Sam Mendes directs Daniel Craig, Christopher Waltz and Léa Seydoux in this gorgeous but lazy entry into the super spy franchise.
A third watch of this fourth and possibly final entry in Craig’s constantly uncertain reboot of the 007 franchise achieves something no other Bond has… making a rewatchable fourth entry. Thunderball, Moonraker and Die Another Day are all the sequels where Sean, Roger and Pierce respectively blotted their ledgers so in that category this proves a roaring success. The action when it comes is bruisingly OTT and enjoyably sustained. A car chase through the Austrain mountains where a plane is used as bowling ball is the winner but a cracking hand to hand barney through three train carriages and that chaotic Day of the Dead opener share silver medals. Léa Seydoux may not be given the most consistent of characters but in terms of beauty, bottled up charm and sexy, flattering costumes she is a stunning foil for Craig. And we’ve found our funny again. Craig will never be comfortable homaging Roger Moore’s Carry On wacky take on “Oh James!” but there is a knowing emphasis on daft excess and tart retorts that stop Spectre from drying out like a worthy dog’s biscuit. Set pieces, Bond girls and gags. We’re back on track then after the inexpilicably successful Skyfall (A Bond film for people who don’t really like Bond)? Well sadly Mendes is still at the helm and the film still restricted by his overriding ethos of prestige first, “plots this silly never deserve strong storytelling” interpretation of Ian Fleming’s finest. I’ll give him his dues; he adds a drop of Felini here and pinch of Lean there making Spectre one of the most optically stimulating action films ever, he gets a modern ideal of quality and luxury just right, he ties together all those ignored Casino / Quantum ragged ends and binds them together into quite the sense making boxset and, after his clumsy reintroduction of Q, Moneypenny and especially Fiennes as M previous film, here he now coalesces them into a fun B- team given more watchable business to do than merely send Bond off on his mission then leave him to it. But Waltz’s Blofeld is an inexplicable failure (“Cuckoo!”). It took this third viewing for me to figure out his crime was causing terrorist events so nations’ intelligence services would sign up to his free but controlled surveillance system. I knew he was pushing his snide surveillance system, and he was a wrong un, but the terrorist events all happen off screen, mentioned at best in passing or glimpsed on a hotel TV screen while we are busy admiring Q’s holiday knitwear. I’m quite a switched on viewer but Blofeld 2.0 really came across as a quite generous criminal kook with just a childishly personal grudge against James. Once I realised quite how obscurely his actual plot had been laid out to us, it did not help. A Bond film, one begging for one bonus action sequence by the way, where not once does 007 directly foil or is even present for Spectre’s attacks on cities that prove integral to the plot… ?! Sam fucking Mendes. And people don’t like Quantum of Solace? I give up. Still with time all Bond films eventually blend into one and Spectre has enough chunks of top grade razzmatazz that it settle into the mid tier worthily. Like the series best credit sequence full of octopuses and eyes, it is visually splendiferous but you do wish it danced to a slightly livelier, more fan appropriate tune.