A film that in many ways both delivers and disappoints, Spectre is at times formulaic, but very enjoyable as a stand-alone Bond film. Following the incredibly successful Skyfall, Spectre had very high expectations and in many ways comparing it to its predecessor seems unfair to what Director Sam Mendes offers in his 2nd Bond film.
Spectre picks up not far from where Skyfall left off with Daniel Craig now in his fourth outing as James Bond, following a trail to uncover a secret organization known as Spectre and it’s mysterious leader Franz Oberhauser played by the always-brilliant Christoph Waltz.
The film opens up with one of the best shots ever to appear in a Bond film, an amazing tracking shot over the day of the dead festival in Mexico. It truly is masterful and sets the film up brilliantly bringing the audience into the chase as Bond is searching for two men plotting to blow up a stadium.
Act one for the first time in the Craig era of Bond, feels like an old school Bond film. From the Sniper shot returning to the beginning of the film (where it belongs), to the way the film throws its audience in the middle of a mission. Right at the beginning it feels that Craig’s Bond is finally the Bond from the Sean Connery era, ruthless, and cold.
One Criticism of Craig’s series of films is that the films were an origin story of sort, building to Bond finally becoming the ruthless assassin we grew to know in the Connery and Moore eras of the franchise. In many ways Spectre fixes that it is a return to the classic Bond formula, which both helps and hurts the film.
Unlike Skyfall, Spectre has a strong emphasis on action. Featuring many action set pieces that are both beautifully executed and masterfully shot. A sequence in Austria is a particular stand out, featuring one of two major chase sequences in the film between Bond and Mr. Hinx, played by Dave Bautista.
Bautista’s villain is a throwback to the classic Bond villain of the past, such as Oddball and Jaws. His introduction scene is shocking and also sets up the character brilliantly without him having to say a word. In fact Mr. Hinx has very little dialogue through out the film, a silent assassin obsessed with hunting down Bond.
A stand out sequence for Mr. Hinx is a scene he has with Bond on a train. One of the most brutal fight scenes in a Bond film, brilliantly shot and executed to show Hinx’s explosive power and strength.
One of the unexpected surprises of the film was Lea Seydoux as Bond girl Madeleine Swann. Seydoux’s on screen chemistry with Craig was fantastic and played the balance between being the damsel in distress and someone who can defend herself very well. In a film where she was given very little to do, she excelled and made the character memorable.
Mendes’s direction in this is second to none. The performances from the actors involved are all faultless, especially Craig as Bond whom in both Skyfall and this has added depth to the character not seen before in the franchise’s 50-year history.
Another strength was the Cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema, each shot is fantastic, adding character development, it really is flawless. One of the best shots in the entire film was in the introduction to Christoph Waltz’s character. The first shot Waltz has in the film is a particular stand out as seen in the trailers, were Oberhauser turns from the darkness into the light to look at Bond.
Unfortunately the script at times let the film down particularly in the scenes featuring Christoph Waltz. Expectations were high ever since the announcement that Waltz had been cast in the new Bond film as the villain.
It appeared to be a match made in heaven, and in many ways it was, Waltz is brilliant as the mysterious Oberhauser, the problem was, he wasn’t in the film enough. Waltz only appeared in a handful of scenes and although he is great in those scenes, his lack of presence through the whole film made these scenes feel underwhelming.
The plot at times also felt convoluted, particularly in the subplot of the film featuring M played by the returning Ralph Fiennes, and head of the Intelligence service C played by Andrew Scott. These scenes really detracted from the film, slowed down the plot and really felt unnecessary. Also Eve Moneypenny, a stand out of Skyfall was underused here. Having very little to do except be Bond’s ears inside MI6.
Spectre is neither a bad film nor a great one, but it is an enjoyable entry in the Bond franchise. Following Casino Royale and Skyfall was a tough act to follow and in many ways the film lacks Skyfall’s lighthearted nature, yet delivers action that has been absent in Craig’s films so far. This film is not as good as Skyfall or Casino Royale but certainly is better than Quantum of Solace.
It is unclear what is next for Bond, if Craig will return for a 5th film or not. If Spectre does turn out to be his last Bond film, it is a fitting farewell.
By Simon Hanson