Daniel Craig returns for his fourth outing as the world’s most popular spy. Arguably, Craig is also the world’s most popular actor ever to portray Secret British Agent 007 — he’s certainly made the most money for the franchise — so I write this review expecting that anyone reading this will have already seen it. If not, warning, spoilers ahead.
Let me start by going back 10 years, to Casino Royale, the first Daniel Craig outing as 007, for this film gives context to SPECTRE because everything is connected. I consider Casino Royale the highpoint of the whole Bond movie fifty-plus year history, a perfect film in story, character, plot, pace and action, but also because it set up so well everything that has happened to Bond since.
Two years later came Quantum of Solace, which if watched as a direct sequel to Casino Royale is my second favourite, particularly how it follows Bond’s path of revenge and redemption after the loss of the only woman he loved, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green). Bond in the lifeless Chilean desert was brilliant.
Skyfall, while a fantastic film, felt like a letdown, mostly because only after two films in a rebooted series, Bond was being asked if he was still relevant? Was he too old for spying? Had the world moved on from his style of espionage?
I don’t think so. The questions seemed moot. And the whole return of Goldfinger’s Aston Martin was way too anachronistic and made no sense at all.
However, despite my minor quibbles, the three Daniel Craig films far surpassed anything done in the Bond series before him, and I was a big fan of Dalton’s and Brosnan’s first efforts, The Living Daylights and Goldeneye respectively.
Overall, pretty bloody good.
Not as great as Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, and while Skyfall had more brilliant elements, SPECTRE overall was better than Craig’s third outing. Stylishly, SPECTRE knocks all previous Bond films out of the ejector seat window and runs them down like a loose Russian tank on the streets of Saint Petersburg.
Plot-wise (and some big spoilers follow if you haven’t seen the film yet), the evil organisation formerly known as Quantum from earlier movies is now a part of a larger evil organisation called SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion), and the man behind it all, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), is Bond’s half-brother.
Bond falls in love again, with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) who is a worth companion for 007 in this movie. Bond also shares some great lines with series regulars Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris). The action in Morocco, Austria and Mexico in particular are spectacular, and up there with some of the best Bond stunts you’ll ever see. What I also liked, how well this film ties back to the mythologies of the original Ian Fleming novels.
It was also interesting note that no character from Casino Royale except for Bond and Mr. White (Jesper Chirstensen) made it to SPECTRE, even though there is an arc now linking all four Craig films, and that arc was prominent in this latest outing.
I think it is the fate of all Bonds that their later movies become more fantastical, and SPECTRE is the most fantastical in the Craig series. This is not done in a bad way, no laser battles in space shuttles or parasailing a tidal wave caused by another giant laser. This film feels fantastical because the first two Craig films were so ground. SPECTRE reintroduces the Q Branch gadgets and super villain lairs. While these scenes were thoroughly enjoyable, somehow Le Chiffre’s torturing of Bond with a knotted rope in Casino Royale and the car chase in the opening sequence of Quantum of Solace were far more effective than Blofeld’s robotic torture machines and the latest gadget-ised Aston Martin car chase in Rome.
Yet despite everything I’ve complained about, SPECTRE is still a great Bond film, one of the best. It ties the four Craig Bond films together nicely, and it is a worthy conclusion to the Craig’s era.
I, however, am convinced he has at least one more film in him.
So what do I want to see in the next Daniel Craig movie, if it happens?
I’m glad you asked.
Blofeld escapes Her Majesty’s Prison for Supervillains and reforms SPECTRE from a secret lair in Outback Australia, surrounded by a lake of saltwater crocodiles. Madeleine Swann is duped into leaving Bond and is soon kidnapped. Bond teams up with Camille (Olga Kurylenko) from Quantum of Solace and Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) from Casino Royale and Quantum, and the three take off on a dangerous adventure across the globe to rescue Swann, with action in the jungles of Africa and battles with the scariest animals on the planet, toxic predators from Australia.
I’m sure you’ve got your own ideas what you want to see.
If you missed SPECTRE in the cinema, it’s worth checking out on television. With Daniel Craig as the world’s most famous secret agent, Bond has never before been this good.