Spectre recap: Essential guide and how Bond film links to No Time To Die
It might be useful to refresh your memory about the previous entry in the franchise before watching the new 007 flick.
In days gone by, James Bond films were never particularly bothered by continuity. Characters came and went and most films were essentially standalone adventures with no clear links to previous missions.
But the Daniel Craig era has been very different: from his first film as the iconic 00-agent in 2006's Casino Royale right up to his final outing in No Time To Die, the films have followed a coherent narrative, often feeding directly into each other.
That is certainly the case in the new film, which picks up five years after Bond has decided to leave MI6 following the events of Spectre, and includes many returning characters including Madeleine Swann and Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
So if you're about to head to the cinema to watch the new movie and reckon you need a quick refresh of the events of Spectre first, then look no further – read on for a full recap.
What happened in Spectre?
The main plot of the previous film saw Bond faced with dual threats: an imminent merger of MI5 and MI6 that would bring about the end of the 00 programme, proposed by Andrew Scott's Max Denbigh (known as C), and a more traditional big bad in the form of old foe Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) – who is referred to as Franz Oberhauser throughout most of the film.
The film begins with a particularly memorable sequence: following 007 as he carries out an unauthorised mission in Mexico, killing a terrorist leader after parading through the Mexico City streets as part of the city's Day of the Dead celebrations.
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When he returns from the mission, the new M (Ralph Fiennes) suspends him from duty but Bond, being Bond, pays no notice, instead travelling to Italy to attend the funeral of the terrorist he killed in Mexico. Meanwhile C, the director-General of a new Joint Intelligence Service, is attempting to get the 00 programme closed down and campaigning for Britain to join the global surveillance and intelligence initiative Nine Eyes.
While in Rome, Bond seduces the terrorist's widow Lucia (Monica Belluci) and discovers the existence of a terrorist and criminal organisation, SPECTRE, led by the presumed dead Franz Oberhauser.
Bond first encounters Oberhauser when he secretly gains entry into a meeting of SPECTRE and hears the order for someone called The Pale King to be assassinated. With help from Eve Moneypenny, Bond realises that this refers to another old foe Mr White and he subsequently tracks him down. When he finds him, White explains that he has been poisoned and is already dying, but tells Bond to look out for his daughter.
Bond promises he will find and protect White's daughter, a psychiatrist by the name of Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux).
After he locates her, Swann takes Bond to a hotel in Tangier called L'Américain, where Mr White had left them evidence leading to Blofeld's base. Meanwhile, Q (Ben Whishaw) has learned that all the previous villains from this era of Bond (Le Chiffre, Dominic Greene and Raoul Silva) were themselves part of SPECTRE, and thus Blofeld has been behind almost all of 007's misfortunes.
On reaching Blofeld's base, the villain explains that he is actually working in tandem with C – he has been staging terrorist attacks around the world, creating a need for a new surveillance system that would replace the 00 programme. C's side of the bargain is that he will feed any and all information about investigations into SPECTRE directly to Blofeld, such that he can perennially evade capture.
In true Bond villain style, Blofeld then tortures Bond and reveals that the two are very closely linked: his father Hannes had briefly been Bond's legal guardian in childhood, and Blofeld had resented the attention that Bond received. Eventually, he killed Hannes, staged his own death and took on his new alter ego to create SPECTRE and devote the rest of his life to making Bond's life hell. All pretty deranged stuff, really.
Anyway, Bond and Swann are able to engineer an escape thanks to an exploding watch and retreat to London to put a stop to Blofeld and C's plan. Unfortunately, they are both apprehended by members of SPECTRE – but not before they've told M, Q, Bill Tanner and Moneypenny of the plan, with those four working together to stop the surveillance programme from going online. They are successful, and M kills C, but the mission is not over.
Blofeld takes Bond to the shell of the old MI6 building and informs him that explosives will go off in three minutes, and Swann is hidden somewhere inside. Thankfully Bond is able to find and rescue her before the bomb detonates and the pair manage to escape, while also shooting down Blofeld's helicopter. Bond then confronts an injured Blofeld on Westminster Bridge but decides not to kill him, instead allowing him to be arrested.
