After various missed opportunities I finally got to the cinema to see Spectre. I felt like the world was working against me, somehow managing to time a flight home from the US, perfectly between the Australian and US premiere. Then RSVPing to a Heineken screening I was originally told was Monday, but was in fact Wednesday, the same night I’d agreed to see John John Florence’s new marvel, View From A Blue Moon. Infuriatingly, I ended up being the last of my friends to see it, and in turn, received a flurry of criticism about my passion, or lack thereof, as a true Bond fan.
So off I went, at 3pm last Thursday, a work outing I convinced myself. One large Spectre cup, photographed with my new Sony Xperia Z5 Bond phone (which is little more than a Xperia Z5 in a special edition cardboard box decorated with a Spectre logo) and sent to a Whatsapp group consisting of four best friends constantly competing to be the biggest James Bond fan. A small but excited fist pump as the gun barrel swept across the screen, then I settled in.
The first word that sprang to my head when I left the cinema was mediocre, but giving it more thought I’d say mediocre is a little harsh. The film certainly possesses many of the conventions that have come to define a great Bond film, and parts of it were undoubtedly entertaining, but it didn’t enthral me by any means.
The opening sequence is excellent, a fleeting moment with an exotic beauty and a Day Of The Dead disguise that will inevitably become the dream Halloween costume for every Bond fan to walk the planet, until the day they do actually die. The scale of the opening scene is almost daunting and Mendes does a brilliant job capturing it and sustaining suspense.
From there I started to pick out certain frustrations, the first being the constant runway show that is Spectre – it seems Bond has finally succumbed to fashion. I wasn’t concerned about any of the product placement in the film, aside from the clothing. Tom Ford is everywhere, and it’s boring. There’s honestly a costume change every time we see Bond. Every. Single. Time. Despite carrying nothing but hand luggage everywhere, Bond magically appears in a new suit, new pair of Tom Ford sunglasses, or in the snow scene, a ridiculously over considered and specialised outfit that is so curated, it detracts from the story. I’m also uninterested in Tom Ford’s choice of jacket vents since taking on the suiting for the franchise, all noticeably American style single centre vents. An interesting choice for a British agent who drives, fights and reaches for holsters constantly.
The high tension created in the first scene where Christoph Waltz’s character is introduced, is marred by an average car chase, where Dave Bautista’s character, which was poorly written and developed, looks about as comfortable in his Jaguar as a 160kg man in Economy class. I also thought both cars looked far to futuristic for the unrealistically empty Roman streets. The chase scene in snow was better, the tricked out Range Rovers far more appropriate, but it comes to a very abrupt halt, and Bond’s complete lack of concern by the entire ordeal makes it appear somewhat insignificant.
Christoph Waltz’s character was intriguing at the beginning of the film, by the end, much less so. Far less than Silva or Le Chiffre in my opinion, and unfortunately I don’t think it’s the last time we’ll see him. The female castings however, were far more to my liking. It was great to see Bond with an older woman, Monica Bellucci fitted her character to a tee, as if it was written for her. Lea Seydoux was also excellent. Despite her initial dislike for Bond, she was instantly captivating, drunk or sober. She’s an unconventional beauty that snatches your breath away when she enters the train carriage in her ball gown (yes there’s another scene on an overnight train), and then impresses again with her confidence handling a weapon.
I really enjoyed Bond’s relationship with his Quartermaster. Ben Whishaw’s character plays a far more pivotal role in this film and it works very well, adding a certain playfulness to Bond as he tests the limits of his relationship with Q, providing the opportunity for some well delivered humour. On humour, there are a handful of very well written lines, and it’s great to see this is still an important part of the franchise. Ralph Fiennes is also owning his role as M, which as a character has come a long way from Bernard Lee sitting behind a desk complaining about Bond’s questionable methods related to getting the job done.
Spectre’s obvious plot twist doesn’t detract from the film’s entertaining balance of action, espionage and classic Bond conventions, but it’s not going to make many fans top 5 list. Whishaw and the women really steal the show in this one, which I found refreshing, and it’ll be interesting to see how they’re incorporated into the next instalment. Had it not been for a throwback glimpse of the DB5, and a macho display of shooting off the hip while escorting his lover to safety, I may have left the cinema slightly more pessimistic about Spectre. But, like a game of golf, you only need one or two good shots to keep you enthused for the next round.