Director: Sam Mendes
Writers: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth
Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen, and Monica Bellucci
Synopsis: A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
James Bond is one of the most recognizable characters in film history, and while the series has gone through some missteps and a bit of a corny phase, the series has grounded itself and has, arguably, become more popular than ever. In what could be Daniel Craig’s last James Bond film – and director Sam Medes’ as well – Spectre does, for the most part, feel like a nice bookend to the recent iteration of the character. However, the film does have a lot to live up to after the fantastic entry in Skyfall before it. Does it live up to the expectations? Sort of.
Spectre starts off in an awesome and mostly one continuous take in Mexico City during a Day of the Dead celebration as James Bond (Craig) is on an unsanctioned mission. When things go awry, Bond travels back to London to deal with a frustrated M (Fiennes), who tells him the 00 program is on the verge of being canceled due to the head of Head of Joint Security Service Max Denbeigh (Scott) launching a new intelligence-gathering program. However, going off a lead he found in Mexico City, Bond goes on a solo mission to find out more about said lead. Seeing that he can’t do it on his own he eventually asks the help of Q (Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Harris) to keep M off his back and help him along the way. However, along the way Bond finds out the lead he found actually leads to something more darker and personal than he could ever imagine. Bond goes on a globetrotting adventure to discover there is an organization known as SPECTRE that is ready to take down the world.
Like I mentioned, Spectre is following the fantastic entry of Skyfall and what worked in Skyfall is that it gave us a better understanding of who exactly James Bond is as a character and person, instead of the James Bond we all know as a character within a franchise. What Skyfall also did was put together such a well-rounded story that nothing felt out of place and the whole film felt like every scene mattered and show something to further the story, character, and journey. While Spectre tries and succeeds in most aspects, it can’t help itself to fall back into some old clichés and pitfalls that Skyfall broke away from. Not to say that Spectre wasn’t a good film, but it’s a bit hard to follow a great addition to the franchise. Sam Mendes continues to bring his A-game and despite cinematographer Roger Deakins not returning, Hoyte Van Hoytema and Mendes still manage to bring some amazing, glorious and beautiful shots that add to the film and the scenes they are put in. They also work in a lot of darkness into the film that is done rather well and to great effective to the story, characters and scenes.
Going back to Daniel Craig, Craig is great as Bond again. There were a lot of people doubting that Craig could hold the mantle, but now he’s on a lot of people’s lists as one of the best Bond’s. Craig does great here again, brining in even a little more charisma and charm, and if this is truly his last Bond film, than it was a good way to go for him. He’s been through a lot in the series and completely handled what needed to be done for the character and the franchise.
But what’s Bond without a Bond girl, classic villain and gadgets/cars right? Spectre fills those spaces that are both hit-and-miss. Lea Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann is the main female lead and handles herself pretty well, and is an important character for the film and Bond as he tries to figure out what the organization known as SPECTRE is trying to do. Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny doesn’t get to do as much as she did in Skyfall, but which is a shame, and Monica Bellucci cameos as a widow to criminal that Bond took care of, als fun fact, Bellucci is now the oldest Bond girl in history. Gadget/car wise, Spectre doesn’t have too much going on, but does have some nice callbacks to the franchise
As for the villains, a big deal was made about Christoph Waltz’s character, and this being a non-spoiler review, I won’t address those rumors, although most have probably heard about who is character actually is, but whatever. Even with all that, there is another layer to the character that was rather interesting they went that way. The twist connects to James Bond through the series, which again, makes Spectre feel like bookend to the recent iteration of character and makes all the Craig Bond films connect to a grander story. However, Waltz doesn’t have a ton of screen time and while Waltz is great whenever he’s onscreen, it’s a shame that he doesn’t have more screen time, which makes his character feel a bit underwhelming.
The same can be said for Dave Bautista’s henchman character Mr. Hinx. The nonspeaking brute-like villain has his great moments, especially a standout train fight sequences with Bond in the latter half of the film. But, like Waltz’s character, he doesn’t get a ton of screen time that I think the character deserves. His character also feels like a nice throwback to past iconic villains as well and Bautista was a perfect fit for the role.
The rest of the supporting cast has the great moments to shine as well. Ben Whishaw as Q continued to be my new favorite character as he has great chemistry with Craig and great timing and delivery. Andrew Scott’s Max, who is nicknamed C, plays a nice antagonist to Ralph Fiennes’ M. The two actually have their own storyline in the film debating about the use of the 00 program and whether or not it’s a “dated” feature, which is a bit on the nose considered some would think 007 is a dated franchise. Jesper Christensen returns as Mr. White in a short but powerful scene and Rory Kinnear as Agent Tanner also returns but instead of having a more prominent role after the events in Skyfall, he’s once again put on the backburner.
Spectre will feel a bit long for people, and I’ll agree to some extent that the film does slow down during the middle of the film, which does hurt it a bit. Even some of the action sequences are just a bit okay, especially the car chase in Rome was a little bit too dragged out for my liking. There are also some odd choices – believe me, you’ll know what they are when you watch them – that again, takes the franchise back to some cliché routes.
All in all, Spectre is a great addition to the James Bond franchise, but it falls short of what its previous entry in Skyfall did. If this is Daniel Craig’s last Bond film, then it is a good way for him to go out. Spectre will have its detractors, but it is a passable sequel and one that will keep Bond fans happy. Also, the opening credits with Sam Smith’s song “Writing on the Wall” is pretty cool, but the song, for me, is just okay. Maybe, I’m a bit biased because I loved Adele’s “Skyfall.”
4.5 out of 5