The end of the Daniel Craig era comes in the form of SPECTRE—which for this knowingly being the last time Craig is Bond, I honestly would have expected more. But as nitpicky as I could get, this was a good Bond film. Certainly within the 10 of all Bond films (possibly within the top 5, unless you ignore the cartoonishness of the early Bond films and put those up in the top).
This film opens with Bond following the last orders of Judi Dench’s “M”, he tracks and kills an assassin in Mexico City (and destroys part of the city while at it). Coming back home he is suspended from duty, but when would that ever stop James Bond. From there he tracks down the organization behind the not just the assassin he killed but literally every headache he’s had since Craig took the mantle of Bond—SPECTRE. And at the head of it all, none other than Ernest Stavro Blofeld, white cat and all, played by Christoph Waltz. From there he is racing against Blofeld’s plan to take over a Big Brotheresque surveillance system. More than most movies, M, Q, and Moneypenny are there to help along with his latest love interest, Dr. Madeleine Swann (because naming her Tracy Draco* would have been just too obvious, despite the fact that’s pretty much who she is).
The film has the standard great car chases and hand to hand battles, and shoot outs. The film shows us again a new development in Bond’s personality as he continues to grow as a real person would. Regrettably, however, a lot of that development occurs off camera (or perhaps on the cutting room floor) and that’s a little annoying but it’s certainly…especially in light of the film’s final scenes. And it provides an ending to the four movie run of the Daniel Craig films…which is bittersweet as I was hoping the introduction of SPECTRE was the promise of things to come not wrapping it all up.
This film adds a few things we have been missing (well maybe not missing) from the Bond formula including but not limited to: flirting with Moneypenny, ridiculous torture devices, villains monologuing their entire plan, and no name henchmen. Now none of these rise the to level of insanity that one might have seen in the Roger Moore era, but they’re all there.
The film’s biggest flaw is actually that Casino Royale and Skyfall set too high a bar. SPECTER is vastly better than the majority of Bond films, and probably one of the best films this year, it just isn’t as good as Skyfall. It also feels like they wanted to have more movies with this Bond battling Blofeld, but with Craig leaving they decided to just give us an ending to this arc and truncate a lot into one movie.
In terms of depth, as I said I think most of the character development was left on the cutting room floor which leaves us only with a debate about the limits of intelligence gathering. There seems to be a subtle debate between the need for human intelligence gathering and just metadata collection of information…but it’s never fully developed as anything substantial. So I’ll refrain from my usual comments about the gutless rat bastard traitor Snowden (oh darn I guess I didn’t refrain from that).
On a side note this is one of the worst Bond songs/openers I’ve seen in my lifetime.
Final Grade 3.8 out of 4
So the real question here is, who is the next Bond?
*See On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (the book, no one should ever have to see the Lazenby movie) if you don’t know who that Mrs. Bond is.