Daniel Craig returns as James Bond in Spectre; the 24th official entry in the Bond Canon and Craig’s fourth outing as the famous MI6 agent. In this adventure, Bond goes rogue to uncover the truth about a mysterious organisation connected to everything that he has been involved in.
It’s been a big year for spy films with a new Mission: Impossible, an adaptation of The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Kingsman: The Secret Service and the comedy film just known as Spy. The relevance of James Bond in a modern cinematic landscape has been debated in the past few years with the emergence of the Bourne franchise and that debate seems to be renewed this year with all of these other spy films around. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a place for all of them but James Bond is essentially the original so how does it stack up amongst the others?
The short answer is; pretty well. I personally don’t think it’s as good as Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation nor does it have the violently insane humour of Kingsman: The Secret Service but Spectre is certainly an entertaining watch. Each action scene is bigger and more explosive than the last, there’s a variety of cinematically pretty locations and enough intrigue to keep the plot from becoming boring.
Daniel Craig is as good as ever as James Bond. There’s never any doubt that his Bond is the most skilled guy in the room and he ably mixes a suave disposition with a thuggish nature just beneath the surface. I’m not a fan of James Bond as such so my experience with Bond actors is somewhat limited to Pierce Brosnan and a handful of half seen films with the other actors but Daniel Craig is a perfect fit for the part. If the rumours of his departure following this outing are true then it will be a loss to the franchise. I’d say he has another two or three in him at least.
Ben Whishaw returns as Q after being introduced in Skyfall and he’s a great side character with plenty to do in the context of the story. He has a direct effect on the plot and has plenty of agency within himself. There’s no doubt as to the talents of the character and Whishaw delivers some of the best lines with pinpoint accuracy. He doesn’t get to share as much screen time with Bond as I would have liked but definitely a welcome addition to the film.
Ralph Fiennes continues his new role as the new M after Judy Dench’ departure from the role at the end of Skyfall. M is used very differently to the other Bond films I’ve seen. He’s much more of an active presence than I’m used to and even gets his own nemesis in the form of Andrew Scott’s Denbigh -also known as C- who seems shady from the first minute of screen time.
Fiennes is great in this film, radiating a sense of integrity that very much underpins his character. He is committed to doing the right thing even if getting to it is morally questionable. M is a good counter to Bond and Fiennes has excellent chemistry with Craig. In some ways I feel that there was more that could have been done with this character but he serves his function within the plot perfectly and seems to have plenty of depth.
Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) is well used in the story as a close ally of Bond. She has a great flirtatious relationship with him and definitely seems more than capable of handling herself. Harris is a lot of fun in the role and is has great chemistry with every member of the cast she interacts with. It does feel that she is largely sidelined for a lot of the film but when she is used her presence is unforgettable.
Léa Seydoux’ Madeleine Swann is the “Bond Girl” this time out but not in the traditional sense. Her connection to Spectre as an organisation makes her presence a meaningful one and she’s the perfect foil for Bond. She is far more than the typical damsel in distress with plenty of agency of her own. She is a character I would like to see return in later installments as she fits the style of these films really well.
The villain of the piece is played by Christoph Waltz and he is the perfect “Bond Villain” as I understand the concept. Waltz perfectly conveys mystery, menace and just the right amount of lunacy. He is very much an unrealistically omnipresent character who represents the biggest challenge Bond has faced to date. The performance given by Waltz manages to be over the top and theatrical without straying too far into camp so he manages to hit an appropriate balance.
Spectre has a globetrotting story that is sometimes presented as being more complicated than it needs to be. The film is overlong and drags out some plot points unnecessarily. As a result some elements are easy to forget about and it all becomes bogged down in unnecessary detail. This film could easily have been done in 2 hours and probably been more compelling as a result. It feels like the film is largely joyless with only some characters handling a more playful tone but overall I feel that the film takes itself a little too seriously.
It wasn’t bad by any means. There was more than enough exciting action sequences to keep the plot moving along and entertain the audience. A particular stand out sequence for me was the car chase involving the Aston Martin DB10 and Jaguar C-X75 but the opening sequence in Mexico during “Day of the Dead” as also really well put together. The action scenes have a sense of one-upmanship about them as each one tries to top the last but after a while they start to bleed into one. They are good but I’ve seen better in other films in the genre.
Despite the flaws I thought the storytelling was generally well handled and it was definitely a well directed film but the excessive running time sometimes derails the pace slightly. As good as the villain was it takes a while for him to appear and a lack of screentime leaves him feeling like a missed opportunity. The story does tie the four Daniel Craig films together well and even makes Quantum of Solace feel somewhat worthwhile. It’s not retroactively good as no film could ever make that happen but all four films feel like a part of a much larger stories due to the revelations in Spectre. It is very much a personal story for Bond that draws on his past in compelling ways so it makes him feel like a part of the narrative rather than a participant of it.
As long as you can deal with an excessive running time and liked the previous Daniel Craig Bond movies then I’d say this is definitely worth a look. It’s certainly entertaining and the villain is really engaging so there is plenty to recommend here.
A solid if overlong entry to the Bond canon that makes good use of a stellar cast to tell a compelling but overcomplicated story.
Daniel Craig is as good as ever as James Bond. He always seems like the most skilled guy in the room and has the perfect blend of suave and thuggish to his character. It will be a shame if rumours of his departure from the character prove true.
Ben Whishaw’s Q makes a welcome return and slots nicely into the story. He perfectly delivers some of the best lines in the film and the skill of his character is never in doubt but he doesn’t get to share as much screen time with Bond as I would have liked.
Ralph Fiennes radiates integrity as M and the character is used very different to the M I have seen in my limited exposure to the previous films. He even gets his own nemesis to play against and in general comes across as having a lot of depth.
Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny has great chemistry with Bond and a lot of agency within the story. She never comes across as a sidekick and always appears strong willed and determined.
Léa Seydoux’ Madeleine Swann is far from a traditional Bond girl. She is a good foil for Bond and the two actors have lots of chemistry. Her connection to the story is a meaningful one which makes her presence feel necessary rather than some eye candy for Bond to pursue.
Christoph Waltz makes for the perfect Bond villain as I understand the concept. He perfectly conveys mystery, menace and just the right amount of lunacy with a playful nature that never strays into the territory of being camp.
The story spans the globe and at times seems more complicated than it really needs to be. It isn’t handled badly but the running time does feel excessive when watching it and I can’t help but feel that it would have been more effective if accomplished in two hours.
There are enough exciting action sequences to keep things moving and the low key tense scenes were amazingly done but the villain arrives so late in the story that he feels underdeveloped by the time the film is over and as a result feels like a missed opportunity.
It does a good job of combining elements from the other three Daniel Craig outings and even makes Quantum of Solace feel slightly worthwhile. It is a personal story for Bond that draws on his past in compelling ways making him feel like part of the story rather than a participant in it.
Despite the flaws and excessive running time I would recommend this to anyone who is a fan of action films, the Daniel Craig Bond films or just Bond films in general. It is very entertaining so do check this out.