The relevancy of James Bond has come under scrutiny of late, as a pertinent issue that has led to cinephiles questioning 007’s place in a modern, cinematic climate. The traditionalist ways, though affectionately employed, are old-fashioned, as the treasured star of the silver screen is considered by some to be obsolete. It’s an argument that has been addressed and argued in Sam Mendes’ Spectre, as MI6’s secret service programme is threatened with closure. But this film, just like the characters within it, set out to prove why there remains a future for Bond – and though not his most accomplished outing, there is most certainly life in the old dog yet.
The prospect of scrapping the 007 programme comes from the newly stated Denbigh (Andrew Scott) who seeks a new, technological means of pursuing international terrorists, believing drones could do a more efficient job that one, single man. M (Ralph Fiennes) is left with little choice but to let Bond (Daniel Craig) go rogue, but he enlists the covert assistance of both Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) to help infiltrate the barbaric organisation SPECTRE. Following instructions from a cryptic message left to him from an old friend, Bond tracks down Madeleine Swanna (Léa Seydoux) who he believes can lead him to the organisation’s tyrannical figurehead, Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz).
Initially, there were worries when it transpired that esteemed cinematographer Roger Deakins had chosen not to follow up Skyfall, as we moved from digital to 35mm – but the visual experience is one of Spectre‘s finest accomplishments, being a picture that demands a big screen viewing. What also helps, is having a director of Mendes’ stature on board; a filmmaker who seems intent on transcending Spectre to being not merely a great Bond movie, but a great piece of cinema in its own right. Though in this instance he’s struggled to achieve that, it’s not for the want of trying, as his creativity and inclination to be resourceful stands out, such as the remarkable opening shot, or the unforgettable fight sequence between Bond and henchman Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista). It’s a shame that the latter isn’t the film’s leading villain however, as Oberhauser simply isn’t formidable enough, as we need to believe he’s an indestructible force that can’t be defeated – but we never once doubt Bond’s superiority over his adversary. It’s also too pantomime-like for Waltz, as his nefarious ways feel contrived in their implementation.
It’s fascinating to see a more vulnerable side to Bond however, while we go behind the facade and studiously and intimately explore the man beneath. But this feels like a mere continuation from Skyfall, with too many nods to plot points that came before. Spectre is to Skyfall what Quantum of Solace was to Casino Royale – a lesser continuation of the franchise that vies to maintain a needless sense of linearity. A new, fresh start for Bond could not come soon enough.