Spectre is a good film, but it doesn’t reach the level of Casino Royale and Skyfall, and the formula has started to feel tired.
While Bond got a boost with the last four films by going the gritty reboot route, and benefited from the advancements in technology to create great action sequences, the story hasn’t changed a bit. Spectre is a fun film, but it’s incredibly predictable. The people you think are going to be evil are evil. Bond is tortured by the villain before breaking out at the last second, and there’s a timed trap where Bond has to choose between saving the girl or saving himself and getting the bad guy, all of which he does. It’s impossible to spoil Spectre because we can see every twist coming and the stakes aren’t very high. Obviously, Bond is not going to die.
The most refreshing part of Spectre is Monica Bellucci. The Bond films follow a specific formula that has been mostly untouched for the superspy’s past 23 iterations. Seeing Bond with a woman who is actually age appropriate is amazing. In a series that is always setting up the very sexualized older Bond with even more sexualized younger ladies, it’s good to have some visual reassurance that Bond isn’t repulsed by anyone remotely near his age. Bellucci, 50, and Craig, 47, have great sexual chemistry. Léa Seydoux, as the younger woman Bond actually ends up with, is an awesome Bond girl, but doesn’t have quite as much chemistry with Bond as Bellucci does.
As a villain, Christoph Waltz is not used to his full potential. Everything in the film beats you over the head with the fact that Spectre has been pulling the strings in Bond’s life, including the opening credits. Waltz’s character mentions it at least twice for every minute of his limited screen time. What would be much more effective is if the film showed us instead of told us.
The inevitable torture scene involved drills to the brain, a concept done much more effectively in Australian horror flick The Lucky Ones. The scene just looks too clean. While these drills might have more debilitating effects than a more primitive and visual torture, like the genital-bashing rope in Casino Royale, they just don’t look very intimidating.
The Bond films are known for their stylishness. Spectre is no exception. It’s shot beautifully, giving every scene a luxurious aesthetic. Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, whose last project was Interstellar, plays with shapes and perspective beautifully.
In the end, it’s good that this film retires Daniel Craig’s Bond, because some restructuring is definitely necessary. Spectre is entertaining, but the next film will need some revitalization to avoid an otherwise destined decline in quality.