James Bond is my second-favorite fictional character of all time, second only to Batman (and it’s a very close second). A new Bond movie is always an event for me, so needless to say I had been eagerly anticipating Spectre ever since it was first announced.
And for me, the movie mostly did not disappoint. The movie is Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as the world’s most famous spy, and the second for director Sam Mendes. Craig and Mendes had their work cut out for them, since their previous Bond film, 2012’s Skyfall, was the most successful film in the franchise’s 50+ year history, earning rave reviews, multiple Oscars, and more than a billion dollars in worldwide box office revenue.
So, yeah, Skyfall was always going to be a tough act to follow, and it’s not too surprising that Spectre does not entirely live up to the high standard set by its predecessor. The reviews for the new film have been decidedly mixed, but I still enjoyed Spectre quite a bit, despite its flaws.
The movie makes a strong first impression, with one of the best opening sequences in the series’ history. The film opens in Mexico City during the Day of the Dead celebration, and we follow Bond, dressed in skeleton suit, skull mask, and top hat as he follows a mysterious individual. This eventually leads to a collapsing building, a frantic chase through the teeming crowds, and a desperate battle in a helicopter. It’s a great start to the movie, exciting and mysterious, and immediately gives the movie a sense of mystery and ominously impending doom.
The movie’s song, unfortunately, is nowhere near as good as Adele’s Skyfall theme song. The opening credits song is performed by Sam Smith, and in my opinion, the song sucked. Maybe Smith’s style just isn’t really my thing, but man, I thought that song was awful, and it can’t help but be compared to Adele’s Oscar-winning song for Skyfall and be found severely lacking. The credits sequence itself, aside from the dreadful song, isn’t bad, full of skulls, octopi, and of course, silhouetted writhing naked women.
After Mexico City, we return to London, where Bond is being chewed out by his boss M (now played by Ralph Fiennes, after the death of Judi Dench’s M in Skyfall) for having caused yet another minor international incident (“It could have been worse,” Bond says). Bond is put on probation and told not to leave London. It should go without saying that he promptly ignores this order and embarks on a secret, and what turns out to be a very personal, mission.
I won’t say too much about the rest of the plot since I don’t want to spoil anything, but like I said earlier, it turns out to be a very personal mission with a sneering villain who has a very personal interest in 007.
Said villain is played by the great Christoph Waltz, who was born to play a Bond villain. To say any more about him would be to giving too much away, so I’ll save some of my analysis of him for my yearly villain roundup in a few months. Waltz gives a solid performance, as you would expect, but he’s not quite as memorable as Javier Bardem in Skyfall.
In some ways, Waltz’s performance feels a bit like something we’ve seen before, since it’s not all that different from the evil Nazi he played in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. It’s still a good performance though, and Waltz looks like he’s enjoying himself. And how could you not be enjoying yourself, when given the chance to play a freaking Bond villain? How much fun would that be?
And that’s what this movie is, really: fun. Bond movies have always been great escapism, and Spectre is no exception. It’s not perfect, and it’s not as good as Casino Royale or Skyfall, but I still had a lot of fun with it and it was certainly never boring (And just for the record, I still liked Quantum of Solace, despite the bad reputation it has).
I will admit that there are some aspects of the plot that didn’t entirely work for me. I won’t say exactly what those were, but some of it just didn’t entirely gel. I didn’t have trouble following the plot, though, it’s just that some of it was a bit sketchy.
The movie certainly delivers on the action though. Aside from the stellar opening sequence, there are a couple car chases, a boat/helicopter chase, and a knock-down drag-out train brawl, among others. All of these scenes are well-shot and easy for the viewer to follow, they’re not too choppily edited or filmed in such extreme close-up that it’s hard to tell what’s going on.
One of the most remarkable things to me about the Daniel Craig Bond films is that they make Bond feel like an actual person. In the past, movie Bond has sometimes seemed like little more than a vehicle for cool stuff to happen around, and not many of the previous films really delved into Bond as a character. But with Craig in the role, Bond really resonates as an actual human being, and you care about him on a personal level, instead of just wanting him to survive so he can get the girl and save the world and all that. That’s pretty amazing to me, and I love that the filmmakers have taken the character in that direction. Spectre may or may not be Craig’s last Bond outing, and as such there’s already talk of rebooting the character, but to me all of that is just a load of bunk. Craig’s Bond flicks have proved that there is more to the character than just girls, guns, and gadgets, and I hope the makers of future Bond installments will keep that in mind.
And of course, Spectre still delivers on the girls, guns, and gadgets. Bond gets another beautiful tricked-out Aston Martin to play with (and inevitably destroy), and there are of course some lovely ladies. Monica Bellucci, who is now 51, makes history as the oldest Bond “girl,” and despite now being in her fifties, still looks like a million bucks. She’s barely in the movie though, which is kind of a shame.
The main love interest role goes to French actress Lea Seydoux, whose role I again can’t say too much about with spoiling everything. But I can say that she and Craig have great chemistry, and I thought that their relationship worked on a level beyond just your typical throwaway love interest. She’s really integral to the story, and Seydoux did a great job selling it.
There’s also a hulking henchman played by Dave Bautista (Drax the Destroyer from Guardians of the Galaxy), who is a classic silent henchman, a massive brute who barely says a word, he just keeps coming.
The movie’s real scene-stealer, though, is Ben Whishaw’s Q, a thoroughly lovable nerd who actually gets the opportunity to get out in the field a bit with 007 this time around. I always like it when Bond movies give Q more to do than just give Bond gadgets and chide him for always destroying the beautiful cars, and the last couple Bond movies have done great work with the character. And Whishaw really is just perfect in the role, every time he appears onscreen it’ll just make you happy.
Overall, Spectre is a bit of an uneven experience, but I still enjoyed it. The plot doesn’t always work and with a runtime of 2 hours and 28 minutes it can’t help but feel a little overlong. But it’s well-made, well-acted and consistently entertaining, and you can’t ask for much more than that.