Spectre - A Review
If Skyfall was Daniel Craig and
Sam Mendes wrapping an anchor around the Bond series and miring it in a
smug arty gloom then Spectre is more a case of everyone cashing the
cheques and hoping for the best. The trailers promised more misery and
self-importance but Spectre is the lightest of the Daniel Craig films
and has a soulless and formulaic quality that harkens back to the most
disposable hours of the Pierce Brosnan years. A Pierce Brosnan film
minus Pierce Brosnan. At times Spectre impersonates a Roger Moore film
without Roger Moore. Any rabid fanboys expecting this to be On Her
Majesty's Secret Service may have already lowered their expectations.
What Spectre does is show how
redundant and confused the reboot has become. Having all the Craig
films play out as one long thread with unnecessary backstory and
pretentious drama. When this team try to change gear and move back into
the old formula they don't have the wit to carry it off convincingly.
We know their hearts aren't in it. They'd rather be doing something
The story is a painting by
numbers affair that connects the dots from A to B to C. On a mission in
Mexico, Bond comes into the possession of an octopus ring after killing
criminal Sciarra (Alessandro Cremona). When he skirts the the funeral
of Sciarra he meets his widow Lucia (Monica Bellucci) and learns about
a shadowy and dangerous criminal organisation. You may guess where this
is all heading. That octopus ring will be useful.
Back in London, the Double O
Section is under threat from the shifty Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott).
Denbigh plans a new "Nine Eyes" intelligence structure involving eight
other countries. M (Ralph Fiennes) is not too chuffed about this and
begins a power struggle with Denbigh. Bond, for his part, meets the
ailing Mr White (Jesper Christensen) and then meets up with White's
daughter Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), a psychologist in the Alps. The
Lord Alps those who Alp themselves.
Spectre opens with the gunbarrel
in the correct place for the first time since 1957's Die Another Day.
But the Bond theme is lacking some punch. Very similar sounding to the
Licence To Kill gunbarrel music (also strangely off and underwhelming).
Daniel Craig has the worst walk and shoot/pose in the history of the
series. He looks like he needs to use the toilet. It seems as if Craig
filmed this around the time he had a near shaved head for Skyfall. He
doesn't look right and I'm not sure he's even wearing a tuxedo. It's
The pre-credit sequence is well
staged. Some good camera work and trickery. The Day of the Dead ("I'm
running this monkey farm now Frankenstein!") parade is a nice location
and the helicopter stunt is better than the train sequence that served
as Skyfall's opening. This is the best part of the film but you now
have about four hours left to sit through. We can gloss over the
bizarre titles and Sam Smith's song. I look forward to the time when we
no longer see Daniel Craig's wonky boat race in a Bond title sequence.
That's it for superior action
sequences. The big plane chase in the snow feels competent but flat in
a The World Is Not Enough way and while I enjoy gadget equipped cars in
James Bond films I don't believe anyone would pretend that the chase
scene here amounts to much. Way too short and why is Bond on the
telephone? Sam Mendes doesn't seem to understand action. Those car
chases in the Bourne films have that rush because the streets are
filled with OTHER cars and pedestrians. Bourne is always crashing into
Mendes shoots car chases with no
cars on the road and fights on trains that don't seem to have any
passengers. I'm starting to see why Martin Campbell is rated highly
amongst more recent Bond directors. For all his faults Campbell at
least seemed to have a grasp on how to make a chase or a fight exciting.
There is more humour in the film
than the previous three. Think of the moment in The Spy Who Loved Me
when Roger Moore hands the bystander on the beach a fish as he drives
off in his Lotus. I don't even know how to describe what Moore did
there but it's funny. The same with Brosnan when he stops and looks at
Wai Lin walking up the wall in Tomorrow Never Dies. They give Daniel
Craig some of this shtick in Spectre. He's crap at it.
The cinematography by Hoyte van
Hoytema is interesting and the film has some atmosphere in places, like
the initial Alpine scenes. The scene where Bond infiltrates a SPECTRE
meeting for the first time whips up some intrigue. Ben Whishaw is
likeable too. Q has a bigger part this time because Whishaw can act and
he's quite good at comedy. But poor Moneypenny is shunted to the
background because Naomie Harris can't act and isn't good at comedy.
Christoph Waltz hardly has any
screen time and his over-mannered acting style is distracting. You'd
think that Waltz as a Bond villain would be amazing but he can't work
any miracles with the script.
If EON knew they were going to
get the rights to use SPECTRE they wouldn't have invented Quantum.
There's some farcical retconning. SPECTRE was behind Quantum and
everything that has happened to James Bond in the last three films.
It's like a soap opera when they introduce a pivotal relative who has
never been mentioned in the previous 967 episodes.
They should have held SPECTRE
back and not jumped the gun in using them straight away. Wait until you
have a better screenplay and we've forgotten the Quantum nonsense.
You know what this film is
reminiscent of? Star Trek Into Darkness. Both Spectre and Star Trek
Into Darkness fail to put a stamp on a beloved longstanding property.
Both resurrect iconic villains in a manner that feels like bad fan
fiction. Both slide along with an emptiness at their heart trying to
mask the absence of new ideas or enthusiasm for their task. Blofeld is
Bond's foster-brother. Family angst. The more you pick at the mystery
of Bond the duller he becomes as a character.
After all the press about
casting fiftysomething Monica Bellucci as a love interest for Bond they
give Bellucci about five minutes of screen time. Then they have Léa
Seydoux as the usual young enough to be his daughter tag along. Rebecca
Ferguson in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation made a more charismatic
and three dimensional female lead.
Dave Bautista is henchman Hinx
and the train fight is fine as it goes even if it does feel too much of
a Spy Who Loved Me reference. The undercooked screenplay (the second
half of the film gradually falls apart) and gratuitous references to
the back catalogue of the series invite comparisons with Quantum of
Solace and Die Another Day. No wonder Craig ends up in a black polo
neck in the snow.
I never liked Andrew Scott in
Sherlock because he's too hammy. It's too obvious he's acting. He falls
into the same trap in Spectre. Ralph Fiennes is alright as M but they
can't resist Judi Dench making a cameo despite bumping her off in the
I sense a boredom in Daniel
Craig in Spectre. He wildly overacts in a torture scene (the torture
scene and an eye-gouging moment make you wonder how they avoided a
higher rating) but seems to be coasting for much of the film. When they
try to do the old school Bond stuff (like put him a white tuxedo) he
never looks right. The film ends in a way that could close the Craig
era but it also leaves the door unlocked should he return. Put it this
way - a large catflap is left open. If Craig and Mendes do return the
next film writes itself.
We should maybe give this
franchise a rest and freshen it up with a new Bond, a new director and
a new writing team. Give David Arnold a call too. And can they give
that DB5 a rest? It loses any novelty when they roll in out in every
single bloody film. Spectre washes over you and starts to dissipate
almost as soon as it ends. Not a bad film but not a very good one