What made Casino Royale work on so many levels was the fact that it offered an incredibly refreshing take on the iconic character of James Bond and was a welcome departure from the conventions of previous instalments of this long-running franchise. It marked the dawn of a new era of Bond films which was finally free from the crushing weight of its predecessors and had an opportunity to take the eponymous 007 agent into uncharted territories. But Quantum of Solace failed to capitalise on the solid platform that was provided to it yet even in its failure, it didn’t entirely give in to the established 007 formula.
Then on the 50th anniversary of this franchise, Skyfall made its premiere on the silver screen as the newest chapter in the Bond saga and director Sam Mendes turned it into a bit of both: a continuing sequel that added some more wings to this reinvented 007 figure while also celebrating the commemoration by offering numerous references to films belonging to the bygone era. This 23rd feature held its ground amazingly well for the most part, worked seamlessly as a standalone feature, and was also excusable for returning James Bond to his previous roots, considering its timing. However, what’s not excusable is Sam Mendes’ refusal to withdraw from the outdated route with Spectre.
The 24th instalment in the James Bond film franchise and the fourth to feature Daniel Craig as the notorious agent, Spectre is a direct sequel to the events that transpired in Skyfall and picks the story right from where the previous chapter signed off. The plot follows Bond who goes rogue to carry out an off-the-books mission in Mexico City following which he’s indefinitely suspended from field duty by M, who’s struggling to keep the secret service running. With assistance from Q, Bond disappears once again to follow the trail his previous victim left behind which leads him to Rome where he infiltrates a secret meeting, and ends up uncovering the existence of a global criminal organisation known as Spectre.
Directed by Sam Mendes, Spectre marks his second stint with a Bond film after Skyfall and whatever little issues that previous feature had, is only magnified in this latest entry. The movie opens with a customary action set piece that begins with a long unbroken shot of 007 following his target & securing his position, and is an interesting sequence throughout. Once that part is finished, we are introduced to a rather unimpressive theme song and after that, the plot just goes downhill. It does up the ante in the action segments but the whole absurdity of it that was prevalent in the pre-Craig Bond flicks makes its return here for the film runs right through the series’ patented clichés and is further marred by its lack of originality, slow pace & overlong story.
The technical aspects are nicely carried out but it doesn’t match the benchmark set by Skyfall. Production design team puts up set pieces that are meticulously designed, finely detailed & visually arresting. Following the departure of Roger Deakins, Hoyte van Hoytema helms the camerawork duties and instantly makes his mark within the opening moments with a single take that sets up an expertly staged & precisely paced sequence but the shadowy colour tones simply fail to encapsulate the picture with the desired mood and in turn makes those images look dull & murky. The pacing is a definite issue as its 148 minutes of runtime is increasingly felt plus the narrative could’ve easily trimmed or skimmed through various moments. Visual effects & practical stunts are admirable while Thomas Newman contributes with a darker & fitting score.
Coming to the performances, Daniel Craig, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris & Ralph Fiennes reprise their respective roles of James Bond, Q, Moneypenny & M while the new addition includes Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Monica Bellucci & Dave Bautista. And everyone’s contribution is just all over the place thanks to ineffective handling of their scripted characters. Craig is slowly exhibiting signs of fatigue with the coveted role of Bond yet he does better than most. Whishaw & Harris have got nothing to add to their characters, Fiennes’ M is yet to adopt that figure of authority. Waltz plays the main antagonist but he’s totally wasted in the role and doesn’t even get enough time on screen, Bellucci isn’t around for long either plus her character is poorly handled, Seydoux does well with what she’s given while Bautista manages to be physically intimidating at times.
On an overall scale, Spectre works as a fairly entertaining Bond flick, disappoints as a follow-up chapter to Skyfall, fails to live up to the hype & expectations it set despite opening on such a promising note, and is a highly frustrating entry that sticks with the obsolete protocols of the series by pointlessly referencing to those earlier instalments instead of taking the film & its main character into newer directions. Where Casino Royale managed to shake things up by playing with the defined characteristics of James Bond in media and those little changes did play a role in making it click but Spectre attempts to take the series back to where it was before the entire Bond franchise was rebooted. It does have a few positive aspects such as its consistent delivery of action & thrills, those gorgeous looking set pieces & a splendid score but the negatives outweighs the positives and by every means, Spectre is a forgettable entry that doesn’t have much to offer.