Bond is back! How does 007’s latest mission stack up? Read on to find out!
SPECTRE ( 2015)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Christoph Waltz
Directed By: Sam Mendes
Not even Bond can withstand high expectations. Much like The Dark Knight Rises, the latest Bond adventure is coming off a huge critical and box office hit that got more people interested in Britain’s superspy than ever before. And like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy capper, there was no way for SPECTRE to live up to the hype set by Skyfall. But even though it doesn’t hit the highs of the previous Bond film (or Casino Royale) it’s still a solid offering in the Daniel Craig era of the spy.
SPECTRE finds Bond going rogue again (at this point it’s just a character trait of Craig’s Bond) as he searches to uncover a mysterious organization called, well, SPECTRE. They’ve had a hand in every single one of Bond’s previous adventures, from the death of Vesper Lynd to supplying Silva with the means to carry out his plans in Skyfall. And they are seemingly run by Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), a man who should have died 20 years ago.
That’s the plot in a nutshell. And while you might think that that would mean SPECTRE would end up being the shortest of the Bond movies, it’s actually the longest, and really doesn’t have any need to be as long as it is. Of all of the Craig Bond films, this one features the most diverse locations, from an opening in Mexico to Austria to Rome, with trips back and forth to London. There’s some strong cinematography in SPECTRE, but director Sam Mendes forgot to include some forward momentum in the plot department. This bad boy goes for nearly 2 and half hours, and it definitely feels like it at points.
If this is Craig’s last film as Bond, I won’t be surprised. As fantastic as he is in the role, SPECTRE tries to fit the “classic” elements of Bond into the Craig era, and while a lot of it works, there are times where it feels like Daniel Craig is physically pained by some of the witty one liners he has to give. Thankfully these moments are few and far between as they occur between Bond and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris in a pretty thankless role). Bond’s interaction with Ben Whishaw’s Q are a lot more fun, and the two have a great back and forth in their scenes together.
As for Christoph Waltz’ Franz Oberhauser, there’s three things you should know:
- Yes there’s a twist behind his character.
- Yes, it’s what you think it is.
- Yes, it’ll remind you of Star Trek Into Darkness, but it’s done MUCH better than that film.
I won’t spoil it, even though you’ve probably figured it out already. Waltz isn’t in much of the film, but the moments he’s on screen are pretty damn great. He’s in the same vein as Javier Bardem’s Silva, but jumps from cold and in control to suddenly jumping into fits of controlled rage. Waltz was born to play a Bond villain, and he gleefully chews the scenery in all of his scenes, even if they fall into the usual “Bond villain has Bond in a death trap and doesn’t just kill him” gimmick of previous Bond movies.
Oh, there’s also another twist surrounding Oberhauser and Bond, and while it will remind you of Austin Powers in Goldmember, it’s an alright, if unnecessary, addition to the Bond mythos. It’s handled like it’s a huge moment when it’s revealed, but then never really addressed again. But, it does give Oberhauser’s motivations a little more weight, but it would have been cooler if Oberhauser was connected to Judi Dench’s M instead.
Speaking of the Bond mythos, SPECTRE is pretty heavily tied to the previous Craig films. There are plenty of references to Skyfall (which may have been a mistake, as it constantly reminds you of how good that film was), and there are quite a few nods to Casino Royale and even Quantum of Solace too. Every plot of the previous Craig films has some connection to Oberhauser’s organization, and this plot device is both interesting and a little annoying too. Bond and the audience are told that SPECTRE had a hand in Silva’s attack on MI6 in Skyfall and Le Chiffe’s organization in Casino Royale, but you never get the details for how they assist them. While the argument can be made that since SPECTRE is such a shadowy organization we wouldn’t know that ins and outs of their involvement, it would’ve been cool to get some information about how much of a hand they played in Vesper or M’s deaths.
Despite my nitpicking, I still enjoyed SPECTRE. This film has arguably my favorite cold open of the Craig films, with Bond weaving his way through a Day of the Dead festival in pursuit of a target. There’s a fantastic battle with Dave Bautista’s henchman on board a train, and the final 30 minutes are really cool, with Bond working his way through an abandoned building with psychological traps set by Oberhauser.
But all this comes after long stretches of little to no action. There’s a subplot with Ralph Fiennes’ M dealing with a techie played by Andrew Scott (Moriarty on BBC’s Sherlock) who wants to erase the 00 program in favor of all over surveillance that could’ve been used for a different Bond movie or cut out all together. The only purpose it serves aside from giving Fiennes more screen time is to pad the run time, which is already too long.
This outing is still better than Quantum of Solace, but director Sam Mendes and star Daniel Craig seemed to be making SPECTRE more out of obligation to the audience and the studio than telling a great story. Another pass at the screenplay could’ve solved a lot of these problems. As it stands right now, the Craig Bonds have the same problem as the Star Trek movies, but on the bright side, that means that if Craig comes back, his next movie will be great.