It’s already been three years, but it feels like just yesterday I sat myself down in the theater to watch the James Bond film Skyfall. The excitement and enjoyment I felt was purely indescribable. The writing, the action, the pacing, and the performances were all top notch, but the most important aspect of Skyfall was that the 50 year old franchise was going back to its roots and bringing the classic 007 vibe to the gritty edge of modern cinema. It was a colossal success, and it became evident that the latest Bond release was going to have some big shoes to fill. So how did James Bond’s latest adventure, Spectre, fair?
Not only does Spectre live up to the hype, I’m of the opinion that it may just surpass Skyfall in quality entertainment.
Spectre sees MI6’s top agent in the Double-O Program (played for the fourth time by Daniel Craig) on the trail of a man his late superior wants tracked down. Bond is then propelled headlong into a web woven by a shady organization that has ties to his own tragic past and finds himself swearing to protect a mysterious woman, played by French actress Lea Seydoux.
While I will admit Skyfall was a better written film, Spectre delivers on all fronts that made James Bond a successful franchise. What the story may lack in content, it makes up for in sheer brilliant dramatics and thrills. Featuring a well thought out story of cat-and-mouse espionage and combining a smart use of 007 class and camp, Spectre quickly reminded me why I’m a fan of the series and made me feel like a little kid first seeing Roger Moore in The Spy Who Loved Me.
Craig delivers another hard hitting performance as Bond, appearing just as ruthless as he is cunning and suave, and once again proving himself to be one of the best Bond actors. Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw return as MI6 operatives M and Q respectively, and Seydoux delivers a tragic and dramatic performance as Madeleine Swann. However, the man who steals the show is undoubtedly Christoph Waltz as the mysterious head of the Spectre organization. Ever since Inglourious Basterds, I’ve ached to see Waltz play another truly evil role, and he’s just as dubious as you’d imagine.
The entertainment level in Spectre is sky high. From the opening scene, I was hooked, with Bond masquerading through a Day of the Dead celebration to perform an assassination. From there, the viewer is taken to Rome, Austria, and Morocco, all of it in true Bond fashion, including a drive in a slick and dangerous Aston Martin or a brawl with a larger-than-life henchman on a train. The film’s production level is high, and the cinematography is slick, capturing the feeling of going on a global escapade.
What stands out the most about Spectre is the throwback to ’60s Bond. The aforementioned henchman is a welcome return as well as a high tech evil facility in the middle of the desert. Even the attention to detail, such as Bond’s white suit jacket and the gadgets and banter with Q is an example of fan service done well.
Of course we can’t talk about James Bond without discussing the music. Thomas Newman delivers a stinging and intense score that will add a sense of danger to your workout playlist. Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall” may not be the world’s best Bond theme, but it presents itself well and has great production value.
Admittedly, Spectre may only have a serviceable plot and be an example of style over substance. However, it’s been awhile since I’ve had such sheer fun going to a movie, and the fact that it tugged on my boyish heart strings as a 007 fan earns it a fair bit of respect from me. Stellar visuals, memorable performances, fantastic action–all things that make Bond and what have kept the series alive for half a century.
(Title image via).