Daniel Craig would make his return to the world of James Bond with his fourth turn as 007 in 2015’s Spectre. Where Skyfall would make James Bond thoroughly contemporary, Spectre would bring about a return to the past and resurrect much of the key calling cards of the James Bond franchise as well as bringing to life one of James Bond’s most infamous villains to the big screen for a brand new audience.
A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.
Along with the return of Daniel Craig as James Bond, Spectre would also see the return of director Sam Mendes who would expand his study of the character of James Bond, while also broadening the world in which he acted in. Once again Mendes would bring the same operatic elegance he had to Skyfall in Spectre, and Spectre was an utterly gorgeous film to look upon. Where Skyfall had a punchy and polished noir quality to its visuals, Spectre instead offered up a starker, stripped-down style, and presented audiences with an even grander and bigger canvas on which Bond was able to operate in. Mendes also gave Spectre this essential retro-cool Bond feeling about it, with its setting and design feeling very much inspired by the Bond films of the Sean Connery era and the design and artistry of the great Ken Adam. Spectre also had a feeling of grand opulence about it, which was reinforced by the megalomaniacal size and scale of the crime syndicate that gave the film its name, and this really made an impression on audiences.
While it was of such considerable scale and size, Spectre also happened to be in my mind the most intimate of all of the Craig Bond films to date. In his narrative and plotting, Mendes again went back into Bond’s past and used the baggage of the secret agent’s youth to draw out a narrative of him duelling with a very dangerous and very personal villain. Spectre was also very much in keeping with the sequel narrative that Mendes was working to with its storytelling literally succeding the events of Skyfall and tieing in together the events of all of the previous Craig films to craft a single narrative thread for Bond to follow.
Daniel Craig would return in his fourth appearance as super-spy James Bond in Spectre, and whereas Skyfall was about him re-connecting back to his old self as Bond, Spectre was very much about him going into the internal mind of Bond and discovering the reasons and motivations for why he acts the way he does. While Craig has continued to deliver one of the sharpest and coolest portrayals ever of the dapper and debonair 007, Spectre gave him considerable room to explore the humanity of James Bond, along with what it would truly mean for Bond to actually fall in love and truly devote himself to one single woman. Added to this was also a sense of a hunter’s single-mindedness as he pursued SPECTRE around the globe and you had a very interesting take for James Bond this time around.
As a viewing experience, Spectre also felt more like a team film, rather than just the lone acting Bond pursuing this evil organization and its mastermind across the globe. A newly minted and sternly worded M (Ralph Fiennes), the talented and quick thinking Moneypenny (Naomi Harris), the technologically minded Q (Ben Whishaw) and the ever-dependable Tanner (Rory Kinnear), all played key roles in Spectre. And it was very fun to see Bond act as part of a group to stop SPECTRE in its tracks, especially in the third act, and this really gave the film a new and different kind of energy. Bond’s supporting team were also not mere spectators that popped up for a scene or two, but each had a key part to play within the film’s narrative and this certainly kept things interesting.
Bond would also get his fill with two thoroughly gorgeous women in Spectre, including Monica Bellucci as the sexy Lucia Sciarra and Léa Seydoux as Madeleine Swann, a beautiful and soulful woman who would finally steal away his heart. Both Belluci and Seydoux made for great Bond Girls and each of them had their own part to play in the narrative and added to the story’s impact. Bellucci, as she is prone to do, was effortless in her portrayal of the femme fatale vixen, while Seydoux was a capable new woman in Bond’s life who was on an equal footing with him. She would also give this old war dog a chance to properly explore the idea of a greater love than just the bliss of a single night’s passion. Seydoux’s Swann was also of key importance to the film’s third act, and her time spent with Bond in Tangier and the Sahara lent to some of the film’s most stunning imagery and emotionally intense moments.
Spectre had a terrific sense of history about it as it took from the past of the character and brought it back into the modern era and none was this more so clear than with the film’s chief antagonist. Stepping out of the shadows to bring the chaos down on James Bond was none other than two-time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser, later revealed to be the megalomaniacal Ernst Stavro Blofeld, James Bond’s ultimate nemesis and Waltz truly made the part his own. Written as a brotherly figure to Bond, with a dangerous grudge to bear against him, Waltz gave Blofeld a calculating, sadistic intelligence that made him out as a special kind of villain for Bond to contend with, one who partook in great enjoyment in tormenting Bond, and who was more than happy to cause as much chaos as possible as long as it made Bond suffer.
Not only was Spectre a story of immense scale in the narrative, characters and location, but also in its action and Mendes certainly put Daniel Craig through the grinder with this one. His intention was to start off big, and the film’s opening chase and helicopter fight through Mexico City on a packed out ‘Day of the Dead’ was an incredibly epic spectacle to witness. From this opening, Mendes and his team expanded on this idea of big action which included an intense car chase through the darkened streets of Rome; Bond smashing through the Alps in a Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander; an intense mano-a-mano fight scene on a moving train between Bond and Dave Bautista’s Mr. Hinks, a brooding, brute of a killer sent to dispatch 007; the destruction of SPECTRE’s Sahara desert compound, which included the biggest ever explosion committed to celluloid, and a final confrontation between Bond and Blofeld in an explosive London showdown. If you were an action junkie you absolutely loved what was on offer here and I have to say that it was the film’s Mexican aerial helicopter fight that got my blood pumping the most.
For audiences and Bond fans, Spectre felt like a different experience altogether, and watching it back again you can feel that Mendes was working to explore new territory with the character, while also trying to reinterpret the historical Bond in a brand new light. Mendes was also working towards a film that was nothing short of the word ‘blockbuster’, and Spectre was a film of immense scale and size and audiences were in for a grand experience worthy of the world’s greatest super spy. While the film does have its faults, I feel like it was a very ambitious attempt by Mendes to search for new ground in the Bond franchise, along with bringing the Craig movies as a whole together as a franchise, and which will now be brought full circle in the forthcoming No Time To Die. While initially many people saw the film as Craig’s final chapter, now we can look upon it as the set up to his final act as James Bond, and acting as an intermediary narrative that sets up the things to come in No Time To Die.
Spectre is a colossal event sized movie and you certainly feel the epicness that Sam Mendes was searching for when bringing it to the big screen. It’s big, lavish and packed full of a mix of retro-cool and modern excellence, and is an important chapter to witness as we now head into Daniel Craig’s final turn as James Bond.
No Time To Die will arrive in cinemas on October 7.