Daniel Craig stars in this new biopic of Phil Spector. Not really – it’s just another Bond film.
In Craig’s fourth outing as 007, our misogynist hero uncovers a sinister organisation (another one) and MI6 fights for survival. There’s both good and bad stuff here, as with every Bond movie (except Die Another Day – that one was all bad), so let’s break it down like Phil Spector.
On the plus side, there’s the opening action sequence set at Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival, which is nothing short of spectre-acular. There are long takes, stunning photography and some great music by Thomas Newman, who has scored almost all of Sam Mendes’ movies to date.
Mendes directs with style, his use of shadow and silhouettes serving to make the film visually engaging. There are traces of classic Bond’s visual wit, while Hoyte Van Hoytema’s cinematography impressively captures the exotic locations so vital to the franchise.
James Bond hops around the globe like a rabbit, with the sexual appetite to match. There are girls, cars and martinis, with more product placement than an episode of The Graham Norton Show. On top of that, there’s humour, style and action – all the ritualistic hallmarks of this film franchise cum advertising goldmine.
Then there’s the cast, and there’s not a weak link in sight. We have Ralph Fiennes as M, Ben Whishaw as Q and Andrew Scott as C – stand them next to each other and they almost spell out the name of a shopping channel.
Spectre succeeds in wrapping up Craig’s Bond movies thus far, while paying homage to 007 films past; Christoph Waltz’s costume looks like that of Dr. No, there’s a fight on a train à la From Russia with Love, and the opening sequence echoes Live and Let Die. It’s superficial stuff, but that’s Bond for you.
Now for the bad bits, which start pretty early on with Sam Smith’s theme song, sung at a pitch seldom heard in the franchise (except for sex scenes and shark mutilations). Then begins the movie proper, and it’s much too long. This is the longest Bond yet at 148 minutes – for perspective, that’s 20 minutes longer than Moonraker, and in that one they went to space!
There are four screenwriters (maybe that’s why it’s so long), who use characters in the intelligence services as mouthpieces for post-Snowden speeches to do with surveillance concerns. For a film about intelligence, it’s remarkably stupid.
The other big disappointment is the attitude towards female characters. Obviously, watching a Bond film for its sexual politics is like watching an Arnie film for its philosophy. But in Bond 24, we were promised a) the oldest Bond girl (Monica Bellucci) and b) the strongest Bond girl (Léa Seydoux). Let’s see how that panned out.
Bellucci appears for a few minutes, in which time Bond seduces her, extracts the requisite information and leaves her for dead, before swapping her for a woman almost half her age; Seydoux resists Bond’s charms for a few minutes, then sleeps with him on a train and says “I love you.” These aren’t spoilers, this is a Bond movie.
Meanwhile, Christoph Waltz is criminally underused. For starters, it’s lazy casting – “Let’s get the scary foreign villain guy to play the scary foreign villain guy! That’s lunch.” Then on screen, he’s underwhelmingly subdued, and it’s a real waste of Austria’s finest actor since Schwarzenegger (now that would be a good piece of casting).
So it’s another mixed bag, making Spectre a middling entry into the 007 canon. It’s brilliantly acted and stylishly made, but disappointingly flimsy and so long that you’ll constantly be checking your watch – in the vain hope that it’ll explode and kill you.