Breaking Down the Spectre Opening Scene


Explosive cold opens to James Bond films are commonplace. They are the formulaic norm of the franchise. So, how does Spectre‘s cold open stack up to the rest?

The cold open of James Bond’s latest venture, depicted in Spectre, takes place in Mexico City. James Bond (Daniel Craig) is on an off-the-books mission given by the late M (Judi Dench). During this mission, Bond assassinates a group of terrorists aiming to destroy a stadium full of people.

This is all well and good. But what about the Bond-ness of the scene? What works and what doesn’t? How does it stack up to the cold opens of the rest of the series?

Well, let me tell you!

The cold open begins in a good way. Bond isn’t clearly defined. Then, we see a skeletal figure move across the parade of Dia de los Muertos celebrators with a woman in tow. We know immediately that this is our man. He stalks a man through the crowd, as the woman pulls him toward a hotel room. She is ready to seduce him, but, when she is on the bed, he slips away. Now we know for sure that this is a Daniel Craig Bond film.

Abandoning the seductress, Bond positions himself for an assassination. A group of men discuss their target. They are going to destroy a stadium. Bond shoots down two of the men, then the building explodes. Bond falls down a story into a couch (comical), then he gives chase to the surviving member of his targets.

His chase leads to a helicopter. Bond jumps aboard, and the helicopter soars into the air just above the mass of parade dwellers. On the aircraft, Bond and the man engage in a prolonged fist fight while the pilot tries desperately to pilot as usual. But he doesn’t get his wish.

The helicopter does multiple barrel roles throughout this sequence as Bond struggles to apprehend his target. In the end, Bond escapes with a SPECTRE ring.

How, then, does this opening sequence stack up against its predecessors.

Looking at only the Craig Bond films, Spectre seems of a different breed. Casino Royale’s noir yet gritty hand-to-hand combat opening was completely original. Quantum of Solace‘s car chase was a new take on an old Bond standard. And Skyfall‘s chase sequence culminating in Bond getting shot utilized a classic action set piece and added a new wrinkle that set the stage for the rest of the film.

What, then, are we to make of Spectre? It is a grandiose gesture toward Bond fans, in a way. It is a everything that Craig’s Bond has been for the past three films–roguish and anything but by the books. But there are problematic elements that plague its success.

First and foremost is the camera movement. Unlike the rest of the film, the camera in this scene is prone to jagged jumps and re-positioning as Bond moves about the crowd. This is far more disorienting than we are used to in a Bond film.

What we do get is amazing stunt work as Bond fights this seemingly random figure in the aircraft. The helicopter spins and zags around its low-altitude environment as the hand-to-hand combat takes place. This is all wonderful stunt work.

However, the overall impression we get from the Spectre cold open is that the gritty, do-it-yourself Bond we see in previous Craig films is gone. He isn’t nursing a bullet wound or killing someone in a bathroom. He is simply going about his business as a spy. He may be going beyond his jurisdiction, but he isn’t acting out as gritty as the previous Craig installments.

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As always, thanks for reading!

What do you think? Did you like the Spectre cold open? What is your favorite Bond cold open? Let us know in the comments below!