I would be lying if I said I was a fan of Daniel Craig’s incarnation of 007. The truth is, I simply don’t like his portrayal of the Martini-drinking womanizer. He looks too rough and acts too straight, like a factory worker doing his best Bond impression. The last 3 films in the ongoing franchise have been aiming for the bleak, gritty, and somewhat realistic version of the british super spy. Yet there is something inherently wrong about that to me. James Bond is, at least in my mind, supposed to be flamboyant, slick, and cool. He needs to whip out one-liners left and right, while overcoming seemingly impossible odds under ridiculous circumstances. The Craig iteration, however, is all too often self-serious, gloomy, and at times boringly clinical in its approach to the source material. That is of course just my opinion. I don’t see Bond when I see Craig. However, I do acknowledge that some people feel differently, and so I always try to measure to which degree the desired target group will enjoy the film. This time, I’m afraid even the purists can’t help but be a tad disappointed.
Spectre opens in Mexico City on el Día de los Muertos (day of the dead). Bond is tracking down terrorists, although we don’t know exactly why. We find out soon enough, though, as it turns out they have connections to a secret intelligence organisation, which seems to have something to do with not only the death of M, but also the criminal activities in the previous instalments. 007 is naturally hellbent on finding out what is going on, and so he sets out on a hectic journey to put an end to the ghosts that have haunted him for so long, before they end him first.
All good things must come to an end, and the same goes for Ian Fleming’s graceful spy character. I’m sorry to say it, but I think this series has run its course. This 24th entry is a steaming mess from start to finish, and I’ll tell you why that is. The tone doesn’t correlate with the ideas. We’ve reached a point where almost everything we’ve come to love about Bond is no longer part of his persona. His fancy gadgets are gone, his wit is starting to dwindle, and quite frankly it feels like Craig is sick and tired of playing him. Imagine a dour version of Die Another Day, and you basically have Spectre. The visuals are so cold and brooding, but the progression of the story is so implausible and cartoonish compared to something like Casino Royale, where at least I can give them credit for sticking to the style they have established. Here it’s just non-stop nonsense. Spinning helicopters, collapsing buildings with no consequences, and torture on the verge of being as cliché as the hero being strapped to a table with a red laser slowly moving up between his legs. Had it been Brosnan or Connery, I would’ve bought into it, because they earned that kind of silliness in their portrayal. This movie is trying so hard to be relevant and poignant, it really took me out of the experience when a guy suddenly caved in someone’s eyes with the sheer force of his thumbs. That’s right!
The main villain’s motive makes absolutely no sense, and at one point during the film, my friend who sat next to me asked in confusion: “Wait… what exactly is he trying to do?”. I couldn’t answer him in an intelligent way, because the evil scheme is so muddled, not to mention laughably bad. I won’t spoil it, but let’s just say that the plot is essentially the same as in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, which came out earlier this year. I’m not saying that Sam Mendes and his writers ripped off Christopher McQuarrie, but the two films are very similar in parts. The disobedient agent has caused too much destruction and gets relived from his duty, only to find out that a group of people are plotting against his agency, leading him to go on a rogue mission. The difference is that the former is vibrant, colourful, and exciting. Cruise is charismatic, Craig is not. M:I is briskly paced and suspenseful, Spectre is slow and thrill-less. It lacks charm and personality, and for a character like Bond that is a fatal kiss of death. I want to cheer for this guy, not fight to keep myself awake.
There are a few redeemable things about the film, such as an exhilarating one-take that lasts for about 5 minutes. Léa Seydoux also does a commendable job as the new Bond girl, although her character doesn’t really have a whole lot to do, unlike Vesper Lynd. But the positives are few and far between, constantly being overshadowed by convoluted story-lines involving Bond’s past with Christophe Waltz’ character, which is shoehorned in to create some rather unnecessary drama that doesn’t work at all. 007 is no longer as mysterious and fascinating as he once was. He’s become just another streamline action hero in a long production line of action heroes. The filmmakers got so caught up on trying to tie everything together in a conclusive arc, they completely forgot what makes Bond so compelling in the first place. He’s like Indiana Jones or Ethan Hunt, but more classy and perhaps even smarter in nature. Very little of what he used to be has survived in this dreary, lifeless, and routinary 24th chapter that doesn’t take any risks, settling for loud confusion instead of subtle tension. It’s not fun anymore, and I think maybe we should bury this spy for good. We thank you for your service, but now would be the appropriate time to retire from the field.