Thursday Night Movie Club
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Release Date: 6 November 2015
Director: Sam Mendes
Daniel Craig
Christoph Waltz
Léa Seydoux
Ralph Fiennes
Monica Bellucci
Ben Whishaw
Naomie Harris
Dave Bautista
Andrew Scott
Rory Kinnear
Jesper Christensen
Alessandro Cremona
Stephanie Sigman
Tenoch Huerta
Adriana Paz
James Bond
Franz Oberhauser
Madeleine Swann
Lucia Sciarra
Eve Moneypenny
Mr. Hinx
Max Denbigh
Mr. White
Marco Sciarra
Mexican Man in Lift
Mexican Woman in Lift
Spectre movie poster #1 Spectre movie poster #2 Spectre movie poster #3
Opening helicopter sequence from SpectreSpectre, the 24th film in the James Bond franchise, starts with an amazing single-take shot. The film begins in Mexico City during the annual "Day of the Dead" festival. A crane shot shows the parade and the crowd and slowly lowers and moves to crowd level where the camera focuses on a man in a white suit and mask. He walks passed another man in a black skeleton suit, skeleton mask, and walking cane. The black-suited man watches the first man walk down the street before the dark-suited man walks away with a masked woman through the crowd, into a hotel, up an elevator and into a hotel room. The man removes his mask to reveal his identity, James Bond (Daniel Craig). The woman (Stephanie Sigman) lays seductively on the bed. She looks up in surprise and asks, "Where are you going?"

Looking more suave and debonair than ever, Bond replies with a smile, "I'll be back soon." Bond promptly walks out the window. Another amazing tracking shot follows Bond. The shot starts inside the hotel room and then follows Bond as he stealthfully walks across the roofs of several buildings. Bond inserts an earbud and then unpacks a sniper rifle, which is equipped with a microphone.

Bond listens in on a conversation between Marco Sciarra (Alessandro Cremona), the man in the white suit, and two other men. In front of the men is a brief case containing a bomb. They are planning on detonating the device at the stadium where a large crowd is expected. After the bombing, Sciarra has plans to assassinate The Pale King. Suddenly, Bond is discovered and chaos breaks out. The opening sequence is one of the highlights in the series. The stunts, action, cinematography and editing are stellar.

The mysterious ring from SpectreIn the aftermath of the skirmish, Bond is left with a few nagging questions. Who is The Pale King. Sciarra was wearing a ring with a curious etching of an octupus inscribed in the side. Is this just an interesting ring or is this significant?

The film drops off a bit during the opening credits. Maurice Binder, we miss you! The credit sequence tells the story of the film, as though the audience isn't smart enough to follow the story without the hints to watch for during the actual film. Rather than foreshadowing, the title sequence spoils what should have been surprises during the film.

The title song by Sam Smith is a total letdown after the previous fantastic theme song from Adele. Smith's falsetto voice is annoying to the point where the song might be great but the performance is not.

The song titled "The Writing's on the Wall" only reminds me of a sequence between Q (Desmond Llewellyn) and Pierce Brosnan's Bond. After Q demonstrates an exploding pen, Bond is about to give his usual snide remark before Q shouts, "Don't say it!" Bond quips anyway, "The writings on the wall?" To which Q laughingly replies, "Along with the rest of him."

Back in London, M (Ralph Fiennes) is irate. Apparently, Bond was not on assignment in Mexico. He calmly informs M this was just coincidence. Bond was there using some vacation time. M doesn't believe Bond. A rogue agent is something he cannot deal with at the moment. Bond is suspended.

Andrew Scott as Max Denbigh from SpectreM is under some very serious stress. MI5 and MI6 have merged. The "Double-O" section faces elimination. M is fighting for his career and Bond's. Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott) has the ear and confidence of the Defense Minister. Denbigh has quickly, and quietly, become M's superior. Denbigh's smugness makes him immediately disliked by all who meet him.

Denbigh's ambition is to unite all of the free-world's intelligence-gathering operations under one entity. Everyone will have access to everyone's information/secrets. This is an intriguing idea. To Denbigh, this is the future. Denbigh, however, is blinded by the obvious. The people disceminating the information will not be elected officials answering to the public. M is frightened by this prospect. M fears democracy is fading away. His hands are tied.

Daniel Craig as James Bond from SpectreLater, Miss Moneypenny (Naomi Harris) meets Bond in his flat. She tells Bond, "You have a secret that you won't share because you don't trust anyone." Bond, indeed, has a secret. It is a whopper! But like the mysterious ring, Bond's secret is just a piece in a very large puzzle. He is left with more questions than answers. His only course of action is to follow the clues, no matter to what end.

Bond has trust issues. Because of the coming changes to MI-6, Bond cannot trust either M or Chief of Staff Tanner (Rory Kinnear). Out of necessity, Bond asks Moneypenny and Q (Ben Whishaw) to trust him. Can they trust Bond? Bond's independent actions have consequences for everyone at MI-6. Bond is putting all of their respective careers at risk.

Thus begins one of the very best of the James Bond films. After "Goldfinger", the Bond films have been bogged down by the Bond "formula". Only films like "On Her Majesties Secret Service" and "Licence to Kill" have broken from this tradition. Both of those films are miles above any of the Roger Moore films.

