So, after four years, we reach the end of the Bond review marathon, just in time for the latest release to FINALLY hit cinemas. Spectre is an odd film, it doesn’t so much as have a central plot as has a string of mini-stories leading to a reveal that tries half-heartedly to tie all the Craig era films together. It has its moments, but they don’t stick in the head for very long… let’s take a deeper look anyway!
A cryptic message from the past leads James Bond to Mexico City and Rome. After infiltrating a secret meeting, 007 uncovers the existence of the sinister organization SPECTRE and soon embarks on a mission toward the heart of the group. He soon discovers a chilling connection between himself and the enemy he seeks…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Bond tries to come to terms with… the whole plot of the film.
The first thing to say is Daniel Craig is still good in the role of James Bond, and there are a few more moments of Bond-like humour sprinkled across the film so it doesn’t take itself too seriously. In fact Q (Ben Whishaw) is given his own lab, and while it’s not full of bizarre gadgets going off in the background like the old films it does at least bring a certain nostalgia, specifically a scene where Bond plays about with a new rifle only to have it snatched off him by Q, or when he’s shown a new car and ends up stealing it and leaving it at the bottom of a river, much to Q’s distress. It’s good fun…
The opening sequence set against the backdrop of Mexico’s day of the dead is great, full of on-foot chases, explosions and a really exciting helicopter sequence. There are also some well directed chase scenes by car at night in Rome and a plane / car chase in the Austrian Alps that grab your possibly-fading attention. As you’ve no doubt heard by now the central antagonist is a new incarnation of Ernst Stavro Blofeld played by Christoph Waltz, which I do have some issues with but none of them are Waltz because he’s great in the role of snivelling evil mastermind. We also have the return of the big bad silent henchman role, this time round Mr. Hinx played by Dave Bautista, which is good fun, especially a brawl between him and Bond on a train.
So there are some highlights sprinkled throughout the film, it’s just the narrative that ties them all together I have issues with…
Blofeld’s back! …. Oh well, that was good for a bit. Shall we move on?
The film is almost structured like a TV series as Bond goes from one locale to the next, often interacting with a mostly different cast of character in each place, and each “episode” is bookended by a scene between M (Ralph Fiennes) and Max “C” Denbigh (Andrew Scott) as the latter tries to take over MI6 and launch a spy satellite network which will give SPECTRE the ability to spy and track anyone in the world. Now Andrew Scott and Ralph Fiennes play their roles perfectly fine (though Scott is pretty much just playing Moriarty again…) but for the majority of the film it’s just not that interesting and the pattern of “Bond in new location with exciting sequence – M and his political struggles scene – Bond in new location with exciting sequence – M and his political struggles scene” that runs through pretty much the whole two and half-ish hours makes the film too formulaic and really took me out of it.
The whole time Bond is off the grid he’s following leads about SPECTRE and it just gets sillier and sillier. After seeing Blofeld and identifying him as Franz Oberhauser, his old foster brother (yes really) he then finds out his old nemesis Mr. White from Casino Royale / Quantum of Solace is still alive and a member of SPECTRE, well ex-member. The two meet and White pleads with him to protect his daughter before killing himself (as he was dying from being poisoned by the organisation anyway), which leads to Bond to go to Austria and meet his daughter Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) and get into a long chase to get her back when she’s swiftly kidnapped.
Always exciting to see Bond on a train, though that might just be because of the Train level from Goldeneye 64 being a favourite… (That’s right, one last Goldeneye 64 reference for the road!)
Madeleine and Bond then go on a long train journey and eventually meet Blofeld at his hidden crater base where Bond is tortured but escapes with Madeleine as the place explodes and gives his brother his trademark scar. It’s also during this time that we find out all of Bond’s previous enemies, from Le Chiffre to Greene to Silva, were all members of SPECTRE and that Blofeld intentionally targeted his foster sibling and “caused all the pain in his life” out of nothing but envy over his father liking James more. Now I can buy Le Chiffre and Greene being members but nothing about Silva and his grudge against M screamed “secret organisation” to me, plus boiling Blofeld’s actions down to something so… plain and pathetic didn’t do justice to Waltz’ performance. Bit of a downer, really.
It’s also at this point that I started looking at the time wondering how much longer the film could go on for. Turns out quite a bit! Much like Skyfall the finale takes place back in the UK, London specifically this time, as Madeleine is captured and hooked up to some bombs in the old MI6 building and Bond races to rescue her, only finding brother Blofeld claiming he’s about to kill another female he likes. That being said he does of course rescue her in the nick of time and shoots Blofeld’s helicopter down to boot. As the former head of SPECTRE crawls on the floor he sees James and assumes he’s going to be killed by him but instead Bond walks off with Ms. Swann, leaving M to arrest the wounded villain. It’s not the worse end sequence but it did feel tacked on, like the film should’ve ended half an hour ago…
Oh and I HAVE to mention the opening credits sequence, which was terrible. The song, “Writing on the Wall” by Sam Smith not only has very little to do with the plot of the film but is just doesn’t have the correct beat to it so the usual interesting opening visuals end up as a slow meandering… nothing.
That’s some nice framing from the director. … What’s that? A fancy car? Oh yeah!
Spectre is an odd film. Felt like loads of small ideas sewn together with a side plot involving M and a hasty attempt to make Blofeld into some sort of ultimate villain but only instead making him come across as a pathetic jealous brother who was unbelievably “responsible for everything”. I’d rate it above Quantum of Solace, but that’s damning with faint praise if I’ve ever heard it… Let’s hope the pattern of good-bad-good-bad continues and Craig’s fifth and final film is a hit!