In a vacuum, Spectre is perfect entertainment and a fun, if familiar, Bond film. In context with what came before it, Spectre lacks the triumphant oof we hoped for in what may be Daniel Craig’s last go as Bond.
The world created in the latest incarnation of 007 is very much our own. The politics are ours, the fears are ours and the locations are ours. Director Sam Mendes takes our world and turns it into something beautifully foreign and deadly.
Mexico City, Austria and Rome pop off the screen. You can practically smell the air in each city, tasting the different flavors of the wind in each scene. Spectre’s greatest strength, its magnificent world and characters, can at times turn into a hinderance. Despite a run time of 148 minutes, we’re left wanting more.
Christoph Waltz plays a magnificent villain, but it feels like we hardly see him. His reveal and his story is unveiled a bit too matter of factly for how much build up goes into his first line. Waltz does well with the material, but he could have done more had he been given the chance.
Craig is again phenomenal as 007, hitting all the right notes while giving us a (slightly) deeper peek into Bond’s soul. Mendes is careful to keep from giving us too much, lest he destroy what’s left of the character’s mystique. Bond is Bond. His supporting cast makes Spectre special.
Both Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) are given expanded roles in Spectre, as is the new M (Ralph Fiennes). Harris steals every scene she’s in as the most charismatic “secretary” in the business. She gets back into the field, more or less, in Spectre but never to the extent she deserves to be.
As an installment in the greater Bond universe (Bond 24, in case you were wondering) Spectre is a splendid diversion. As the crescendo to a four-part saga, we’re left wanting a little more. The set pieces are there, the action is there, the Bond girl (an incredible Lea Seydoux) is there and the villain is there.
What’s missing is an ability to top Skyfall. At times it feels like Mendes is acutely aware of that inability. Perhaps it’s unfair to expect such a conclusion; perhaps Craig’s Bond peaked a film early. Still, if Spectre is the coattails of Craig’s time as 007, he’ll have left as splendid suit behind.