Expectation is a dangerous thing. In a world of teasers, trailers and Twitter, it’s all too easy to get over-excited to the point where even the best movie (or game, or book, or … ) can leave you cold. I was in real danger of this happening with SPECTRE. From general anticipation, through the excitement of the title and everything that it implies, to the gushing early reviews – I was perfectly setting myself up for disappointment. So thank you to the naysayers, thanks Hitfix, thank you the Verge and a special thanks to Forbes (who called it “the worst 007 movie in 30 years”). No, SPECTRE is not the best Bond let alone the best film ever made. But it’s great fun and it might just be my favourite since Daniel Craig got his licence to kill.
It opens brilliantly. Bond movies have a history of great pre-credits sequences but SPECTRE raises the bar to a new level and will take some beating. Set in Mexico during the Day of the Dead celebrations it combines the spectacle of Live and Let Die and the scale of Quantum of Solace (yes, seriously, watch the opening scene again, it’s excellent). It’s also stylish, including that extended tracking shot which has quite rightly been lauded elsewhere. But, more than anything, it’s simply thrilling and the sort of sequence that would happily end most other action movies. It’s a visceral, breathless start and the antithesis to Skyfall’s “Home Alone”-style ending which I thought was a disappointment (after a great set up).
What then follows is not perfect but it’s hugely entertaining. We get shady schemes, exotic locations, car (and plane) chases, gadgets, lairs and explosions. There are also nice touches which echo the past without ramming it down the audiences throats – my favourite being a fight on a train which equals anything in From Russia with Love and seems to also pay tribute to Jaws (albeit not that one). Most pleasingly though, we get something that I’ve felt has been missing from the Daniel Craig Bonds, a sense of fun. This is a Bond who is still influenced by Bourne but also by Connery, Moore and the others. Villains are theatrical, facilities are extravagant, planes chase cars, puns are delivered alongside punches. While much of the hate going round about SPECTRE seems to center on it being too silly I’d actually have preferred it went a bit further if anything.
The gang from the end of Skyfall all return, with Ralph Fiennes (M) and Ben Whishaw (Q) really growing into their roles and Andrew Scott (C) is a nice addition. Christopher Waltz is excellent as Oberhauser, menacing in the most subtle of ways and always seeming like he’s one whispered order away from having you someone gutted. As anyone who’s witnessed his WWE mike work will attest, Hinx’s silent henchman gives Dave Bautista exactly the right number of lines for him to shine. Sadly, it’s the female characters who are really shortchanged, particularly Monica Bellucci who gets little more than a cameo and a particularly strange and uncomfortable scene with Bond. Lea Seydoux gets a little more to work with although her role is basically arm candy slash plot device. It’s a shame as I think her character could have been much more interesting with some small changes (think I might talk about that elsewhere – spoilers). She is gorgeous though.
So what didn’t I like? Well, firstly it felt that the film had a slight identity crisis. After two grittier, more grounded efforts (Casino Royale and Quantum) it was great to see Bond lighten up a bit in this movie but this didn’t always sit well with the “serious” story it felt like Sam Mendes still wanted to tell. Themes of surveillance, power and obsolescence plus carried-over plotlines about grief, family and duty are all interesting but felt like they might have worked better in a different movie. Like the film itself, I wish Daniel Craig’s Bond would also make up his mind. Over the past four films he’s resigned, returned and gone off the grid more times than I can count and certainly more than I think it plausible. If this is his last outing as 007 then perhaps he’ll be remembered as the hokey-cokey Bond. In? Out? Shaken (not stirred) all about? It’s time to choose a path and follow it.
Flawed but fun, your enjoyment will depend on how seriously you like your Bond-age. Next time I hope they let him loose.
Seen it already? Then check out our post on 5 thoughts on Bond’s future after SPECTRE or let us know your comments.