With an annoying theme song, a 50-year-old bond girl, and more product placement than your local shopping centre, Bond is back.
In Spectre, the 4th Craig-as-Bond film, Bond must go up against his biggest opponent yet: a committee of diplomats (they’re ‘technically’ international terrorists, but only in the same way One Direction are ‘technically’ musicians). Lead by the enigmatic and forgettably-named Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), the committee is known as Spectre, and is responsible for fear-mongering worldwide.
This review will attempt to avoid all spoilers, but it’s safe to say no longer is Bond wasting time with water-thieves or gambling bankers; his sights are set solely on supervillainry.
Spectre brings Bond back to basics. Way back. Back to Dr. No, Goldfinger and From Russia with Love. In fact, if there’s one criticism to be levelled at Spectre, it’s that James is hardly a Craig-Bond at all: he’s a Connery-Bond.
Back are the quips. Back are the fully-fledged Q, M, and Moneypenny. Back are the hidden lairs and mustachioed villains. These throwbacks could satisfyingly be argued as ‘Bond returning to his roots’, although may also simply be unorginal regurgitation. Bond has become so self-reverential it’s hard to tell what’s a wink to the past and what’s just copy-and-paste.
Returning after the success of Skyfall, director Sam Mendes has taken everything good (and bad) about that film and turned them up a notch in Spectre. The action sequences may not be as nail-biting or adrenaline-fueled as Casino Royale, but they’re never anything but inventive. Bond is no longer the whippersnapper he was in 2006, so must rely on smarts rather than brute force, especially as man/mountain Dave Bautista brings his bulging biceps to proceedings. Craig looks like Bond ought to; haggard and hurt, strong but broken. With every film in the Craig canon, it becomes harder and harder to watch any previous Bond, as, simply put, Craig is Bond. Everyone else is just a tie-fixing poser.
In terms of Bond Women (as they are now called), Monica Bellucci is the appetiser, and Lea Seydoux is the main course. Judging by reactions to the film so far, your opinion of the film almost solely rests upon your appreciation of the Seydoux character. Perhaps her thematic significance justifies her position, but for a franchise which has given us strong, active female heroes in the recent years, it’s hard to revert to the damsel in distress days of yore.
As Oberhauser, Christoph Waltz’s performance is effective but brief. For the super-villain he pertains to be, we don’t really see him wield any great power, other than what he claims to be responsible for. We wait to see what he can do, but only catch glimpses. Information about his character is slowly revealed throughout the narrative and, shortly after his beef with Bond if fully explained, we realise that Spectre is just the beginning of something big. Now, all we need is a sequel.
Unfortunately, that may not be forthcoming.
Apparently, the era of Daniel Craig as Bond has come to an end (although it’s doubtful Craig could do without the paycheck and it’s hard to see Mendes dropping back to a smaller-scale). If Bond 25 doesn’t feature Craig, it will be a disappointment. Having finally, over the course of Skyfall and Spectre, figured out the right balance for Q, M, Moneypenny and Bond himself, it would seem a waste to simply press the reset button.
In conclusion, the unbroken 4 minute shot that starts the show is a good indicator of the film to come: Spectre is slow, smooth, solid, light, and always engaging.
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