After the emotional triumph of Skyfall, the lethargic pacing of Spectre can’t help but feel a letdown
“Why, given every other possible option, does a man choose the life of a paid assassin?”
After the rip-roaring success of Skyfall, it seems little surprise that director Sam Mendes and lead scribe John Logan would return for the next instalment of the Bond series. But Spectre ends up as part of the yoyo-ing trend of Daniel Craig’s tenure which had previously seen the excellence of Casino Royale followed up by the not-excellence of Quantum of Solace. Delving deep back in Bond folklore, its overlong running time and stultifying pace sadly makes it a bit of a challenge.
This time round, surveillance networks are the villain as Bond investigates global conglomerate Spectre and their nefarious plans under Blofeld, whilst M and co do battle with the enemy within in the form of Andrew Scott’s smarmy C. Despite his class, Ralph Fiennes is a much less impactful M than Dame Judi but Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris and Rory Kinnear are all settling well into their MI6 roles, popping in and out as needed. Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld is vividly effective but the problem lies in an ineffectual plot that doesn’t grip anywhere near as much as Skyfall did.
Monica Bellucci’s Lucia defies all expectations by remaining alive after being widowed and seduced by Bond, it might have been nice to see more of her character but hey ho. Instead it is Léa Seydoux’s Madeleine who gets the lion’s share of screen time, and as the daughter of an assassin (Mr White from films past) would appear to have some daddy issues.
Truth be told, Sam Smith’s ‘Writing on the Wall’ didn’t work for me at the time and I didn’t rate it at all. But watching the film, I was taken aback at how effectively it ran over the title sequence and listening to it again afterwards, I think I did it an injustice. It apes ‘Skyfall’s classic Bond stylings but marries them to greater sense of Smith’s own artistic image. So whilst there’s a bit too much riffing for my liking, there’s a haunting lyricism that really works and his falsetto has rarely been so well used.