In the lead up to Spectre, we have all heard or read about Daniel Craig’s comments about him being over the role that has made him a worldwide superstar. How much you believe him is up to you but judging from those statements, it feels as though Spectre is Daniel Craig’s final mission as 007. I grew up in the age of Pierce Brosnan’s 007: suave, charismatic, and full of one-liners. After Goldeneye, the franchise was going down with Brosnan closing out his time with over-the-top but boring Die Another Day. The franchise needed new life.
Enter Daniel Craig. Beginning with 2006’s franchise reboot, Casino Royale, the actor single-handedly rescued the character from falling into Austin Powers territory and gave Bond a gritty, brooding, bruised-knuckle intensity. He peeled back the layers of the agent and made you feel the toll that so much killing takes on a man’s soul, showing the character that is under the tuxedo. There is no doubt that Craig would be leaving the franchise in a better place than when he found it. If this is truly the end of Daniel Craig’s 007, I think he left a worthy swan song.
Spectre picks up off the heels of Skyfall, which saw the death of Judi Dench’s M and introducing a new generation of MI6 allies: Naomie Harris’ Eve Moneypenny, Ben Whishaw’s Q, and Ralph Fiennes’ M. Spectre opens up with Bond in Mexico City during the Day of the Dead on a mission to kill an Italian terrorist. This fight leads to an incredible brawl mid-air in a helicopter that was thrilling to watch. It turns out that Bond’s current mission has been tasked to him from beyond the grave with intel from his former superior, which leads Bond into the tentacles of the criminal organization SPECTRE. While Bond is off the reservation, a new head of British Intelligence code named C (Andrew Scott) threatens to eighty-six the double-0 program.
While his license to kill is being threatened, Bond is globe-trotting from Rome (where he has a steamy encounter with ‘Bond Woman’ Monica Bellucci) to the snowy Austrian Alps and Tangier, Bond is hunting Franz Oberhauser, a man who sponsored Bond’s past adversaries (Le Chiffre, Mr. White, Silva). Played to sinister charisma by Christoph Waltz, Oberhauser has a tie to Bond’s childhood and turns out to be a familiar character known to Bond aficionados (I won’t spoil that for my readers). Along with Oberhauser, Bond must do battle with a formidable, Jaws-like hitman Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista). Bond is given an strong love interest in Dr. Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), who proves she can handle her own and is Bond’s equal. It’s definitely a move away from the usual damsel in distress of Bond’s past but I saw her as more of a plot device in the grand scheme.
Personally, Skyfall is the best Bond film of Daniel Craig’s tenure as 007; possibly the best Bond film of all time. Like Craig’s previous turns in the tux, Spectre is full of globetrotting action, a thousand count of opulence in the story, and the typical escapism of a Bond film. Compared to Skyfall, this sequel feels undercooked. While it serves its purpose as the culmination of Craig’s four-film cycle, connecting all of his previous missions in one large web of villainy, it feels like it never paid off fully. Director Sam Mendes and the writers could have had a field day with Oberhauser’s place in the 007 canon, but he feels like just another enemy bent on Freudian score-settling with the agent. I think it’s possible that Skyfall set expectations that were too high for Spectre to match, much less top. While Craig’s Bond deserves a better send off, you can’t ignore all he has done. We can only hope for one more mission before a new agent is selected.