Bond. James Bond is back this week with the franchise’s 24th feature ‘Spectre,’ directed by Sam Mendes.
As the latest film in this occasionally great, often middling franchise, ‘Spectre’ comes with some sizeable shoes to fill. The previous feature, ‘Skyfall’ was pretty good (Great even, if you disregard the third act), Quantum was okay and Casino Royale was awesome, with the blonde, blue-eyed Daniel Craig playing Ian Fleming’s protagonist to perfection.
And that may be part of the reason why I was apprehensive about watching his latest.
Was I mistaken, or was redemption ahead for the franchise? Read on to find out.
‘Spectre’ is less of a sequel to ‘Skyfall’ than it is to Bond’s ‘Casino Royale’ and ‘Quantum of Solace. It begins with Bond in Mexico City, retracing the threads that were left loose in the latter as he tried to find the kingpin behind all of it (And no, the answer is not Quantum). This kingpin, apparently an all-powerful, omnipotent force has eyes and ears everywhere, maybe even in the British Intelligence. The catch however, is that he is somehow linked to 007. What follows, is a cat-and-mouse game, a trail that transverses the globe from Mexico City to London to Tangiers and involves two beautiful ladies (It’s James Bond, of course).
WOOS: Bond would not be Bond if he didn’t have any thrilling action sequences to display his chops. On that count, Spectre doesn’t disappoint. From that wonderful opening sequence in Mexico involving an out of control helicopter, to a fun race between expensive automobiles in the heart of Rome, the action is kinetic and exciting. What elevates these sequences to another level however, is the gorgeous cinematography.
The performance by Daniel Craig as 007 is, as always great. As a man who operates more like a machine than a character in ‘Spectre,’ Craig displays wonderful flair and physicality to inhibit the role of a ‘paid assassin.’ The rest of the cast is game as well, especially Ralph Fiennes as M and Ben Winshaw as the Quartermaster, Q.
MEHS: Where do I start? Perhaps, I should begin at the most fundamental part of any film, the writing. The prospect of Bond facing off against the ‘author of all his pain’ should be riveting to watch. Instead, the writing is weak and unimaginative, with Craig being forced to gamely spout even the cheesiest of lines reminiscent of the sinful Pierce Brosnan era. And it moves all too slowly, especially in the second hour. There is no suspense in watching this film that clocks over 2 hours which is a shame because the least you expect of 007 is that he’ll be dull.
The characters too are frustratingly underdone. The wonderful Christoph Waltz who gave us Hans Landa should be at home playing Franz Oberhauser, the main antagonist but, other than his terrific introduction scene, you never really get to know the psyche of the man behind the virtual superpower of an organisation beside the fact that Bond really pisses him off.
Speaking of which, for an organisation that apparently has the world in its palm, it is awfully lax about letting the world’s best secret agent get away with a strap. The incoherent and illogical plotting doesn’t help either.
The women or Bond girls, do not fare well either. Lea Seydoux, as Madeleine Swann is the usual damsel-in-distress while Monica Bellucci’s grieving widow hardly has any screen time to register (Thanks partly to the CBFC). I tell you, she has a shorter role than Anil Kapoor in MI: 4.
VERDICT: ‘Spectre’ may just be an homage to the Bond films of old, gadgets and wits and all reminiscent of the Roger Moore era. But sadly, it undercuts the good work of this franchise’s resurgence over the past decade. ‘Spectre’ sacrifices character and plot for a generic, action-filled ride at the cinemas. ‘Spectre’ disappoints, and even though it has flashes of brilliance and is lovely to look at with talent bouncing off the screen both, in front of and behind the camera, it just becomes all the more disappointing. It is mildly fun while it lasts but, you’re unlikely to remember it for long. Feel free to watch it but please, keep your expectations in check.