Like "Licence to Kill", Bond is on his own mission in Spectre. The source of his mission is the first of many major surprises in Spectre. Once on the trail, Bond will not rest until the job is finished. This is not any easy mission. Bond goes rogue because it is his only option. However, for every question that is answered, several more replace it. Spectre is not a simple, straight-forward action film. The film demands the audience pay attention to every detail, no matter how seemingly insignificant it may appear at first.

Aston Martin DB10 from SpectreReturning to direct Spectre is Sam Mendes. The opening sequence is fantastic with the cinematography, camera work, editing and stunts. The shots of Daniel Craig are difficult to determine if he is on a set or actually in the helicopter over Mexico City. The train sequence is stunning and trumps the one in "From Russia With Love."

Mendes is not concerned with the length of the final film. He allows the story, the scenes and the actors to proceed at their own pace. There is a natural flow to the film. Nothing is hurried or cut short for time. Bond needs time to think through the puzzles and unravel the clues.

The result is the dangers are now very real for James Bond. There is a moment during Spectre's highlight action sequence when Bond, just as in "Licence to Kill", realizes he is going to die. No cute gadget is going to save him. He has given every ounce of energy, but it is not enough!

The returning cast is getting better and more comfortable in their roles. Craig is much better, more relaxed allowing the screen writers to add more Bondian quips. Craig can really throw a good punch. When Bond gut-punches a security guard, Craig delivers!

Ralph Fiennes is much better in his first full outing as M, head of MI6. Just like his predecessor, M is feeling the pressure from all sides. No one seems to grasp the simple idea that you still need a man in the field. Drones can gather surveilance data but they cannot act. There are places only a man can go. Fiennes captures M's growing frustration with Bond and Denbigh. MI6 is falling apart and M has no way to stop the calamity.

Rory Kinnear is also better as Tanner. Kinnear's Tanner is matter-of-fact but not without his own dry sense of humor. At one point, Tanner nervously texts M, "Are we sure Bond is in London?" Tanner is also on thin ice if he doesn't know where the Double-0 agents are at all times. Kinnear has a great, subtle facial expression as M looks questioningly at Tanner.

Naomie Harris is wonderful as Moneypenny, M's secretary. Moneypenny playfully flirts with Bond. Unlike Bond, she has a life outside of work. Moneypenny also knows Bond a lot better. Bond is talking to her on the phone during an intense car chase. Moneypenny calmly looks through her refridgerator waiting for Bond to get back to her. She isn't worried about Bond's safety. He is old enough to take care of himself. Moneypenny is also smart enough to know Bond needs her. She knows how seriously Bond takes his job despite the flirting. She will help him out no matter the consequences.

Stealing the show is Ben Whishaw as Q. Whishaw is funnier and more serious for this Bond installment. While looking over the destroyed Aston Martin DB5, Q tells Bond, "I believe I told you to return it in one piece... not return only one piece." Bond is the only one not amused by this remark. When Bond goes rogue, Q is put in a very delicate situation. Q reports to M, not 007. Q is torn between his loyalty to M and his trust in Bond's hunches. Q is on the verge of being fired by M. He desperately pleads with Bond to return to England. Instead, Bond convinces Q to do one last thing. Q's discovery is one of the many plot twists in Spectre.

Léa Seydoux as Madeleine Swann from SpectreLéa Seydoux co-stars as Madeleine Swann, a fem-fetale with a lot more depth than the typical "Bond Girl". Swann has a mysterious past and, thanks to Bond, an uncertain future. Swann has gone to great lengths to hide. Seydoux captures Swann's desire to be left alone and to live some sort of a normal life. But Swann knows she is living on the edge of a knife. Enter James Bond and Swann's life crashes. Once her identity is discovered, her only chance of survival is to trust the man who destroyed her life, James Bond. Their alliance is fragile.

Seydoux is excellent. She can play smart, unlike Denise Richards. She is sexy. She is fiercely independent with a dose of vulnerability. Swann wants no part in her past. James Bond is the exact type of person Swann desperately wants to keep out of her life. Even though Swann and Bond fall in love, she knows he will not change. Seydoux conveys the conflicted Swann. She is happy and sad at the same time. She knows their relationship is doomed to fall apart. She ends it before it goes too far.

In one of Craig's best moments, Bond is now clearly torn between his duty and Madeline Swann. Bond hesitates, uncertain which way to turn. But he is too far invested in the mission to stop now. He has no choice but to see it through to the bitter end.

Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser from SpectreUnfortunately, Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser is too controlled. Waltz never takes his role to the next level to join the great Bond villains. His performance is always on an even keel, matter-of-fact. This approach works at the begining of the film as Oberhauser is still a mystery to Bond. Waltz doesn't dial up Oberhauser's evilness as the movie progresses. Oberhauser does some cruel and sadistic things but he does them with the detachment of a scientist unemotionally observing an experiment. Oberhauser does not get emotional. The role had the potential to be amazing, surprising, and frightening.

Spectre is one of the best Bond films in the series. Daniel Craig is cementing his reputation as the best Bond. (Personal note: I wish Timothy Dalton had made more films. He could have been great too!) With the series being rebooted, elements from Ian Fleming's novels, such as "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", are back on the table. The ending of Spectre is seemingly a happy one for Bond. But, there is a lingering, ominent cloud shadowing Bond. Bond will be back, probably meaner than ever!