It’s safe to say that the James Bond franchise is like Marmite, you either love it or you hate it. Despite it being nearly ten years since Daniel Craig first brought Bond into the 21st century with the series reboot Casino Royale and following it up with Quantum of Solace and the phenomenal success of Skyfall, some critics are still unconvinced by Craig’s take on Bond. Is SPECTRE the movie to change that opinion?
Director: Sam Mendes
Staring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes
Run Time: 148 Minutes
Release Date: Out Now
As is the tradition with any Bond movie, Spectre begins with a pre-credit opening sequence. Set during a festival in Mexico, we follow Bond through the streets, then onto a roof to spy on a meeting with the villain he has been following. A failed assassination results in Bond chasing the villain through the busy streets towards a helicopter and into the sky.
Bond opening sequences are famed for their over the top action, no less so during Craig’s run and SPECTRE’s does a great job of living up to that, until the helicopter. While Bond is fighting inside the chopper, the CGI is reminiscent of something we’d expect to see in an early Pierce Brosnan movie, it’s very obvious that they are using the green screen technology and it lets the whole scene down considerably.
Before long Sam Smith’s theme song is playing to the dancing silhouetted women we’ve come to expect from a Bond movie. Pre-reboot, Bond movies have always had the occasional nod to previous outings, but it is only since Craig took over the tux that the films feel connected, a continuing story. This is most notable in the opening credits as we see faces from the last three movies, hinting at this connection. The credit scene itself is everything we’ve come to expect of 007 and the theme song works well with it but there is definitely something lacking in Smith’s theme, it doesn’t feel like it belongs with the more iconic Bond themes.
The major throwback we see in SPECTRE is from a cryptic message left by Judi Dench’s M, who sadly met her end in Skyfall. This message sends Bond on a rogue operation to uncover a sinister organization which doesn’t go to plan, forcing the new M, played by Ralph Fiennes, to suspend Bond. Surprisingly enough Bond disobeys M and heads to Rome to infiltrate a secret meeting of the crime organisation known as SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion).
At the meeting, we are introduced to the big bad, the head of SPECTRE, played by Christoph Waltz and his main henchman Hinx, played by Dave Bautista. Of course, Bond’s investigation doesn’t go unnoticed and before long the obligatory car chase takes over with 007 on the run in his gadget-filled Aston Martin, and Hinx quickly on his tail. While the car chase through the streets of Rome is action-packed, by Bond standards it really isn’t that spectacular sadly.
The links to former Bond adventures continue as he is reunited with an old foe, last seen in Quantum of Solace. Hiding out in Austria from SPECTRE, who want him dead, he makes a deal with Bond to ensure that his daughter, Madeleine, played by Lea Seydoux, is protected in return for the information 007 needs. Of course, by this point SPECTRE are already firmly on the tail of Madeleine and so Bond must save her from Hinx, not once but twice. This leads us into the train scene which many fans may have seen teased during the promotional lead-up, it’s a fantastic fighting scene featuring Bond vs Hinx.
You can’t help but think back to Roger Moore take on Jaws as we see Bautista take on the role of the towering bad guy we expect to crush Bond. Much like in his wrestling career though, his opponent has a couple of tricks up his sleeve and after an action-packed bout, Bond has the upper hand as usual.
It’s at this point that SPECTRE turns into every Bond movie ever made as the train pulls into SPECTRE’s mega-base, which is of course set in a huge crater with plenty of henchmen, it’s all very Connery/Moore like. With 007 captured, the stereotypes of Bond’s past come thick and fast as, rather than just killing him, the head of SPECTRE tortures him before revealing his evil plan and his reasons for what he’s done in the kind of monologue which has been mocked many times over Bond’s sixty-year run. No surprise, Bond finds a way to escape and blows up the base, essentially saving the day. You’d think this would be the end of the movie but there’s still a few things back in London to tie up.
The main sub-plot in SPECTRE is the political struggle between M and Max, the head of Mi5, who wants to close the Double-0 programme down and set up a global surveillance system instead. With the help of M, Q and Moneypenny, Bond manages to stop that surveillance programme happening and in the process secure his own future.
In true super-villain fashion, the head of SPECTRE returns for one final bout with the superspy, capturing Madeleine and leaving Bond with a race against time to save her and take down the bad guy.
It’s fair to say that SPECTRE is continuing Skyfall’s homage to 007’s long history and there are plenty of Bond movie tropes here to please any Bond fan. With the exception of the opening helicopter fight, which is quickly forgotten, the action as a whole is high quality with every Bond movie cliche thrown in for good measure. The plot and sub-plot are written and performed exceptionally well, especially linking them to the previous movies, even if some of the storyline is a bit predictable.
Whether you love or hate Daniel Craig, he has played the part of Bond extremely well over the past decade and that quality continues here as he delivers the typical one-liners with perfect timing and brings a high level of physicality to the excellent action sequences. The supporting cast are mostly good, Fiennes, Ben Whishaw (Q), Naomie Harris (Moneypenny) and Andrew Scott (Max) work well together in the sub plot of the movie.
Sadly Christoph Waltz, probably the best actor in the movie, falls into the same trap as many movies these days, fantastic performance with far too little screen time. When he is on screen, though, he steals the show, it’s just a shame that he wasn’t given a larger role to play. Dave Bautista’s character, Hinx, is annoyingly irrelevant to the movie. As an actor, he plays the part well, but sadly all the henchman does is extend the movie without affecting the plot.
Overall the director, Sam Mendes, has created a great movie, it doesn’t quite reach the highs of Skyfall, but it definitely earns second place in the Craig era of movies. In my opinion, SPECTRE is the perfect swansong for Daniel Craig’s Bond, the story works well to end this era. If, however, as he is contracted, Craig is to do one last movie, then I would suggest him passing the baton by killing off Bond and allowing the new lead to take his pseudonym and his double-0 number.
This would likely cause an uproar among hardcore fans, but it would mean they would be able to carry on the franchise without having to reboot it again, this isn’t Spider-Man after all. Whether that happens will probably be up to Barbara Broccoli, one of the franchise’s key producers, along with whoever she chooses to write and direct the next movie.