Call him the Edward Snowden-inspired Bond.
For in “Spectre,” superspy James Bond learns some of the worst villains are those spying on us in our own government. Or worse yet, those looking to unite world powers to spy on everyone.
“Spectre” is an action-packed continuation of the wildly popular last 007 installment, “Skyfall,” including returning characters and the theme of spies being phased out in a world of cybersnooping and drones.
And therein lies the ominous twist.
Not only is Bond battling an arch villain resurrected from his past, but he’s also fighting an organization that believes it’s the future and is even referred to once as “The New World Order.” This organization has manipulated the governments of the world to unite their intelligence agencies into one, called “Nine Eyes,” using a technology the shadow organization secretly controls.
Not coincidentally, part of U.S. intelligence whistleblower (or traitor, depending on your perspective) Edward Snowden’s revelations included info on a very real united intelligence effort called “Five Eyes,” which Snowden described as a “supra-national intelligence organization that doesn’t answer to the known laws of its own countries.”
The parallels are clear: The bad guys utter phrases in “Spectre” like, “We watch everyone,” and, “Information is all,” while the good guys mumble under their breath about how this new, united intelligence effort is “an unelected world power.”
This all makes for a very timely and nearly universal appeal, as you don’t have to be a Hollywood lefty or an admirer of Snowden to nonetheless be wary of just how much surveillance and data Big Brother is gathering on all of us.
From a worldview perspective, this is the film’s primary theme: Democracy and privacy good, oligarchical united world powers and omnipresent surveillance bad.
As for the film itself, the landscapes and locations – from the Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City to the Austrian Alps – are breathtakingly beautiful. So, of course, are the cars and the ladies – vintage 007. The action, while requiring some serious suspension of disbelief, is nonetheless riveting, and the overall tone is very Bond – suave and sexy, savage and sophisticated.
The writing, however, did leave me feeling lost in those Alps a few times. I’ll admit, “Skyfall” was the first Bond film I’ve seen since Sean Connery was in the title role, yet I was still able to appreciate its homages to the Bond heritage – the gadgeted old Aston Martin, M, Q, Miss Moneypenny, the Walther PPK, “shaken, not stirred” and so forth.
In “Spectre,” however, the references to the old films and old characters came quickly and without much context, and I knew I was missing them. Sometimes the filmmakers just showed a photo of an old character, and you were supposed to make the connection. At other times, the villain has these extended monologues … and I didn’t know who he was talking about. I never really understood who he was, either.
The filmmakers, I guess, decided they just didn’t have time to fully develop the story (or they expected Bond fan boys to explain it later to their friends) because, after all, there was a lot of action scenes to get to. Yes, that’s entertaining and all, but it’s not as good of a movie as it could have been, especially with the relevant material it had to draw from.
But then, of course, there’s the ending. Does this mean Bond is done? Or is it setting us up for a sequel with a new supervillain? I’ll say no more, because if you’ve gotten this far into the review, you’re probably going to end up seeing “Spectre,” and I don’t want it spoil it.
- “Spectre,” rated PG-13, contains about 10 total obscenities and profanities.
- The film’s elaborate opening sequence includes several scantily clad women dancing around and caressing a shirtless Bond. Most of the images are in silhouette or seen from behind, so no frontal nudity is seen, but bare backs and legs and some sideboob shots are visible. Bond passionately kisses three women, partially undressing one, and sex is implied, but no nudity is seen except for bare back and shoulders. No sex scenes are actually depicted, but merely implied. A couple of lines have sexual overtones or refer to prostitution.
- The film has several scenes of violence, including chase scenes, brutal hand combat, gunfire, explosions, people falling to their deaths and so forth. Torture is depicted, as is a brutal scene of a man having his eyes gouged out and neck broken. The gore is present, but minimal, although one character is repeatedly seen with a frighteningly graphic wound across his eye and face.
- “Spectre” has no significant religious or occult themes, but it does depict an Italian funeral held in a church setting, and the opening sequence takes place during Mexico City’s Day of the Dead parade, which includes thousands of characters, signs and floats dressed in skull masks and zombie-like makeup.