Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Lea Seydoux, Monica Bellucci
Director: Sam Mendes
With Sam Mendes’ Spectre, you get your money’s worth in the first 15 minutes. Daniel Craig’s James Bond is incognito behind a skull mask as he joins the revellers in Mexico’s famed Day of the Dead parade. As you ponder on the significance of the setting given Bond’s chequered history of leaving behind bodies, he enters a hotel room only to swiftly exit.
What follows is a long tracking shot which follows him as he jumps off rooftops, blows up buildings and goes on to depict a rather cushioned escape. Before we can catch our breath, he is off again, fighting inside a wildly careening helicopter as thousands of cowering revellers beneath try to escape the busy town square.
Bond is known for its set pieces and immaculately-designed opening sequences. It is praise indeed when we say this one will find its way into the top three of the heap. You sit back, confident that however the film turns out, there will be this sequence that will be part of every ‘best of James Bond’ list.
As always, Bond is pulled up for flattening up buildings in Mexico. And this time, an embattled M (Ralph Fiennes) has a special reason for being captious over 007’s methods: a young upstart C is trying to replace the double-0 programme with drones and big data, and Bond has just given him ammo.
C’s programme makes privacy a thing of the past and the fact that he is played by Sherlock’s Moriarty (Andrew Scott) doesn’t help matters. However, by making snide comments about the “prehistoric” double-0 programme, C actually pushes us in Bond’s corner. Yeah, Bond is a misogynist remnant of a bygone era but we don’t want Moriarty to say it!
Past, meanwhile, is catching up with Bond in Spectre. Judi Dench’s former M sends him a message from the grave and asks him to go on a new mission. “She was not going to let death stop her from doing her duty,” Craig’s Bond tells Moneypenny (Noamie Harris) with his characteristic dry wit.
This call of duty sends Bond on a chase across some of the most scenic spots in the world - from Rome’s cobbled streets to Swiss Alps to dreamy Tangier and back home to a lit-up London. As Bond blows stuff, goes on high speed chases - both ground and in air, and even fights Dave Bautista who is built on the lines of a tank, Hoyte van Hoytema (Interstellar, Her) captures everything stunningly.
The women are equally gorgeous. While Monica Bellucci leaves an impact in the small role as the non-grieving widow of an Italian gangster, Lea Seydoux’s Madeline Swann is meh at best. But it is Mendes’ attempt to give Bond a neat little back story and to tie it all up that makes this a flawed work. By the time the script has explained to us that there’s only one author of all the pain 007 had to go through (an underused Christoph Waltz heading the sinister organisation Spectre), it has become too convoluted and fraught to care.
Every single villain we saw in the last three outings of Craig as Bond (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall) finds a mention here and all Bond tropes get an airing. Along with the fast cars and bedding pretty ladies, we even get a secret lair in the middle of nowhere that is essentially ‘80s. This is probably the most formulaic Bond film that Craig has ever done.
Watch Spectre trailer here:
At two-and-a-half hours length, the film is far too long and the climax has been dragged beyond patience. It was as if Mendes wanted to give Craig the best going-away present and didn’t know where to stop. With four scriptwriters, it could also be the case of too many cooks making a mish-mash of the broth.
But the most irritating moment in the film is when Sam Smith’s middling theme song comes on as octopi tried to molest women and firearms alike. To muddy matters further, a shirtless Craig keeps on catching fire.
Watch Spectre review: Daniel Craig’s James Bond is good but not best
For those who are going to compare it to Skyfall, this simply isn’t as good. There is neither the emotional connect nor the sweet melancholy that inhabited the last film, but it is a joyous ride nonetheless. And for what he made out of Bond, we owe this to Daniel Craig as he dons the tux for the very last time. You also owe it to the teenager inside you who loves the whirl of excitement the way only Bond can give - shaken not stirred.