It all starts so well. Spectre‘s opening set piece, set in Mexico City during the Day of the Dead had been much hyped before its release and there is a reason for that. The long tracking shot that kicks things off, followed by a brief fire-fight and a chase through the crowded streets. Finally, Bond and his enemy battle it out in a tumbling helicopter high above the screaming crowds below. It’s gorgeously realised and seems to set Spectre up for one hell of a showing. Sadly, that doesn’t prove to be the case.
Instead, we have Bond returning to the mistakes of its past. Gone is the tight, contained script of Skyfall and in its place is a sprawling journey around the world. Surrounded by the kind of muddled plot that falls apart at even the smallest of nit picking. At nearly two and a half hours long this is an over bloated mess of a film. It tries to straddle the divide between Craig’s serious Bond of the last few years and the more over the top Bond of times gone by and ultimately fails to satisfy in either camp.
It’s also not helped by having a nearly identical plot to Mission Impossible V. A shadowy criminal organisation working to bring down the world’s intelligence services, this time led by Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser, goes head to head with Bond after the 00 project is shut down. Sadly, it lacks a lot of the fun of that movie and even when its set pieces are good, it never rivals anything as dramatic and tense as MIV’s opera house scene.
And yet, there are glimmers of great things here. Ben Whishaw is a wonderful Q and brings a bumbling charm to the role that works nicely next to Craig’s miserable Bond. While Dave Bautista continues to surprise by proving that he can actually act as Oberhauser’s silent muscle. It’s a role that the hulking ex-wrestler fills with ease. Finally, Daniel Craig is a good Bond. Four films in he has got this nailed and if this is his final film, he can at least personally have always claimed to have given his best.
Sadly, they are surrounded by underutilised talents. Ralph Fiennes and Andrew Scott are solid in their roles as M and C respectively but are given nowhere near enough screen time to really make them count. While Naomie Harris’s Moneypenny has been well and truly slotted into a desk job. Even Waltz’s big bad fails to make any real impression, only turning up for the final act and failing to come across as anything approaching a real challenge. Finally, it appears that despite all their claims to the contrary, Bond has still not figured out how to create an interesting female character. Both Lea Seydoux and Monica Belluci are horribly underserved in their Bond girl roles and end up being just more attractive figures for Bond to save and sleep with.
Despite all these criticisms. Spectre does have its moments. It rattles along at a fair pace and occasionally thrills. Sadly, it also brings back some of the worst of Bond. Overlong, over-plotted and ultimately just a bit of a damp squib, it is not the sequel that Skyfall deserved. If it does prove to be Craig’s final outing as Bond, it will stand as a disappointing one.