Daniel Craig returns for his fourth and possibly last outing as Bond… James Bond. This time, he is faced against a menacing organisation, only known as Spectre. Using a message left behind by the late M (Judi Dench), he finds himself front and center of a mystery far more personal than he would have imagined.
We’ve heard a lot about how Craig would rather slit his wrists than think about doing another Bond film, and after finally seeing Spectre, I totally understand his sentiments. The scale of some of these action sequences would make any actor squeamish, and with the added torture of a long and grueling press tour, I’m sure not even the most patient of humans would endure its entirety with high spirits. So with all the speculation about his future in the franchise making the rounds on the internet, I’d definitely take it with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, Spectre may be a worthy send off for this generation of Bond.
What seemed evident with Spectre, was that chasing thrills was more important than developing story, and luckily the thrills pay off. I’m known to sweat profusely, but that opening scene was so sweat inducing that even I was concerned for my health. By the end of that helicopter sequence, I may as well have been sitting in a swimming pool… because I was that drenched… in my own pee pee. Despite setting a high bar from the get go, the action sequences that followed, were able to stamp their own little quirks to the film, making them just as memorable as the last. Also motivating a similar lasting impression was the cinematography. It was a shame not to see Roger Deakins return to the franchise after helping produce probably the best looking Bond film to date with Skyfall. This time around, Hoyte van Hoytema, cinematographer of films such as Interstellar and Her, successfully follows in those daunting footsteps, helping produce another Bond film which is just as gorgeous to look at as it is suave. Look out for that lake shot, wowzers!
Spectre may not have topped Casino Royale or Skyfall, but it remains a respectable addition to an impressive series so far. It was my hope that Spectre would find a way back into a lighter and playful version of Bond, but instead we may have been given its darkest yet. That being said, there are countless knick-knacks throughout this film which hark back to a more familiar Bond. Franchise tropes that have been largely absent from Craig’s version of 007. There are gadgets, although not spectacular, that prove to be a step up from its predecessors, a henchman, light on words but heavy on the touch, and a villain who we briefly see with a cat… Elements to a proven formula which should result in an entertaining Bond film, but most importantly create nostalgia for the more passionate fans. The final product, although beautifully shot and wonderfully acted, doesn’t hit home as it should.
It is a film shrouded in mystery, we tag along with 007 as he tries to make sense of it all, except we never really understand or feel its severity until half way through the film. Until then I didn’t feel very invested in his journey. If it wasn’t for some thrilling set pieces, it would have been a dull ordeal for sure. A part of that is because we have to wait so long to be introduced to our villain. That’s when the story begins for me. Motives are revealed and the stakes are understood. But even then, the reveal doesn’t hit as it should. This is a villain which has appeared in numerous Bond films in the past and has proved to be quite a worthy adversary for our beloved Bond. Which makes it disappointing when the character doesn’t feel any more menacing than Craig’s previous villains. He is the most personal but feels the least fleshed out. Ultimately, for a film named Spectre, we learn very little about what they do and why they do it. For the initiated, it may not prove to be a problem, but for the uninitiated, references and Easter eggs will not spur any sort of nostalgia the film is relying on to fill those holes. Nevertheless, It feels as though this is only the beginning of something much larger. Which is why it would seem fitting for Craig to return for one last hurrah against Spectre and tie the bow around what has been a successful series so far (was that a pun?).
Despite Spectre’s villains getting a much smaller screen time than they deserved, there were enough moments in the film to make them menacing. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dave Bautista makes a pretty decent living from playing “the badass” in films, since he continues to nail them. From his physicality to his ability to convincingly exert pain on others, he has the perfect attributes of a badass, which has earned him stand out praise in two massive franchise films so far. As for Christoph Waltz, there is no questioning his abilities as an actor, and for an actor of his caliber, it would have been nice to see him shine more in a role which deserved a lot more in characterization. It’s disappointing to see a strong performance go to waste on a character that is relatively shallow and underutilized throughout the film. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t the last we see of him…. But maybe that’s just my hopeful nerd side talking
Also impressing with a strong performance is Lea Seydoux, although she too, was undone by weak characterization. Despite being given more of a soul than we’re used to with Bond girls, the side of her character which has been conditioned by the criminal life of her father isn’t explored enough to help audiences buy into the relationship her character and Bond develop. It seems to miss out on the deeper emotional connection that the characters should feel for each other, as they both know more than anyone, what it feels like to be trapped in a life that they did not choose for themselves. By the end of the film, this relationship needed to be strong enough to fuel the arc Bond takes, and because it wasn’t, it didn’t hit as hard as it could have. That being said, her character still manages to produce moments which set her apart from the most generic Bond girls. I mean what girl is crazy enough to take on Bautista!… well actually, who wouldn’t want to get their hands on that chiseled body of his.
The countless speculation about casting a new bond shouldn’t take away from another top class performance from Craig. A Bond which many have hailed the best to date. Which raises the question, why are people speculating about a new casting when clearly fans aren’t asking for one. With one more Bond film on his contract, I strongly hope he returns and finishes his series on a high. Spectre may not have met the high expectations set by its predecessor, but it is a welcome return to a character we all know and love. It’s a film that aims to be a pure throwback to the very first franchise installments which put Bond on the map and innovated the series into what we know now. From the villain to the train sequence, there are homages throughout the film that loyal fans can geek out about. Does it translate fully into a great Bond film? maybe not, but it reminds us how far the franchise has come and may even influence new fans to venture as far back as the 60s to see why this guy is such an icon.