Greetings again from the darkness. Don’t come to me looking for objective judgment on Bond. By the time we hear that familiar opening trumpet blast of Marty Norman’s Bond theme, I’ve already been swept away into the land of MI6 enchantment – gadgets, cars, women, over-the-top stunts, globe-trotting, global villains and quintessential coolness. And it doesn’t help that this time director Sam Mendes treats this 24th (official) Bond film as an homage to those that came before. At times it plays like a tribute – and maybe even a closing chapter (for Mendes and Daniel Craig?).
A long tracking shot drops us into the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico, complete with skeleton masks and giant parade props. We follow a masked couple as they maneuver through the crowd and into their hotel room, where 007 quickly leaps out the window and makes his way across roof tops towards his mission. It’s one of the more visually stimulating and explosive openings in franchise history.
The story combines the personal back-story of Bond’s childhood with his relentless pursuit of the evil empire known as Spectre … the crime syndicate that has been part of the Bond universe for many years and films. The tie-in to the iconic Bond nemesis Blofeld, this new mastermind Franz Oberhauser, and Bond’s adoptive family make for an interesting chain of custody. However, as is customary, it’s the characters and action sequences that deliver the entertainment bang.
Oberhauser is played by Christoph Waltz (understated given his track record), and the two Bond “ladies” are played by Lea Seydoux (the daughter of Mr. White, and the key to finding Spectre), and Monica Bellucci (the widow of Bond’s Mexico victim). Mr. Waltz takes advantage of his limited screen time, while Ms. Bellucci is limited to a few lines and a chance to model some lingerie. Reprising their roles are Rory Kinnear as Tanner, Ralph Fiennes as M, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw as Q, and Jesper Christensen as Mr. White. New to the mix is Dave Bautista as Hinx (in the mode of Oddjob and Jaws), and Andrew Scott as C … the latest of those trying to shut down the “00” program. Whishaw brings a nice element to his role, while Bautista’s Hinx gets to participate in both a car chase and train fight … while uttering only a single word of dialogue.
The evil doers have gotten more intellectual over the years, and Oberhauser and Spectre have the goal of global surveillance and controlling information and data. It’s a modern theme for a Bond film that also seems intent on reminiscing. There are nods to most (if not every) previous Bond film via (among other things) Nehru jackets, cats, scars, and a white dinner jacket. And it’s nice to see the gun barrel sequence back in the opening credits where it belongs. As for the new song, Sam Smith has a very nice voice, but his Bond song lacks the punch of the best.
In terms of globe-trotting, we get Mexico, Rome, Tangier (Morocco), London and Austria. The (prolonged) car chase occurs on the deserted streets (and steps) of Rome and features two stunning cars – Aston Martin DB10 and Jaguar C-X75. In addition to the cars and previously mentioned train, it’s helicopters that earned a couple of worthy action sequences.
It’s Daniel Craig’s fourth turn as Bond, James Bond. He brings his own brand of emotion and cheekiness, while also possessing a physicality that allows the action sequences to work. He has made the role his, much like Christian Bale took ownership of Batman. For those who refuse to accept the new generation, director Mendes delivers enough nostalgia that even the old-timers should be entertained.
Greetings again from the darkness. Emotional exhaustion swept over me as this film came to an end. Based on the true experiences of Kathryn Bolkovac, we see what a true hero is. She absolutely refused to turn away from the despicable actions of her co-workers and government officials.
Rachel Weisz delivers what is far and away her best performance yet. She captures the emotional complexity and strength that Ms. Bolkovac displayed. Some have stated she was conflicted, but I never saw that. I saw the character of a woman who had a clear understanding of right and wrong … and would settle for nothing less than “right”.
Kathryn, a Nebraska cop, accepts a UN peacekeeping job in post-war Bosnia. Her spirit and strength is recognized, and rewarded with promotion, by Madeleine Rees (Vanessa Redgrave) who is director of the Human Rights Commission. It is in this job where she slowly uncovers the corruption and cover-up of sex trafficking of underage girls. Even more sickening is that this most profitable business is being run by the peacekeepers and law officers being paid to protect these citizens.
It turns out that though Ms. Bolkovac was fighting for these human rights of these girls, she was also working diligently to expose the corruption of the private contractors hired to supply personnel in all aspects of recovery in countries such as Bosnia and Serbia. In her situation, the private contractor was DynCorp and she had no problem pulling back the curtain on the lack of training and control exhibited by this and other contractors.
Combine that with the frustrations in dealing with bureaucrats such as Monica Bellucci‘s character, it often feels as if Ms. Bolkovac is fighting a one woman crusade (with a little help from David Strathairn‘s character). When red tape (such as no passport for the abused girls) and diplomatic immunity become major players in fending off her efforts, we get the wonderful line “immunity not impunity”. That explains a great deal.
The film is directed by first timer Larysa Kondracki. Setting and tone are well captured, but the editing of many scenes left me somewhat distracted, but not to the point of annoyance. There is so much tension and exposure to despicable actions in this film that I found it difficult to relax afterward. The strength and courage of this woman will restore your faith in humanity and remind us we should never turn away from doing the right thing.
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you agree the “true story” element elevates the tension in a thriller OR you prefer your heroes to be real people rather than the comic book type
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you have a weak constitution for the horrific actions of a few OR you are looking for light-hearted fare
Greetings again from the darkness. Well, it’s the best kind of Nic Cage role … very little dialogue and plenty of scenes with him not included. Lots of special effects. Has some similarities to movies like National Treasure(another Jon Turtletaub directorial effort) and The Shadow. Can you tell I am struggling to find the positives?
The basic story involves Merlin’s three assistants (Balthazar, Horvath and Veronica) and their struggles after Merlin is killed by the evilest of all evil, Morganna (Alice Krige). Of course, that murder happened hundreds of years ago and poor Balthazar has been on a global search for the only sorcerer’s apprentice who can save the world in case Morganna is released.
Since Veronica (Monica Bellucci) sacrificed herself to capture Morganna, it is really important to Balthazar (Cage) that he find this apprentice who can also help revive Veronica, who is his one true love. The bad guy is Horvath (played well by Alfred Molina). He is on a mission to release Morganna so she can destroy the world and choose him as her assistant. Yeah, I know, lots of details that don’t really matter.
The reluctant apprentice is played by Jay Baruchel. Or someone playing Jay Baruchel. Can’t really tell since every role he takes is EXACTLY the same character. At least here he plays a physics prodigy. Yeah, right.
Next to Molina, the most fun is had when Toby Kebbell (RocknRolla) is on screen. He is a real hoot and these two play well off each other. The other attempt at humor is a weak homage to the Disney classic Fantasia, replete with moving mops, etc. No surprise, the sequence comes up well short of the original and Baruchel just doesn’t have the physical skills to pull it off.
I assume this movie is aimed at 10 year olds and I am just not sure they will understand the story, though I feel confident the big special effects and cool car chase will be enough for a few oohs and ahhs. Those over 10 … enter at your own risk.