Spectre Review: In Search of a Storyline

Daniel Craig in Spectre Playing Chess 007 James Bond
Daniel Craig playing chess in Spectre

Heads up: I went to see Spectre with one objective: to figure out, did it have a storyline?

We know the Daniel Craig Bond movies are going to be full of intense action and thrilling scenes, but I forget films that only do action. I’m always looking for the emotional hook, something meaningful, heart-warming. Only good narrative makes a film memorable for me.

Right from the opening scene was a sense of anticipation and disruption caused by the masked Bond and unidentifiable woman heading in the opposite direction to the crowd during the festival of the Day of the Dead, which set the scene perfectly for the film’s Halloween debut and its revival from the dead of baddies from films gone before.

The film for me contained enough mystery and movement of narrative to find the ridiculous moments, such as Bond falling through a collapsing building onto a sofa in seated position, genuinely amusing. For me, this one more than other Bond films, gave the right elements to keep the expectations of Bond fans met, whilst delivering a genuinely interesting storyline and glamorous setting.

Did anyone else keep noticing constant parodies from other films and TV shows? Bond reminded me of Jack Bauer “going dark” and having an unexpected mole within the MI6 camp (who turns out to be… the head honcho) and many of the embankment scenes seemed to be reminiscent of Spooks. The helicopter scene was Demons and Angels all over whilst the car chase scene managed to give nods to The Bourne Identity, Johnny English and Grease. There were even ski lift scenes and Bautista was surely meant to be a Jaws-a-like. Top points for managing to include parodies of sub-versions of itself.

Onto The Bond Girl. I mean the main one because there always a few potentials around, like the desperately sad Monica Bellucci, but you could tell Swan (Lea Seydoux) was going to be THE ONE as soon as it was revealed she had a degree from Oxford and the Sorbonne. An intellectual match AND then she throws him out of her office which suggests enough resistance to create tension. Tick those boxes, Bond… this is looking promising.

Not only was the ‘OO’ (Double O) programme being rolled out in favour of a new type of surveillance, but the sad old storyline had a total change of programme too. And I for one welcomed it.

The emergence of Bond’s Big Brother (surely yet another reference to surveillance culture), Franz Oberhauser, as the ultimate baddy, was a revelation. He was well placed as Bond’s family member, giving that close personal vendetta, jealousy, which sparks the crazy mind. The Top Dog of all baddies, the meanie who enlisted the help of all the baddies in the series before. There were plenty of scenes to cement Oberhauser’s thorough evil and plenty of emotional turmoil for Bond and Swan to plunge the emotional depths together. When they finally got together it was reminiscent of Mr & Mrs Smith. Their eyes met over the dead body they just killed together. Or something like that.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the ultimate goal would be to kill the ultimate baddy, Oberhauser. The mere presence of Ralph Fiennes as M (a very amusing goody in this film) could easily make you contemplate a final Voldemort-style showdown in a win or die type scenario. Alas, no.

There always comes that point where the viewer wonders whether it’s going to be a triumph of good or evil. The mode with Bond is usually extinguish the baddy and manage to somehow lose the girl, as with the unhappy ending to Casino Royale. Same formula with Bauer, over and over. Lives to fight another day – alone.

But gone was the typical ending and in its place, Bond chose to let Oberhauser live and deal with the consequences of his behaviour. More endearingly, and more fitting, was Bond choosing the girl and walking away with her, leaving Oberhauser to watch them walk away together. After all, letting him see love would be a far harder ending to endure than death.

So Bond chose love as the ending and you’d have to have a hard heart to argue with that.

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