Entertainment Movies Bond needs a break: why Spectre is a big letdown
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Bond needs a break: why Spectre is a big letdown

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spectre-reviewSettle in, Bond fans – 007’s latest offering isn’t just a movie, it’s a round-the-world flight … in real time.

I advise against drinking any liquids prior to hitting a screening. Two-and-a-half hours is a long time to go without a bathroom break.

Whatever your verdict, there’s no denying Spectre, the fourth film starring British actor Daniel Craig as the martini-swilling super spy, is value for money, clocking in at a whopping 148 minutes.

This should have been evident from the extensive, explosive opening scene in Mexico City, which may be up there as one of the best in Bond history with its comical stunts and lengthy build-up.

For this writer, the opener was tainted a little by the knowledge the Mexican government paid to have director Sam Mendes and crew shoot there, a privilege apparently worth millions of dollars in incentives and rebates. We have the leaked Sony emails to thank for that pearl of knowledge.

Regardless, the colours and crowds make for a unique backdrop for the action, kicking off a journey across the world for the remainder of the movie, taking us to Italy, Austria and Morocco.

The movie is an origins story and a finale all in one. It feels like the logical end to Craig’s Bond chapter and God knows he needs one. The Brit has been outspoken about his aversion to making another movie – I believe his exact words were “I’d rather slash my wrists”. Charming.

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Craig isn’t far off the mark because Bond does need a fresh start. It’s almost as if the plot has become so unwieldy, with so many back stories, disappearing acts and inexplicable events, that the screenwriters need to tie up the loose ends and start over.

Spectre sees a rogue 007 – who’s been told to rein it in by MI6 in the midst of a secret service overhaul – attempting to fulfil the dying wish of Judi Dench’s M: find some bad guy, then kill him and don’t miss the funeral.

These instructions lead Bond to stumble upon something far bigger than just Spectre – an organisation spanning all of the last four films, as well as Bond’s childhood. At the centre of it all is our supervillain, played by Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained) in his absolute element.

Perhaps in an effort to make this a conclusion worthy of the last three blockbusters, Spectre is longer, bigger, crazier and more violent than previous films. Love scenes are particularly campy, car chases are especially ridiculous (snow, fire and flying cars, anyone?) and the fights have crossed over into Game of Thrones-level gruesome.

The action scenes are lengthy and elaborate. Photo: MGM
The action scenes are lengthy and elaborate. Photo: MGM

It also has all the requisite one-liners, car chases, expensive suits and eyewateringly beautiful cars to remind you that this is the same series that produced Casino Royale, Dr No and Goldfinger. What it’s missing is the element of surprise – plot twists can be seen coming a mile off – and perhaps a bit of brutal editing, because there’s at least half an hour of dull tension-building we didn’t need. I found myself zoning out in some of the action scenes, which I’m guessing is the last thing Mendes was hoping for.

Still, what Spectre is missing in X-factor it makes up for with French actress Lea Seydoux. Ever since Vesper Lynd’s untimely exit in Casino Royale, Bond girls have been decidedly lacklustre.

If the names Strawberry Fields, Sévérine and Camille Montes fail to conjure up more than a faint familiarity in your mind, there’s a good reason. They’re all watered-down versions of their more memorable predecessors like Pussy Galore and Honey Ryder.

But Seydoux’s character, Dr Madeleine Swann, is a fine return to form. She’s the perfect on-screen counterpart to Craig, with sex appeal and skill by the bucketload and an ability to command both empathy and respect. Smart and capable, she’s a wonderfully modern Bond woman and one of the few additions to the franchise who feels like a natural fit.

Because, as honourable as his efforts are, Ralph Fiennes as M just doesn’t sit well with me.

Lea Seydoux as Dr Madeleine Swann is a revelation. Photo: MGM
Lea Seydoux as Dr Madeleine Swann is a revelation. Photo: MGM

For all his complaining, Craig gives the movie his all, which is perhaps why he seems so damn exhausted by the end. I’m tired too, and I’d love a brisk walk around the block and a hearty meal.

You won’t be disappointed by Spectre because it delivers on all fronts – action, drama and appearance – but it’s concrete evidence the franchise needs a change of pace.

Remember that feeling you got when the blue-eyed, muscled Craig burst onto the screen in Casino Royale? That sense that this was Bond 2.0 and you were witnessing something special, game-changing even?

I want that feeling again.

Spectre suggests to me that it’s possible and it’s coming, but it won’t look or feel anything like we expect it to. And, if they get it right the next time round, it’s going to be spectacular.

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