Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Andrew Scott, Dave Bautista, Ben Whishaw, Monica Belucci
The latest instalment in the James Bond series, ‘Spectre’, was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. I’m actually not a huge fan of the series itself, but I enjoy it enough to know that this is a big deal. My interest in the franchise has been somewhat boosted in recent years due to Daniel Craig’s involvement, as I really like what he has brought to the role, and I would go as far to say that he is probably my favourite Bond. With that in mind, I went into the screening on release day full of hope and expectation that Craig and director Sam Mendes could once again produce a brilliant Bond film, after their work together on the incredibly successful ‘Skyfall’.
The plot is quite complicated, but I’ll do my best to give you a brief outline without the spoilers. The film begins with James (Craig) in Mexico City during the Day of the Dead festival, as he hunts down a mysterious man known as Sciarra after a tip from a familiar face. Whilst tracking the man in question, Bond overhears talk of someone referred to as the “Pale King”. Upon further investigation, Bond discovers that the “Pale King” is a face from his past, and soon realises that both men have a secret and deadly connection – a connection that goes deeper into James’ past than he could have possibly conceived. Meanwhile, in London, M (Ralph Fiennes) is finding out that being head of MI6 is as difficult a job as it sounds, as he is told that his department, including the 00 project, is going to be merged into one super-surveillance network shared by multiple countries across the world. With the 00 project being absorbed by greater powers, and his allies at MI6 unable to help him on his mission, James soon finds himself on his own in a world where mercy and forgiveness do not exist.
There were aspects I really enjoyed about ‘Spectre’ as well as aspects that I didn’t enjoy. One positive aspect was the performances, and there are a lot to talk about. Daniel Craig again excels in the titular role, bringing flair, charm and sophistication simultaneously. Lea Seydoux has a much larger part than I had anticipated and she also shines; a strong performance of an equally strong character, she was really fun to watch. Ben Whishaw’s performance as Q was a particular highlight. He has a much bigger role to play than he did in his first outing in ‘Skyfall’ and he was a surprising and enjoyable addition. Dave Bautista’s performance was engaging as well. His first appearance on screen is wonderfully violent, typical of his character Mr Hinx. The character reminded me quite a bit of iconic bond villain Jaws, helped by the presence of a fight scene on a train reminiscent of ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’. Andrew Scott produced another engaging performance as Max Denbigh, but he wasn’t given enough screen time to properly flourish into his character. Finally, Christoph Waltz as Franz Uberhauser – this performance is nothing short of brilliant. He instills a different kind of fear in the audience when compared to someone like Mr Hinx, who is all muscle. His calm and calculated demeanour, tarnished (or enhanced depending on how you view it) only by a hint of insanity, made him the perfect adversary to Bond. In the finale, I even felt an underlying sense of a Joker style villain, as he toyed with Bond, which I found devilishly entertaining.
The action sequences were also great, which is imperative for a Bond film. I loved the opening sequence in Mexico, complete with a tracking shot lasting about 5 minutes in length, that was just beautiful to watch. The whole setting for that opening scene was truly spectacular and filled me with a lot of confidence going forward. That’s where the problems began, however, as ‘Spectre’ suffers from a real loss of momentum. In the middle of the film, the narrative really started to waver and lose direction, to the extent that it became somewhat tedious to watch. The intertwining storylines also struggled to compliment each other effectively as the film continued, and everything became really disjointed and disorientating. However, ‘Spectre’ soon found its feet again and the explosive finale was a masterpiece. Essentially, the film begins and ends really well, but it was severely let down by its meandering middle section. Visually it was really impressive though – Rome looked absolutely stunning, as did the Austrian Alps. It felt like a classic James Bond movie, a move back towards Bond stereotypes after ‘Skyfall’, which I thought was a more unique addition to the franchise.
A lot of the talk before ‘Spectre’ centred on Daniel Craig and his quotes regarding his future in the Bond franchise, and personally I really think this will be the end for him. ‘Spectre’ perfectly rounds off the Craig era in terms of narrative (as there are narrative references to all three of his previous films) and the final minutes felt like a goodbye. To me, the film did feel a little tired; as though Mendes and Craig just wanted it to be over, to move on to pastures new. I could be completely wrong, but I wouldn’t expect to see Daniel Craig as 007 again, which is a shame because I think he’s played the role wonderfully since his debut in ‘Casino Royale’.
‘Spectre’ is not as good as its predecessor, but it’s a film that nods towards previous films in the franchise that more avid fans will enjoy, as well as being, on the whole, an exciting watch for the rest of the viewing audience like myself. For me, it was slightly underwhelming – probably as a result of my own high expectations – but ‘Spectre’ is a solid new addition to one of the most iconic cinema franchises of all time.