Spectre is the 24th Bond movie, the 4th with Daniel Craig in the title role and it attempts, somewhat successfully, to reboot some of the more (in)famous elements of the older entries in the series, while merging them with the rough continuity that been established in Craig’s films.
After the usual pre-credits action sequence, this time a chase in Mexico that results in a fight inside a helicopter flying over a crowded square, that’s incredibly reckless even for 007, it’s revealed that Bond has once again been operating off Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This time Bond’s following up on a cryptic last request from “M” (Judy Dench edition) before her death, one that she neglected to mention in Skyfall). Suspended from duty by “M” (Ralph Fiennes edition), Bond movies from one tenuous lead to another, interrogating with grieving, sexy widows, infiltrating secret meetings with incredibly lax security and following up on obscure messages from former enemies, he eventually stumbling onto a threat that MI6 might want him to take a care of. A threat that is linked both to Bond’s own past and to the villains of the past few films, like Le Chiffre, Mr. White, Dominic Green and Raoul Silva.
Meanwhile back at HQ, “Team Bond”, M (Fiennes), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), Q (Ben Whishaw) and Tanner(Rory Kinnear) have to deal with a proposed merger between MI6 and MI5 and the new Central for National Security and it’s head (played by Sherlock‘s Moriarty, Andrew Scott) that may do away with the need for spies like them completely.
While Craig still delivers the cool, calm, killer side of Bond and fits in a few numerous moments here and there, he’s at his least likeable as a character, after being redeemed somewhat in Skyfall. The script does its utmost best to paint him as a brute and as a not very good spy, with Bond primarily relying on luck and bravado to lead him from one clue to the next. At one point his plan to infiltrate a villain’s lair is to sit and wait for a henchman to be sent to pick him up and the whole climax of the film depends on our heroes abandoning a high value asset, just so they can be captured to be used as a bargaining chip in the finale. More than many other Bond flicks, Spectre seems to hinge on happen-stance, coincidence and luck rather than actual spy craft, even spy craft of the action-hero-super-spy variety, as Bond barely uses any gadgets in this one either.
It does seem that director Sam Mendes spent more time on the visuals, music, actors and action than the script as at times Spectre can look sumptuous, with music to match, although note I’m not including the Sam Smith theme song and the credits sequence which accompanies it, which weirdly verges on tentacle porn at times.
The action, when it eventually arrives, is well handled although some scenes are oddly undercut by moments that detracts from their effectiveness. A thrilling car chase through Rome has Bond causally engaged in a phone conversation for most of it, and an absolutely massive explosion is undersold in a third act mini-climax when it’s shown from one single angle, and the action movies on almost immediately.
Outside of Bond the rest of the cast perform well with Harris settling into somewhat of a more traditional Moneypenny role, albeit with frequent excursions outside the office. Ralph Fiennes also gets to engage in the action this time, and Ben Wishaw’s Q has much more funny interactions with Bond than his last few outings.
Léa Seydoux does well well as Bond’s main love interest, Madeleine Swann although her characters suffers from the regular “Bond Girl” problem of having to go from hating Bond to loving him in less than half the film’s runtime. It’s a little disappointing to find that Monica Bellucci’s much vaunted role is little more than a cameo, as she provides an early clue to set bond on the right path.
Guardian of the Galaxy’s Dave Bautista provides a very able physical opponent for Bond as Spectre henchman Hinx, with more than a hint of former villains Odd Job and Jaws about him with classy suits barely containing the bulk of the former wrestler along with his metal thumbnails for gouging out his victims eyes. He mostly gets to trade car paint and threatening looks with Bond for most of the film but the inevitable confrontation is worth the wait, even if his exit from the film is disappointing.
Tying the main villain of the piece into Bond’s past as well, as the villains of the previous films, is a smart idea but it’s not very well assisted by Christoph Weitz’s performance as Franz Oberhauser, who never really appears threatening, just annoying most of the time.
Long time series fans should know that the classic head of Spectre does appear in the film but any further details are classified.
Spectre leaves Bond in an interesting place professionally and emotionally and puts in place certain pieces that are clear to return in any further sequels, not that the Broccolli family can’t throw all that way and start afresh, especially after Craig has said that he’d “rather break this glass and slash my wrists.” To be fair to Craig he did follow that with “No, not at the moment. Not at all. That’s fine. I’m over it at the moment. We’re done. All I want to do is move on. ” so he may have just been tired after the production of this one.
The modern Bond movie falls between many stools; not quite an all out action movie, not quite a thriller, not really a spy movie. Overall Spectre is a decent Bond film, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a decent film.
Spectre is out in cinemas on the 6th November.
Starring: Daneil Craig, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Official Site here.