Daniel Craig has made no secret of the fact that he would desperately like to hang up his tailored suit and turn in the Aston-Martin keys, leaving James Bond behind after movies. After an up-and-down tenure as fiction’s greatest spy (Casino Royale-up, A Quantum of Solace-down, Skyfall-way up), Craig is back in Spectre, the 24th Bond film. And if it is indeed his last go-round, he won’t be leaving on a high note.
Clocking in at 148 minutes, Spectre is the longest of the Craig-led outings, and most of those minutes end up feeling like hours. With a slow, plodding storyline that winds around and around without ever getting anywhere, Spectre feels like a half- (or less) hearted effort from almost everyone involved. Sure, Bond is supposed to be unflappable, pausing to straighten his cuffs after swiftly dispatching with the bad-guy-of-the-moment, but Bond has always had charisma and charm, too. Until now. Craig mumbles his way through the entire film, never caring to flash any personality (or even a pulse).
After a very promising pre-credits sequence in Mexico City–complete with a nifty tracking shot, an exploding building, and a riveting helicopter ride)–the action dissipates, and the film settles into a (yawn) political drama more than anything else.
Following the action of Skyfall (the destruction of MI6 headquarters and the death of Judi Dench’s M), there’s a push by the British Government, led by the scurrilous Max (Andrew Scott), to end the double-O program, so Bond is forced to work off-the-grid to prove MI6’s worth. Along the way, during stops in Rome, Austria, and Tangier, Bond discovers that all the problems of the world can be traced back to Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz). Thus, we officially have the requisite bad-guy-of-the-moment.
Director Sam Mendes does a fine job with the tightly-choreographed action/fight sequences, but there’s precious little of them to admire. Instead, Spectre becomes little more than a slog through mundane dialogue and way-too-involved set-up, as it meanders to a finale that only fizzles. Oh– and about that mega-twist that is no-doubt supposed to leave Bond fans humming? I suppose laughter at the revelation wasn’t really what the filmmakers were going for; but I wasn’t alone.
The script-by-committee from the Skyfall team of John Logan, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade, along with Jez Butterworth (Black Mass) makes Quantum of Solace’s bore-fest seem downright invigorating. And the entire cast (including Lea Seydoux– bland as the “Bond girl”) seems to be mailing it in, with the lone exception of Ben Winshaw as gadget-master Q. Has anyone considered ever making a film with him at the center? If not, they should.
The next film in the Bond series will be number 25, a milestone that begs for the kind of reboot that Casino Royale gave us back in 2006. Otherwise the series might be in desperate need of a license to… be killed.