A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Sam Mendes
Produced By: Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli
Written By: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
Starring: Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes
Running Time: 148 Minutes
After 24 films and eight incarnations, audiences have grown to understand and accept the world in which James Bond operates, including its formulaic and predictable buildup. 007, England’s most powerful weapon is virtually indestructible, physically at least and his adventures are repetitive and riddled with inevitability, yet that is always to be expected .
A hardened, suave and collected individual, the character of James Bond stems far deeper than the outer shell of suits and gadgetry; there’s far more that lies beneath the surface. Daniel Craig’s series of outings has explored the history that eventually created the mythos of the man himself, all the while gallantly deviating away from the archetypal martini-laced charmer we watched teeter on the edge of self-parody throughout the Brosnan era years before.
Spectre, the latest addition to the collection and the second to be directed by Sam Mendes is yet another chapter that attempts to redefine the iconic spy from the ground up, or at least from where the previous film concluded. After Skyfall introduced us to the rebooted team of MI6 and won back the hearts of millions in light of the misguided Quantum Of Solace, Spectre attempted to follow suit and keep the impactful ball rolling, combining sheer madness with some poorly executed story elements. The result however causes a nasty stir in the comfortably shaken world of 007…
Sophomore syndrome has affected the overall product that is Spectre. With an in-form director returning, a sensational cast on paper, masses of audiences the world over salivating for more and the assistance of a measly $300million to work with, where did it all go wrong?
An abundance of reasons sing out after enduring the gargantuan 148-minute epic, and although the shockingly detrimental marketing campaign is chiefly at fault, the product itself is not without significant flaws of its own. In what could be an immensely mind boggling plot to some and a reasonably straightforward one to others, Spectre drives home the intent to connect the world of Craig in a web from which a new chapter in the Bond enterprise can be spawned.
The web that Mendes and Craig directors alike have crafted has become tangled all too quickly, interrupting an impressive flow of events thus far.
Family history, bloodlines and interconnected narratives are the foundation of Spectre, and although said elements lend themselves very well to building a compelling, thrilling story, Spectre handles the situation very poorly in most instances.
For those who don’t particularly care for bruiting violence and gunfire in their films, Bond pictures have always been able to balance a sense of class, style and charisma to satisfy a broader audience. Shot through a meticulous lens and presented in a elegant fashion, Spectre is very much like the previous instalment in that regard.
The opening credit sequences are also a chance to exhibit some stunning visuals, some being hypnotic on occasion. These sequences are designed to equip the audience tonally and thematically through symbol and artistry, however the opening to Spectre is bland, confused and not too dissimilar to a Japanese video you’d come across lurking in the deepest, darkest corners of the Internet. It involves octopi… say no more.
The character of 007 is slick and doesn’t suffer fools, offering humorous one-liners and crushing insults wherever possible. Refreshingly, Spectre plays with the humorous elements of Bond a lot more than its predecessors, producing moments that are guaranteed to amuse most audiences. Although the exhausted Craig appears to have jumped ship all together with this franchise, his comedic timing still holds up and lightens up certain scenes significantly.
It’s also pleasant to see Bond occasionally in the shadow if his female counterpart. Léa Seydoux is show-stealing as the seductive but poised Dr. Madeleine Swann. She is able to expose and explore the other side to Bond when it comes to love, which is truly fascinating when considering what the past has established with the character.
The supremely talented Christoph Waltz is excellent in the leading villainous role, however his criminal lack of screen time results in the outing becoming more like a game of Where’s Waltz?
Furthermore, it should be mentioned that he does not in fact play the infamous music producer Phil Spector, who without a doubt fits the mould of an archetypal Bond villain.
It is immensely clear as to where the estimated $300 million has been allocated. With stunning cinematography that showcase sweeping landscapes of Mexico, Austria, Tangier and England, the action set pieces that seem to obliterate the tranquil or festive settings are explosive and dynamic beyond compare. Bond is able to demolish an entire forest, city block or even an occupied locomotive, yet nobody bats an eyelid; it’s the world they live in and the one we accept.
With an impressive opening tracking shot lasting over a couple of minutes, Bond 24 begins like any fan of the franchise would hope. What follows is an enormous chase through a crowd of thousands of masked Mexicans celebrating The Day of the Dead which concludes in a magnificent helicopter sequence that only a certain budget could allow for.
This however is not the most gripping action set piece, a sequence on a train is one that truly packs a punch and feels like an amalgamation of Casino Royale’s grittiness blended with Goldfinger’s level of threat.
Where the action and tension reaches full throttle, those sequences are sadly few and far between. The remaining runtime consists of drawn out explorative scenes and severe lulls in crucial character interactions that would have done justice to the story Spectre was trying to tell.
Overlong and bloated, Spectre is exhausting but doesn’t completely fall short. It’s a visually striking affair, however style does not make for a memorable Bond picture, the story needs to be clear and concise.
Some stripped back traditionalism is required for the next adventure, which doesn’t mean the sporadic homage to yesteryear. Leave the world-building to Bourne and Marvel films, it’s not the Bond we know and love.