Film review of the James Bond blockbuster starring Daniel Craig and Léa Seydoux and directed by Sam Mendes, in which Bond hunts down the head of a secret organisation who are planning to infiltrate government intelligence systems around the world.
Opinions are from Jason Day and Claire Durrant.
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Director: Sam Mendes. MGM/Eon/B24 (12a)
Cast & credits
Producers: Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson.
Writers: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth.
Camera: Hoyte Van Hoytema.
Music: Thomas Newman.
Sets: Dennis Gassner.
Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Christophe Waltz, Monica Bellucci, Naomi Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Andrew Scott, Ben Wishaw, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen.
In the aftermath of Skyfall, Bond receives a posthumous special assignment. Disobeying M’s orders, 007 (with some help from Moneypenny and Q) sets out in completing his mission, which leads him to unearthing a secret criminal organisation by the name of Spectre. With the help of the Madeleine; the daughter of previous enemy Mr White, the duo embark on trying to stop the leader of Spectre; Franz Oberhauser. Meanwhile in London, M is battling for superiority over the ’00’ agency.
So, our Claire (Durrant) and I (Jason Day. For anyone who has hasn’t heard of me before – hello!) raked through our diaries weeks ahead to make sure we could both catch the brand spanking new Bond film just before it goes on massive general release.
The aim? To go for a head to head on the film (one of us obviously loving the film and the other hating it) and chewing the cud over the relative merits or detractions of the piece.
The result? We both ended up feeling basically the same so, our views are collated together below, for your delectation and delight movie lovers.
On the set-up and the opening…
Claire Durrant (CD): Spectre has all the elements you would expect from a Bond movie. You have your action packed car chase scenes and beautifully choreographed fight scenes, your impish villain, your damsel of a Bond Girl and of course your stylish and suave James Bond.
The introduction is very sleek, as the smooth camerawork takes us through a Day of the Dead festival, all the while having an explosive action scene to end. The opening credits are of course something to look out for (even if they are accompanied by the most disappointing song). They are artistic and symbolic, even if it is to the most disappointing Bond song.
However, it’s hard not to compare this film with its previous instalment to the franchise, Skyfall (2012). The most successful Bond movie according to Box Office sales and positive reviews from critics, Spectre was under a lot of pressure to compete and, unfortunately, it failed to match Skyfall’s near masterpiece of a Bond film.
Jason Day (JD): Well, at least you can always tell when a Bond film is about to be released – it’s not quite Christmas but there are adverts for men’s watches on the TV.
And expensive smart phones. They even had an ad this year with sexy Moneypenny (Harris) traipsing through London to retrieve Bond’s misplaced mobile.
I completely agree with our Claire on the opening title credits, sexy and punchy, Craig features in them with two lovely ladies caressing his naked torso. Hey, it beats working at least! They also feature, tellingly, key characters in all of Craig’s former Bond movie. I don’t agree about the song – yes, the lyrics are a bit bland but then, to be fair, so is the film on a whole and it sounds lovely as sung by Sam Smith, his voice full of longing and heartache. In spite of myself, my heart swelled (a little).
The opening sequence in a Bond film sets the tone in any entry of the series and we certainly open with a bang, a seamlessly neat and organised tracking shot (s) with a carnival erupting underneath Bond as he traipses along the top of buildings toward an enemy.
On the acting…
JD: Bond baddies always come off best. Whether they go for panto, high-camp nonsense, or chillingly restrained sociopathy, you’re on to a winner in terms of glowering looks, killer dialogue and costuming.
Waltz then, naturally, waltzes off with the acting honours as the only member of the cast to have a complete blast, but then he is more or less playing this for laughs, in keeping with the script’s enjoyably supercilious tone. It’s also left open for him to come back in future films which, on the evidence here, should be heartily encouraged at some point.
Despite the indelible impression she left on the previous films, Judi Dench’s M, killed off in Skyfall, is not noticeably missed (for those who miss her though, fear not, she gets in a cameo anyway) thanks to the smart and funny supporting cast. Wishaw gets to have the most fun, but Fiennes is in fine fettle as the new M with a perfectly set-up final comeback to Scott’s slimy intelligence chief.
As Bond girls go, Seydoux is sweet and spirited, but Bellucci has more of the breathy, knock-out sexiness that lets her slip easily into the ranks of Honor Blackman and Ursula Andress. It’s quite a shame she is on screen for such a short space of time, pushed out after Bond has done his business and before she can complain about failing to screech above this curiously filmic glass ceiling.
CD: The characters are fun to watch. Daniel Craig performs the role of our hero as well as he’s done in his previous instalments. If he is tired of playing the character, it certainly doesn’t show in his performance.
Christoph Waltz, a man born to play a Bond villain takes such enjoyment in his role, and plays it wonderfully. He’s fiendish, over the top and yet is still quite eerily calm. Not as terrifying as his role in Inglourious Basterds (2009) but he definitely comes across as a man you don’t want to mess with.
However, Ben Whishaw wins star performer as his role of Q. He steals ever scene he’s in, and luckily we get to see him a lot more than we did in Skyfall. He’s scenes with Bond are some of the most humourous and light hearted moments in the overall bleak toned film. Whishaw has created a wonderfully comic character that I hope doesn’t leave the franchise anytime soon.
CD: Overall, there are a lot of good things to admire in this film, from its aesthetic filmmaking and its fun performances. As long as your willing to stick with the long running time and at times silly and predictable storyline, you will enjoy this film. It’s not as smart as Skyfall, but it’s definitely not the worst Bond film.
JD: Bond will never win awards for originality, apart from him clearly having more booze than bonks in this instalment (note ‘Qs’ screen of his bio readouts. Normal graphs for everything except blood alcohol concentration – a steep increment!).
Bond films have been standardised for so long, one fancifully imagines producers Broccoli and Wilson simply going through their shopping list of key movie ingredients, whack it all on the Pinewood backlot and ask the director to ‘just add water’.
But that’s being too cruel – there is a lot of hard work that goes into these movies, over a long time, with many committed and talented professionals pouring their all into them. Spectre has everything you need from a Bond, all lovingly photographed in gorgeous hues and is cheerly almost without incident for its entire 2 hours and 28 minutes. See it, enjoy it, then sit back and wait for the next one to blow you away.