Sam Mendes returns along with Daniel Craig for the most recent instalment to the franchise.
Times are changing, MI6 and MI5 have been merged, there’s talk of ending the 00 program - it’s not good for the likes of James Bond. Moreover, the government want to shift their focus to data gathering rather than classic spying. Therefore, when Bond gets wind of an evil plot he has to go rogue to sort it out.
The plot, you may have guessed, clumsily reflects the current state of spying in the 21st century, especially given the Snowden leaks. It’s ham fisted but it gets the point across; sometimes only a human knows when to pull the trigger, or when not to.
Craig is as watchable as ever as Bond, he’s charming and conveys such determination and brute force it’s hard not to like him. He’s self-aware too, and ten years after his début he plays Bond as if he’s ten years older. It sounds obvious but it’s a nice break from pretending he’s 35 all the time.
The supporting cast is of a high calibre. Christoph Waltz plays the villain in a genuinely disturbing performance. He toys with sometimes being camp, sometimes being straight up crazy; it’s uncomfortable to watch at times because as an audience we never quite get a grip on what he’s thinking.
Monica Bellucci plays the widow of a man Bond killed, she’s a great choice but only features for 5 minutes. Lea Seydoux is the real ‘Bond girl’ - another great talent - she’s alluring and attractive but more than a match for Craig’s Bond. Strong women are the only way this misogynistic franchise can survive in 2015.
The new ‘regulars’ are bedding in nicely. Ralph Fiennes shines as M, Naomi Harris is a solid Moneypenny and Ben Wishaw steals the show as Q. This is the stuff the fans care about and although it seems frivolous now, it’s important that these characters are well rounded. 24 films in, one starts to focus on the details…
Talking of things we know and love; Spectre is probably the first Daniel Craig film to feel like an old style Bond picture. It’s action driven and much more light hearted than the others so far. This has its pros and cons - on the one hand this is a thoroughly entertaining film from start to end. On the other hand, it relies heavily on tried and tested material and for the most part does not really innovate.
Gone are the thrilling fight scenes of Casino Royale or the sumptuous cinematography of Skyfall; something about Spectre lacks panache. There’s probably less to complain about than in the other films, but at the same time there’s nothing particularly memorable here despite all the action. Instead Mendes falls back on references to the past. It’s sort of funny and sort of clever but it wears thin.
Still, Spectre is a well made, very exciting thrill ride. It’s gripping, it’s funny and it’s well written. Despite its unimaginative direction, this probably stands as one of the better Bond films.