Run Time: 148 mins
Director: Sam Mendes
Staring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, David Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Finnes
Ratings: Jake – 6/10, Gabi 8/10
Jake – A new Bond film is a bit of an event and so on Tuesday I saw Spectre – I even pre-booked my tickets. That said I had few expectations: I hadn’t seen the trailer, didn’t read any reviews, so I came to it with a completely blank slate. The only standard it had to live up to was, what I consider the best Bond film, Skyfall and unfortunately Spectre, in my eyes, fell short. The action was lacklustre, the script was average at best and the plot seemed to drag on.
The opening however, was great. The atmosphere created by the Day of the Dead set the mood for the rest of the film. One thousand five hundred extras, all with individual tailor-made costumes and make up, created this amazing visual, with Bond seamlessly manoeuvring between the parade while the camera follows. It was amazing.
Gabi – I already know that we have quite different views on this film. I too did not think it was as good as Skyfall but I still maintain that it’s still a pretty damn good movie with some brilliant direction, great performances and solid cinematography.
But one thing we can agree on was just how spectacular that opening was. A four and a half minute shot – one shot! – with a huge number of extras, following Bond down a street, up an elevator and ultimately onto a roof, including a small costume change, is an incredible feat in anyone’s book. It built up so much tension; everyone was asking, when is this shot going to end and what will that mean for Bond? Completely masterful. And to add to that this setting just had so much colour and vibrancy and this amazing music. I just loved it.
Jake – But what followed after this truly epic scene was a let down that didn’t do justice to the opening. An over-the-top aerial combat scene in a helicopter involving not one, not two, but three barrel rolls and of course a loop the loop. Nothing special. You can see the same at practically any airshow nowadays, the only difference in Spectre is that Bond was occasionally, “supposedly”, hanging from the side (the editing was quite noticeable unlike Tom Cruise’s stunt in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation which was actually real).
This really set the tone for the action throughout Spectre. It was disappointing, exaggerated in places and not challenging enough in others. Honestly if you weren’t Dave Bautista you didn’t stand a chance and you didn’t pose a threat. I know Bond is good, but he should have been slightly more challenged. The only remotely exciting scene was the car chase through Rome and even then it was rather uneventful, with the emphasis being put on “Bond style comedy” rather than action.
Gabi – This is where our disagreement begins! I actually found the helicopter scene wonderfully tense, especially the pulling back of the helicopter at the end and the added danger of thousands below the fight. Of course Bond is in no danger because we have the rest of the film with him, but I still thought the fight was well executed. The only issue I had with it was that in 4K, the green screen elements were slightly obvious but this didn’t detract from how much fun the scene was.
Again, I disagree about the action generally – Bond films are naturally exaggerated. Heck, this is the series that gave rise to the threats of shark tank tropes and being burned alive in a crematorium. I think that works because for everything in Bond you need to suspend your belief. And as for no threat, well, I thought Craig looked tiny in comparison to Bautista! I was getting seriously Oddjob vibes in terms of physicality. At one point Bond was so challenged it looked like he would be chucked out of a train. And I loved the car scene! The comedy was surprisingly brilliant and in the cinema I saw it, people were loving it. It was such a fantastic pastiche of the old films where the cars would have utterly ridiculously outlandish features.
One thing I would say it that I was disappointed Christoph Waltz was not used to more affect. He is a fantastic actor, playing a great and important role in Bond history, but I never thought he was very fleshed out or well rounded in this film. Compared to Silva in Skyfall, Blofeld felt quite hollow.
However, I know we’re coming at this as very different Bond fans, so I can understand our differences on the threat levels. One thing I hope we can agree on is that this film was filmed really, really well. I mean after the initial shot, others continued the excellent trend and were well balanced and often symmetrical. Sam Mendez executed some gorgeous shots and he used light almost as well as he did in Skyfall: the warm glow of Rome, the cool, crisp light of Austria and the clear, grey of London.
Jake – I really enjoyed those varied and contrasting set locations: Mexico, Italy, Austria, Morocco and the UK. From the Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City, to a car chase through Rome, psychological evaluations in wintery Austria and hidden facilities in the Sahara desert – Spectre effortlessly flits from one environment to another.
Gabi – The grand tradition of the always international Bond! One tradition I really didn’t appreciate in this film though, was its approach to women. Bond has always had a questionable approach to the gals in his life and this film, for me was no different. Sure, Dr Swann was smart and well rounded, but we never actually saw her use those smarts, like to help Bond with a wound for example – we just had to take the films word for it. In addition, she was brave enough to help him in a fight but really bad at it. (Seriously, Moneypenny, a trained agent ends up shooting Bond in the last film and even though Dr Swann can load a gun, she just can’t hit the hulking Bautista in a train carriage with 3 bullets). Dr Swann was constantly being saved by Bond and I really didn’t buy that they were ‘in love’ with less than 3 days spent together. We didn’t even have Dame Judy Dench’s M, the only woman in control in the Bond films, to balance out this gender imbalance. Moneypenny just did administrative errands for Bond and disappeared for the last half an hour in the film (seriously, she was in the car with Q and M, where did she go when they were having the showdown with Andrew Scott?). The scene in which all of Spectre has gathered in one cavernous Italian room contained two women – TWO! – I counted.
It is interesting because in all the reviews I have read, none seem to have found this troubling but I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. Also, there was a distinct lack of BME characters. Some people may argue, does this really matter if those might be shoehorned in anyway? But out of any modern film franchise, Bond is best placed to include BME characters and women: Bond literally globe trots but the main characters are overwhelming white and male? This franchise had women like Grace Jones in it in 1985, who clearly were Bond’s equal in all things – that was twenty years ago! What happened?!
Jake – I have to agree. Although I’ve always known Bond’s treatment of women isn’t what you would consider third wave feminism, for me, it’s never been this noticeable. Perhaps this was because of Daniel Craig’s interview with redbulliten.com discussing his thoughts on Bond and how he is a “sexist misogynist”, but in any case, in Spectre women were either a source of information or a burden for Bond.
So to summarise, for me Spectre didn’t tick the right boxes. Although the locations and cinematography made the film easy to watch, the action, poor attempts at humour and the dragging plot didn’t make it entertaining to watch. Spectre was more Quantum of Solace than Skyfall.
Gabi – Again, I know we come at this film as completely different Bond fans, so my thoughts are summarily very different. I loved the referential humour and respect for Bond history. The treatment of women I found troubling but that does not mean it is not a good film.The cinematography was not as stunning as Skyfall but was still really, very good with some lovely set pieces and great use of light. It was also just bloody great fun.