Spectre’ opens with one of the best tracking shots in recent memory. The camera does not blink for a second as we follow Daniel Craig’s James Bond hot on the trail of an international terrorist during the ‘Day of the Dead’ celebrations in Mexico City. Bells of Orson Welles’ opening in ‘Touch of Evil’ were ringing loud and clear (both also take place on Mexican soil). However, from this point onwards, Mendes’ second Bond feature contains more misses than hits.
Following on from the Welles-esque opening, we see Bond pursuing the evil and omniscient organization known as Spectre, and led by Christophe Waltz’s Blofeld (a familiar foe in Bond’s cinematic universe). Along the way, he encounters two Bond girls in the shape of Monica Belluci’s Lucia Sciarra and Lea Seydoux’s Madeleine Swan.
Craig, as he has been throughout his reign, is great. He maintains his cool wit, his charm, and his style whilst being ruthless in the face of danger, Spectre only reinforces the fact that he is arguably the best Bond we have ever had, second only to perhaps Connery. Lea Seydoux also puts in a terrific performance as the female lead; she is the first Bond girl in recent memory that can actually handle herself in danger. She may well represent a significant feminist step forward for Bond films in the future. The performance I personally, was most excited to see however was Christophe Waltz as antagonist Blofeld. He is surely the perfect actor to play a Bond villain. Mendes disappoints audiences though by giving him such little screen time, we hardly see him for the majority of the film, which really is a wasted opportunity.
‘Spectre’’s subject matter is clearly an attempt by Mendes to update the series. The story generally focuses around the controversy of drone warfare and surveillance, which is clearly a very serious and very real topic in contemporary society. Because of this though, the action suffers, there seems to be very little engaging action throughout the film, action is only ever really threatened, but never really comes about, and when it does come about, it is extremely short lived. For example, Bond and Swan escape from Blofeld’s impressive desert hideout with far too much ease, Bond only needs to shoot around 4 henchmen before they’re away on a helicopter kissing.
Despite a rather modern subject matter, ‘Spectre’ is by far the most traditional Bond film that has graced our screens in the Daniel Craig era. There are clear nods to Bond’s cinematic past littered throughout; Dave Bautista (fresh from playing Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy) plays an extremely Jaws-esque henchman, he even fights Bond on a moving train which is reminiscient of ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ and there’s even a snow base that reminds you of something from ‘Die Another Day’.
This technique of using postmodern pastiche from Mendes is perhaps an attempt to evoke nostalgia amongst the audience, nostalgia of the Connery and Moore era where Bond always killed the bad guy, and always got the girl. Craig’s era has differed greatly, the films have been much darker, Bond rarely gets the girl and he is portrayed as a dark and twisted individual constantly haunted by the past.
Traditional Bond from the Connery, Moore, and even Brosnan era would arguably not satisfy contemporary audiences, people today desire more realism, more grounded and ruthless action films such as the Bourne films, which have so strongly influenced Craig’s era with their shaky camera work and fast-paced action sequences.
Spectre feels like an ending to the Bond films we have seen in the last ten years, perhaps even of Craig’s reign. It attempts to bind the gritty realism that we have seen in the last three outings with the more relaxed sensationalism of classic Bond, and it does succeed in doing this, something that critics have raved about, as a return to the classic Bond. However, is this really such a great thing? ‘Casino Royale’ and ‘Skyfall’ were the best Bond films in years, so why change a winning formula?