The last Bond film I saw was GoldenEye, which I remember only wanting to watch because I enjoyed the N64 game so much. So it’s interesting to see Spectre with a different perspective to most in not inevitably determining its value in comparison to its Daniel Craig predecessors. Being able to experience it as an isolated piece, rather than one in a continual line of installments. From popular commentary, it appears to have drawn criticism for diverting from the recent evolutionary approaches and throwing back to traditional Bond storytelling elements. But as someone unfamiliar with the characteristics of the franchise, Spectre feels like a piece of work rooted in its legacy with thematic and narrative throwbacks for nostalgic pleasure, but with a contemporary flair that ensures new generations find it relatable.
The typical action scenes are engaging, with a breathtaking highlight being the opening scene which perhaps plays its cards too early. While the film does succumb to a repetitive structure (there must have been a sale on helicopters and building detonation supplies), the quick pace never lets the alarming running length settle into lethargy or become a chore to continue watching. Where these Bourne-style exhilarating sequences become problematic is the focus placed on them as advancing the narrative rather than building any substantial character and relationship developments between these moments to give them meaning.
Monica Bellucci and Lea Seydeux are both wonderful actresses and both fit perfectly into this world in their respective roles. Sadly, neither are given little to do other than be sex objects for James Bond to rescue. Seydeux especially is a contemporary commodity and deserving of something better than hackneyed romcom dialogue in the street at night about how she and Bond bad for one another. Even Christoph Waltz’s villain is, while effective, a little reductionist and a poor typecast for the actor. However, Dave Bautista has a perfect simplicity to his assassin character within the first half of the film and proves a commanding minor villain. Between this and Guardians of the Galaxy, he’s building up an impressive early film career in his middle ages.
Mendes keeps things solid and enjoyable. There’s little surprises or challenges to the genre but it provides comfortable fulfilment, despite not being a better experience than playing Goldeneye on N64. It ends very open, leaving space to revisit this era or move onto the next 007. With my first taste in around 20 years, I’m interested in staying with this staple whichever direction it chooses.
For more of my in-depth analysis and thoughts on Spectre, listen to episode 10 of the Project Projection podcast