Skyfall was an outstanding Bond film. Following the dire Quantum of Solace it was a sensational comeback, so much so I even placed it pretty high on my list of the best James Bond films. So really director Sam Mendes had a hard act to follow with Spectre, but the trailers leading up to it’s release were certainly suggesting it could be one of the best Bond films ever made. Did it live up to that hype? Not quite.
First of all, a brief plot summary. A cryptic message from the past leads Bond across the world where he meets the widow of an infamous criminal. After infiltrating a secret meeting, 007 discovers the existence of the organisation SPECTRE. As Bond ventures toward the heart of SPECTRE, he discovers a chilling connection between himself and the enemy he seeks.
The plot itself is actually very good. I was excited at the prospect of the return of SPECTRE into Bond films. For Bond film aficionados out there, of course you’ll know what I’m talking about. SPECTRE was featured in quite a number of the older Bond films, so this film was building a lot of hype as soon as the name was announced.
For many, especially those who have grew up with the recent Bond films, Daniel Craig is their favourite actor to portray the British agent. Not for one second would I question someone for this, especially after Spectre. He was excellent in the role as expected. As well as being the brute we all love to watch, he still manages to bring a level of dry humour to the role. Whilst Roger Moore would have winked at the audience or raised an eyebrow, Daniel Craig gives a sarcastic comment. But the best thing about Craig is his seamless transition from charm to killing.
Other members of the cast are superb also. Ralph Fiennes had a hefty task ahead of him to follow the most beloved ‘M’ in the series, Judi Dench. I never doubted him for a second – he is a terrific actor to start with. He even has his own subplot within the film, revolving around him clashing with a new spymaster played by Andrew Scott and his radical worldwide surveillance plans. Fitting into the role of the new boss well, and still getting his time to shine in action sequences, I can’t wait to see more of Fiennes in Bond films to come.
Ben Whishaw, who plays the MI6 quartermaster, more commonly known as ‘Q’, steals every scene he’s in. Forever stressed at Bond’s antics, he has fit into the role of a more comic character extremely well, and on many occasions made me laugh during the film. Again I look forward to his future appearances. One of my favourite cast members is actually Dave Bautista, who plays the part of Mr. Hinx. Mr. Hinx is essentially a formulaic brute, but I’m not complaining. A glorious throwback to the films featuring the villain Jaws, he is terrifying in his encounters with Bond, especially their train-brawl which also brings back memories of From Russia With Love. Having only one word of dialogue, he’s there to beat the shit out of Bond, and he does just that. Perhaps he could of been used more within the film, but any time he did have on screen was wonderful. Have a look at this clip of him in action, anyone fancy a square-go?
Léa Seydoux, who plays the Bond girl Madeleine Swann, changes the game and is absolutely fantastic in her role. Not your conventional Bond girl – questioning Bond, his attitudes, behaviour and giving her best at all opportunities – it’s refreshing to see a slight change, albeit it still follows the traditional formula if you know what I mean. What’s particularly good is the chemistry between herself and Craig. Sparks fly between them, especially in scenes in Austria, and the train sequence. It was all very natural and easy to watch.
Finally Christoph Waltz, our big Bond baddie. Playing the part of Franz Oberhauser, the shady head of SPECTRE, I expected big things from the two-time Oscar winner. Unfortunately, I was let down a bit. The introduction of him is heavily hyped, starting off with an old-fashioned, beautifully shot boardroom scene which manages to remain very serious and sinister. His screen time is brilliant, but he was very under-utilised throughout the film. So much more could have been made of the relationship between himself and Bond, and it just makes me sad this wasn’t targeted more. If so, Spectre could have been one of the greats, but a Bond villain with an underwhelming presence is a serious negative.
Veering away from the cast and onto other aspects of the film, there’s a lot to love about Spectre. Personally, I’m a big fan of the song. It’s elegant and powerful, and feels very Bond. Incase you don’t know it, it’s called Writing’s on the Wall by Sam Smith.
The opening ‘Day of the Dead’ sequence in Mexico is stunning, starting with a stylish tracking shot which reintroduces Craig onto the screen. Giving us time to take in the setting and atmosphere before moving on to a stupendous set-piece involving a helicopter doing a corkscrew, it was the perfect way to begin the film.
Other set-pieces deserve a lot of credit as well. The visit to Austria and the chaos there is all done with so much style, but still has the pulse-pounding elements you need for an action sequence. Without spoiling much, the finale is outstanding and I didn’t stop smiling throughout. Some sequences should have been extended further, especially the later scenes dealing with Waltz, which unfortunately felt a bit anti-climatic and a chance for the producers to be like “Ooh look at what we can do”.
The film’s running time is perhaps a bit long. In the middle act there were times I felt there was a lot of padding out and not enough going on. For a film that runs 148 minutes, you need to be sure you can keep the enthusiasm and interest of viewers, and I’m sad to say Spectre failed to do that in it’s entirety. However one slight advantage of this is how rewarding a scene like the train-brawl with Mr. Hinx is when it comes along.
So, Spectre; is it worth seeing? Absolutely. It is a stunningly shot, thrilling at times feature which tries so hard to make you love it. Whilst there is lots to love, it is flawed, which makes this review a touch bittersweet. Ultimately, it’s not a classic, but I do plan on seeing it again as I enjoyed Skyfall a lot more the second time round. The thing is Skyfall had a pretty emotional backdrop which made it more engaging – Spectre did not. The lack of a truly great villain also really hurts Spectre, but if this turns out to be Craig’s last outing as Bond, all loose ends have been tied up and it would be a fitting conclusion to one of the greatest Bonds we’ve ever seen. We should all really thank Daniel Craig for bringing such a fantastic character back to a standard that it should have always been.
Check out the trailer for Spectre below:
So what do you think? Is Spectre one of the greats? Or is it so-so? Let me know in the comments below or send a tweet to @frew_cameron.
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