Spectre

Spectre photo starrating-3andahalfstars.jpgDaniel Craig is back for his 4th appearance in the Bond series. For those keeping score, Spectre is the 24th entry made by Eon Productions. The greatest James Bond features have always worked as a cohesive whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. To put it another way, they are an assortment of action set pieces strung together to form a lucid story. Here the action rises and falls. Spectre is typified both by exhilarating highs and mundane lows that interact to produce an overall spirited good time.

The flick gets off to a rollicking good start in Mexico City, where celebrants have amassed to honor the Day of the Dead with a colorful parade. The color, costumes, and energy present contribute to feeling of excitement that is equally exuberant and sinister. The film’s heart-pumping opening chase take place in a helicopter high above Zócalo Square. It’s a logistically spectacular display that undoubtedly contributed to this being the most expensive James Bond production ever. It shows. The stunt ranks favorably with the best of Jame Bond. Then comes a credits sequence highlighted by Sam Smith’s wimpy falsetto theme “Writing’s on the Wall”. The corresponding images illicit more giggles than awe with a shirtless Bond being massaged by sexy ladies and octopus tentacles. The bad guys have a ring engraved with an octopus so that’s the connection I suppose.  It’s all a bit WTF but memorable for being so over-the-top.

The proper tale concerns Spectre, a nefarious international criminal network that wants to unite the world’s surveillance services into a global agency. It’s somewhat murky and there are more than a few conversations that could’ve ended up on the cutting room floor to benefit a more efficient running time. I mean a zippy adventure shouldn’t be prolonged to 2 hours and 30 minutes. That’s ridiculous. Honestly if they had shaved 30 minutes off this monstrosity it would’ve gotten a higher rating from me. Still what is here is very good. In addition to the spectacles I’ve mentioned there’s a nifty fist fight on a train barreling through Morocco with wrestler Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx. He plays a henchman for the Spectre organization. There’s also rousing chase sequences through Rome, the Austrian Alps and London as well.

Spectre incorporates a lot of references from the past that sort of provide a unifying whole to the previous four Bond entries. Recurring characters M, Q and Miss Moneypenny all return. New addition Léa Seydoux as Dr. Madeleine Swann is an attractive presence, although too judgmental for a typical “Bond girl”. Spectre is the villanous global criminal network that forms the crux of the saga. Meanwhile the essential fate of the 007 organization is in jeopardy when a smug bureaucrat named C (Andrew Scott) takes over British intelligence. The pinnacle of evil is Christoph Waltz, whom Bond tracks down to his desert lair housed in a meteor crater. He’s a serviceable villain, but veers on the dull side. This is where you’re supposed to ham it up, Christoph! His head drilling machine is kind of nasty though. I cringed at the scene.

The Daniel Craig Bond era has been unusually strong. Over the course of four movies, the franchise has seen some of its most popular films. The series hit a zenith with Skyfall, an all around success by any standard. Quantum of Solace was execrable, but hey, three out of four ain’t bad. Spectre isn’t the best entry, but it’s good entertaining fun nonetheless. Daniel Craig has intimated this may be the last time he plays Bond. If that’s true, I will lament his decision. He’s been one of my favorites.

11-06-15

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28 Responses to “Spectre”

  1. Couple of points: 1) I actually went back and rewatched Quantum the other night in prep for this, and it’s really a lot better than a lot of people give it credit for (I’m included in that group. It’s narrative wandering is a source of frustration still but it’s still a nice little movie. Why they couldn’t wrap it all up in Casino Royale is beyond me).

    2) That torture scene in Spectre was really nasty, I agree. I actually feel a little ill thinking about it now.

    3) Spectre as a whole was weird for me. It has this odd comedic edge that doesn’t feel entirely earned. It was just there to make sure the movie didn’t head down the same path as Skyfall, being all doom and gloom. The sky has fallen once, so i guess it can’t happen again.

    All that said, there’s a lot to like about this one and as usual, it’ll probably take me a couple of views to fully weigh it up.

    • 1.) Quantum of Solace didn’t feel like James Bond. There’s little of the debonair super-spy we know and love. Where are the gadgets, girls and quick witted quips? That Bond was angry and humorless. Some impressive stunts, but the camera is shaking so much and the jump-cut editing is so haphazard it’s difficult to tell what was happening.

      2.) Yeah it was intense, which is good. I truly felt he was in jeopardy.

      3.) I didn’t find Spectre comedic, unless you count that intro credits sequence. Now that was hilarious!

      Spectre was good fun. No more no less.

      • GaryGreg828 Says:

        Does Olga Kurylenko count as a girl? 🙂 She’s actually the finest girl of all four of Craig’s installments. Not the best actress or best character, but she’s one of the most beautiful women in the world. I even watched a few minutes of that terrible “Hitman” movie just b/c she looked so good. 🙂

        I think Bond was different in QOS b/c he was grieving, but doing his best to keep it inside; so he didn’t really feel up to having humor; his mind was on revenge.

