"Is this really what you want? Living in the shadows, hunting, being hunted, always alone."
If there is one thing that surrounds ‘Spectre’s’ release and production, it is what the future of Bond will be. Questions are cropping up over who will replace Daniel Craig in the role if it is his last outing as 007. Then you have the question of who will replace Sam Mendes if this really is his last venture of directing 007. I would be mournful to see them both leave at the same time, as they have both brought so much to this franchise, however if it is the case I would say they are most definitely finishing on a high note.Following an unsanctioned mission in Mexico from the posthumous orders of his former head of operations, James Bond (Daniel Craig) finds himself under pressure from the transitional MI6 amidst the plot of a shrouded nemesis that controls a powerful organisation, whose reach is nearly unprecedented.
With ‘Skyfall’ being the most successful Bond film ever the pressure was on Mendes to craft another film of equal magnificence but differing tones. ‘Quantum of Solace’ suffered from trying too hard to emulate ‘Casino Royale’ instead of establishing its own style. ‘Skyfall’ excelled because not only was it an amazingly crafted film, but a celebration of all Bond films before it. So where can one go now?
It is more playful than ‘Skyfall’, not to the point where it lacks dramatic tension, but there are some genuinely comedic moments (funnier than most things that pass for comedies these days). This comedy comes more from character interaction though, particularly scenes involving Q (Ben Wishaw) and Bond in which the quartermaster tries to keep 007 grounded in both literally and rationally.
Contrary to being just a method to move from one action sequence to another, the plot flows with a natural grace and when those action sequences do arrive they are made all the more inventive. It is remarkable that Mendes has proved to be so excellent at directing action as ‘American Beauty’ and ‘Jarhead’ were certainly not renowned for their breath taking stunts (not to say they are not brilliant of course). Once again the exciting scenes just move both viscerally and sinuously, taking you through this world without ever feeling uncomfortable or overwhelmed, meaning that it can actually be enjoyable instead of confusing.
The film begins with an astonishing tracking shot through the streets of Mexico City and in nearly every scene from there I found myself contemplating how beautiful this movie was. Like ‘Skyfall’ the visuals are stunning, but not to the point where they take you out of the film, if anything it just pulls you further in.
Another thing that makes this instalment so enjoyable is how magnificent its cast is. As good as Daniel Craig is I want to see some great supporting characters as well, and ‘Spectre’ delivers with Ralph Fiennes, Ben Wishaw, Monica Bellocci, Moriarty (or if I have to use is real name, Andrew Scott) and Naomi Harris (who after ‘Skyfall’ continues to do the remarkable thing of making Moneypenny a real person rather than a side character for Bond to unload his paperwork on, did that sound weird?) In the form of Dave Bautista we get the one thing that has been missing from modern Bonds, an abnormally strong and seemingly unstoppable henchman. Then there are more prominent figures like Lea Seydoux and Christoph Waltz, they are all superb.
If there is a flaw to ‘Spectre’ it may be that it relies slightly too much on the established 007 formula. We know who Bond is before we see the film, and we know who these characters are and what their past is so rather than waste time to explore it any more ‘Spectre simply builds on those expectations. It also builds most of its tension of the back of previous instalments, that’s not necessarily a huge flaw in a franchise but it can do harm if you immediately presume the audience is caught up, though I wouldn’t say you need to catch up in order to grasp the film. The final act, while still amazing, feels slightly choppy in terms of structure, where it seems to finish and then goes on further. What I call ‘Return of the King’ syndrome.
But as I said before, there is also a sense of finality, which is befitting if you believe the rumours concerning the future of Craig’s turn as Bond and for Mendes as director, but what a way to bow out. ‘Spectre’ is Bond at its best.