In my review for Skyfall I noted the successful blend of modern age espionage and the harkening back to Bond’s roots as a legend of MI6. The classic bond setup that was started there comes full circle in “Spectre”. There’s newfound worth of characters Moneypenny, Q, and M, a cold war style evil organization bent on world dominion from earlier in the franchise, and a very old school Bond romance that would make Sean Connery proud. It seems like a conscious decision by director Mendes and the writers to stick to the elements that continue the sense of nostalgia to balance against the modern, dark hue that has been injected into Bond lately to give him complexity and depth.
As a result, the story has a lighter character to it even as it explores Bond’s past, full of the fantastic action in exotic locales we’ve come to expect, but also a sort of obvious fallibility to the villainous plot Bond inevitably thwarts. Even the resolution ties up a good vs. evil bow nicely. While this could make some films feel gimmicky, it works well for “Spectre”.
The stand out performance in “Skyfall” was Javier Bardem as the villain Silva, which is the kind of performance that I was hoping from Christoph Waltz as the lead villain in this film. But the character was a little flat, much like Bond’s romance played by actress Lea Seydoux. Both were entertaining and flawless in their performance, but maybe because of that desire for nostalgic quality calling back to earlier sagas, they both fall a little flatter because of the way they were written. And maybe that simplicity is deserved, given the incessant demand on writers to complicate and layer everything.
Despite the great addition that “Spectre” is, I think “Skyfall” can fairly be categorized as the highlight of Daniel Craig’s career as Bond. The classic Bond mentality that pours through “Spectre” is enjoyable, raw, and a great visual experience. It would be difficult and perhaps uneven to expect this film to hit all the same dark tones and humility that Bond experienced in “Skyfall” and “Casino Royale”. He needs a good, clean win every once in a while.