Movie review: Craig’s time as James Bond ends with a fizzle
–When Daniel Craig took over the mantle as suave British super spy James Bond with 2006’s “Casino Royale,” some questioned whether it was a good decision. While some might still not see Craig as the ideal Bond, those questions were answered with “Casino Royale,” one of the finest Bond entries and a film that was on a number of top 10 lists the year it was released.
That film was followed in 2008 by the somewhat under-whelming “Quantum of Solace,” then again by the fantastic “Skyfall” in 2012. For his fourth, and likely final, outing as Bond, there was a lot of intrigue and pressure on “Spectre,” which was released Nov. 6. Prior to its release, Craig had a number of unflattering things to say about the pressure of playing Bond on the big screen. That didn’t help matters.
But “Spectre” is the end of a four-film arc. While prior Bond outings had been stand alone films, the quartet featuring Craig were part of an ongoing story. “Spectre” serves to tie a bow on that storyline and give a fitting cap to Craig’s time as 007.
The film picks up as Bond (Craig) mourns the loss of one M (Judi Dench) and dodges another M (Ralph Fiennes). The new M is trying to navigate some choppy waters in British intelligence, as MI-5 leader C (Andrew Scott) thinks the 00 program is a relic of the past.
But Bond is following the lead of his old boss, trying to root out a secret organization that has its hands in the power structure of intelligence agencies around the world. With the help of Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw), Bond is able to track down an old foe, Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), who points him toward his daughter, Madeleine (Lea Seydoux), in an effort to uncover the leader of the nefarious organization Spectre.
Said leader (Christoph Waltz) may have deeper connections to Bond’s past, and a hand in some of the trouble he’s faced in his past few missions.
Waltz was recruited to play a classic villain from the world of James Bond. The character reveal is meant to be a bit of a secret, so I won’t ruin that here. But suffice to say I wasn’t sold on the way it all came together.
Waltz is a talented actor – having won two Academy Awards – and is adept at playing villains. But I didn’t think “Spectre” made the most of its talent. Despite being a 148-minute film, Waltz is underutilized and under developed as a villain, making their climactic clashes a little under whelming.
I have always enjoyed the way Craig plays Bond, and did so here, but his recent comments somewhat diminished the way I enjoyed and perceived that performance. In addition, I felt like this film didn’t live up to the hype, mostly due to the somewhat ponderous and thin script.
Directed Sam Mendes has a great visual feel for the world and the material. He directed “Skyfall,” too, and does a nice job in his second Bond outing. I liked the different settings and the visual aesthetic of the film. Particularly strong was the opening set piece in Mexico City during the Day of the Dead celebration.
But the visuals and action of the film can’t overcome the story. The film felt a bit slow and plodding at times. Characters were under developed and the concluding sequences lacked pop. In addition, the heavy work done to string the plots of the past four films together in “Spectre” didn’t work.
The James Bond franchise is still a draw, and likely will continue to be with whoever takes over the job. Craig has been a decent Bond, and delivered two exceptional films. Unfortunately his last outing wasn’t one of them.
“Spectre” has been rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language.
Two stars out of four.