If this turns out to be Daniel Craig’s last turn as James Bond, Spectre sends its lead out with the action sequences we’ve come to expect from the world’s most effective spy. Even so, with comparisons to the bigger than ever Mission Impossible films constantly forcing their way into my head, I can’t help but believe that the hype around Craig’s run as Bond will quickly fade like a distant memory. He’ll fade away like a ghost.
Setting up the theme of memories of the past playing into the present, Bond finds himself working his way through a crowd of beautifully attired celebrants remembering their ancestors in a spectacular Day of the Dead parade. The chaos of the celebration is the perfect setting for a spy to blend into a crowd, and Bond quickly takes advantage of this as he’s here to assassinate an unknown target. Things don’t quite go according to plan, and before long Bond is being thrown around in the close quarters of an airborne helicopter as he tries to finish his task. Bond is being way too reckless in his determination, and he is oblivious to the screams of the crowd below rightfully worried that the skulls of their costumes will be violently removed from the rest of their skeleton. In other words, Bond doesn’t give any F’s, and the possibilities that this could spawn brighten my eyes. This is going to be one crazy movie.
Before Bond dives too deeply into the pages of Ethan Hunt’s book of go big or go home, he decides to take a hard left in tone and pace. Once we get into the main body of the film the memory of the people in Bond’s life sending him on his current trajectory is overshadowed by stories that have come before. Those who haven’t watched the previous films recently will find themselves just as confused as I was with the inability to place the connections to Bond’s past being alluded to in the story development, and the movie is quickly weakened because of this lost level to the story. Assuming there is one. Maybe I’m not really missing anything because the depths aren’t actually there. In actuality, it could just be weak storytelling, which wouldn’t be too surprising seeing as the film quickly falls into a comfortable level of predictability. Bond gets all the girls (which drastically weakens any of the strength Lea Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann had built up in herself), Bond kills all the bad guys with ease (though I will say Dave Bautista’s imposing hulk of a physique did really bring an added level of danger to any encounters he had with Bond, like Bane sizing up Batman), and Bond is Bond. Even as he is dealing with his past all of the struggles are gone, as is any complexity to the character.
In the end Spectre won’t be brushed under the rug in the same ways that Quantum of Solace was on numerous occasions in this film, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also a disappointment. Anyone hoping for another Hans Landa for Christoph Waltz will grow impatient with how long it takes for Waltz to finally take over the film as he shares the villainy with many other characters, anyone hoping for a strong female lead will have to settle for an independent character typically melting into Bond’s arms, and anyone hoping for any twists will become bored with the straight line the film follows.
Worst of all, instead of sending Daniel Craig off on a high note and a tip of the hat, Spectre more of less pushes the hat into Matt Damon’s hands with a note saying the genre is all his. You’re up, Bourne.