After three long years of anticipation for Agent 007’s return to the big screen following the 2012 super-powered release of Skyfall, fans have been clamouring to see the 24th instalment in the 007 film franchise. Spectre has the very difficult task of serving as a follow-up to Skyfall, living up to its own hype, and bringing the Craig era of Bond to a thrilling, spine-tingling, and explosive close. For the most part, Spectre does the trick – with lots of action, hilarious one-liners, and amazing performances, but not without hitting a few speed bumps along the way.
Spectre is Daniel Craig’s fourth and final performance as Agent 007.
Spectre picks up where Skyfall left off, with Bond on a mission in Mexico City to kill two men who are planning to blow up a stadium. During a struggle, Bond gives chase to Marco Sciarra, an assassin who survived Bond’s attack. It is discovered that he was working for Spectre, a criminal organization that Sciarra belonged to. Longtime fans of the series will remember that Bond has had an encounter with Spectre before; 53 years ago, no less, way back in 1962’s Dr. No. But after a big copyright fight that resulted in a rebooted continuity starting with 2006’s Casino Royale, this is the first time that the Spectre organization has appeared in this continuity. Without giving away too many details, it is revealed that Spectre has been pulling the strings behind the background and that several of Bond’s previous adversaries had all been part of a grander plan, which leads Bond to discover the secrets that have been kept from him, with the help of a former enemy’s daughter.
Spectre follows the typical Bond formula of the earlier movies; and while there is nothing wrong with that, it makes something that is meant to be an explosive finale into something that doesn’t stand out from other Bond films very well. It’s somewhat lacking in the exhilarating thrill that made Skyfall so special. It sets the bar very high with its amazing opening scene, but it sort of falls flat afterwards. This doesn’t make Spectre a bad film necessarily, but for the most part, it is simply a step down from previous entries in the series. Its overarching plot neatly ties together the Craig-era of Bond films that all point towards an ending of sorts, but by itself, Spectre really isn’t all that special. As I said, it follows a similar Bond formula like previous films in the series, but its basic plot and lack of that extra 007 flare leaves something to be desired.
The opening scene of Spectre involves a thrilling battle in an out-of-control helicopter, and is considered to be the best scene in the movie.
As with all Bond movies, an absolute must is a good villain. And Spectre has one; Austrian actor Christoph Waltz portrays Franz Oberhauser, the mastermind puppeteer that has been pulling the strings in the background since the beginning. It makes sense to have a villain so important to the plot to have a build-up leading to the inevitable reveal to the protagonist; but Oberhauser’s build-up in Spectre went on for far too long before he was properly revealed. We get a little tease of the big bad Spectre boss when Bond tries to infiltrate a meeting of the organization’s leaders, but we don’t see him again until the climax of the movie, which only starts around the 2 hour mark in this 150 minute film. Which is a shame, because one look at Waltz’s face and you can tell that this man was born to play a Bond villain. But he doesn’t get enough screen time to justify his extreme importance to the plot. He has very close connections with Bond as well (connections that will not be mentioned for obvious spoiler-y reasons), and yet he doesn’t get the attention that he deserves. Luckily, the short time that we do get to see him, we get a taste of his viciousness and his grudge against Bond. If only we could see more…
Oberhauser’s intimidating looks and his recent control over Bond’s life gives him an edge on the playing field, but not everything about this mysterious villain is as it seems…
I can’t go talking about villains without mentioning the Guardians of the Galaxy star Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx, an assassin for Spectre, who is more of the “break necks first, ask questions later” type of guy, minus the “asking questions” part. He’s the strong but silent type, so to speak. This can make him intimidating, but overall, he’s… kind of lame, really. Bond has several run-ins with Hinx, but he really doesn’t stand out. He’s your average muscular, bearded, bruised-knuckled brute sent to kill the protagonist.
Mr. Hinx is certainly intimidating, but his character is as shallow as a wading pool.
Now, for the most important part of the entire movie: the Bond Girl. Because really, what sort of Bond film would it be without one? Léa Seydoux portrays Dr. Madeleine Swann, a chic psychologist working in the Austrian Alps, and the daughter of villain Mr. White. Seydoux herself has said that her character is not your stereotypical Bond girl. “She’s not a fighter, she’s a doctor. She fights in another way.” says Seydoux. And she’s right. Dr. Swann has every need and desire to fight as much as Bond does. She can certainly hold her own, and that makes a lot of fans (myself included) wish that we could see more independent and badass Bond girls that would take up the mantle of a sidekick or partner of sorts, much like how Dr. Swann is to Bond. She is a deep character with deep ties to her father, which brings the story ever closer together.
Madeline Swann “doesn’t need Bond,” according to actor Léa Seydoux.
All in all, Spectre is a worthy edition to the 007 franchise, and it would have been seen as an even bigger accomplishment if it wasn’t tasked with following Skyfall. With characters that have depth and development, awesome action sequences, and surprisingly much more humour than usual, Spectre brings this era of James Bond to a rocky, but satisfying close. Its traditional Bond formula works well; it’s never a bad idea to get back to your roots. But perhaps a film like Spectre, with all of its tasks to finish off the Craig-era of films, was not the best place to re-implement said formula. At least Spectre does the job done at giving us a satisfying adventure to coast us over to the inevitable announcement of the next Bond’s casting, or we may be surprised to see Daniel Craig show up for one more installment. Either way, Craig has quickly become a fan-favourite, and will likely stay that way well into future films. Whether or not Spectre does the same is something only time will tell.
Score: 7 out of 10
Reviewed by Thomas Squires