One dark rainy evening, when I was speeding through the streets of the cyberworld ,infinitely partaking of its unholy bounties, I skidded to a stunned stop on chancing upon the trailer of SPECTRE. The treasures yours truly glimpsed in that teaser triggered arrhythmias of pleasure. Monica Bellucci - one of the most magical women to grace this planet during our lifetimes - was shown as a Bond Siren ( and it is high time this happened, as her beauty is visibly on its last legs). Sam Mendes - the Godfather of American Beauty - and a gentleman who actually made the Sky Fall for three-quarters of the runtime of the last 007 instalment , was again the Director. And then we have Daniel Craig....from 2007 in Thiruvalla to 2015 in Auckland I have looked up to this personality emblazoned on the 007 poster , and felt each time an electric surge of frisson-filled mental strength flooding inside me ,exhorting one to smash past every obstacle of life. Dear Reader, I kid you not when I say that even if they had charged me not the usual $18 but $100, I would have still booked my seat to watch this 2015 version Sam Mendes 2.0 of Daniel Craig.
Cut to Pic : First the bad news : Monica Bellucci is seen for less than ten minutes of the runtime. Normally, such foolish under-utilization of Madam Monica is enough by itself to sink a movie, but remember that this is Daniel Craig's vehicle - this Bond has a illustrious history of moving on after being obliged to leave the sort of ladies whose absence is enough to traumatically cripple lesser lovers. Sam Mendes realizes that studio dictates will not permit him to cast a milf for a longer duration, however immortally young the legend of her allure may be.
So Bellissima Bellucci not just warms up but also heats up in record time to lucky James. Fortified by that night of celestial intimacy, Bond 2015 buckles up to meet the most socially networked of all his nemeses. Rip-roaring escapes later, he brings roofs down by "driving" a plane in Austria, has an incredible train fight with Goliath before a well deserved round of trophy sex, then almost gets a ticket to rebirth inside a 'dessert volcano', before eventually landing up in London for the finishing rites. So beneath the Sturm und Drang, how does he actually fare?
"Bond" opening sequences are known for their thrilling action choreography but Mendes - determined to jazz up the paradigm - makes SPECTRE's opening salvo, wittingly or otherwise, a technical triumph rather than an action hoot. I refer to a fantastic tracking shot that slowly glides into a Mexican fiesta, wends through its colourful beasts, goes up an elevator, past a seductive senorita's bedroom ,and through a terrace before climaxing explosively. The helicopter fight that then ensues does not measure up. Later, the violence gloriously peaks inside an Orient Express train : James fancies a saucy finish as follow-up to his dinner especially since his woman is is communicating most articulately with her body language, but an orgasm of violence instead ensues before he can get any quality time with her. That fight, with a rampaging suited giant ramming into him, with all its skull-smashing force and sheer animalistic brutality is a masterpiece by itself. Often in other movies, we see either action choreographers being too lazy and timid , or the editors - compelled by ordinary footage or otherwise - using their scissors with hyperkineticism . But in this sequence both these departments perform a spectacular job. I fully feared that Bond, even a rock-solid one like Craig's 007, would get killed by a potentially fatal spine-crack or crash of head.
But the movie makes a lot of semi-fatal mistakes. 007 movies have a rule not to show nudity or graphic sex (a mixture of Her Majesty's prudishness and box office prudence) but the femme fatales have often ensured that the viewer does the needful in his head (Eg. Ursula Andrews in Dr.No, Barbara Bach in The Spy Who Loved Me, Caterina Murino in Casino Royale). But in SPECTRE, after Monica Bellucci exits, Lea Seydoux is unable to erect similar hopes. Abdellatif Kechiche could make her a crucial part of the modern legend "Blue Is The Warmest Colour" but Mendes fails to accomplish the difficult task of enshrining this unconventional face in the satin pantheon of Bond's beauties.
A bigger mistake lies in Chris Woltz's acting. The blame here likely falls on the director rather on Woltz. When the latter sat in a WW2 era French peasant home in a sunny countryside sipping his milk and cheerily chatting for Tarantino's Inglorious Bastards, his Jew-murdering maniac act went on to become a chilling icon of villainy. But in SPECTRE , Woltz is not sufficiently spurred to essay a new breed of worthy mega-evil. He gets a very nicely sinister intro in a commodiously infernal corporate-boardroom-like stage, but is unable to capitalize on this new-age Satanism. When he smiles and his mouth broadly twists and almost lolls from side to side when poetically proclaiming to James " I am the author of your pain", the effect is almost farcical rather than disturbing, He is,however, admirably business-like when attempting to kill James in his lab but then loses that momentum in the climax when he comes across as a most hapless villain.
The same undistinguished impact undercuts the virulence of WWE superstar Dave Bautista, pitching in here as an overgrown assassin who threatens to tear up Bond nerve from nerve. Yesteryear's 007 torturer "Jaws" embodied by Richard Kiel had a frightful face atop that huge body, made scarier by glinting metallic teeth but 2015's Mr.Hinx is not much else other than just an expressly homicidal gorilla.
Mendes, to give him credit where it is due, maintains a tight narrative hold, allows the percolation of frequently sparkling dialogue and gets stalwart help from Daniel Craig who is asphalt-tough and likeably bracing as usual (there's also a superbly sharp act by Ralph Fiennes as Bond's supervisor). To franchise lovers who may accuse him of not roping in enough gadgetry, he replies by supplying Bond with two vital toys that save his hide both times - an ultra-modern 007-equipped Aston Martin and an old fashioned watch that does the job just fine. Following Skyfall's yen, he nods to previous films in the franchise in multiple ways - that watch for example, a volcano that hides the villain's lair, the fight in the train. But he also looks outside for influences : vistas from "Malena" are brought in again for Bellucci, and we are shown how Blofeld gets his new face just like Harvey Dent gets his in "The Dark Knight".
Daniel Craig's James B. has always been attacked impartially in anatomy : his heart is ravaged at the end of Casino Royale, his nether parts are cataclysmically slammed by wrecking balls in the same bruising picture, and SPECTRE pushes this punishing envelope to injure his head so grievously that I wondered how he was still alive mid-way through a procedure that is ostensibly aimed to pervertedly fructify Blofeld's failed ambition of becoming a neurosurgeon.
Writers Logan, Purvis and Wade add Butterworth to lubricate their screenplay this time, and brainstorm well for considerable stretches but again err in engineering an inspired finale (and Mendes does not pitch in to tighten carelessly constructed sequences such as an escape from the dessert wherein all of Bond's sprayed bullets effortless fell dozens of attackers). Hoyte Van Hoytema's filmic CV features a wide array of visual worlds all of which his lens captures neatly. He similarly paints different palettes for this film, while assiduously showcasing a lot of wide-angle cinematography. Long-time Mendes collaborator Thomas Newman loses the plot and frequently makes his musical underlines too bombastic.
So this is eventually a very well constructed action picture but when considering the sky-high demands of the twenty-fourth 007 film, Sam Mendes again does not measure up to Martin Campbell's 'Casino Royale'. But I'm not cribbing about him anymore, I'm just calmly stating facts - he has done what he could have, only next time please give me another helmer for the series.
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