Spectre, the 24th entry in the James Bond film series, is most likely the last Bond film starring Daniel Craig as the suave super-spy. After the serious tone of the previous three Craig starrers, this movie takes a much lighter note. Seriously, at one point the movie had Q (played by Ben Whishaw) telling Bond: “I told you to bring it back in one piece not bring back one piece”. That is probably one of the goofiest things I’ve heard at the movies all year. In some ways this feels like a homage to the Bond movies of yore with a lot of over the top action sequences set in beautiful locations all over the globe. I grew up watching Pierce Brosnan playing the character in movies that had ludicrous plots, great action sequences, beautiful women and goofy one-liners. So, when I watched Daniel Craig’s first outing as James Bond in Casino Royale, although that super serious, dark and broody Bond was not what I was expecting, I definitely enjoyed it. And over the next two movies the tone kept getting darker and more personal culminating in the awesome Skyfall, which is my favourite Bond film. After the doom and gloom of Skyfall, Spectre’s light-heartedness seems like the logical way to go. And it works out very well.
The movie starts out with an explosive chase sequence set against the backdrop of the beautifully shot Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico City. It turns out he had been trying to track down an assassin that he got to know about from a video message from the late M. His investigations lead him to the evil organization SPECTRE spearheaded by Franz Oberhauser, played chillingly by the ever-villainous Christoph Waltz, all the while being chased by the imposing Dave Bautista and picking up some romantic interests along the way. Monica Bellucci is back wooing Bond again as a not-so-grieving widow. And Lea Seydoux as the Bond girl Madeleine is a delight to watch. She plays the character with a confidence and steeliness that I haven’t seen in many Bond girls from the past. The other thread of the plot has the new M, played by Ralph Fiennes and the rest of the MI6 team, fighting against C, played by Andrew Scott, to keep MI6 and the 00 program being relegated into irrelevancy. The movie even slightly touches upon the current real-world issues of surveillance and privacy invasion.
But the real delights in the movie comes from the very well realized and stunningly shot action set-pieces as Bautista’s Mr. Hinx chases Bond relentlessly through narrow urban streets, snow covered peaks and train coaches. While the train fight sequence is a definite nod to From Russia with Love, the helicopter sequence in the snow covered peaks of Austria felt like an acknowledgment of GoldenEye’s introductory sequence. Daniel Craig also seems to have taken a page out of Sean Connery’s and Roger Moore’s cool, confident and one-liner spouting Bonds. His take on the character now seems to have come full circle, starting off as a wounded, fragile and grounded Bond and now settling down as the self-assured and larger than life character that we have seen and loved so many ties before. The theme of personal Bond stories that started with Casino Royale also draws to a close in this outing as Bond discovers secrets from his past. I think this is a very fitting farewell to Daniel Craig’s Bond.
I understand the host of mixed reviews this movie has been getting. After the grounded approach of the previous three movies, Spectre can sometimes feel like a remnant from another era. And that can be either good or bad, depending on perspective. Personally, I loved the movie. The only complaint I have is that I felt Christoph Waltz didn’t get enough screen time. But when has any amount of Christoph Waltz screen time felt enough.