I love a long tracking shot, and this film opens with a long tracking shot through the streets of Mexico City, crowded for the Day of the Dead celebrations, up the stairs into a hotel, into a lift, into a hotel room, and out along the hotel rooftop where Bond is getting ready to assassinate someone. It all goes a bit crazy from there (can helicopters really do loop-the-loop?) and then we’re into the opening credits.
Almost a traditional opening credits, with naked women and a naked Bond too. The credits drop hints of scenes from the previous Daniel Craig films and there is a curling octopus. “The writing’s on the wall,” Sam Smith sings. This song is so immemorable I can’t even recall it just after I heard it.
This film brings together several themes from the previous films as hinted at in the credits. Bond is getting old and tired of this life, and the whole 00 programme is seen as no longer necessary in the age of drones and electronic surveillance. And there is an organisation out there that MI6 have no idea about.
Suspended from duty (again!) Bond steals a car from Q, drives to Italy and after killing her would-be assassins, seduces the widow of the man he just killed. Monica Bellucci has the dubious honor of being the oldest ever Bond woman. It’s sad that her screen time is so brief, as she seemed much more interesting than the main love interest.
With information from the widowed Mrs Sciarra, Bond blags his way into the meeting of a crime syndicate. SPECTRE are more threatening than they appeared in previous films. After all, these guys are organised enough to have simultaneous translation at their meetings.
Rome by night looks lovely by the way, perfect for a car chase.
Bond travels from Rome to Austria where Mr White (as seen in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace) is now dying of thalium poisoning. This is how SPECTRE rewards its dedicated operatives. Mr White kills himself to avoid the slow death that awaits him but he gives Bond a lead – his daughter, Doctor Madeleine Swann (Tea Seydoux), the main love interest woman for this film. An angry Dr Swann doesn’t want Bond’s ‘help’ until the heavies from SPECTRE turn up.
They travel to Tangier in Morocco, and then get on a train going to the middle of the desert, encountering another SPECTRE heavy on the way (just where did Mr Hinx come from on that train?) The film kind of stops making a lot of sense at this point, regressing to a Connery-era plot that carries you along with it, and it’s not until later reflection that you pause to think Hmm… that didn’t make any sense.
*spoilers etc * In the middle of the Moroccan desert they encounter the SPECTRE headquarters, run by the villain Franz Oberhauser, although he’s not called Oberhauser any more, as he was when Bond was younger, he is now Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Bond is a little confused and Blofeld spells it out – all the villains of the previous films were working for him. “Or did you think it was a coincidence that all the women in your life ended up dead?”
Blofeld’s villainous plot is to take over the world by having a senior MI6 person giving him access to the Nine Eyes programme, linking up the combined spypower and surveillance capacities of nine nations. Bond and his partners back at MI6 in London have to stop this system from going live.
After the exotic locations of Mexico City, Rome, Austria and Morocco, the film ends in London, with a helicopter crash on Westminster Bridge. There is still a lot to do, but Bond walks away. Dr Swann has already walked away, she doesn’t want to attach herself to someone who will spend their life in the same way her father did. She distanced herself from her father and she is prepared to walk away from Bond as well. Has Bond finally taken the hint that he is getting old for this job, that the days of this job are numbered, that surveillance and drones can replicate the services of the 00 agents but a lot more cost-effectively? I guess we will find this out when the next film, No Time to Die, comes out next year.