The James Bond movies were among the most formative of my film journey, hence making the effort to get out and see Spectre (2015) on opening day. I didn’t take notes as I wasn’t planning on writing a full review, so hopefully these thoughts aren’t too scattered.
A lot of reviews of the film seem to boil down to, ‘well it’s no Skyfall (2012).’ It’s not, and that’s not the worst thing in the world if you ask me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of that film, despite feeling that it doesn’t deserve a lot of the plaudits that it received. But what Spectre does so well is return to the roots of the series. Roots that have been more or less ignored since Daniel Craig assumed the tux (which you may think is a good thing, and which I don’t think is wholly bad). The pre-credits sequence is an absolute cracker, Mexico City playing host to explosions, a Day of the Dead foot-chase and a duel in a tumbling helicopter that is legitimately breathtaking. Perhaps no sequence in the rest of the film is a slickly constructed and executed as this.
Where the film falls down, if anywhere, is a pretty patchy script. It does some things well. The Bond nerd in me adored the origin story the film lays down for an iconic villain I won’t name. In fact there are numerous little homages to Bond flicks past for fans to pick up on, without them ever feeling too wink wink or taking you out of the world of the film. But the script does lag at points and the film lacks narrative thrust for much of the run time. The film is hurt by being too long and for the plot being a pretty underwhelming retread of ideas we have seen in other films of late. For me though, this just felt like such a fun remix of so many of the past films I adored so much. There is a fast car, quips, Q, creative chases, silly henchman and a really excellent central villain. Though the film is hamstrung by trying to shoehorn that villain into the mythology that the series has been building up throughout the Craig era. It is unnecessary, and frankly part of what makes the film stand apart is that it is not wedded particularly to the Bond character built up over the last few films, one that does not really resonate with the folklore of the character.
Performance wise it is the villains who stand out. Christoph Waltz is really good, especially given he has begun to feel like he is constantly playing the same character of late and here he offers something a little different. Dave Bautista wordlessly brings his pro-wrestling physicality to bear on the film in a couple of excellent sequences, including one aboard a train that is one of the better hand to hand combat sequences the series has ever offered up. Elsewhere, Andrew Scott is his typical excellent self, though it does feel like he is channelling his Moriarty from the Sherlock TV show a little too much. Lea Seydoux is very good as Dr Madeline Swann, a Bond girl straight out of the 60s. In the world of this film, that does not really bother me. You don’t watch this series for the progressive politics (though the film is an extended, though simplistic, jab at surveillance culture), but what frustrates me is the marketing obsession every time one of these films rolls around to assure us this is a very different Bond girl. Make no mistake Seydoux’s character is exactly the same as a majority of the Bond girls the series has ever brought to the screen. Ralph Fiennes as M and Naomi Harris as Moneypenny continue to impress as reinterpretations of those classic stock characters and I’m hoping they continue to play bigger parts in future films.
Verdict: This is the most Bondy feeling Bond film of all the Daniel Craig entries into the series. The story is neither here nor there. But the characters are fun, the chases thrilling enough and the set-pieces, though perhaps needing one more, are certainly thrilling enough. Pint of Kilkenny