The film ends with Bond driving away with Swann in his repaired iconic Aston Martin DB5, the pair now very much in love.
How is Spectre linked to No Time To Die?
While the new film is not necessarily a direct sequel in the traditional sense, it keeps the continuity of the previous adventures and there are some aspects in particular that play a key part.
First up: Madeleine Swann. In the film's pre-titles section – set soon after the events of Spectre – we find Bond and Madeleine enjoying a holiday in Italy, clearly very much still in love. And although the film jumps forward five years after the opening credits, Madeleine continues to have a huge impact on the plot – in part due to her links to new villain Safin.
Meanwhile, Blofeld – incarcerated after the events of the previous film – continues to plague 007 even from his prison cell, with the pair coming face-to-face again, as can be glimpsed in the trailer.
SPECTRE itself also continues to pose a threat to Bond at the beginning of the film, with the criminal organisation clearly paying no heed to his wishes for a quiet retirement – and is at least partly responsible for bringing him back into the espionage fold.
To give anything more away would be to veer into spoiler territory – but those three aspects, Madeleine, Blofeld and SPECTRE itself, are the elements that need to be remembered going into the new one.
Who is Blofeld?
Ernst Stavro Blofeld is one of the most iconic baddies in Bond history, having appeared in three of Ian Fleming's novels and eight films, including No Time To Die.
Prior to Spectre, Blofeld had last been seen in a cameo role in 1981's For Your Eyes Only – although in that film he was unnamed due to a legal wrangle concerning the rights to the character.
Blofeld is a criminal mastermind and the archenemy of James Bond, hopes to achieve world domination as head of the crime organisation Spectre, and is known for stroking his famous white cat.
Actors to have portrayed him prior to Christoph Waltz include Donald Pleasance (You Only Live Twice), Telly Savalas (On Her Majesty's Secret Service) and Charles Gray (Diamonds are Forever).
At the end of Spectre, Bond passed up the opportunity to kill Blofeld and instead allowed him to be arrested.
In No Time To Die, we find the villain incarcerated.
Who is Dr Madeleine Swann?
Madeleine Swann doesn't have quite as storied a history in Bond as Blofeld, having only been introduced in Spectre, but she makes another appearance in No Time To Die, marking the first time in history that a so-called 'Bond Girl' has returned for a second film.
Swann is a psychologist and the daughter of Mr White, a mysterious member of Spectre who becomes the target of an assassination attempt.
She disliked guns and, prior to the events of Spectre, had distanced himself from her father. After completing medical training and working as a consultant she went into hiding at the Hoffler clinic in Austria – before she was found by Bond and dragged into the action.
Who is Madeleine Swann's father?
As mentioned above, Madeleine's father is Mr. White, an antagonist who was first introduced at the start of the Daniel Craig era in Casino Royale and also played a key role in Quantum of Solace. White was one of the leaders of a secret criminal organisation called Quantum, which it later emerges is a subsidiary of SPECTRE.
In Casino Royale, White is actually responsible for killing the primary antagonist Le Chiffre, due to his fury at the villain for ruining Quantum's reputation by misappropriating their funds in the poker match. But perhaps most notably, he was directly tied to Bond's first true love Vesper Lynd – he had earlier forced her to work for him with the threat of killing her boyfriend, and was thus directly responsible for Vesper betraying Bond at the end of Casino Royale, and essentially also responsible for her death.
Of course, Vesper's final act before her death is to leave White's number to Bond, which allows him to track the villain down. This feeds directly into the events of Quantum of Solace, at the start of which White is able to escape from Bond and M thanks to an associate posing as M's bodyguard. For the rest of that film, he is a shady presence but he is left alive at the end of the film despite the dissolution of Quantum.
Crucially, Bond also learns that Vesper's old boyfriend had actually worked with White to stage his own kidnapping in order to coerce Vesper into working with Quantum in the first place– naturally increasing Bond's resentment of White still further. They didn't meet again until the events of Spectre, as described above.