I've decided that maybe I don't want Daniel Craig to make any more James Bond movies.
If you know me, you know this is an almost heretical statement. I am not exaggerating when I say that I love Daniel Craig as James Bond. In fact, he is the only Bond I've ever taken seriously, the only Bond for whom I always see the movie in the theater (and often on opening weekend). The only other Bond I found interesting was Timothy Dalton, because I felt his face showed more character and emotion than our other smooth-faced heroes. To be fair, Daniel Craig has had the benefit of excellent writing, whereas most Bonds got little more than bad puns and over-the-top villains. But still, I really do feel that Daniel Craig was made for this part.
But back to the point: the reason I would be OK with Daniel Craig calling it quits is because Spectre very nicely completes a four-film arc encompassing both plot and emotional development. Questions are answered. Old friends and foes are revisited, even the ones who are dead.
MAJOR SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT FORWARD
As a brief summary, soon after the movie opens we learn that Bond had received a video message from M (the Judi Dench one) upon her death, directing him to kill a certain man and be sure to attend his funeral. At said funeral, Bond befriends the widow (Monica Bellucci, from the second and third Matrix movies), whose life is in danger because she knows too much about her dead husband's secret organization. Bond gets her to safety and infiltrates Spectre, a group that indulges in human trafficking and also engineers terrorist attacks to get governments to willingly give up the keys to their intelligence offices. Bond is shocked when the group's leader, Blofeld, turns out to be someone he knew long ago and believed dead.
Shortly thereafter, Bond travels to a remote snow-bound chalet where he finds a dying Mr. White, whom we saw in both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace -- the very man behind the blackmail that got Vesper killed. White is disinclined to give Bond information about Blofeld, until Bond agrees to find and protect White's daughter, Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux). Who, as it turns out, is less than happy to be reintroduced to a way of life she thought she left behind.
In the course of navigating a number of captures and escapes, James and Madeleine sleep together, but it's different than Bond's usual encounters save one: Vesper. Madeleine isn't Vesper, but it's no accident that her and James's mutual attraction first becomes apparent during a formal dinner aboard a train, or that Madeleine asks the same kind of penetrating questions that Vesper once asked, about choices and what compels a man to kill for a living. However, before Bond goes off to try and save the world yet one more time, Madeleine says goodbye, saying that she can't go back to an existence filled with violence, but she also knows she can't change him. Without words and not even very much in the way of facial expression, Craig still manages to convey just how heavy a blow this is for James. But he is 007, and he still has a job to do.
I won't go into too many more details, except to point out one other parallel between James's relationships with Vesper and Madeleine. Both women serve as a direct reason that James decides not to kill a villain when he could. In Vesper's case, it comes at the end of Quantum of Solace (which is my opinion is simply the second half of Casino Royale). James finally gets to confront the man who pretended to be Vesper's boyfriend so that Mr. White's organization could control her, yet James leaves this man alive. He does so in part because the man has important information, but I think he also does it because he knows Vesper wouldn't want him to kill when he doesn't have to. The same thing happens in Spectre; James can kill Blofeld in the end, but realizes what he actually wants more is to walk away with Madeleine, who is now willing to be with him because she sees this change as it happens.
I love the circular nature of these four films.
Other thoughts, in no particular order:
- I adore the fact that we get to see more of Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw), and Tanner (Rory Kinnear). Perhaps my memory of earlier Bond movies is sketchy, but it seems to me that previously, Q and Moneypenny existed to serve up humor and provide a vehicle for Bond's innuendo, respectively. But they have so much more to contribute in the new films! And I like both Judi Dench and Ralph Fiennes as their respective M's. I'm not 100% sure I understood this correctly, but it sounded to me like the Fiennes M not only has more field experience than most people know, he either was or still is a double-O. (Although I have to admit that it does seem odd to me that nobody would know this -- everyone knows Bond is one.) And how wonderful that Q finally got a little field action, albeit not intentionally.
- I enjoyed Andrew Scott as C in this film. In the U.S. at least, Scott is best known as the BBC Sherlock's Moriarty. For me, that character occasionally goes a little too far over-the-top, but here, we get the intelligent menace without crossing that line.
- While I liked Blofeld's connection with Bond's past, I actually thought it was going to be even closer than it turned out to be. Basically, Blofeld is the son of a man who took Bond under his wing when Bond was orphaned. Presumably unbeknownst to James, the slightly older Blofeld became consumed with jealousy because he thought James was taking his place. James had always believed that Blofeld died in the same avalanche that killed Blofeld's father, but it turns out the son murdered the father and faked his own death.
So, where I thought this was going was that Blofeld was going to be James's biological brother, and that it just hadn't been mentioned that the older brother was killed along with James's parents. I probably wouldn't have had this misconception if I'd been able to get a closer look at the guardianship papers James received among his personal effects from Skyfall, but I couldn't read quickly enough, and I also struggled with spoken names in this film. (If I see a movie I really like, the first thing I do is buy the DVD and watch it with subtitles, which always clears up a bunch of things I missed the first time around.) Ah well, Blofeld as Bond's real brother probably would have been too much for me, but a part of me wonders.
- I'll be interested to see where this franchise goes next. I suspect it will be very difficult to top these past four films, especially when taken together as a whole, but I'm willing to keep an open mind.
- Calling it now: if the films are still being produced twenty years from now, I think Matthew Lewis, who played Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter movies and who I think of as a young Clive Owens, could certainly play the part.