The adventures of James Bond continue in the 24th installment of the franchise. Spectre attempts to navigate the increasingly difficult sweet spot between appeasing the genre and charting new ground with a fresh story. Daniel Craig reprises the role, again bringing the more brooding and thuggish version of the British spy to life, the least fussy of any of the Bonds. (Mild Spoilers Ahead)
It’s unfortunately impossible to view these films without immediately evaluating them in light of previous entries. Story-wise, even though the film is servicing a larger plot spanning Craig’s previous three films, this is well-trod ground as Bond uncovers a shadow organization bent on doing Very Bad Things. But it does this beautifully.
Notably, the cinematography during both the opening Day of the Dead sequence and the funeral in Rome is gorgeous, taking advantage of interesting set pieces of the parade and Mexico City rooftop, and churchyard and cemetery respectively. The camera work takes its time at the right moments to let characters exist in their world. The editing here is what I would prefer to see in every action film – both deliberate and showcasing the moving elements onscreen without obscuring what’s actually happening.
The deconstruction begins quickly enough as James has the rug pulled out from under him yet again as MI:6 is undergoing an organizational takeover which threatens to shelve the “00” program. Soon enough, gadgets that are merely prototypes fail to work. Bond’s previous global network of world intelligence agencies is stripped down to nothing, forcing Bond to rely on the kindness of friends willing to stick their neck out, but not before reminding Bond that they need the job they’re putting at risk. The economy is crummy in this modern era.
The stand-out action sequence in my book takes place aboard a train. Bond has had some great fights while riding the tracks, either while in the cars or on top of them. Here we explore just how much damage a train car can take. Quite a bit, apparently.
Less successful is the motivation of the villain (Christoph Waltz) and the larger plot. At this point with the Craig films I’d be hard pressed to explain the metaplot arc from the previous movies in much detail, at least without looking anything up. It’s a bit muddy by now. These efforts by screenwriters must bear some fruit, perhaps servicing overly-obsessive fans, but I wonder if Marvel’s own film subplots about Infinity Stones will result in as big of a “Meh” as I felt when Spectre entered its final set of reveals.
Those quibbles aside, Craig-Bond has made a decent 3 out of 4 four films, with Quantum of Solace being the least successful. The James Bond films have plenty of hits and a few misses, and Spectre winds up comfortably in the center of the pack in terms of quality.