Right from the time Sam Smith begins his nerve jarring wailing with “The Writing’s On The Wall” and till such time the dust settles at the end in a crescendo of explosion, Sam Mendes’s latest James Bond flick “Spectre”, grunts, gasps, heaves and barely remains alive as it gets mashed, blended and ultimately lost trying to be a medium between the past glittering offers of the franchise and the current stirrings of time.
Whether it be the clichéd muttering of “hello Pussy” (a lame attempt at sacrilegious innuendo) by 007 whilst being latched on to a torture chair, or remorselessly trying to whip women up into bed (including one inconceivable sexual jaunt right after a funeral with the wife of the deceased), “Spectre” loses its plot massively. What begins with a bang ends with a predictable whimper, and an extremely feeble one at that.
The movie begins with a heart stopping, gravity defying, high altitude fight sequence within the confines (and at times outside) the confines of a helicopter, that has as its audience a packed mass of frenzied crowd celebrating the Festival of the Dead in Mexico City. Two deaths and a destruction of a massive block concrete, later, Bond is grounded by M as the Mexican fiasco was an unauthorized mission. However, the unyielding Bond refuses to be shackled to inaction and with the aid and assistance of a reluctant Q, smuggles himself out to Rome for attending the funeral of the very man whom he had assassinated.
A sexual romp, a high speed car chase, and a solo investigative mission to Austria gets Bond not only a sniff into the murky underbelly of an insidious organization called “Spectre”, but also gets him acquainted with a beautiful doctor going by the name of Madeleine Swan. Avid Bond aficionados will remember Spectre as the very organization which first made its dreaded appearance in the 1971 Bond offering, “Diamonds are Forever”
In the meantime, in a radical move, MI5 is merged with MI6 to create a gigantic institution of Surveillance, with a Charter known as “Nine Eyes”. This part of the script has an uncanny resemblance to the immortal Dystopia of George Orwell, “1984”, where the “Big Brother” looms over all he can survey. The new Head of the merged Network, Max a.k.a “C”, takes an instant aversion to the “007” programme and intends to replace the work of human agents with mechanistic modes of Surveillance.
What is the objective of this invidious organization called “Spectre?”; Is there a method to the madness of the “Nine Eyes” Charter?; Who is the elusive Dr.Madeleine Swan?. Bond has to risk his life and take hitherto envisaged gambles to go to the root of these mysterious questions.
The answers lie in the long drawn out, but very paced 148 minutes of bedlam and bedding.
Christoph Waltz as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, distinguishes himself as the brain behind the monstrous Spectre. While holding his own on most occasions, he tends to lapse into moments of extreme melo-dramatic monologues that do very little to embellish an otherwise brilliant performance;
Lea Seydoux as Dr.Madeleine Swan, manages to stay pretty as well as stern. But unlike the normal Bond girl, who possesses a detached attachment towards the protagonist, she manages to evoke passions that can only colloquially be described as “mushy” in Bond. This is where she unfortunately fails when compared with say, for instance the spectacular Eva Mendez in “Casino Royale” , or the sexy Halle Berry in “Die Another Day”
Ben Whishaw as “Q” displays his innate talent as an actor but is made to mouth irrelevant and meek humoured dialogues, most of which concern his shared habitation with a pair of cats;
Naomie Harris as “Eve Moneypenny” has barely any role worth its muster;
Dave Bautista as “Mr.Hinx”, the silent assassin, just grunts and groans through murders and portrays a feeling that he would do well to return to the ring in the World Wrestling Federation rather than try his hand in acting as a formidable adversary of the most celebrated fictional agent on the Planet;
Andrew Scott as “Max Denbigh” a.k.a “C” is a refreshing antidote to disappointment. With an irritating accent and equally exasperating actions, he manages to get on to the nerves of the watcher and at times elicits feelings of murderous rage – an outcome which was exactly what was expected out of him;
Monica Bellucci, as “Lucia Scarria” is completely wasted as all she has to do is fall to the seductive temptations of Bond, bed him and flee the silver screen thereafter!
The value of Judy Dench as the conscious keeper of Bond, and the irreplaceable “M”, is brought out in stark detail from watching the performance of a stiff Ralph Fiennes. No way near the perfection attained by the marvelous Dench, he ploughs his way through his role with poker faced expressions, that at times are literally painful to watch;
But the saviour of the movie is Mr.James Bond himself, Daniel Craig. In his fourth installment as the celebrated, womanizing, cold blooded agent and assassin, the Englishman waltzes and breezes through the movie with effortless panache and élan. Exquisitely fine tuning his expressions and whole heartedly plunging into his action sequences, Daniel Craig provides a clinical demonstration behind the current reasoning of him being the best Bond, post the Sean Connery era. It is a travesty that Sam Mendes has not strived to extract the best out of this invaluable performer. Making Bond mouth corny lines instead of candid conversations, choosing to cast him as a sex maniac instead of a cleverly plotting, conniving seducer, and more than everything else, placing a god dammed white cat on his lap and making him mutter “Hello Pussy” under his breath (an unwarranted, unforgivable and unwanted act of travesty) takes some gloss and sheen out of an otherwise impeccable and extraordinary performance.
The action sequences are as usual, magnificently shot and the background music deserves wholehearted applause and appreciation. To reiterate, although the movie is a bit too lengthy for comfort, the sensible pacing of it compensates for the exertion that could have been. Sam Smith’s “Writing’s On The Wall” is a charade, when weighed against the brilliant Adele’s “Skyfall”
Overall, this 24th movie to roll out of the stables of the James Bond franchise, even though possessing the customary thrills and the expected spills, inexplicably loses its way in trying to establish a connect between many previous sub-plots that are intricate. Sam Mendes forgets to look to the future as he gets too very occupied and enmeshed in traversing the past.
SPECTRE – An Apparition that just refuses to haunt!