The James Bond franchise, to me, has always been a bit of a mixed bag . There are the all time greats (Casino Royale, From Russia With Love, Goldeneye, Skyfall), there are the decent/good ones (Live and Let die, Thunderball) and of course, the downright horrible ones (Basically any bond film with Roger Moore; Yeah, not a fan)
Spectre being the 26th entry and the 4th Daniel Craig era bond movie, falls into the 2nd group of the aforementioned trio of bond film archetypes. Not quite hitting the remarkably gritty highs of neither the first Daniel Craig bond outing (Casino Royale) nor the last (Skyfall), Spectre is nevertheless solid, fun entertainment. It is, for better or worse, a return to the classic James Bond tropes that again, for better or worse, had been missing in recent bond flicks; bar the occasional homage or tribute, the first 3 Daniel Craig bond films tried their best to disassociate from what people had taken for granted in a bond film up until then, with perhaps only one minor misstep in the form of “Quantum of Solace” (Which I must say, I quite enjoyed as a straightforward action film, but not as a James Bond film)
Spectre, on the other hand, graciously decides to do away with all the grit and embrace the aforementioned tropes. The opening barrel sequence, frequent uses of the famous theme throughout the score, The obligatory bond girl with the obligatory sex scene, the unique henchman, a villain with a deformity, the quotes, Cool cars, cooler gadgets and the enemy base explosion – They’re all there, and it does work…mostly. See, Spectre, while accepting these tropes also at times, comes across as having a bit of an identity crisis. On one hand, the film is classic bond while on the other, it tries to be gritty like the previous three entries. This leads to jarring pacing issues in the film which is perhaps worsened by the unnecessary subplot involving MI-6 (which, along with the plot, I won’t spoil here).
It’s not all bad though. Daniel Craig, as always is on top form here and it’ll be quite a challenge to see anyone else play the role now, seeing the size of the shoes they’d have to fill. Lea Seydoux as the second Bond girl in the film (with the first being Monica Bellucci, an extremely talented actress who’s given a criminally small part) also shines in her scenes. Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) as the henchman, Mr Hinx, is excellent in his limited role – A lumbering beast of a man, Hinx is perhaps, one of the most physically terrifying bond villains to be put on-screen. The action sequences are also suitably bombastic and epic, with a great reliance on stunts and a seamless integration of CGI. The cinematography by Hoyt Van Hoytema (Interstellar) deserves special mention, evidenced by the countless beautiful and sweeping vistas that he’s managed to capture (There’s a particular one-shot sequence in the beginning that’s to die for). Sam Mendes does his directorial duties as best as he can with the script he’s been given, to varying degrees of success and the opening titles/song is beautiful and quite brilliant to behold (though my favourite is still Adele’s Skyfall)
This brings me to perhaps, one of the biggest drawbacks of the film – underutilizing Christoph Waltz as Franz Obenhauser, the latest bond adversary. Christoph Waltz, needless to say, is an extremely talented actor (Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained), and to give him such a potentially meaty role only to make it quite uninteresting is very disappointing, but the ending does give me a bit of hope for the future. It must be said that unsurprisingly, he does steal any scene he’s in though and I just wish there were more of him.
Spectre is a good James Bond film that was perhaps, one rewrite short of achieving greatness. Nevertheless, if this does turn out to be the last Daniel Craig bond film, I must say that this is perhaps, bar Sean Connery, the best run that any actor has had playing the character. Kudos to you, Daniel Craig.
Money Moment: Easily, the opening action sequence.