Unlike its critically-acclaimed predecessor, Skyfall, the new Bond film (directed by Sam Mendes) has been getting only mediocre reviews. Since I was no big fan of Skyfall, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but my expectations certainly weren’t high. As a result, I was pleasantly surprised by Spectre, which didn’t overwhelm with its action, had enough intelligent and humorous conversations and even had some positive messages. Which is not to say that Spectre is one of the best Bond films ever; it’s just very far from the worst (that would be Moonraker).
Daniel Craig, in his fourth and final appearance as James Bond, has got his Bond persona so ingrained by now that it sometimes feels like he’s just going through the motions. For the most part, though, I like Craig as the steely-eyed unflappable Bond. This time out, Bond is working largely on his own as he follows the former M’s final instructions (to kill a man and not miss the funeral). While the new M (Ralph Fiennes) is fighting to keep MI6 alive in the wake of the development of a new surveillance/security network called CNS (Centre of National Security), led by Max Denbigh, aka C (Andrew Scott), Bond is chasing down leads to find the secret sinister super-organization known as Spectre, the organization behind so many of Bond’s trials over the years, led by arch-enemy Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz).
Along the way, Bond will meet Dr. Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), the daughter of another arch-enemy (Mr. White). The relationship between Bond and Swann is more developed than most and includes interesting conversations on Bond’s chosen profession. Seydoux, who is an excellent actor, makes a good ‘Bond girl’. Waltz, on the other hand, while doing his usual good job, is under-utilized, with Blofeld’s words and actions being one of Spectre’s disappointments (the big clichéd scene between Bond and Blofeld made little sense to me). Indeed, the entire Spectre storyline felt anti-climactic to me, given that this is the grand conclusion to Craig’s four Bond films. Nevertheless, as usual, I loved most of the film’s exotic locations (the cinematography was outstanding), the score was good, the pace was more relaxed (it had an old-fashioned feel to it) and Ben Whishaw was back as Q (the acting as a whole was good, though I missed Judi Dench, one of the highlights of the last three films).
So, on the whole, I quite enjoyed Spectre, not least because of its criticism of the current governmental obsessions with viewing security, surveillance and drone warfare as the way of of the future. The film even suggests that a terrorist organization might target a large city in order to get a country to increase its security levels (as if). I also appreciated Bond’s actions in the film’s climactic moments. The writing of the ending as a whole felt weak to me (no doubt because there were so many writers), but there was evidence that at least one of the writers was putting some serious thought into Bond’s ongoing development as a human being. Since I liked Spectre more than Skyfall, I am going to have to be generous and award Spectre ***+. My mug is up.