Film Review: Spectre

The 24th James Bond film, Spectre is the second instalment directed by Sam Mendes and is the 4th film featuring Daniel Craig in the lead. With the secret service under political threat by a member of the British government, Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott), the team – M (Ralph Fiennes), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) – must focus their efforts on keeping the operation alive. But Bond puts matters into his own hands, after a cryptic message forces him to go on a rogue mission to uncover a sinister organisation known as Spectre. With the company of Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), Bond must follow a well-disguised trail of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind the organisation, as a face from his past, Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), uncovers a link bigger than any of the 007 initiative could have ever imagined.

Whether you’re a fan of the older James Bond films or not, these recent series of films are bringing something new to the franchise aside from cheesy stereotypes and over-the-top action. The earlier entries are a lot of fun, but it’s only since Daniel Craig has taken the lead that I have really become invested in the Bond character and in the franchise itself. Casino Royale is one of my favourite all-time films, with Skyfall not far behind, so with the current run of films, Spectre should have been a flawless masterpiece.

With a fantastic opening half an hour full of breathtaking action and beautiful location shots, and an exceptional title sequence set to Sam Smith‘s Writings On The Wall (which works so much better on-screen than it sounds on the radio), Spectre is a great ode to the earlier Bond films, whilst also flourishing in the qualities of Sam Mendes and his team.

Set in numerous locations, each as visually spectacular as the last, Spectre should have been the biggest and boldest instalment yet. But even as “one of the most expensive films ever made”, that overpowering sense of being blown away with amazement just isn’t there. As an instalment, it does fit in well to the Daniel Craig series of films, but it just doesn’t take that step up that we were promised.

Nevertheless, these films are great because of the team behind them. Mendes is a brilliant director and there are a number of scenes that are incredibly well handled, and Craig is my favourite Bond character despite the flaws in this film and for most of Quantum of Solace.

It’s the cast that make these films so successful, as well as the people behind the camera. Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw are all fantastic, and there are some brilliant additions to the cast, too, with the beautiful Léa Seydoux giving a stunning performance, Andrew Scott adding a lot of tension, and an entertaining supporting role from Dave Bautista, despite his incredibly short script of dialogue.

But the best thing about these films are the villains, and Christoph Waltz fits right in. His scenes are some of the best in the entire film, with Waltz having such a strong presence and bringing so much to the role, but we don’t nearly see enough of him. Waltz is a man who can completely turn a film on its head, and his inclusion should have made this a performance impossible to forget. But, despite Waltz’s best efforts, his performance doesn’t have the effect that the recent performances of Javier Bardem and Mads Mikkelsen have had, purely because he doesn’t have enough screen-time.

I also think his performance, and the film as a whole, would have benefited from some flashbacks. Waltz’s character is revealed to be the “author of all [Bond’s] pain”, fitting himself into the timelines of the previous films. But it’s merely a short conversation, and whilst Bond doesn’t remember much from his past, it would have been brilliant to see some short clips of his childhood, or even of some recycled scenes from the other films with the addition of Waltz lurking in the background. The use of these flashbacks would have really brought the series of films together, because whether or not this is Craig’s last Bond film, it did tie up a lot of loose ends and close without anything left to answer. The inclusions of such flashbacks would have had such a big impact that the audience would have come away feeling a bigger sense of awe, knowing that this instalment was such an important one in terms of context.

Instead, I can’t help but feel that if this wasn’t a Bond film, then it wouldn’t have been as good as a generic thriller. In terms of plot and strength in characters, I actually preferred this year’s Mission: Impossible 5 – Rogue Nation, which only makes me think that it could have been so much more.

That being said, Spectre is still a great piece of film-making, a valuable entry in the franchise, and one of 2015’s biggest releases, so it’s definitely worth watching on the big screen.

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