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Movie Review: Spectre (No Spoilers)

Updated on November 10, 2015

Foreword

As for the taste of the reviewer, I am a casual fan of James Bond. My favorite voice is Sean Connery with the face of Pierce Brosnan. I've enjoyed my fair share of older films, while not liking others but still familiar with the overall lore and recurring pieces.. In my opinion, Daniel Craig hasn't had the best run of films, with Skyfall being considerably better. With all that in mind, I bring us to my spoiler-free review.

A film poster for Spectre
A film poster for Spectre | Source

Initial Impressions

Meh. There's some good quality in here, with some awesome set pieces and the like. Still, there's a few things that hold this film back. There's a lot of potential that seems a bit wasted, and this film seems to demand a lot of support from the previous Craig films, so if you didn't watch them (or, like me, didn't pay much attention to some of them) you'll feel a bit lost.

There's also a bit of a lukewarm aim between Craig's signature darker, grittier Bond and staples of previous Bond films. Remember Oddjob and Jaws from previous films, hit man with a staple killing blow? Enter Dave Bautista sporting extra-long thumbnails to place in people's eyes. It's a little strange in execution.

The Plot

Bond takes a 'holiday' based on a message leftover from the late M of another secret organization. During which, his 00 agency is under attack from being outdated within the advancements in drones and hacking in gathering information.

As with all Bond films, we are granted one of those super surreal openings of fire, Bond, and the silhouettes of naked women. The only significant addition is the flurry of tentacles. Dear goodness, there were so, many, tentacles. Obviously they're meant to represent the big bad organization, called Spectre (in case you couldn't tell by the film's title, but they don't address the name for about half of the film) but I personally always associated the group with a ghostly apparition instead of a marine lifeform, but I digress.

Finally, Spectre boasts ties with the previous films, having a large hand in previous affairs (despite not having a confirmed presence previously). Such is the plot.

Actress Lea Seydoux portraying Madeleine Swann
Actress Lea Seydoux portraying Madeleine Swann | Source

Performance

On a positive note, Daniel Craig is at his best as Bond in this film. Craig has been known more to use his fists instead of his wit in previous films, but this film balances the two. He doesn't man-handle his way through every goon and security officer. He's also, arguably, a bit more open of a Bond, maybe because the plot demands it. There has been a lot of loss in his career and he even acknowledges his overindulgences of his vices, albeit slightly.

And while I can praise Craig's performance while not exactly enjoying his overall portrayal in his set of films, I will admit I was highly excited to see Christoph Waltz in the role of main antagonist. Maybe it was because of my expectation that I walked away disappointed, although I believe I blame that more on the script. There are no legendary scenes that he is part of, nor will anyone new to the Bond franchise particuarly remember his villain. It's a little frustrating, to be honest.

There's also the new Bond girl, played by Léa Seydoux. She doesn't really have any standout performances but comes across a bit immature and juvenile. There's definitely a visual age gap between her and Craig but it wasn't overly bothersome, just at times uncomfortable. For a little while I was expecting her part to resemble Olga Kurylenko's character arc in Quantum of Solace, but that didn't happen. Instead, I felt her and Bond's romance was a little forced, but that's all my opinion.

Nevertheless, the rest of the cast including Ralph Fiennes as the new M does a sufficient job. I have no complaints of any of the others performanes.

One of my more favorite actors, Christoph Waltz
One of my more favorite actors, Christoph Waltz | Source

The Threat of the Villain

If Spectre failed at any one regard, I might have to say it was in the villain department. Yes, Spectre is a bad organization that does bad things and it's ultimate goal (as is discussed in the film) is a dark one, but it lacks finesse. Without spoiling anything, I'll use a comparison. It's like Evil Group A acquiring a nuclear missile and that's it. No plans on using the missile, only to possess it. It's not a very strong threat to face.

Furthermore, Spectre's claim to have a hand in all previous Craig films feels a little slapped on. While I might be wrong (and I'll speak to that in a second), there's no supporting information of this in previous films. And if I am wrong and there has been supporting information, this film suffers by the quality of its preceding films. It would be like having the third film of a trilogy relying on the other two films for set-up, only for those two films to be so mind-numbingly boring that it's difficult to remember specifics. Spectre is simply not a very strong antagonist for James Bond to face.

Rated PG-13

It's a Daniel Craig Bond film, so expect violence, tons of sexual content (although never any nudity, aside from the theatrical opening of the tentacles, fire, and Sam Smith's awful song), and a bit of profanity.

Still, aside from one scene of violence it's pretty impersonal and doesn't dwell on the victims, sexual content never rises behind subtle hints and suggestive actions (although Monica Bellucci quite clearly loses her top when interacting with Bond in a fairly awkward scene), and I can't remember the profanity rising to an overly vulgar or common usage but I wouldn't quote me on that.

Closing Thoughts

Is this the best Bond film? Far from it. Is it the best Craig Bond film? I wouldn't say so, but I will say it's not the worst. Craig is at his best Bond performance and the plot is much more modern, leaving behind the crazy thoughts of solar guns used to wipe out landmines between the Koreas so war will happen. There is some gadget-usage (although not as much as Skyfall used but more than the others). But I can't say this is the best spy flick of the year, trailing behind that of the most recent Mission Impossible film and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

If you're not seeing every film in theatres, wait until this one hits Redbox if you're still interested. I still feel that Skyfall is the best Craig Bond film thus far.

The Skull Mask you can see from the trailer
The Skull Mask you can see from the trailer | Source

Tl;dr

  • Not the worst Craig-Bond film, but it's certainly not Skyfall
  • Craig gives his best Bond performance
  • Awkward fusion of darker Craig Bond and trope happy Bond films of old
  • Uses that awful Sam Smith song
  • Ralph Fiennes plays a decent M
  • Not enough Christoph Waltz

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