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'Spectre' Features a Wiser, More Introspective James Bond

  • Penelope Poulou

"Spectre," a film by acclaimed director Sam Mendes, follows secret agent James Bond on a personal journey as he seeks out a nemesis from his past.

Since his previous assignment in "Skyfall," in which he lost his paternal home and his beloved boss, M, to enemy fire, Agent 007 is humbler and more introspective but not any less tough as he embarks on what may be his most challenging quest yet: to upend the international crime cartel called Spectre.

The opening sequence in "Spectre" takes place in Mexico City during the festival of Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. Following a lead from his old boss, Bond, played by actor Daniel Craig, is after a sinister criminal.

But the new M has not authorized the shoot-to-kill venture. Bond has gone rogue — again. So when he turns the main square in Mexico City into a moonscape, he is suspended.

Not that this has ever stopped him before. As a matter of fact, as Moneypenny, one of his teammates, says in the film, he is just getting started.

It doesn’t help that the new, more cautious M of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, played by Ralph Fiennes, is being pressured by the British government to rein in his “License to Kill” agents. They are slowly being replaced by an intricate information agency, a behemoth of digital data collected by ever-present surveillance technology.

Secret sponsor

Once we view the new high-tech, all-glass London skyscraper that houses the massive collection of digital information, we know something fishy is going on. The extremely sleek and pricey project is funded by a secret sponsor, who no doubt benefits from such a rich wealth of data.

And though this British Big Brother can follow anyone at any time, Bond, with the help of Her Majesty’s Secret Service's computer geek, Q, manages to go under the radar.

He treks to Italy, where he finds out that the shadowy organization he is after, to the delight of longtime fans, is called Spectre, and its sinister leader is practically family to Bond. From that point onward, a cat-and-mouse chase ensues from Austria all the way to the Sahara desert.

After "Skyfall," a phenomenal $1.1 billion international blockbuster, nothing was spared for the $200 million production of "Spectre." A new Aston Martin, the DB10 built just for "Spectre," graces the streets of Rome in a sensational car chase. The car is one of many nostalgic references to older Bond films in "Spectre."

Breathtaking fights

All stunts and locations are real. "Spectre" used real helicopters for Bond’s hand-to-hand, breathtaking fights over Mexico City. One thousand extras were employed, dressed in custom-made costumes and celebrating Dia de los Muertos while 007 is running over Spanish rooftops and sliding over falling buildings with the ease of someone going down a water slide.

A nostalgic train ride crossing the Sahara has a reflective Bond looking into the eyes of his young and intelligent love interest, Madeleine Swann, played by Lea Seydoux. Mendes said the train ride symbolizes the journey of a spy who might be entering the twilight of his career.

But Bond is not going gently. Mr. Hinx, the massive, 6-foot-9-inch henchman who comes after Bond, and the visceral fight that follows are reminiscent of another Bond human killing machine, Jaws in 1977's "The Spy Who Loved Me."

Bond shakes Mr. Hinx off and reaches his destination in the middle of the desert, where Spectre’s mastermind awaits. His name is Obenhauser and he's played by actor Christoph Waltz, who won an Academy Award for his performance as the sinister Nazi in Quentin Tarantino’s "Inglourious Basterds." Here, unfortunately, Waltz plays a much softer evildoer, but still bad enough to inflict psychological and physical harm on Bond.

Cautionary tale

The story, a Cain-vs.-Abel tale, is also a cautionary narrative against an all-pervasive surveillance in the digital world and what happens when massive amounts of information get into the wrong hands.

Of course, as in every other Bond film, romance is a necessary ingredient. Seydoux plays Bond’s main squeeze, but his chemistry with the much older Dona Lucia, the widow of a Spectre Mafioso, sizzles.

Monica Belucci, who plays the seductress, had a real impact on actor Craig, who was visibly flustered while speaking about her in an interview: “You know ... she is ... Monica Belucci! It's like ... it's a no-brainer," he chuckled.

"Spectre" is sleek, has a great cast, albeit not completely utilized, and has a promising concept of a story, though it's not completely developed and coherent. However, those incredible car, plane and helicopter chases and those "no-brainer" romantic moments are what make Bond films like "Specter" box-office hits.