Fresh from the critical and box office success of Skyfall, the acclaimed partnership of Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig teamed up again to produce the 24th Bond of the series: Spectre. An acronym for ‘Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion’ or as I like to call it ‘Spectacularly Poor, Extremely Careless, Totally Rubbish Etcetera…’, Spectre is a frustratingly unbalanced movie that loses focus, runs out of steam and limps towards the finish line, contaminating the brilliant work of previous films such as Casino Royale and Skyfall.
Plot-wise, Spectre hits the ground running with a lengthy, virtuoso tracking sequence of Bond (Daniel Craig) that follows him through the crowded Mexico City streets on the Day of the Dead – Dia de los Muertos. This lavish shot pays homage to the renowned themes of 007, with typically stylish guns and beautiful women. After events in Mexico gain worldwide publicity, Bond is suspended from office and consequently goes rogue. While M (Ralph Fiennes) fights corrupt forces within the government in hope of saving the 00 project, Bond follows a mysterious message from his past that leads him to the shadowy individual Frank Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz). From the moment Oberhauser reveals his face the film spirals downwards – the overall formula becomes tiring, the chase sequences become empty and we are introduced to one of the most underwhelming Bond villains in recent history.
The weight of this, the highest budget Bond film, is placed on location and set pieces, rather than dialogue and character development – it shows. The only study of character lies in the repetitive obsession with humanising the Bond from the previous two Craig films. Since Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, many directors have tried and failed to replicate the anti-hero character. They must realise, crucially, that it is not technical ability, but Nolan’s sinister and self-serious nature that creates this obsession. Craig nonetheless delivers another colossal performance; working with little material, he continues his fine work as a dark, dramatically compelling Bond. Personally, I believe that his outstanding work possibly hurts the series – imagine writers so out of their depth taking such a bleak tone with a Moore or Brosnan. They are constantly one step behind Craig and after Spectre, it seems the actor has realised this, in deciding to quit.
Waltz bombs as the unthreatening and laughable villain with a predictable twist. After Oscar-winning performances in Django Unchained and Inglorious Basterds, I believe he has hit his peak and sadly fallen into the realms of unoriginality. Craig’s photogenic match Lea Seydoux has some encouraging moments, yet never quite sparkles like Eva Green’s Vesper. Fiennes becomes embroiled in a political conspiracy and like the rest of the cast suffers from a tedious subplot that only serves to lengthen the movie’s tedium. Sam Smith’s unexpectedly Academy Award winning score is worthy of a place in Bond’s hall of fame, although it never touches the majestic level of Adele’s Skyfall.
Verdict: Spectre has left the James Bond series in a deep hole that I feel it may be difficult to climb out of. Ian Fleming’s suave, spirited agent has been crippled into another one of Hollywood’s exhausted, unoriginal and out of touch characters. After surviving countless malevolent villains, I suspect that this legend of film may be killed by somebody even the great 007 can’t run away from.
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You’re forgetting (or maybe not realising) that Daniel Craig has a significant say in the storylines. I think this is a huge part of the problem – he’s an actor not a writer and it shows. He doesn’t have any real ideas, just fancy things “that would be cool” which can happen. There’s no sense of why something is happening. He goes somewhere beautiful, someone tells him something, there’s a big set piece chase and then he leaves to go to the next place. It doesn’t make sense. These are films which are written by committee and we all know the proverb about too many cooks.