I went to the cinema today to watch Spectre, and overall I liked it. It’s probably the best story since The Spy Who Loved Me and easily the best of the post Cold War era. Whilst I liked Casino Royale which was a fairly conventional yet entertaining action film, and better than Skyfall which is a really good film in its own right, yet didn’t entirely sit with me as being a ‘James Bond film.’
Spectre benefits from being the first Bond story post Cold War to be underpinned by a background threat. In this instance it’s mass surveillance following your every move – Orwell’s worst nightmare indeed – and private contractors operating in the background whose motives may well be less than benevolent. This is what drives the audience and it was a classic Fleming motif to engage his readers through their fears. Although not entirely one that he’s created as it’s prevalent in many spy thrillers through the Bolshevik revolution, the German threat or the red scare of the 1950’s and sixties. Fleming may well be the best practitioner of it.
Christopher Waltz who I actually like is disappointingly underwhelming. Whilst he has a delightfully sinister undertone. Part of this is down to his lack of physical stature and presence, which is what you expect of the real Bond villains. Whilst there is a torture scene which pushes the boundaries. You never entirely feel worried for Bond or his safety. I still maintain that the best cinematic Bond villain is the drug lord Sanchez from License to Kill who is Bond’s mental and physical equal. You genuinely feel he’s malicious, ruthless and Bond’s life is in genuine danger.
However there is a nice turn from former wrestler-come-actor Dave Bautista providing the muscle. Again however, he is let down by the writers portraying him as a completely one-dimensional thug. All brawn and no brain we’re left to presume as he doesn’t utter a single word. You’re natural inclination that despite his bigger stature our man Bond is always going to outwit him.
The ‘Bond girls’ don’t really benefit from much in the way of character development either. Which actually does a disservice to Daniel Craig’s Bond. I’ve always personally wanted to write a character who is quite wiry with some of the edge of Ali McGraw in The Getaway. After fifty odd years, you know Bond is going to get the woman anyway. I’d want to write a female character who can take him or leave him. It’d make the dynamic abit more interesting and fresh. Still you can’t have everything.
Perhaps as a result of the previous failings, the pace however does move along quite nicely. It’s a good performance by Craig. There’s some nice nods to the old films pulled off with aplomb. By which I mean, they’re not overbearing and suffocating like that Pierce Brosnan farce with the Madonna soundtrack. It’s really enjoyable overall. I’d probably go see it again. You can’t really ask more than that. In the fashion of shit Roger Moore puns from the 70’s, it was better than I ex-spectred.