By: Nathan Helfferich – Staff Writer
Following significant hype and a much-anticipated return of Britain’s favorite secret service agent, Daniel Craig has once again returned to the big screen in his fourth outing as James Bond. “Spectre” marks the 24th installment of the highly successful Bond franchise and the second-consecutive Bond film directed by Sam Mendes. Sam’s previous entry, “Skyfall,” shattered franchise records by becoming the first James Bond film to gross over $1 billion at the worldwide box office, along with winning Academy Awards for Sound Editing and Best Original Song. Needless to say, all of the hype and anticipation for this newest story seems fairly warranted.
Stemming directly from themes set forth by “Skyfall,” technological advancements in international intelligence have caused the British government to rethink the necessity of the Double-O part of their secret service program that gives agents a license to kill. Because of this, Bond and his team are once again facing eradication. All of these developments couldn’t have come at a worse time for the MI6 team as Bond also finds himself toe to toe with his greatest nemesis: a shadowy global crime syndicate known as S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Fans of the franchise and Ian Fleming’s original novels will know that this stands for Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion. In this latest screen adaptation, the organization’s most recent evildoings lead Bond to a man named Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz).
In addition to Oberhauser, Bond is once again surrounded by an unparalleled supporting cast of characters. Returning is M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw) and Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) as they continue to develop the foundation of Bond’s most treasured MI6 allies. It’s only fitting that Mendes has these actors sharing some of the best moments in the film together. Fiennes has fit extremely well into his new role as M with yet another commanding performance.
On top of these returning characters, “Spectre” also introduces Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx. Hinx can be likened to an updated, more believable version of the often-wacky henchmen portrayed in previous Bond films. It’s no surprise he becomes a fan favorite. Waltz, as expected, dazzles as the conniving villain, a role that provides him with a lyrically sadistic dialogue that he delivers with gusto.
While a majority of the success of “Spectre” can be attributed to Mendes’ new vision for the characters, it’s the emphasis he puts on the relationship between Bond and Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) that proves to have a lasting impact. With a story that shakes the foundation of what has culturally become known as a “Bond girl,” Madeleine is a force for Bond in a manner we only last saw in “Casino Royale” when he meets Vesper Lynd. This is only helped by the fact that the on-screen chemistry between Craig and Seydoux seems effortless and organic as it grows with emotional resonance throughout the film.
Unfortunately for all these achievements, the only flaw of “Spectre” is the plot and its inability to truly enhance the story. For a story that seems focused on MI6’s imminent termination, the plot does little to provide resolution to the questions raised by the end of the film. Even the eloquent work by Craig and Seydoux seems slightly spoiled by a plot that’s more focused on developing the action. Still, like the very best of the Bond films, the plot does a fantastic job of creating intense, breathtaking action sequences that are a treat for Bond fans old and new. Often a staple in the Bond franchise, the opening pre-title scene in “Spectre” is one to be seen, as it raises the bar with yet another jaw dropping action sequence, involving some of the most unique camerawork you’ll ever see from an action/thriller film.
Amidst all the hype that has surrounded “Spectre,” there’s much speculation about whether or not Daniel Craig will reprise his role as James Bond. Many have come to regard his groundbreaking era of films as one of the best in the franchise’s 53-year history. While a more traditional Bond formula was used to find success in “Spectre,” it’s still Craig’s unique approach that gives the film its own identity. While no conclusions have been made concerning Craig’s future with the franchise, one thing is for certain: “Spectre” further proves Daniel Craig has cemented himself as one of the greatest James Bond actors of all time.