This review contains no spoilers
Bond fans know that Spectre is James Bond’s greatest enemy and MI6’s greatest foe. So for the newest Bond film to have the name of the shadowy adversary as the title shows that the Daniel Craig-rebooted films are now taking on one of Bond’s biggest legacies.
The film Spectre is a continuation of the story established in Skyfall, namely that the battle for security and safety is now fought in the shadows and that Bond has a backstory and is a person, not just a walking alcoholic and misogynist explosion. In this latest Bond outing MI5 and MI6 are being merged together under a massive restructuring of the United Kingdom’s security apparatus. At the same time, nine global powers, dubbing themselves the ‘Nine Eyes’, are planning on granting each other full access to their intelligence networks. This unparalleled act of global camaraderie is designed to allow the countries to better combat threats like terrorism. It is also a contrived plot device.
While there is an intelligence-sharing alliance called the Five Eyes (comprised of five English-speaking countries and World War II allies in the United States, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand), the inclusion in this fictional alliance of countries like China and South Africa is far-fetched but serves to raise the stakes of the film as a global surveillance network is far more terrifying.
And that is the crux of the film: surveillance. The organization known as Spectre is a mirror of MI6/the Nine Eyes; it is just as capable but far more willing to use that information for extortion, and ultimately, control.
So with a plot so big there are of course some contrivances. And perhaps this is something the Bond films are known for, but such contrivances have been mercifully absent during the tenure of Daniel Craig and especially with Sam Mendes directing. There is a major contrivance between Bond and Christoph Waltz’s nearly-sinister villain in an attempt to make the movie more personal. This is perhaps an attempt to make it as good as Skyfall, the strength of which was the complexity and backstory that it gave the Bond character. Put bluntly, this film is not as good as Skyfall, though in fairness, for my money Skyfall is the best Bond film.
Ultimately, the film is good but not great: the relationship between Lea Seydoux’s character and Bond isn’t believable; Bond himself lacks the depth and complexity that he had the last time out (which is a knock against the script and not Craig); Monica Bellucci is only briefly in the film and the plot of MI6 versus Spectre is all too transparent. While the film feels fresh in some areas it feels trite in others.
This isn’t to say that the film doesn’t have some remarkable strengths. The film does look sensational and has some excellent fight scenes and chase scenes, notably through Rome. Ralph Fiennes has more screen time, which is certainly a positive thing, and played a bigger role than any M has to date. Spectre is a must-see for any Bond fan and, for everyone else, is a very good film with only a few stumbles.
Spectre is in theatres now.