One of the perks of working in the media is occasionally you get to see movies before everybody else. Well -- you and a bunch of 'Home And Away' actors and reality stars, usually -- but still. A premiere is a premiere and they can be pretty fun -- especially if there’s free alcohol and the chance of seeing the latest ‘Bachelor’ couple in the flesh.
Tuesday night was the Australian premiere of Sam Mendes' 'Spectre' -- the 24th installment of the infamous Bond franchise, and the fourth with Daniel Craig as Agent 007. Given it’s one of the most highly anticipated films of the year (and my fiancée would probably call off our wedding if we didn’t go) we dolled up and rocked up to see what just what old Bond has been up to lately.
(Answer: shooting guns and banging babes, pretty much. But more on that later.)
DISCLAIMER: Spoilers ahead.
We open with a kind of weird sequence involving a shirtless Daniel Craig, some naked ladies, and various pythons, all set to the latest Bond anthem 'Writing's On The Wall' by Sam Smith.
Lots of pashing/rubbing faces between Craig and said ladies, lots of pythons wrapping themselves around various limbs. Weird. But anyway.
Where the film actually kicks off is in Mexico, and it's instantly awesome. It’s the Day of the Dead celebration and Mexico city is alive with colour, costume and revellers parading in the streets. I know there’s been hype about this, but don’t worry, it’s not anti-climatic. Director Sam Mendes knows how to deliver a cracker opening sequence.
It's here we see Bond, chilling in a skeleton costume with a Mexican babe on his arm. The pair retreat to her hotel room (she digs the key out from her cleavage -- classic) for presumably a night of passion, but because Bond is Bond it turns out he’s also on some secret mission to foil a bomb plot. Cue our first action sequence, which involves a collapsing building and a suspenseful -- if unbelievable -- fight scene in a helicopter as it careers wildly above a petrified costumed crowd. VERY GOOD, SAM MENDES. BOND IS BACK.
Back in London, Bond returns to find he is in big trouble with M (Ralph Fiennes) because of the Mexico debacle and his whole going-rogue-and-not-being-very-subtle-about-mass-destruction habit.
Even worse, there’s a new head of Britain’s intelligence services, nicknamed C, (played by a very slimy Andrew Stott) who wants to do the unthinkable and shut down the ‘00’ program in favour of using hectic amounts of surveillance to pretty much spy on the whole world at all times. M is understandably stressed about all this and Bond and his helicopter antics are not helping -- so he grounds Bond. NO MORE INTERNATIONAL ROGUE TRAVEL FOR YOU.
M is so serious about Bond's grounding he sends him around to visit Q (a delightful Ben Whishaw) who injects him with something he calls 'smart blood' -- an intravenous solution which serves as a tracking device. Bond shows he is serious about M's ultimatum by making Q promise to cover for him while he absconds, stealing Q's fancy new Bond car in the process.
He also gets Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) on-side and reveals to her why he's hell-bent on disobeying M's rules -- he has a message from the previous M (Judi Dench), delivered just after her death, urging him to go on a mission.
This, we learn, is what all the Mexico business was about, and is now taking him to a funeral in Rome (soz current M) where we meet not-really-mourning widow and outright babe Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci).
Now her husband is dead, Lucia is in danger. She reacts to this having sex with Bond after exchanging a handful of sentences with him and literally hours after her husband's funeral wraps up.
Sidenote: hilarious moment where Bond decides to throw two full champagne glasses to the ground in order to make his move -- seriously, dude. We know you're bad-ass but there's such thing as a table.
Anyway. While they grind against a mirror, Lucia gives Bond the details of some secret meeting of a secret organisation her freshly dead husband was a part of. Bond goes to said meeting and it's here we finally meet our villain.
Well, his silhouette anyway.
We know he's a big deal because he never raises his voice and everyone's scared of him and he doesn't even flinch when one of his henchman gouges out another dude's eyes.
There's some talk of a 'Pale King' before our shadowy villain realises Bond is in the room, prompting 007 to make a dramatic getaway.
This, of course, turns into an epic car chase through the streets of Rome, involving flames, a parachute and one car ultimately ending up in a lake.
During the chase, Bond has time to check in with Moneypenny and, with her help, realises this 'Pale King' guy is actually his old nemesis Mr White (Jesper Christensen), last sighted in Austria. So off we go to Austria to track him down. Meanwhile, poor M thinks Bond is in Chelsea.
When Bond does find Mr White, he is hiding out in a bungalow and is not in good shape. I won't reveal the details, but essentially Mr White pissed off the secret organisation big time and now fears for the life of his daughter. Bond vows to protect her in exchange for more information.
Ten bucks if anyone can guess who Mr White's daughter is?
OUR NEW BOND GIRL! Dr. Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) -- a psychologist working/hiding out at very fancy medical clinic in the Austrian Alps.
Now -- I have to interrupt my review here to share some idiotic comments I overheard from some guys, aged maybe late 20s, after the screening. They were discussing the new Bond girl. Fair enough. Bond girls are integral to any Bond film.
Here was their conversation.
Guy one: "She was like, awkwardly hot."
Guy two: "Yeah... she grew on me. I mean if you walked past her in the street you wouldn't look twice. Or, maybe you would."
Guy one: "Put it this way, I wouldn't kick her out of bed."
Yeah. Let's just look at how "awkardly" hot she is, shall we?
Wouldn't kick her out of bed, you say? How accommodating.
Anyway. Madeleine isn't too happy to see Bond because a) he brings unwelcome news of her estranged assassin father and b) now people are after her and want to kill her. GOOD ONE, BOND.
Regardless, Bond promised her dad he would look after her, plus, she's
so awkward banging hot so he's not letting her out of his sight any time soon. Added bonus -- because Madeleine's father was once part of the secret organisation, she knows heaps of important details such as the organisation's name. SPECTRE.
BOOM. Movie title, revealed.
Spectre is of course headed up by our shadowy villain Franz Obenhauser (Christoph Waltz) who we can now reveal actually has a face, and it looks like this:
How he plays into everything I'm not going to reveal, but I think most Bond fans will have a fairly good idea.
Aaaand that's where I'm going to leave this little recap, as to not be a total spoilsport. But I will say there is plenty to look forward to in this latest Bond offering. Craig yet again turns in a fine performance, Waltz makes an unusual but intriguing villain and Seydoux more than holds her own as the central female character. Plus, there's all sorts of goodies like a fight on a train, some cracker one-liners and a sex scene in which thankfully no champagne flutes were harmed.
All in all, I give 'Spectre' a hearty 7/10.
It's a really entertaining ride with all the classic Bond elements -- good suits, hot babes, shaken martinis, ripper action sequences and in the center of it all, one smooth operator.