Day of the Dead festival; and they are also a reminder that “raiding its own mausoleum” has always been the franchise’s forte. Cue the regulation dressing-down from M (Ralph Fiennes); a threat to the existence of “the 00 programme” (from Andrew Scott’s smarmy civil servant); and Bond going rogue to track down the head of the Spectre crime syndicate, said Nicholas Barber on BBC online. Ring any bells? Whether Craig is wooing the sultry Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) in an Alpine clinic, or fighting off a henchman (Dave Bautista) aboard a luxury train, Spectre – the longest and, at $300m, the most expensive Bond film yet – feels all too familiar.
And Craig is feeling it too, said Time. In a recent interview he appeared tired with playing 007: “I’m not James Bond,” Craig said. “I’m not particularly brave, I’m not particularly coolheaded.” Adding, “the day I can walk into a pub and someone goes, ‘Oh, there’s Daniel Craig’ and then just leaves me alone, that’ll be great”. When he was first named as the new Bond in 2005 – taking over from Pierce Brosnan – “many questioned whether the blond-haired, blueeyed, gym-sculpted Craig was the right man for the job”, said Inquirer.net. Even director Sam Mendes was initially sceptical before working with Craig on Skyfall. “I thought Bond had become the opposite of what Daniel is – a slightly disengaged, urbane, jokey, eyebrow-raising, you know, a pastiche in a way,” he told the BBC. “But the intensity Craig has brought to the part has allowed the multimillion dollar franchise to be rebooted with a harder, more serious edge and won round many of the sceptics.” In an interview with Time in 2012, legendary ex-Bond Roger Moore even went on to describe Craig as the best Bond yet. “He’s quite brilliant. I wrote to Barbara [Broccoli] and Michael [Wilson] and said…they’ve guaranteed Bond another 50 years of life.”
Yet Craig recently said that he’d rather “slash his wrists” than play the secret agent again. Paradoxically, that sense of boredom, which filters through in his performance, “makes for a better Bond”, said David Sexton in the London Evening Standard. The careless air suits the callous spy. The trouble is that though the film pretends to explore Orwellian dilemmas about the proper limits of surveillance, it lacks any interesting “underlying idea”. What do you expect, said Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian. This is Bond, so of course the story is “deeply silly”. But with Craig on cracking form, a soft-spoken villain “played with gusto” by Christoph Waltz, and an explosive denouement in London, it’s all “uproariously entertaining”. And Craig has never been better or more human in the role, said Henry Fitzherbert in the Daily Express. He’s 47 now, but his age is a virtue, making him appear more vulnerable. Spectre has “everything you could possibly want” from a James Bond movie. For my money, it’s the best one yet.
Top five James Bond DVD/Blue-Rays (sic)
The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)
Although this film sometimes “falls rather flat”, it preludes the work of Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig. To understand the darkness in the modern Bond films, you’ve got to see this Rodger Moore classic, said Michael Hann in The Guardian.
Daniel Craig “remains Bond incarnate”, in one of the best 007 films yet, said Robin Collin in The Telegraph. The great Sam Mendes is also joined by his nine times Oscar-nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins to make “beautiful sequences”, from Istanbul to Shanghai.
Goldfinger is the film where James Bond as we know him comes into focus. “It features his most iconic line (‘A martini. Shaken, not stirred’) and a wide range of gadgets that would become the series’ trademark”, said RottenTomatoes.com.
Dr. No (1962)
“Of course, it’s dated – a Sunbean Alpine isn’t exactly cutting-edge transport – but the elegant playboy spy with just a whiff of danger was clearly here to stay,” said Tim Evans on Sky Movies. It truly made newcomer Sean Connery an international star.
“Brosnan’s right there, born to play the part. Perhaps by design, he captures a bit from each predecessor – the panache of Sean Connery, the cheeky humour of Roger Moore, the serious grit of Timothy Dalton,” said Doug Thomas in Seattle Times.
[Source: The Week Middle East, 1-7 November 2015, Issue 080. The Week is a registered trademark of Felix Dennis. Licensed by Dennis Publishing]