I love Daniel Craig as James Bond. He’s taken a notably different approach to the iconic character, portraying Bond as a flawed individual who keeps running into tragedy at every turn. The loss of his girlfriend Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale is one of the many reasons that I love this incarnation of Bond. In Craig’s past three movies, Bond has felt much more like a real person and less like the character that was established so many years ago. This may have upset some Bond purists, but I think Craig’s Bond has been the perfect mix between the classic and the modern.

With 2012’s Skyfall being named by many as one of the greatest Bond films ever, expectations were noticeably high for Spectre. And with Sam Mendes returning to direct, it seemed like nothing could go wrong. Unfortunately, the 24th film in the long running franchise is one of Craig’s lesser Bond pictures. That’s not to say it’s bad, but it certainly doesn’t even come close to matching the heights of Skyfall or Casino Royale. Gone are the interesting storylines, themes and character arcs that made those films so interesting. Instead, we’re treated to Craig’s goofiest Bond film yet, one that feels much more like a throwback to the ridiculous films of yesteryear and less like the realistic character that we’ve come to expect. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing as the film still manages to deliver some great action sequences and is a ton of fun from start to finish.

After the death of M (Judi Dench), 007 goes on a rogue trip to Mexico City, following a message that she posthumously sent to him. After causing chaos and destruction at a Day of the Dead celebration, Bond is grounded by the new M (Ralph Fiennes), but Bond quickly ignores this order and follows a lead to Rome. While in Rome, Bond stumbles upon a secret meeting of an organization known as SPECTRE. The meeting is being led by the mysterious Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), who claims to have connections to Bond’s past. In order to find out more about the shadowy organization, Bond teams up with Madeline Swann (Léa Seydoux), a woman whose past contains a connection to SPECTRE.

Spectre opens with a bang, as the Day of the Dead sequences that begins the film is nothing short of stunning. It begins with a seemingly uninterrupted take that follows Bond through the streets of Mexico City as he stalks his target underneath the disguise of a skeleton costume. It’s a visually arresting opening sequence that is gloriously lensed by cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema. It leads to the jaw-dropping destruction of an entire building and a memorable fight sequence inside of a flying helicopter. This is easily the greatest action sequence in the film, but that’s not to say that Mendes runs out of steam too early. There are still a number of great action set pieces throughout the film, most notably a snowy pursuit through the Austrian mountains. This sequence has Bond flying a plane as he chases after several vehicles and while it’s certainly over-the-top from a logical standpoint, it looks great and it’s really exciting. Also worth noting is the well-directed fight scene between Bond and Oberhauser’s henchman Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista), which has them fighting through several different cars on a moving train. The final climactic action sequence is pretty uninspired, so it’s a good thing that all of the action that precedes it is great.

What ultimately brings the film down the most is how thin it is when it comes to narrative, characters and themes. What made Casino Royale and Skyfall so great was that they actually had really interesting stories and tackled themes which elevated them above the typical Bond films. Spectre’s story isn’t great and it’s commentary on surveillance in the 21st century is uninspired and a little late to the game. It also lacks a character arc for Bond, which is something that Craig’s previous films have been successful at. The screenplay from John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade may be great at placing its characters in exotic locales and interesting action sequences, but it’s dramatically thin. Typically, this would be fine for a Bond film, but it comes as a bit of a disappointment since the last three films seemed to be striving for something greater.

But if you’re just going into the film looking for action, you definitely won’t be disappointed. Mendes is still adept at directing exciting sequences and the score by Thomas Newman only heightens the intensity. Léa Seydoux is one of the best Bond girls that this franchise has had in years and Christoph Waltz seems like he was born to be a Bond villain, even if the amount of screen time that he receives is a little disappointing. Spectre has some highs and it has some lows, the most notable being Sam Smith’s lackluster theme song “Writing’s on the Wall”. And while it’s less consistent than some of Bond’s best outings, the film’s inconsistencies only make it feel more like a throwback to some of the cheesy Bond films that preceded it. For some people, this might even be viewed as a good thing.

Spectre receives 3/4

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