Bond is back and with bells on as this latest installment in the long running franchise clearly shows off. Blown up buildings, car chases and seducing women all get ticked off as the blonde Bond deals with his own personal mission to connect the dots of his last three outings.
Whilst on a mission in Mexico City, James Bond (Daniel Craig) uncovers some talk of a planned explosion, the Pale King and knows some darker thread is being woven. He journeys from between London, Rome, Austria and Morocco to come face to face with the man behind the deaths and the mystery, one figure of his past named Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) who threatens Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) and the entire MI6 00 program.
In directing terms, this new adventure for James Bond is a treat, the scenes are dealt with well on the most part. There’s a fluidity in the scenes with conversation and the more upbeat sequences are hand-held and shaky to fit with that expected Bourne trend of late. The more artistic and somewhat beautiful side of Sam Mendes and his directorial stance comes back as it did with ‘Skyfall’, though thankfully this time it seems less pretentious and ‘Dark Knight Rises’. The shadowing helps the spookiness of this spy action flick and the broad scope of each location is perfect patterning for the Bond collective.
It’s like a film of two halves, with the first half setting up a good mood and including brilliantly orchestrated set pieces, yet these well stitched tapestries become frayed as we drift into silly moments for the latter part of this movie. A lot of this comes down to the writing but the negatives also come booming to the screen because of this attempt at darkness being subverted by the quite campy feel of older 007 features. Wit and one liners feel right in the Connery/Moore era but after a while that loses fun when delivered by the clearly grittier take from Craig’s version.
Without spoilers for the people that have been even later than me to see this, the direction of the villain is clear from the title alone and for a nemesis so big and synonymous with the Bond world, it could have been taken on a darker path but the connections created feel so dumb and half arsed that this creation of the man with the plan (and the white cat) loses serious impact. It starts feeling like a scheme of the 60’s/70’s as he attempts to take down the entire organisation and hide out in large bases.
I mean, it took four people to muster up the screenplay, that conflict of ideas/personalities may very well be why the story feels a tad messy at times. Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan and Jez Butterworth give the movie some great moments, for example the back and forth dialogue between 007 and Q is sublime and well executed, the stuffy yet driven M is necessary and Oberhauser’s set up and initial revelation is interestingly carved out but descends into panto villain land before too long which is a true shame.
Hoyte van Hoytema must be commended for his stunning cinematography work. Each and every location convey the perfect atmosphere, even dreary London has that grand impression of authority which works for the unsettling crumbling of it by the final act. Also, one of the biggest pre title sequences for the Bond collection is brilliant, the look of the Day of the Dead parade and the ensuing carnage that follows is epic and engaging. The car chase through Rome is perhaps uninspiring but still pumped full of adrenaline and these are captured with stunning eyes for action thrills for the paying audience, Bond fans or otherwise.
One of the major travesties of this film is the writing of character, Bond becomes less of a hero than a war machine than normal, but heck that’s expected for this rebel secret agent, the true outrage is Madeleine Swann who quickly becomes one of the worst written characters in my memory. I feel bad for the hugely talented Lea Seydoux of whom I adore. Swann at first is frosty, capable and assured but then turns into a wreck, a desperate damsel in distress that seems to forget all her strength, determination and experience gifted by her father and her years. The train scene as she asks what they do next, cutting to the following antics are just unbelievably painful and that’s where the film starts getting bad in my opinion.
There’s some good ideas throughout, Mr. Hinx as the updated Oddjob is unbreakable and has squeamish plans for his metal tipped thumbs, the many limbed structure of Spectre is believable enough to tie the other villains together and the beginning of the Austrian chase works really well. The whole reasoning behind who Oberhauser is to Bond is awful, the drilling torture scene has no impact really and overall the movie is too long.
Daniel Craig delivers charm and macho confidence as he has done in every other Bond outing, so though it’s not the acting role that dreams are made of, he’s still convincing as the lead spy and the man to go to or fall in love with. Lea Seydoux as mentioned becomes a usual one dimensional Bond girl but demonstrates her emotion and talent before that comes to pass. She at least has more to do than cameo role of Monica Bellucci who could have been played by anyone. Ralph Fiennes steps in as the new M and does what Fiennes does best, as in being in charge but not really and giving that likable grimace to the boss. Christoph Waltz is underused but I’m sure he will be used again and I liked him in this role, it suits him and gave enough chills to the part. Ben Whishaw is fast becoming the best aspect of these latest films and I’m happy with that fact.
24 movies down and Bond is still happily chalking off victims and ladies as if he’s never away. This is a much more entertaining movie than ‘Skyfall’, some may say it’s not better but weirdly I disagree, I still am in the, probably empty camp of not liking that movie much. ‘Spectre’ has awesome visuals, striking vision from Mendes and all out Spectre-cle.