        I agree with Tom. I think QOS was much better than people give it credit for. It wasn’t nearly as good as Casino Royale, but it was decent. It felt a little thin. It was definitely underwhelming. But I don’t think it was bad.

      • Exactly. That’s why I didn’t like Quantum of Solace. It was all about revenge. It didn’t have the spirit of Bond. More like a Jason Bourne film, and not a good one IMO.

  2. Maybe the film works better with Ralph Fiennes as the villain and Walz as M.

    What torture? Bond laughed off LeChifre’s ball breaking in Casino Royale just as he laughed off Walz’s needle probes. To me, that should have been an effective torture, but as to the way Walz deadpanned his way, it just came off as creepy.

    Also, the Day of the Dead in Mexico City was easily the best made scene in the film even though it seemed almost pointless – especially since Bond walked out the becdroom with Bellucci awaiting – Sorry, I’ll be right back – now that was a true WTF moment.

    • That was actress Stephanie Sigman in Mexico City. Monica Belucci shows up later as Lucia Sciarra, the widow of dead assassin Marco Sciarra. She was wearing a veil. Blink and you’ll miss her.

      I didn’t think they were an issue, but I still like your casting switch between Ralph Fiennes and Christoph Waltz. 🙂

      • Thanks for the correction. I did in fact confuse the Mexico City lady with Bellucci’s widow, despite having read that she was the oldest Bond Girl – aside from Dench –

      • I know they promoted Monica Bellucci as a “Bond girl” but she was only onscreen for a few minutes. They kissed I think, but it was so brief.

  3. Nice review, I had a lot of fun with this entry into the Bond canon.

  4. GaryGreg828 Says:

    I really liked this one. Craig was signed on to do one more Bond film, but this one feels like the end for him. I think Craig is the best Bond of the franchise. I am really pleased with the casting now b/c at the time I was hoping to see Clive Owen get the role, as he was one of the actors in the running for the role. Daniel Craig was clearly the right choice. I actually would like to see Craig in one more.

    So, Mark, who are some actors who you think would make good successors to Craig? I think Idris Elba makes an interesting candidate. I was actually saying that a while before his name started circulating as a potential replacement.

    • I was surprised with how well Henry Cavill fit the superspy role in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Matthias Schoenaerts is a name I rarely hear discussed but he’d be great too. Jason Statham played a parody of the role in Spy. He’s my lesser choice but not a bad one.

  5. GaryGreg828 Says:

    I actually really liked Waltz as the villain. I think his accent and his delivery was really creepy. I think the fact they showed him sparingly made him more mysterious and intriguing. If they had more scenes with him then I think it would have diluted the impact he had when he was on screen.

  6. smilingldsgirl Says:

    I thought it was ok and had great action but I was kind of disappointed to see them go back to old school Bond cliches. I love Casino Royale and Skyfall and how Bond was a real human being not just a caricature with quips, stunts and beautiful women. This was fine but I was a little disappointed. And the villain was way underused.

    • But “clichés” are the fabric of a Bond film. None of these films are innovative. This was a loving throwback to movies like Goldfinger and Thunderball, two of the most successful Bond films in their day.

      I agree Skyfall and Casino Royale are better, but that just goes to show how good the Daniel Craig films are. This was fun.

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        Funny that we used innovative when discussing both Bond and Peanuts. Both tie into formulas. One I loved and another Spectre I liked fine. I think it being so similar to Mission Impossible 5 hurt it a little but I liked it fine

      • Ha! I noticed that too. We each wanted “something new” in one and valued the “classic” feel in the other. Good observation. 🙂

  7. Great review Mark, I enjoyed Spectre despite a few niggles (see my review for a discussion on those) – but on the whole not as good as Casino Royale or Skyfall!

    • I think Spectre’s worst enemy is the high standard of the recent films. Casino Royale and Skyfall are the best, but Spectre was still better than the average Bond film.

  8. Liked the review – and the site – so much so that I’ve nominated you for a Liebster Award. Check it out here: http://thedullwoodexperiment.com/2015/11/09/the-liebster-award/ Keep up the good work!

  9. I had fun with this. Loved the Day of the dead parade scenes in Mexico. I want to experience that, some day. Intro was very laughable as well as that awful song. But movie was very good. Action scenes are always great. I like Q a lot. 3 1/2 stars.

  10. You’re right that Spectre has thrilling highs and mundane lows. The opening scene is a rollicking good start, but I concur that Sam Smith’s falsetto is wimpy. He delivers one of the worst Bond songs ever. I also would have preferred a shorter running time. The fight scene on the train with Dave Bautista is pretty entertaining though. Totally agree that Waltz is serviceable, yet dull. I feel that Quantum of Solace was execrable as well, and completely forgettable. Spectre is decent, although for my money Craig’s Bond flicks don’t get any better than Skyfall.

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