Three years after Skyfall, James Bond is back. As the title suggests the latest instalment brings back SPECTRE, the criminal organisation that used to trouble Bond when Sean Connery and George Lazenby were taking up the lead roles. Sean Connery’s Bond is still my favourite era in the franchise, so the expectations were very high. Not in the least because Christoph Waltz was cast as Bond’s arch enemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
The movie opens in Mexico City with a slick and fast-paced action sequence, reminiscent of the first act of Casino Royale. The pursuit in Mexico is truly one of the most thrilling ones of the whole Bond series.
After this, Spectre brings back a lot of the elements that have been building up in the last few movies. All story lines of the Daniel Craig movies come together when Bond finally meets the architect behind the deaths of Vesper and M.
Unfortunately the collision of events is a disappointing one. Spectre doesn’t succeed at living up to the standards set by Casino Royale and Skyfall. Spectre wants to include too much and through that doesn’t build up the character depth we’ve seen a few times with Daniel Craig as Bond. The plot feels patchy and too incoherent.
A lot of unnecessary elements are added to the movie. Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx is bringing back the likes of Oddjob (Goldfinger) and Jaws (The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker), but he doesn’t get enough screen time to truly create the suspense his likes have established before him. Next, Monica Belluci’s role is way too short for an actress of her calibre. She would have made a much stronger character than Léa Seydoux is able to do, even though the latter not doing a bad job. Finally, Andrew Scott is a decent “C”, but his role distracts from the main plot interaction between Blofeld and Bond.
The too many elements are pulling away from what could have been a great core: Bond facing SPECTRE and Blofeld again. The movie should have focused on that, but in stead doesn’t focus properly on anything at all.
Nor does it hold on to the excitement of Mexico City. The Mexico sequence was great, but nothing else comes quite close to that. No overwhelming metro scene like in Skyfall, no torture scene like in Casino Royale; Spectre is just average.
Other elements of Spectre fortunately are doing quite well. The acting is strong. I was very skeptical about Daniel Craig when Pierce Brosnan was replaced, but he’s owning the role more and more with every new movie. Next to that, Waltz makes an amazing Blofeld. His acting is as impeccable as what we’ve seen in Inglorious Bastards and Django. He just doesn’t get enough attention. Ralphy Fiennes is a strong new M, and Naomi Harris as Moneypenny and Ben Winshaw as Q are convincing as well.
The cinematography is also great. The chosen angles and the desert crater are ingredients for clean and slick camera work with amazing footage. Spectre gives us some beautiful shots.
There is however no redemption in the soundtrack. Sam Smith’s song is whiny and on the edge of being irritating. Granted, he had the strong song by Adele to live up to, but comes nowhere near getting to that level.
Spectre is not a bad addition to the James Bond franchise, but it’s by no means one of the better ones. It seems that the Daniel Craig movies are able to deliver only one great James Bond for each two made (which is still a lot better than the Brosnan ones, getting a zero out of four). Casino Royale and Skyfall were some of the best in the series. Quantum of Solace and Spectre are mediocre ones, both in plot and soundtrack. At least this good-average alternation giving some hope for the 25th James Bond, and I look forward to the next episode.
James Bond: Specture – Sam Mendes (MGM, 2015)