Increasing surveillance across the world and across institutions becomes the theme in Spectre, the latest James Bond adventure. It would make George Orwell turn over in his grave, observes M (Fiennes) to O (Scott) after O reveals his plan to get 13 countries to agree to share their intelligence information with one another. And we agree when we see an attempt to extend surveillance inside Bond’s brain later on to destroy certain memories.
Now, however, Bond (Craig) is in hot water with his chief, M, after taking it upon himself to stop a terrorist attack in Mexico City. Granted, there was considerable damage and bad press, which Bond doesn’t deny. It’s just that his superiors are not aware that he has prevented a terrorist plot from coming to fruition. That is, he has gotten onto the current scheme of his old enemy, Oberhauser (Waltz), who seems to have disappeared, but maybe not. Knowing he is up to no good, Bond is determined to find him and sabotage his plans.
This will involve trips through multiple countries, leaving a trail of destruction behind, including humans, buildings, cars, helicopters, and planes. When Bond calls on a Mr. White in an isolated cabin in wintry Austria, whom he thinks can lead him to Oberhauser, he has to promise to protect the man’s daughter, Dr. Madeline Swann (Seydoux). Her life is in danger after White began to have second thoughts about the activities of Spectre. But he also gives Bond information about how to locate Oberhauser.
In many ways, Spectre is like the previous films in the series with the super heroic protagonist, the electronic gadgets in labs and cars, the need to buck the bureaucracy, thrilling car/helicopter/plane chases, unbelievable hand-to-hand combat, and beautiful women. Unfortunately, when these components are repeated over and over in films across the years without much creativity, they get a ho-hum response. As my friend and editor Evan Zimmerman observed, “If the filmmakers would spend less money on special effects and invest more in the script, it would be a much better movie.”
There are clever jokes and quotable quotes sprinkled throughout the story, such as, “She wouldn’t let death get in the way of her job”, spoken by Bond about M (Judi Dench), who died in the last film, but left a message to Bond to listen to after her death. There is a toast “To death”, spoken by one terrorist to another about a planned attack just before Bond shoots and kills them. M tries to counsel O with “The license to kill is also a license not to kill”, advice that it not heeded.
It may be that this franchise has run its course. Daniel Craig has voiced his thoughts about it, implying that he doesn’t want to act in the next film, even though he has signed a contract for it. The filmmakers (director Sam Mendes, the actors, musician Thomas Newman, and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema) are all gifted, but unless they can bring more creativity to future productions, they run the risk of appearing dated.
Go if you are a diehard James Bond fan.
Grade: C By Donna R. Copeland