Daniel Craig as James Bond has revitalised the franchise, with 007 becoming a morally corrupt realistic depiction of what the MI6 super spy would be in the 21st century.
“Casino Royale” is personally still my favourite of the Craig era Bond outings, but 2012s “Skyfall” wasn’t far behind, with the series subtly adding some of the more fantastical elements from the Connery/Moore era, while also adding some backstory and history to the character.
Now with “SPECTRE” the history of the man is stripped away even more. I am not a particular fan of making 007 the tortured soul, I prefer the iconic spy to be more of a mystery and let the missions take centre stage.
Sam Mendes like he did with “Skyfall” has delivered a Bond movie that ticks all the boxes; the girls , the cars, the gadgets and even the hidden base. The restraints are clearly off, with more quips and more fun than the previous Craig outings.
The film often felt like a greatest hits of all the best Bond films. A fight on a train against the henchman Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista) was reminiscent of Roger Moore’s fight with iconic villain Jaws in “The Spy Who Loved me”. There was even a call back to “Dr. No” with 007 strapped to a torture device.
The pacing for the first hour was frantic, with a fantastic opening at the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico a stand out moment. The second half felt considerably slower. 007 does the usual amount of globe trotting that takes him to Rome, Austria, Tangiers and for the finale back to London. The action was classic bond with car chases (one involving a plane) , hand to hand combat and escaping exploding buildings, as well as blowing two up in the process.
Christoph Waltz is solid in his role as villain Franz Oberhauser, but with a little too much evil villain moustache twirling. But this served the story well, as with all things in “SPECTRE” subtlety went out of the window. This is a action packed, high-octane, non-apologetic Bond movie.
Adam Scott played is role as Max Denbigh (C) with a bureaucratic campiness that forced an instant dislike. His character as head of the new Centre for National Security was intent on dissolving the double 0 division, this gave M played by Ralph Fiennes a purpose in London that served as a decent sub-plot. The secondary action also hammered home the central theme and gave it some relevance with modern reality, surveillance and who should have this power.
Monica Bellucci really shone in what was in essence an extended cameo, her chemistry with Craig was electric. It was also nice to Jesper Christensen’s Mr. White again, who’s iconic lines that featured in the trailers are just as impactful in the feature. Léa Seydoux’s performance was solid enough but the writing of her character felt disingenuous and the romance with 007 felt all too rushed and only necessary to feed the story. I didn’t buy it, it didn’t have the same impact as Bond’s relationship with Vesper Lynd in “Casino Royale”, but the story tellers tried too hard to convince us of the believability.
Daniel Craig is a great James bond and you can tell he is now completely comfortable with the role, he has softened the edges a little and is perhaps less Dalton and more Moore on the charmer-scale. This Bond unlike Moore however is coolness personified with Craig looking dapper in a range of tailored suits for all occasions, in what was almost an extended ad for fashion designer Tom Ford . Craig also manages to convey the right amount of power and vulnerability with just the right amount suave.
“SPECTRE” ties all the previous Craig outings together, which at times felt slightly forced. This eagerness to tie up and almost cap off all four entries with a crescendo does give me the sense that this could be the last time we see Craig in the role. There was almost a moment towards the end that I thought we could see a bizarre introduction of Idris Elba, in an announcement of the new casting on film. I get the feeling it was intentional on the filmmakers behalf to have a little fun with the audience, after the wide-spread speculation.
This outing is definitely the most traditional Bond film in the Craig era and perhaps that is half the problem, hence why I feel a little disappointed. We didn’t get anything new here, to a certain extent it felt like going backwards . “SPECTRE” is a good but all too predictable 007 film, it is entertaining and delivers all that we have come to expect, but after “Skyfall” I was expecting and wanting more.
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