By Adam Guy
Directed: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes
When you have a franchise that has spanned six decades with twenty-four films in its main series, there’s bound to be some variation in quality. There’ll be a few really good ones, a few really crap ones, and a whole bunch that fall somewhere in-between. Spectre is one of the ones that fits into the last category. In a few years from now, when someone mentions Spectre, it’ll probably take you a couple of minutes to remember which one they’re talking about. So they’ll say something like “You know, the one with the bad guy who was in those Quentin Tarantino films?” And that’ll likely be enough for it to all come trickling back, but it’s that total lack of a clear identity that ends up being Spectre’s main weakness.
Off the back of the financial and critical successes of Skyfall, Sam Mendes returns to direct a story designed to follow straight on from the events of the previous film. We start with Bond investigating a lead given to him unofficially and posthumously by Judi Dench’s M. The resulting elaborate chase (which involves a helicopter and a very large crowd of people) is the start of a trail which in turn eventually leads Bond to the criminal organisation known as Spectre. With attempts to tie together existing plot points from Daniel Craig’s previous outings, it appears like the writers are trying to suggest the recent films have all been building up to this moment. But the links don’t always seem that coherent and instead certain aspects of the story end up feeling a little forced.
Christoph Waltz plays the cat owning villain Blofeld with the same soft vocal tones and sarcastic mannerisms he seems to use in most performances, meaning the long expostulation monologues he rattles off tend to lacking any real impact. Léa Seydoux does about as much as she can as a Bond girl whose initial strengths seem to slowly dissolve into the role of generic damsel in distress. Andrew Scott’s interpretation of C, as the morally ambiguous head of a privately backed Joint Intelligence Service, is possibly the most interesting new character. But as the plot unfolds C’s role gets increasingly sidelined by other events.
In the end, the twenty-fourth Bond isn’t a bad film. It just isn’t that special either. If you’re a fan of the franchise then chances are you’ll be able to look past Spectres flaws to find a serviceable, if a quickly forgettable, Bond movie. But Daniel Craig’s James no longer has the intensity or edginess than made Casino Royale feel so fresh after years of cringing through Pierce Brosnan’s increasingly cheesy one liners. And Spectre doesn’t have the urgency or sense of purpose that made Skyfall such a strong film in its own right.
When it comes down to it, Spectre is just another Bond film. It has attractive vulnerable women for James to save. It has fast cars, clever gadgets and men in expensive suits. It has ridiculous chase sequences and a lead antagonist with a convoluted and kind of pointless plan for world domination. Spectre is everything that it’s expected to be and nothing more. For some people that’ll be enough, but for most it probably won’t.