Following their hugely successful collaboration on Skyfall, director Sam Mendes and actor Daniel Craig reunite for their second and possibly final mission with ‘Spectre’. Taking place shortly after the aforementioned predecessor, a merger between MI5 and MI6 and the introduction of a surveillance agreement could cause the 00 section of intelligence to be surplus to requirements, much to the dismay of M (Ralph Fiennes). Against orders, Bond goes on a rogue assignment given to him from beyond the grave to track down and kill a man called Marco Sciarra (Alessandro Cremona). In doing so, he discovers the global criminal organisation which gives the film its name led by Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) and meets Dr Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) along the way.
Most James Bond films begin in spectacular fashion with an action-packed pre-credits sequence, and this is no different. The opening scene unfolds at the Day of the Dead festival parade in Mexico City, featuring a superb long tracking shot which culminates in an intense helicopter fight. The bar is set high early on, and unfortunately what comes after fails to live up to expectations. The plot plays out a little like a wild-goose chase, with Bond travelling from location to location ticking off franchise clichés as he goes, outwitting his foes on the usual planes, trains and automobiles. The ‘bond girl’ storyline is as cheesy as they come, reverting back to tacky Roger Moore style dialogue, and where Skyfall included playful nods to series nostalgia, Spectre completely overindulges in it. This distracts from the overarching theme of the technological transformation of modern espionage, which had the potential to be very interesting.
Daniel Craig remains a powerful screen presence, and despite the material letting him down on this occasion, he is still my personal favourite 007. He’s as dark and brooding as ever, and carries the grief suffered by the character with aplomb. Waltz brings the same nuanced menace to the villainous role of Oberhauser as he did as the evil Colonel Landa in Tarantino’s WWII movie Inglourious Basterds. He is underused for the most part but effective and entertaining in the limited screen time he is given. Léa Seydoux has her moments as the strong-willed and feisty love interest, but her strength of character is undermined by flimsy writing which sees her opinion of Bond alter at the drop of a hat, which stereotypically results in the dropping of another item of clothing. WWE wrestler turned movie star Dave Bautista essentially plays a modern-day version of the classic Bond villain Jaws, turning up every so often for another showdown. His appearances never feel short of ridiculous and seem out of place in the Daniel Craig era, which up to now has largely avoided comic effect bad guys.
Spectre is by no-means a bad film, and succeeds in offering up solid entertainment with cool landscape cinematography, sharply edited chases and gadgets galore. It is back-to-basics Bond, replacing the gritty seriousness of the past few instalments with much lighter fare, and for franchise enthusiasts it is not to be missed. However, after the originality and invention of the Daniel Craig era to date, with the exception of Quantum of Solace, this is an average effort, and definitely a misfire.