One of the wonderful things about James Bond is that, much like Batman, he can be portrayed any number of ways: the smarmy cool of Connery, the campiness of Moore, the brooding charm of Dalton, or the handsome, if generic, Brosnan. SPECTRE is Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as the British super spy, and while the film is highly entertaining, it falls short of the greatness of CASINO ROYALE and SKYFALL.
SPECTRE keeps in continuity with Craig’s previous Bond adventures and finds Bond going rogue in an attempt to uncover the shadow plot that was set in place in CASINO ROYALE and at the same time, foiling Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz)’s plot to infiltrate British intelligence. This is the longest that the Bond series has ever kept a continuing arc—I don’t recall them every being anything but separate adventures with perhaps one actor returning to the fold. Desmond Llewellyn was a holdover from the Moore films when Brosnan took over and Judy Dench crossed over from the Brosnan era as M. Both Charles Gray and Joe Don Baker have returned as different characters in different films, sometimes as heroes, sometimes as villains.
The latest installment in the espionage franchise features Craig as a James Bond dealing with changing times, much like the film series itself. Technology and drones look to be doing the work of superspies more efficiently than the 00’s and the traditional Fleming misogyny is not taken kindly to these days. It’s a hard time to be James Bond, and despite the heavier elements, it doesn’t stop SPECTRE from having some fun.
SKYFALL laid the groundwork for the return of some of the campier elements of Bond, such as the gadgets to be provided by Q. SPECTRE treats Bond fans to another cool car—with ejector seat—and an Omega watch with a VERY loud alarm. Also, Bond gets to trot the globe quite a bit this time around, jetting from London, to Rome, to Tangiers. The beautiful locations have always been a mainstay of the Bond series and SPECTRE does feel like it’s attempting to split the difference between classic Bond and the Bond of the new millennium. There is an entire sequence that takes place on a moving train that recalls FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE while Bond does battle with Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista), a Spectre henchman who feels like a mixture of Richard Kiel’s Jaws and Harold Sakata’s Oddjob. Perhaps fans of the more serious side of Bond will not appreciate the return of the more fun side of Bond, but for those who love the Roger Moore era, this is a welcome change of pace.
James Bond is known as much for being stylish as he is for dispatching enemy agents efficiently. SPECTRE features some very cool looks for Bond this time around. Switching between neatly tailored suits and sharp looking jackets and turtlenecks, Craig’s slim-fit Bond recalls more of the Connery, ‘60s vibe than the boxy, three-button suits of the Brosnan era. Time will tell, but Craig’s Bond should end up as timeless as Connery’s has.
SPECTRE hits all the right marks when it comes to the tradition of James Bond, however even with a 2-½ hour run time, SPECTRE just doesn’t seem to give the audience enough. The action sequences—a chase through the snow involving Range Rovers and an airplane, a car chase through Rome—are serviceable but nothing groundbreaking. Now that films such as this are utilizing more and more computer generated effects, the “Wow! How did they do that?” element is largely gone. The audience is left wanting more of Waltz’s Blofeld (and his scar) and more of James Bond romancing new Bond girls, Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydoux. Waltz eases into the role of Blofeld and delivers a solid performance worthy of Donald Pleasance and Charles Gray.
The latest James Bond adventure will probably never be held in as high regard as CASINO ROYALE, but it’s certainly not as dull as late-era Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan. SPECTRE is by-the-numbers Bond, but its still highly-entertaining Bond.
Tags: Ben Whishaw, Christoph Waltz, Daniel Craig, Dave Bautista, Hoyte van Hoytema, Ian Fleming, James Bond, Judi Dench, Lea Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Sam Mendes, Thomas Newman