Perhaps this is a bit of a 'weird' topic at this stage. But I do think however that it wouldn't be a bad idea to sum up all the things that director Sam Mendes and his producers actually did right
with this 24th Bond installment. I think that too many times we're spiralling down into "comparison sickness". Perhaps this is a result of the social-media heavy environment we're living in. And perhaps mostly it's because people really don't like this 24th Bond film.
What I refuse to believe though, is that "SPECTRE" only works in the first half of the running time. For me "SPECTRE" was a an entertaining TGV-train that passed me by so fast, that I couldn't believe afterwards this was actually the longest Bond film of the franchise. I left the cinema on such a high note, with such good feeling. I understood the story, the plot. So one can feel a bit disheartened if he/she reads mostly negative reviews.
Therefore, time for some proper appreciation in which we shamefully mention all the good things "SPECTRE" gave us. A true appreciation thread with sometimes objective, but also subjective opiniated arguments supporting the wonderful entertaining quality this film gave us.
I like to kick off my appreciation with some of my favourite scenes. Some of these elements were quite similar to "Skyfall" and "Casino Royale". But I think the slower, more 'deadlier' moments of "SPECTRE" were actually the highlights.
"The Dentist Drill Torture"
If someone has read a bit about Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Ian Fleming's novels "Thunderball", "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and "You Only Live Twice", then you know that he is much more psychotic than, let's say, Silva and Le Chiffre. Those villains more or less were brandmarked by their pasts, but were also acting out of pure desperation and hate. So that sets this particular torture sequence apart from, for instance, the Rope Torture Sequence
in "Casino Royale".
Having said all this, I just loved the newly re-imagined way of Blofeld not directly fighting Bond, but using machinery and buttons instead. The sequence felt like the more lush, luxury version of the rope torture sequence from "CR" or the Boat Dragging Torture
from "For Your Eyes Only". And for me it was especially cruel and psychotic when he detailedly describes the killing of the previous SPECTRE-head. I liked it when he was fascinated by the fact that he tried to kill the soul earlier than the actual body. Slightly gory, but so was "Skyfall". And those tiny little droplets of blood attached to these miniature dentist drills. Won-der-ful. Highlight of the film! Brings me to the 2nd highlight....
"The S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Board Meeting + Killing A Member"
I was glad that the board meeting worked so well. Together with the cinematography, the lighting and all the shadows the scene reminded me a bit of Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut
" and several of David Fincher's films. It started off rather 'ordinary', like another of those top secret Bilderberg meetings (which this S.P.E.C.T.R.E. is slightly modelled after). Dr Vogel does off course the German introduction and talks about all the successes of the pharmacy acquisition (possible biological warfare plot for the future?).
When then the Spanish S.P.E.C.T.R.E.-head is being challenged by one hell of a big man: Hinx. Perhaps the nicest introduction ever of a henchman. What follows next is the prelogue to the killing of the Spanish member. Hinx has a signature weapon....his steel thumb nails. And then it happens: Hinx grabs the poor man, pushes out / destroys the man's eyeballs. Leaving a lot of blood. You feel the soul leaving his body. And then, in an instant, Hinx kills the man entirely by snapping his neck. Won-der-ful-ly re-imagined S.P.E.C.T.R.E.-meeting and not as cheesy as Austin Powers feeding a man to the sharks.
"The Train Fight Sequence"
Off course this scene pays tribute to past Bond films. But what especially worked for me was the fact that I haven't seen Bond so...vulnerable. Finally he's not someone's equal physically, and he has to use other methods than his bare fists. The fight is as elegant -or not as elegant- as the stairwell fight sequence
from "Casino Royale". And you see him suffering, even hearing him moan as Hinx tries to use his thumbs again.
But the fight sequence particularly works because it's set in two parts. During the 2nd part Madeleine joins and Thomas Newman's track 'Hinx' (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oup3E5xfG5Q
) kicks in. It works deliciously. The strangling makes Madeleine suffer and moan too. And as this fight sequence is quite long, it therefore really never feels long. The final scene is very funny then, when Bond manages to make Hinx say one final word: *beep* Lovely :-)
What I also loved about "SPECTRE" was the good story and personal backgrounds of several characters. I for instance loved the family backgrounds. And the connection with the previous films didn't feel contrived to me. I liked them! Introducing a family background in the reasoning of the villain is by no means an error in writing or stupidity in screenplay/plot writing. It's more a fact of simply....disliking that aspect of family history
. At first I was a bit sceptical about this, but I thought it was decently executed and with enough elaboration explained.
Saying that "Bond should not have a family background in a Bond film
" is merely the voice in someone's mind screaming for conservative familiarity. Similar to how critics slammed the ending of "OHMSS" when it premiered in 1969/1970. As if James Bond marrying a girl, and then being killed off at the very end "is not Bond
With such notions people are limiting themselves. And it doesn't let the franchise move forward in new territories. I agree that Bond is more realistic than, let's say "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight Rises". But there is also a similarity
: Both Fleming's novels and DC Comics are firmly grounded in fantasy
. Sometimes larger-than-life, bordering sci-fi, but most of the time they have a cinematic reality to them.
Having said that: the entire personal background histories of Bond, of Silva, of 'M', and Blofeld -when re-reading the novels "You Only Live Twice" and "Octopussy"
- that Sam Mendes, Marc Forster and Martin Campbell brought to us, feel entirely satisfying to me. And they are mostly properly explained to us as well........if you like it or not
Sadly, the "Mission: Impossible"-franchise isn't daring enough to do this. But for the reasons I just explained I actually really liked "Mission: Impossible III". It takes some guts to make a character vulnerable, to make him more 'rounded' with personal backgrounds and therefore deep emotional reasoning. Instead, Ethan Hunt plays the 'Bond of the past', that perhaps many conservative Bond fans miss so much. But not me. I've seen that with Bond already. Done that, been there in the past. Not with Bond. And this is one of the reasons why perhaps individually "Rogue Nation" is a very good film, but it also makes the actual franchise less appealing to me.
There, for me "SPECTRE" is definately the best spy film of 2015. And that doesn't surprise me a bit :-).