The latest entry in the enduring James Bond spy movie franchise is an homage to the series’ past.
“Spectre,” starring Daniel Craig in his fourth turn as 007, looks awfully familiar. References to the earlier films and entire scenes lifted from them show up again and again.
There’s Bond on a train with a beautiful Bond girl; Bond in a helicopter (twice); Bond in snowy action scenes (for the eighth time); a villain’s fluffy white cat and exploding headquarters. Of course, there’s Bond behind the wheel of an roaring Aston Martin. And SPECTRE, the evil organization Bond confronts in “Spectre,” makes its seventh appearance in a Bond movie.
All of the above make “Spectre” redundant. But this recycling is by design. It also dovetails with one of the movie’s major themes.
Following 2012’s $804 million-grossing “Skyfall,” that film’s director, Sam Mendez, returns for “Spectre.” Mendez’s cool and stylish touch glistens in the slick, usually fast-paced “Spectre.” The film is lushly photographed, too, in the international locales fans expect.
Bond and the MI6 British intelligence service led by M (Ralph Fiennes), whom 007 routinely disobeys, are accustomed to dealing with international superspies. They’ve been doing that since 1962’s “Dr. No.” In “Spectre,” MI6 is threatened by an enemy within. While the exterior villains of SPECTRE prosecute their plot to dominate the globe, a determined foe in the heart of London schemes to push 007 and the entire 00 program out of business.
Max Denbighm played with sneering aloofness by Andrew Scott, is the boss of Britain’s newly created Centre for National Security. Bond names Denbigh C for short. The C could stand for “contemptuous.” C is Contemptuous of MI6, a traditional spy network whose key assets are agents with a license to kill.
“We’re going to bring the British agencies out of the dark ages,” C says. “Why can’t you just face it, M? You don’t matter anymore.”
M and 007 do not fancy being displaced. When their right-hand woman, Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), tells the suddenly relieved-of-duty Bond that talk in the office is that he’s finished, he asks a question of her. “And what do you think?” “I think you’re just getting started,” Moneypenny says.
Indeed, except for a lull during which Bond and the movie’s principal Bond girl, Madeleine Swann (French actress Léa Seydoux), temporarily lose sight of their next movie, things stay frantically busy. Much of the energy is expended eluding Spectre’s No. 1 assassin, the never-give-up the hunt Hinx (Dave Bautista).
Oscar-winning Austrian actor Christoph Waltz co-stars as Spectre’s soft-spoken, sadistic leader, Oberhauser. The character is another nod to the Bond legacy, especially Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the emotionless SPECTRE boss who menaced 007 in three 1960s films.
Waltz’s Oberhauser casually, comfortably fills the villain shoes. But the conflict Bond and, even more so, M, have with Scott’s C produces more heat.
C’s culminating efforts to solidify his power, and 007’s continuing battles with Oberhauser, drive the exciting third “Spectre” act. It’s here that the film surges into best of Bond territory. What comes before is not the best. Patience, or simply an appreciation for Bond being Bond, is required during the nearly two hours before “Spectre’s” action-packed grand finale.