Sunday, July 10, 2016

The last woman in England to watch SPECTRE, watches SPECTRE

Despite my avatar name, I actually don't like Bond. His glib superficial sado-masochistic fantasy world of spying struck me as thin soup compared to the morally murky but properly Romantic world of John le Carre. Insofar as I liked Bond, it was to appreciate the role that escapism and big brand consumerism has in all of our lives. In other words, if I must have Bond, let it be Bond - kiss kiss, bang bang - Roger Moore's arched eyebrow - absurd gadgets. And so I have struggled with Daniel Craig's Bond films, filled as they are with existential angst. They're Bond trying to be Bourne, lacking in self-confidence, desperate to show that they KNOW the very concept of Bond is absurd in our post-millennial world. Nowhere is this more obvious, nor as grating, as in SPECTRE.

The film posits a world where drone warfare and computer intel has made the 007 programme obsolete and M (Ralph Fiennes) is battling C (Head of MI5, played by Sherlock's Andrew Scott) to keep Bond in business. He makes an argument for human intel as the ability to use wisdom and judgment beyond a computer algorithm, and as a protector of civil liberty. All of which is pretty rich considering Bond's USP is the ability to carry out extra-judicial murder. We also realise that every hurt that has been inflicted on this incarnation of Bond has been masterminded by a chap who's going to become the modern Blofeld in the course of the film, as played with characteristic charming evil by Christoph Waltz. I won't spoil the psychodrama underpinning his enmity for Bond, but let's just say it's so ham-fistedly basic Freud as to be literally laughable. Also, not for the first time, Bond's chief love interest is a bright girl with daddy issues (Lea Seydoux) who has to be rescued in spite of herself.

The resulting film is basically quite boring. There's a decent opening sequence in Mexico City with a kinetic camera and cool outfits and Ralph Fiennes has one brilliant line ("Now we know what C stands for") but other than that the only gadget is literally an exploding watch. Poor Naomie Harris is given nothing to do as Miss Moneypenny. Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear - some of the finest actors of their generation - are wasted as Bond's sidekicks and are clearly just their to pay the mortgage. Monica Bellucci is on screen for a minute and Lea Seydoux just has to be enabling.

All in all, as much as Bond is trying to be modern, he's still hamstrung by his heritage. The result is a movie that's the wishy-washy frozen yoghurt of summer blockbusters. Be ice cream, or be nothing.

SPECTRE is available to rent and own. The movie has a running time of 148 minutes and is rated PG-13.

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