Shaky But Not Stirring
Spectre relies too much on the ghost of Bonds past
After five decades worth of James Bond movies, it's inevitable eventually they'd rely too much on the series' mythology rather than good filmmaking. After a few solid films with Daniel Craig as 007, the filmmakers finally released a clunker with Spectre.
Following an unauthorized escapade in Mexico in Spectre’s opening sequence, Bond is essentially persona non grata in British intelligence. The new M (Ralph Fiennes) can do little but sit back and watch as C (Andrew Scott) conducts an overhaul of MI6 and other agencies.
Bond doesn’t let that stop him, of course, using his charm and wiles to pursue the principals of a secret organization known as SPECTRE. Along the way he recruits Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), the daughter of a former enemy, to help him track down the man he knows as Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz).
Unlike the previous three films, there just isn't any immediacy to the plot of Spectre. None of the action sequences inspire or truly get the adrenaline pumping, and the story deals more in day-to-day politics and bureaucracy than international intrigue.
The filmmakers, led by returning director Sam Mendes, seem to be betting the house on nostalgia for Bond films of yore. The organization SPECTRE has a notable history in Bond films, but its last appearance was in 1971’s Diamonds are Forever. Mendes and his team, instead of reintroducing the group for the generation or two who didn’t grow up on Sean Connery-era Bond films, choose to keep it mostly a mystery. Consequently, late-movie revelations that seem designed to shock instead fall flat.
Craig’s recent comments about wanting to be done playing Bond color his performance, as many times he appears to just be going through the motions. Seydoux is given a lot more to do than the typical Bond girl, which enhances her performance. And Waltz would’ve made a fine villain had he been allowed to be in the film more.
The reason the first three Craig-era Bond films worked as well as they did is that they hinted at the series’ past while also bringing in fresh new elements. Spectre revels in the past, almost immediately making it a relic.