I saw Spectre days after the eager-beavers but still before some people, so here are my spoiler-free thoughts

It’s been quite the year for spies on the big screen: mega-success for Kingsman, high praise for Mission: Impossible 5, comedy from Spy, the TV-ish thrills of Spooks, and you may’ve missed The Man from U.N.C.L.E. — based on its box office, most people did. But now we come to the biggest of them all: Bond. James Bond.

Chances are, if you’re interested in a review of the 24th Bond movie you’ve already read one. Several, probably. Nonetheless, as both a blogger and a Bond fan who saw the series’ latest instalment this afternoon, I’m compelled to throw some of my initial spoiler-free thoughts out there. Plus, in places, commentary on those other reviews.

For starters, if you have read any other reviews, you’ll know it begins with a helluva pre-titles sequence; perhaps the only part of the film to have attracted unqualified universal praise. A big opening action scene has become one of the series’ most iconic elements, and Spectre contends (against stiff competition) to be considered the best yet. Too stiff, in my view. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic opener, with one of the entire series’ best shots, but the very best of them all? That’s just hyperbole because it’s the newest.

It leads into the title sequence — another of the series’ most famed elements, of course. No details, because I know that I wouldn’t want anyone to spoil it for me, but I thought it had some strong imagery without being amongst Daniel Kleinman’s very best work (GoldenEye, Casino Royale, Skyfall). Sam Smith’s insipid song is slightly less irritating in context.

Most reviews will also contain a version of one of these two comments: either, “they’ve finally brought back the classic Bond formula, but integrated into the Craig-era style — how wonderful”; or, “they’ve merely brought back the classic Bond formula, albeit in the Craig-era style — what a regression”. You only have to look at the Rotten Tomatoes pull quotes (at the time of writing — these will surely change once US critics oust UK ones from the front page) to see this played out. It’s true that Spectre is much more like one’s idea of a “classic Bond film” than any of Craig’s previous films were, but it didn’t strike me quite so much as it clearly struck others. As to whether that’s a deliberate filmmaking choice which has succeeded beautifully, or a case of lazily falling back on (or being unable to escape) the series’ tropes… well, your mileage — and appreciation — will vary. Considering both Craig and Mendes have mentioned in multiple interviews that they were deliberately bringing back more of the familiar Bond elements (something Craig had been hoping to do gradually ever since Casino Royale jettisoned most of them; indeed, I believe he’s mentioned it regularly since that time, too), I think we must conclude it was a deliberate decision. So the question becomes: do you approve of that decision? If you didn’t like Bond pre-Craig, or think the time for such things has passed, then probably not; if you’re a fan of the series as a whole, however, it may be a welcome return for some recently-absent familiarities.

For all its modernism, there’s one aspect which the Craig era has always had in keeping with earlier Bonds: the casting of the villain. After the Brosnan era gave us Brit Sean Bean, Brit Jonathan Pryce, Brit Robert Carlyle, and Brit Toby Stephens (even if some of them were playing foreigners), Craig’s films have stuck to the older formula of casting a respected/famous European: Dane Mads Mikkelsen, Frenchman Mathieu Amalric, Spaniard Javier Bardem, and now German “European actor du jour” Christoph Waltz. The double Oscar winner is on fine form at times, but there aren’t quite enough of those times. Again, without aiming to spoil anything, I’d say he’s not so much underused as misused.

Action sequences are naturally fantastic, the best coming in the alps. Thomas Newman’s score is as bland and unmemorable as his work last time, while Hoyte Van Hoytema’s cinematography is strong, but not quite as striking as Roger Deakins’ in Skyfall. According to most reviews, M has the best line and biggest laugh. I have to say, I’m forced to guess which that line is, because neither of the two contenders I’d put forward provoked much response in my screening.

The real downside comes in a muddled third act, which suggests the Sony leaks were right: either this is the one they criticised for not being good enough, or it’s the written-during-production replacement. Either way, it feels off the ball. Further discussion next time…

I must also mention that Madeleine Swann’s name is a reference to Proust, because I believe it’s beholden on every reviewer to point this out to make sure you know they got the reference. Well, I did too. Now I want a cake. And if you’d like to watch someone eat a Madeleine, check out Blue is the Warmest Colour. (Too far?)

Oh, and I must get in a pun along the lines of, “what were you exSpectreing?”, or “we’ve been exSpectreing you, Mr Bond”. I guess mine should be, “I exSpectred something more.”

My spoilersome full review of Spectre is available here.

21 thoughts on “I saw Spectre days after the eager-beavers but still before some people, so here are my spoiler-free thoughts

  1. Cheers, really appreciate the lack of spoilers as I haven’t seen this yet. And I very much like the comments about it having some of the feeling of classic Bond, something I’ve been yearning for personally.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We all caught it on Monday to tie in with my son’s birthday – we planned that one quite well, I thought. I have never seen the cinema so packed for a Monday evening, which suggests it might have done rather well. Without giving anything away I genuinely felt was the best Bond film I’d seen in years, a really exciting entry, and I liked your comment that it feels as though it’s getting back to the old days a little. I hadn’t felt that but I do get exactly what you mean. I also very much liked Waltz is the villain, a great slow and reptilian sense of evil and one stomach-churning scene in particular.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Saw this Tuesday and really enjoyed it. I think the ending is setting up a Part Two that will revisit OHMSS to complete Daniel Craigs Bond tenure. If that doesn’t come to pass then it’ll be a shame and Spectre will suffer from it- its a risky thing this serialised movie making. If Spectre doesn’t do as well as hoped and they get cold feet and they revise their plans where does that leave Craig and how this film ends? Theres an unfortunate parallel with OHMSS right there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hadn’t even thought of that! The very end felt final to me; I wasn’t even sure how they were intending to bring Craig back (other than the usual “just ignore it” way the series always has). I was beginning to take his “I don’t want to do another” comments seriously.

      Now I wonder if that was John Logan’s plan when he talked about doing a two-part back-to-back Bond, which Craig, Mendes and the producers resisted. Maybe instead of throwing that idea out, they turned the first half into a film that could work if left sequel-less, but which has the opportunity to be continued?

      Well, now I’m particularly interested to see how the plans for Bond 25 shape up (as if I wouldn’t be interested anyway!) Mendes seemed pretty adamant that he wouldn’t be tempted back again, but if it’s rounding off a story he started…


      • Yeah it could be great- Spectre gets Blofeld out of prison, and he goes after a married Bond and Madeline gets killed. Cue M giving Bond his 00 status back and license to kill and the big hunt for Blofeld/vengeance ensues. Its like the sequel to OHMSS we never had. They could even bring Bautista back I suppose. Much of Spectre would make more sense.

        Liked by 1 person

        • So long as they don’t take too many cues from Diamonds are Forever!

          I hope they don’t bring Bautista back, though. He was one of my favourite things about the film, a great physical threat for Bond, but it’d be pretty magical to have survived being dragged out of a high-speed train…


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