The fourth Craig-Bond film puts Bond on the trail of the powerful shadow organization named Spectre. In the aftermath of Skyfall’s tragedies, Bond’s allies find their hands tied with a threatening merger and all-out surveillance dissolving their agent program.
This is such a frustrating Bond film. The premise is great, the overall plot is pretty strong, but the devil’s in the details. The movie isn’t written very well, and so a domino effect occurs in which otherwise strong elements crumble atop things like weak dialogue and strange character interaction.
The character of Bond takes an especially strong hit. Craig-Bond is an agent who knows his license to kill is not a pass, but a responsibility. As with any Bond, he carries a sense of humor and romance. This is all present in Spectre.
However, he doesn’t hold the tone nearly as well as he did in Royale or Skyfall. Audience reaction seems to have been made too big a priority, so Bond does some cringeworthy things. You know something’s off when Bond gets stuck behind an oblivious old man in the middle of a car chase. In the same scene, Bond yells things like “oh, you’ve gotta be kidding me” when testing switches in his new car. It made the crowd laugh, but it’s too upfront.
In the same way, many scenes are filled with unnecessary music and endless quips. Royale and Skyfall had plenty of crowd pleasers, but they felt organic and rolled smoothly with their scenes.
Bond’s allies hold a large role in this film, and even possess their own subplot. In London, M, Q, and Moneypenny struggle with ‘C’, an agent who intends to amass and share intelligence. The movie presents it as a black and white discussion, with M representing good democracy and C representing evil surveillance. It’s a good excuse to put Bond on his own, but shouldn’t have taken up nearly as much time as it does if it wasn’t going to explore its themes.
The antagonist of the film is Oberhauser, the leader of Spectre. Christoph Waltz plays Oberhauser very well, but he has to work with the writing he’s been given. Oberhauser’s motives and intentions are still fuzzy by the end of the film. Oberhauser references Casino Royale a lot and reaches into the last three Bond films and tries to tie himself to those plots. Spectre’s claims about earlier villains’ affiliations don’t really make much sense, especially if you give the last three movies a moment’s thought.
This is the most actiony of Craig’s movies, but how great of a threat do the enemies really pose to MI6 and Bond? Gone is any mention of age that existed in Skyfall. It’s not necessarily how much Bond can do that’s the problem, however. It’s how often Spectre fails to rise to the challenge.
Silva and Le Chiffre acted competently and cautiously for the most part, and Silva was one step ahead of MI6. For an extremely powerful evil organization that claims they are winning, Spectre doesn’t seem to have planned defenses for a lot of what MI6 brings to the table. GPS is starting to get a little too handy, and Bond’s gadgets encroach on his skills instead of enhancing them. Aside from one great man-to-man fight, this film dangles its supporting cast to generate suspense.
I haven’t mentioned much of anything good about this movie, but that is simply because for all of its faults it is still a Bond movie. Even if it is extremely frustrating at times, I’d suggest seeing it if you’re at all interested. The Bond franchise has a heart and flare to it that only it can use. Craig shoots down the gunsight as every Bond has before him and the opening looks pretty damn cool.
Rome, Mexico City, and other great settings are among Bond’s destinations. Spectre stars the beautiful Léa Seydoux and the oldest Bond Babe ever, Monica Belluci (keep in mind, she is the closest to Bond’s age).
All the ingredients are here, and this franchise has never been spotless. Skyfall was rock solid after Quantum of Solace. Casino Royale, considered by many to be the best one ever, came after Die Another Day, which many explain away as one of James Bond’s fever dreams.
I hope Craig’s last Bond film is as competent as Skyfall was. In the meantime, Spectre can satisfy lower expectations.