The ghosts in Spectre
There’s a lot of conjecture at the moment around whether or not Spectre is a great or a not so great Bond film.
I went in with mixed feelings based on many of the reviews and comments I was seeing online. And for those who don’t know me, I’m a die-hard Bond fan, Fleming first – movies second. So I have high expectations of each of the films and I must say on this occasion, I was not disappointed.
Here’s what I liked about it.
The thing that people liked so much about Daniel Craig when he was brought on in 2006 with Casino Royale – is that he took the character of Bond right back to his roots. He was an unrelenting, blunt instrument which is exactly the intention that Fleming had for the character when he created Bond back in the 1950s.
What they’ve done with Spectre is very cleverly woven into Craig’s presentation of Bond, much of the iconography of the character that people have been enjoying for over 50 years. Traditionally all the other films have relied on five key elements to connect them: the dinner suit; the Walther PPK; the vodka martini; the fast cars and of course, the women. Add to that some megalomaniac criminal mastermind, hell-bent on world domination and you’re all set.
What they’ve achieved in Spectre with – I thought – great subtlety as well as great respect for the legacy of the films, was the referencing of a number of scenes, themes and elements from across the palette of the Eon Productions series dating back to the very first film, Dr No, starring Sean Connery.
– There’s the scene in Dr No when Bond and Honey are received as guests at Dr No’s lair – this is replicated in Spectre when Bond and Madeleine Swann are similarly received by Blofeld.
– The contemporary take of Craig’s Bond in Tangier in 2015 is almost identically dressed and styled with dark shirt and beige jacket to Timothy Dalton’s Bond in Tangier in 1987 in The Living Daylights.
– The train journey that Bond and Madeleine take references a number of things, most notably the white dinner jacket which we first saw in Goldfinger, and only a couple of times since.
– And of course – the fight sequence between Craig’s Bond and Hinx on the train is a direct hat tip to Connery’s Bond and Robert Shaw’s Grant in From Russia With Love in 1963, and even albeit less comically Roger Moore’s Bond and Richard Kiel’s Jaws in The Spy Who Loved me in 1977.
– Blofeld’s surveillance control room in Spectre is a contemporary take on Hugo Drax’s space centre control room from Moonraker in 1979.
– And finally, there’s the white cat, the Hildebrand reference and of course how Blofeld got his facial scar that was so much a part of Donald Pleasant’s Blofeld in You Only Live Twice in 1967. And many, many others.
If you go into a Daniel Craig Bond – you expect a certain thing. I’ve learned since Casino Royale in 2006 to expect a brooding, lonely individual who is struggling to come to terms with loss and disappointment despite the fact that he is supposed to be a blunt instrument, last resort capability for his government.
In this regard, I was not disappointed.
Coupled to that, all of these historic references throughout the film to the legacy of the series and I came away feeling thoroughly entertained.
But let me qualify that.
The storyline can be disappointing because Bond is a huge character and the fact that Spectre boils the entire catalogue of Bond’s most recent missions down to nothing more than a demented, former childhood friend taunting him from a distance, all the danger and intrigue has been little more than a squabble between a couple of spoiled brats.
At that to me is the major let down in that thematic element and I believe that is what has left people with a less-than-favourable reaction to the film. It’s almost like, at the time you’re enjoying it, but there is an aftertaste that is ultimately not satisfying and that is how they have framed Bond’s recent history. A little bit like eating junk food on an impulse – tastes pretty good at the time, but you'll feel unsatisfied soon after.
Who will be the next Bond? Where will they take the series next to breathe new life into it? And where does a series and agency like Intrepid fill the gap and answer questions of how we might better fight international crime in today's context?
Only time will tell.
Chris Allen’s latest heart-stopping thriller is out on the 26th of November. If you like Bond, you’ll love Helldiver. Grab a copy now!
This post was first published on the Momentum Books blog.