So I watched Spectre…
It seems that you can’t have two excellent Daniel Craig Bond movies in a row. First there was the fun of Casino Royale then the disappointment of Quantum of Solace; the refined magnificent of Skyfall, now we have the obscurity of Spectre. I guess you can’t have your cake and eat it.
Okay, basic plot: after completing an unsanctioned mission in Mexico City, Bond (Daniel Craig) is indefinitely suspended by M. Bond’s true mission, however, is only just beginning as he travels to Rome and infiltrates a secret meeting, a meeting of a criminal network called SPECTRE. The head of this network is a ghost from Bond’s past who has secretly been the dark hand behind all of Bond’s suffering. Oh and on a separate – and completely unnecessary – note, MI6 along with the ’00’ program is facing closure.
This movie feels like it’s at war with itself. It half wants to be a classic James Bond movie and half wants to be a modern, visceral, overly-emotional retelling of the Bond story. It flips and flops between these two contrasting styles and ends up feeling rather disjointed. As a result, there are parts of this movie that I absolutely loved and parts that nearly put me to sleep.
I’m pretty sure that this film and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation started out as the exact same script.The respective writers for both films merely changed the name of the agents and the country they work for but besides that, the plots of both films are eerily similar. Both films follow agents who have gone rogue chasing some criminal organisation that no one else believes exists; while the agency they work for faces closure from some vague political opponent. Another similarity they shared is that both films disappointed me.
Spectre isn’t all bad though, in fact, the first third is rather excellent. Bond is running around the world investigating this organisation and causing all kinds of havoc. It has everything that we love about Bond: fast cars, beautiful women, evil organisations trying to take over the world. It’s brilliant! Well mostly brilliant, there’s a car chase between Bond and one of SPECTRE’s henchmen – Mr Hinx – that we were promised in the trailer that just doesn’t live up to the billing. It’s handled with a distracted disinterest. It never feels fast enough or dangerous enough and might as well have been a casual joyride on a Sunday. Other than that, the first third is superb, packed with action and real mystery.
The problem comes in the final two-thirds. The plot starts moving backwards, quite literally in some places, and it feels like I’m watching Quantum of Solace again. Just as in Quantum of Solace, this film is obsessed with the past. So if you’re planning on watching Spectre without intimate knowledge of the first three Daniel Craig Bond films, you will be lost. James Bond, well Daniel Craig’s Bond, seems incapable of moving forward. Skyfall was false hope that we were done drudging up skeletons from Bond’s past and that we could move forward and see progression as well as exciting new villains. No, everything always needs to lead to the past and that one girl that Bond slept with more than once and is now the only thing we can make Bond movies about.
I don’t mind Bond being a character who is haunted by his past or one who carries the weight of past sins, I think it makes him more interesting; but he can’t be a character who is completely stuck in the past. Casino Royale was an origins story (so Bond’s past); Quantum of Solace was a movie about Casino Royale (so Bond’s past again); Skyfall was a movie about M’s past and now Spectre is yet another movie about Bond’s past. Does every evil person in the world need to have a connection to Bond? Can’t we just have a crazed warlord or psychotic billionaire who commits crime just to make money or gain power? Must every villain be someone Bond went to school with or someone he passed in the hallway without saying ‘hi’ to and is now hellbent on revenge? Honestly, DO SOMETHING NEW!
Another cardinal sin this film makes is that it wastes the immeasurable talent of Christoph Waltz. Waltz portrays Franz Oberhauser, a man from Bond’s past. The connection between Bond and Oberhauser so flimsy and underdeveloped that it feels like the screenwriters added it five seconds before the movie finished shooting. Anyway, it turns out that Oberhauser has been pulling the strings in Bond’s life for years; so with such a startling revelation you think he would have a significant amount of screentime, right? Wrong. It feels like he’s in this movie for, maximum, twenty minutes and you can see that Waltz is starving for more screentime. He does the best acting in this movie and it’s a shame that there isn’t more of him.
Another thing that there isn’t enough of is Dave Bautista. Hot off his success in Gaurdians of the Galaxy, Bautista puts in a wonderful performance as Mr Hinx. Hinx is a throwback to the classic silent but deadly Bond villains of yesteryear. Hinx only says one word in the entire film but his presence is felt. He’s a juggernaut who tears James Bond to pieces. There’s a great fight scene between the pair in a train that was incredibly fun to watch.
Léa Seydoux also impressed me greatly in this film. She stars as Dr Madeline Swann – Bond’s love interest. Her acting is really great and she has superb chemistry with Craig but unfortunately she was in Mission Impossible: Ghost Nation and her presence just reminded me how much like a Mission Impossible film this movie is trying to be.
Sam Smith’s theme song – Writing’s On The Wall – came out a while ago and I purposefully avoided it so that I could hear it for the first time during this film’s title sequence. It’s a beautiful song and the title sequence was beautifully put together. It’s more of a love song than a traditional Bond theme and this perfectly suited the style of the film which in many parts is about Bond and his lost love who we will never be allowed to forget.
Overall, Spectre is a movie that’s foiled by its own attempts to be overly-intelligent. It tries to create links where none are necessary and rehashes the past unnecessarily. It’s also just far too long and should have been thirty minutes shorter to allow for a more focused and intense story. For all its faults it is not without moments of enjoyment and is worth watching. 7/10