“There were so many plot holes!” one of my friends exclaimed as we walked out of the movie theater, to which another responded, “It’s classic James Bond, what do you expect?” This short conversation perfectly encapsulates James Bond’s twenty-fourth official installment, Spectre. This film lacks the intelligence, intensity and innovation of its predecessor, Skyfall (2012). Instead, it attempts to win you over with nostalgia of past Bond films, as you leave thinking it was not bad, but not quite good either.
Once again Bond is off the radar, following the instruction M posthumously left Bond with and tracking an assassin associated with a greater terrorist network. This five minute opening scene has 007 just as you’d expect him—sleek, stylish, sure, and casually sliding down collapsing buildings to defeat the bad guys.
Daniel Craig as James Bond does an excellent job of that, complete with the Bond girls, the signature “Bond, James Bond,” and surprisingly, a dirty martini this time. He still has his super fast cars and multipurpose watches, and the signature attitude that makes him the cultural icon he has been for so long. There were many references to past Bond films that I’m not a big enough Bond fan to realize. This film was too faithful to its franchise though, adopting a classic Bond storyline that was far too predictable and filled with many plot holes, leaving something terribly ordinary.
This installment from the Craig era delivers another dark film filled with explicit murder and torture scenes; the re-imagining of a franchise resonant of Nolan’s interpretation of Batman. James Bond continues to be the hyper-masculine and rugged character, capable of showing the odd emotion here and there. This time, he is complemented by Madeleine Swann (played by Léa Seydoux), who is to bring out genuine love and emotion from him. She is shown to be intelligent and capable—she manages to help Bond twice in his quest for survival and world protection — yet her character ultimately can’t escape the tired trope of the damsel in distress that needs saving. Seydoux and Craig act well, delivering roles of broken people with tragic pasts, smiling only a handful of times and declaring their love for each other after 24 hours.
Ralph Fiennes eases into his role as the new M, and manages to come off as the aging government operative working with the salt-and-pepper haired Bond, both struggling to cope with the technological threats faced by the world today. This is Spectre’s greatest flaw. It very purposefully mentions the use of drones for spy intelligence and the lack of need for the double-0 program, far too reminiscent of Mission Impossible 5 (2015). It tries to paint the bleak picture of a totally surveilled globe, complete with the annoying mention of Orwell, and by extension, 1984.
The enemy’s army seems to have humans who may well be mindless robots, wearing all black and sitting perfectly upright in neat rows, typing up the end of the world, perhaps. That’s the crux of the problem — apart from the personal grudge of the antagonist against our hero, the rest of the SPECTRE organization is motivated by the vague want of intelligence from nine countries and a passing comment on how democracy fails. It is hard to get invested in the film or in the defeat of Blofeld (played by Christoph Waltz).
What is most disappointing is Christoph Waltz’s performance as the super villain. He might have been brilliant in Django Unchained (2012) and is a riveting actor generally, but simply put, he just isn’t scary. Part of the blame could go to Javier Bardem’s role in Skyfall that proved his brilliance in playing the antagonist and delivered a performance that is hard to live up to, but also to film’s inconsistencies: in the beginning, Sam Mendes manages to conjure up an image that inspires fear and awe, but this falls apart eventually. Rather desperately, in the end he even has a scar looking eerily like the Joker’s from “The Dark Knight” (2008). This is apart from the pathetic attempt to loosely tie the other three films that have Craig as Bond, tarnishing their intensity even, if this is what it must all lead to.
Spectre does retain exemplary cinematic effects and techniques, a picturesque landscape, masterful fistfights and a simple plot. It has all the trademark components of a Bond film, and is an okay Bond film at least. Whether or not it is more than that is for you to decide. If you’re looking for a classic Bond film, with expectations that are not too high and are willing to forego a few plot holes, but want style and the glory of eventual and predictable triumph, watch Spectre. If you’re looking for something exciting, new or groundbreaking, don’t. While Skyfall seemed to mark the reawakening of a franchise with a generally great film that could be appreciated by everyone, this one takes a step back, and is one for the loyal.