On a whim I went to see Spectre at the multiplex in Barrow. It was showing on so many screens that you could see it throughout the evening at half-hour intervals. The film had been feted by the critics, so I was looking forward to thrills and spills and putting my brain into neutral for a couple of hours.
It’s many years since I’ve seen a Bond film. The franchise goes back such a long way; as a late developer I was fast-tracked through puberty by watching Ursula Andress striding out of the surf in her white bikini. I remember Shirley Eaton painted gold from head to toe, Sean Connery’s sauve one-liners and Roger Moore acting with his eyebrows.
The plot of Spectre is paper-thin and preposterous, of course. But it starts at a good lick, with Daniel Craig bringing the house down during Day of the Dead festivities in Mexico. He has a brief dalliance with a woman old enough to be a Bond girl’s mother. Her age is a big deal, apparently, even though, in strict chronological terms, Ian Fleming’s Bond would be about 95 by now. Having changed the course of cinema history, simply by being a women in film who’s past the first flush of youth, she makes no further appearance.
Bond then hooks up with the daughter of a guy he went to kill (though the guy pre-empts the assassination attempt by blowing his own brains out). The girl, Dr Madeleine Swann, is a bit miffed about that, but not for long, and she and Bond remain ‘an item’ for the rest of the film. The sex is entirely off-screen, with an unacceptable nipple count of nil. The girl shows she can dismantle a handgun, shoot a few baddies and keep her clothes on… but she sashays sexily down a train corridor in a silky dress. Daniel Craig’s facial expression may not change from start to finish, but the outfits do. Even in the middle of the Moroccan desert, Bond and Dr Swann can lay their hands on neatly-pressed leisurewear.
The film boasts the usual rosta of chases - cars, speedboats, planes, helicopters - and a surprisingly low-key finale. I had to look away when Bond’s jaw is punctured by remotely controlled drill-bits, and there are three or four moments in the film when I jumped out of my seat. But on the whole it’s ‘business as usual’ for Bond, and my brain was still in neutral as I sat by the fire in the pub in Biggar village, on Walney Island…