FBF – Spectre (2015)

British, Christoph Waltz, Daniel Craig, films, James Bond, Ralph Fiennes, reviews, spy, TBT, terrorism

So, you may have noticed that this week’s Throwback Thursday post has actually become a Frowback Friday post. Last night was my work’s Christmas party so I was a little too busy to be posting. It also means, considering I started work at 7 am this morning, that I had no fucking sleep so I’m totally exhausted. So, I imagine this is going to be a pretty dire review of Spectre. I meant to write it as soon as I got home but, because I’m such a pathetic individual, I fell asleep instead. I’m not even 30 yet and I can longer cope with a night of shenanigans without every muscle in my body aching. It’s not as if I was even hungover. At least that would make sense. I’m just pathetic. Anyway, I’m here to review Spectre, which I watched for the first time this week. I loved Skyfall so was really interested in seeing how the follow up would work out. There was a time when it was believed to be Daniel Craig’s final time in the role so it was kind of bittersweet. I wasn’t entirely convinced that Craig would make a good Bond but he’s really grown on me. I think he’s perfect so it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role. I love T Hiddle but really don’t think he should get it. Equally, I think Tom Hardy is amazing in every way but I have my doubts. My top choice? Idris Elba. Do I think it’s likely? Well, he’s getting on in age a bit so who knows. Anyway, Spectre has a lot to live up to for many fans. Skyfall had done so many wonderful things and we all felt Craig deserved a decent farewell. Plus, it was the first film for ages without Judy Dench. I bloody love that woman and everything she did within this franchise. I know The Grand Budapest Hotel really turned me around on Ralph Fiennes but I still wasn’t sure he could live up to the Dench. I mean she doesn’t give a shit about the CIA. Her role as M was phenomenal. But I digress and I really do need to get to bed asap.

Spectre takes us to just after the events that ended Skyfall. The old MI5 building is in a state of disrepair and the new M (Ralph Fiennes) is having to cope with a potential takeover from the Joint Intelligence Service. In light of recent events it looks like the JIS will scrap the 00 programme all together; something that becomes all the more likely after Bond causes utter devastation whilst in Mexcio. It turns out 007 got a posthumous message from the Judy Dench M and James is now on the hunt for a secret villain who could threaten everyone’s safety. However, after his actions, Bond is given a suspension from field work so must work in secret with the help of Q (Ben Wishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris). As James finds out more information, it becomes clear that the present case has a strong link with his past. But who is the mysterious figure at the centre of everything?

I didn’t really know what to think about Spectre going in. I was excited but I’d heard mixed things about it when it came out. Obviously there was a chance this was just post-Skyfall fallout where anything the film did would have been seen as not good enough. However, it could just be a fairly underwhelming film. At the very least, the opening song by Sam Smith was the worst Bond song since Carly Simon’s effort. I mean I didn’t like Skyfall but this made that seem fucking amazing. It’s even more of a shame considering the opening title sequence is visually stunning. I’d say it’s one of the best ones ever made. A bloody great start to this film.

Just as the pre-credits sequence is perhaps the best thing we’ve seen in the Daniel Craig era of Bond. We see James in Mexico during the Day of the Dead, wearing a skull mask and walking through the carnival with a beautiful lady. He then leaves his companion and casually strolls over rooftops to spy on his target. It’s such a brilliant and understated piece that just works so well. It’s the kind of gripping sequence that should be saved for the end of a movie not the beginning. It’ll have you hooked.

Which is good because the rest of the film is a little less solid. The storyline follows up from Skyfall’s link with Bond’s past and makes 007’s vendetta with the big bad personal. Apparently, it’s not enough just to want to stop people endangering lives anymore; you have to want to stop them because they’re wronged you personally. There is a lot to this film that just makes it seem like they aren’t even trying any more. It’s a pain by number Bond that you could, genuinely, play 007 Bingo watching. We have the insane gadget that only becomes useful in the final seconds before Bond’s potential death; the two women who get very little development but are lucky enough to shag Britain’s horniest agent; there are enough car chases in weirdly quite cities to satisfy anyone who loves everything Jeremy Clarkson says; and there is the return of a villain who has had more comebacks than the Rolling Stones. This is the perfect Bond film for any fan of the franchise as a whole.

It’s not a bad film though and I really enjoyed it. Daniel Craig’s time as Bond has brought the grit back to the series and, in the past 2 films, we have seen a slight return in the camp comedy of Roger Moore’s era. However, story is becoming a problem. There is so much potential, especially with Ralph Fienne’s M (who deserves his own franchise by the way), that I kind of wish had been used more. This film would have been seen as exceptional after Quantum of Solace but we’re in a post-Skyfall era. This just isn’t quite good enough.

