Spectre, directed by Sam Mendes, is a Bond film that seems unsure of what it wants to be. On the one hand this is a Bond film that continues its edgier run (those now classic Daniel Craig beat down scenes return), yet on the other hand Spectre wants to at times settle in and enjoy the comforts of past glories – trying to have both, means that the film does give off some mixed messages, and makes for a confusing film.
The story this time round sees James Bond – played of course by Daniel Craig – be dragged back into a fight with a very secretive organisation that seems to have been haunting him for years. Bond, along with the help of Q – played by Ben Wishaw – and Money Penny – played by Naomie Harris – must battle new intimidating foes, in the hopes of uncovering just who exactly has been plaguing so many areas of Bonds life for so long, and what exactly Spectre is.
Spectre is a film that screams big budget – more than ever can you see that the heads at Sony wanted Spectre to be bigger and better than Skyfall, though only one of those was achieved. When you sit down in your seat and the film begins, what cannot be ignored is the scale of this Bond film. With a beautifully shot and choreographed opening (done in one continuous shot I might add) that leads Bond on a slightly silly fight in the back of a helicopter over thousands of people, is certainly a great way of grabbing your attention. It’s exhilarating and very well done. There is no clearer example than this one that shows that everyone involved wanted to make sure they did everything possible to outdo the previous film. Though this is certainly the case, I’m slightly worried that this mantra is what ultimately harmed the rest of Spectre.
It’s not only the opening of the film that screams big budget though – almost every scene in Spectre is grandiose in its delivery. Sweeping vistas of beautiful foreign lands, action that feels real and intense, and an overall scale that perhaps hasn’t been evident in Bonds films for some time. While this is certainly great to look at, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the content within these spectacular moments is all that interesting or even well realised.
To elaborate, Spectre’s biggest downfall is its story. What Spectre tries to do is tie together the previous plots of the Daniel Craig films and then filter them into something cohesive for this one. It has all been connected and here are all the strands leading back to the top, look how clever we are – that’s the feel I got from the film sometimes anyway.
I became lost in the scope of what Mendes and his team tried to do with Spectre (and not in a good way). Like I said Spectre is a film of scale and with such scale, comes the problem of trying to keep it all engaging and easy enough to follow along. This sadly is not the case for Spectre.
To give further weight to what I’m saying I want to touch on something that I was personally really disappointed about when it came to Spectre, that being its villain (I’ll avoid using the character’s name so as to avoid spoiling who he is). So it’s Christoph Waltz who takes on the mantle of being the Bond villain this time round and while he does a good job performance wise, he is let down by paper thin development. We are given so little about this character and most of his scenes are just him spouting off generic bad guy rhetoric that I never felt intrigued or frightened by who he was or what he might do. As a villain he came of as a little one dimensional and bland. This is a real shame because the film hints at a really interesting connection between him and Bond yet doesn’t do anything with it – he instead just goes through the motions of villainy 101.
This leads me to the side chicks of Bond, this time being Monica Bellucci, who plays Lucia and Lea Seydoux, who plays Madeleine Swann. Monica Bellucci is in the film for such a short amount of time and serves so little to the plot that it doesn’t really seem worthwhile to say much, other than that she delivers a good performance for the less than 10 minutes she is on screen. Lea Seydoux on the other hand has a much bigger part in the film; sadly she delivers a wonky performance. She felt out of place in the film and her performance swung between charming seductress to disinterested robot. I would have actually preferred to have seen these two actresses swap roles – I think this would have made for a much more interesting relationship for Bond, and a much more interesting time for the overall film.
And now we get to the big man himself: James Bond. Well I guess first I’ll give a little love for Daniel Craig and his continuing strong performance as the Walther PPK firing charmer. Craig once again brings the right balance of wittiness and intimidation to the role of Bond – I really enjoy watching him balance the almost schizophrenic antics of the character. While he may be looking a little tiered in the role (oh god please don’t be another Roger Moore situation) he still really brings his all to these films (I think his real life injuries prove that). So even though I would like to see someone else get the chance to put on the Tux for the next Bond outing, I won’t be disappointed if Daniel Craig has one more go of it.
As for Bond, Spectre is an interesting one for him. Unlike Skyfall where we saw a damaged Bond try to re-enter the spy game – he in this one comes off more like a superhero at times. Forging through some inhuman feats, and accomplishing tasks in the most over the top of fashions – this more than any other Daniel Craig Bond film, felt like one that was bowing to the pressure of the superhero genre that now dominates the box office numbers. I’ve enjoyed my more grounded Bond films of recent, and it was strange to see this one go in the complete opposite direction.
This all leads to my most considered point for Spectre, and it is something that I touched upon in the beginning. Spectre as a film tries to continue its new path of being a gritty and intense film, while also trying to indulge in some of the things that are now synonymous with Bond. Having your cake and eating it, if you will?
Spectre is littered with homages, call backs, winks, nods, references to any and all previous Bond films, and the moments that make them famous. Any competent Bond fan will notice a lot of them and for the most part I enjoyed them. Where the problem lays is that the references slip their way into the DNA of Spectre and begin to change the makeup of the film – this at times felt like two warring generations of films trying to become the dominant one. Things get confusing and things get a little tiered – there were times where I smiled because of a nice little nod to a previous Bond film, and there were times where I rolled my eyes. Spectre finds no middle ground, and it shows.
I was let down by Spectre – after the incredible job Sam Mendes did with Skyfall (it is perhaps one of my favourite Bond films to date) I was understandably excited to see that he was returning to take up the director’s chair again. Maybe that’s the problem, maybe I built this film up in my head to much, either way Spectre fell flat for me in the end.
But this is where things get difficult because it would be pointless for me to not recommend Spectre because more than likely you’ve already seen it or are on your way out the door to see it now. What I’ll say is that there is some enjoyment to be found in Spectre, there are some decent elements – perhaps just don’t let the hype get to you like it did me.
I’d love to know what you thought of Spectre or this review – feel free to sound off in the comments down below. Also you can follow me on Twitter,@GavinsTurtle. Finally I hope you have a great week and enjoy some good films.