Spectre - United Artists / Sony

(Life got in the way, this has been sat half written for about a month and a half now, waiting for me to get round to finishing it…)

Bond Twenty Four arrives after the most successful (financially) Bond ever; and possibly the most successful artistically. Skyfall marked a high point for modern Bond, taking it away from the pulp origins to try to look at the character in a deeper fashion. Spectre feels like a return to the fun of Bond, and if honest is less successful as a result (it feels a bit more old fashioned as a result), but remains top tier – its biggest problem is that it can’t live up to the film it comes after.

The good; Craig is excellent. To think that there was all of the negativity about him being given the role and what he’s subsequently done with it, it all seems a long time ago. This is a Bond that feels dangerous, able to take and deal out an obscene amount of physical damage, completely in control of himself and ultra-aware of his environment. Even the (newly added) humour doesn’t soften the character, coming off as dry and sarcastic rather than Moore style puns, vicious in his put downs as a last kick in the teeth.

The action sequences – especially the opening helicopter one are astonishing, a great blend of physical effects and stuntwork with minimal digital cleaning. Everything feels as if it has weight, even when the film falls back on the staple of blowing up the base in the middle of nowhere (which has apparently broken the record for largest filmed explosion). Only the car chase feels a little out of step, too clean and uninhabited, too otherworldly given the rest of the film.

The call backs – if Skyfall was about exploring the character, Spectre is about exploring the franchise. There are little nods to previous Bond films throughout, the fight on the train and From Russia with Love, the mountaintop base from OHMSS (possibly the biggest influence on the film). None of it feels forced, and it’s a great way of re-introducing a villain and an organisation.

Christopher Waltz – some have complained that he’s a little too low key as the villain, but it’s an interesting take on a long established villain, updated for the current trends (and briefly mentioned to be involved in crimes far darker than previously alluded to) and played just on the right side of self-referential. The only problem is that he feels a little tame following Javier Bardem, but then that was a performance that just chewed through the scenery.

The bad; it’s a little too simplistic in its characterisation (especially following Skyfall), and one key villain is too easily sign posted purely by the actor playing him (not the fault of the film, but something that future casting directors will probably be wary of). All the call backs are great, but sometimes it feels like they’re the only reason for the film.

Monica Bellucci is criminally underused (especially given the prominence she was given in the advertising).

Sometimes it all seems a little too contrived, the net at the end and the exploding watch in particular seem to exist for no other reason than to provide an easy escape.

Generally I liked Spectre, but I can’t shake the feeling that the opening was far stronger than the end (I had the same feeling with Quantum of Solace, which felt like a step back after Casino Royale) and that it needed to continue the mood of Skyfall of Bond being out of place (rather than contriving it to be part of the plot). It’s still a good film, it just doesn’t feel as good as it perhaps should be.

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