Tuesday’s Reviews – 6 Days (2017)

British, films, history, jamie bell, Mark Strong, meh, Netflix, politics, review, terrorism, Thatcher

The problem with an actor playing an iconic role early on in their career means that they are forever carrying that character around on their shoulders. Look at Daniel Radcliffe who, despite seeming to take every random opportunity that comes his way, is finding it difficult to come out of the shadow of the Boy Who Lived. As much as I want to watch every new film he stars in as a new Daniel Radcliffe film I can’t help but see Harry Potter everywhere. Similarly, I have often had problems separating Jamie Bell from Billy Elliot. As such, every role that I’ve watched Bell play has just seemed more childish than it should have done. He’s tried to do plenty of serious stuff over the years but all I see is that young ballet dancer pretending to be a grown-up. Which is a massive shame because I really like Jamie Bell. He just hasn’t ever quite found that one role that changed the way people, or at least I, perceive him. For the last few years he’s done a variety of different thigns that have had varying degrees of success. He was perfect as the title character in The Adventures of Tintin but was recently in the reboot of Fantastic Four that never really worked. I admit that I was

unconvinced after seeing that he was going to star in a film as a member of the SAS. Would I ever be able to see anything other than Billy Elliot with a gun?

Going into 6 Days I didn’t really know a great deal about the Iranian Embassy siege that took place in London in May 1980 but, considering the number of recent terrorist attacks around the world in the last 12 months or so, it seems like a rather prescient story to make a film about. 37 years on, the world is facing even greater atrocities than the ones carried out at Princes Gate just 1 year into Margaret Thatcher’s government. On 30th April that year a group of Iranian Arab men stormed the embassy in Kensington and held 26 people hostage. Threatening the lives of those they hel, the group demanded the release of a group prisoners in Khuzestan and their safe passage out of the UK. The Prime Minister and her Tory government refused to agree to these demands so a siege ensued for the next 6 days. Whilst the SAS were on standby to storm the building, negotiators successfully saw the release of a handful of hostages by agreeing to a few of their more minor demands. It wasn’t until one of the hostages was killed that the special forces regiment carried out an assault and brought the siege to and end.

The siege was broadcast live for its 6 days and rocked the British people. It was eventually overshadowed after the Iran–Iraq War broke out a few months later but it did, however, bring the SAS into the public eye and showed the world how Thatcher would approach acts of terrorism. It was a pretty defining moment in British history but, if I’m honest, it doesn’t exactly seem like the one event that demanded being turned into a film. Especially one that is trying to sell itself as some kind of British Argo starring the kid from Billy Elliot and Inspector George Gently. But somebody disagreed with me and went and bloody did it. The structure is pretty straightforward: we start from the beginning of the siege and move between the action inside the embassy, a group of journalists looking on in horror, the police negotiators trying to reach a peaceful solution, and the SAS lying in wait next door. There are moments when director, Toa Fraser, tries to build the tension by showing the soldiers waiting outside doors with guns at the ready until another deadline is reached. However, there just isn’t that much drama here.
This is a very short film that, if I’m honest, feels more like a reconstruction that you’d be made to watch in GCSE history or something. It feels less like entertainment and more like the basic facts. There is so little time for develeopment that you don’t really know anybody or really understand what drives them. The closest you get is Mark Strong as Chief Inspector Max Vernon who speaks to one of the terrorists on the phone and attempts to keep the hostages alive. He has some emotional resonance as his connection with the man he’s talking leaves him hoping for a peaceful end. And I guess Jamie Bell does something in role as Lance Corporal Rusty Firmin, the man who ends up leading the assault on the embassy. Again, you don’t really get to know much about Rusty but Bell does a good job at portraying the brooding military man who believes he and his team are the only solution to this problem. He is a perfect mix between cocky young thing and highly focused killer. It’s a breakthrough role for him.
Still, 6 Days doesn’t really have a great deal going for it. It’s not bad, per se, but it doesn’t seem fully formed. It’s like there wasn’t enough in the real-life event to give any detail to the film. A lot of the performances end up being flat or forgettable; non more so than Abbie Cornish, as BBC journalist, Kate Adie, who is decidedly stiff in her portrayal. The details of this film are great and Fraser really does create a historically convincing reenactment. It’s something of period piece thanks to its interiors and set dressing but, beyond that, it just doesn’t feel like we needed to be retold this story. I get that there is a certain amount of tension between each possible assault and the instant return to silently waiting but this film really isn’t the thriller is tries to be. If we’d seen more of the SAS in their training and got to know more of the characters it would have felt more complete?