I’m a James Bond fan. I always have been. Heck, what guy wouldn’t be? The cool gadgets, the gorgeous women and the exotic locations all make for a rather glamorous life. Plus having a license to kill? C’mon! These things have always been the hallmark of the Bond franchise. The movies are about escapism, heroic action and just a lot of plain, unadulterated fun. This 24th installment in the 007 series very nearly captures all of those aspects, but for me, fell just short in the unadulterated fun department.
The cast of ‘SPECTRE’ is brilliant and Daniel Craig is obviously someone born to play James Bond. While he may not be as suave as Roger Moore or as charming as Pierce Brosnan, he lends a certain physicality to the role along with a powerful gravitas that hasn’t been shown to us since the early Connery films. Ralph Fiennes is a perfect fit as the new M and hearkens back to the staunchness and authoritative demeanor that the original actor, Bernard Lee, displayed when he held the role. Lea Seydoux is one of the more memorable female co-stars in the illustrious pantheon of “Bond Girls” (<— is that still what we’re calling them) as the bold and capable Dr. Madeleine Swan. And then there is Christoph Waltz. If ever a man was born to play a villain, it was this man. He plays the head of the evil organization known to all Bond fans as SPECTRE (which was originally an acronym meaning SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion.) Waltz follows in the footsteps of actors such as Donald Pleasence, Telly Savalas, Charles Gray and Max Von Sydow and he does it wonderfully and delightfully well.
For me this movie was very hit and miss. The opening was action packed and very well filmed as Bond tracks his prey through the streets of Mexico during the Day Of The Dead festival and ends with a brawl inside of a moving helicopter. The helicopter doesn’t crash but the theme song by Sam Smith does. (I like Sam Smith and most of his songs, but this may go down as one of the worst Bond songs ever). Overall, I feel that the 2 hour and 35 minute running time was a bit much considering that, unlike ‘Skyfall,’ there were parts of the movie that I felt still could have been cut or that I felt were clunky and unnecessary. There were plenty of homages to previous James Bond films to keep die-hard fans like myself satisfied. The big car chase through Rome was not quite as action-packed as many of the other car chases that have been in previous 007 films, but the all-out knuckle-dusting fight aboard a train between James Bond and Mr. Hinx (played by the perfectly menacing Dave Bautista) was something that would have made Sean Connery and Robert Shaw proud.
As I originally said, the biggest thing that I found lacking was the fun. ‘Casino Royale‘ (Craig’s first outing as James Bond) had it until the end when he finds that Vesper has betrayed him. ‘Quantum Of Solace‘ was dark and probably my least favorite and then ‘Skyfall‘ was dark-ish, but still had qualities about it that made it fantastic. Taken as a whole, this attempt to make Bond more realistic and more up-to-date has taken some of the wind out of the sails for me. There has been an underlying theme present about the relevance of spies in a digital age. Judi Dench made mention of what a “misogynistic dinosaur” and “relic of the Cold War” that James Bond had become going all the way back to ‘Goldeneye‘ but I feel that struggle has only been magnified now that Craig has the license to kill. In ‘SPECTRE,’ we focus too much on fleshing out Bond’s past and dealing with the psychology of Bond. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it definitely takes some of the light-hearted fun out of the franchise by going down that route. Without giving away spoilers, I will also mention that I was not a fan of the way in which the movie ended for several reasons. Suffice it to say that they could conceivably never make another James Bond movie ever again and leave ‘SPECTRE’ as the definitive finale of the entire 007 series given how they decided to end it.
Obviously ‘SPECTRE’ did VERY well last weekend when it opened in the UK and broke box-office records. However, I wouldn’t put it in my Top 5 Favorite James Bond movies of all time. But then again, it also wouldn’t go in my Top 5 Worst James Bond movies either. On a scale of 1 – 10, I’d rate ‘SPECTRE’ at a solid 6.5. Overall, it’s definitely worth seeing on the big screen especially if you are a die-hard 007 fan. After all, James Bond movies are like a dry-vodka martini: even when they’re bad, they’re still good.