New Review: Spectre (2015)
Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci, Christophe Waltz, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Dave Bautista, Jesper Christensen, Alessandro Cremona, Judi Dench
If 2006's Casino Royale and 2012’s Skyfall gave us a Bond movie that was darker and more emotionally complex than expected, then Spectre goes back to the basics. The movie is less about plot and character than it is about the pretty locations, the big action scenes, and the gorgeous women Bond gets to romance along the way. While some will no doubt argue that those things are what Bond has always been about, it still can’t help be feel like a letdown.
I know what you’re thinking: What did you expect? The previous Daniel Craig Bond movies (with the exception of Quantum of Solace) stood out because they took the character in unpredictable and exciting directions. They worked as well as they did because they felt refreshing and new. Spectre feels like so many other Bond movies before it. There’s very little to distinguish it, and taken on its own terms, it really isn’t that good of a movie.
It gets off to great start, though. The movie begins with a seamless tracking shot through the Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City, and follows Bond as he takes a young woman up to his hotel bedroom, climbs out the window with a gun in tow, and heads over to a nearby roof to assassinate an Italian terrorist named Sciarra (Alessandro Cremona), who’s meeting with some shady individuals. Bond inadvertently destroys the building (as well as an entire city block), chases Sciarra through town, which leads to another big action scene set on an out of control helicopter that hovers dangerously close to the innocent pedestrians down below.
Meanwhile, back in London, the new M (Ralph Fiennes) is facing a problem when a sniveling little weasel nicknamed C (Andrew Scott, quite bland) brings the 00 program into question and plans to replace it with a global surveillance system. The need for ground soldiers will be replaced with drones, satellites, etc. This is a very familiar plot, and M’s arguments against the program (“Have you ever killed a man, C?” he asks) is stuff we’ve heard in many other movies as well.
M scolds Bond for his reckless actions in Mexico City, especially when the entire 00 program is being threatened. He grounds Bond from active duty, but of course, that’s not going to stop Bond. Shortly after her death, the original M (Judi Dench) sent him a tape instructing him to not only assassinate Sciarra, but to also attend his funeral in Rome. In spite new M’s order to stay put, Bond heads over to Rome, and gets some very vital pieces of information after romancing Sciarra’s widow (Monica Bellucci) in a scene so awkward and forced that it comes across as off-putting rather than sexy.
His investigation leads him to a terrorist group known as Spectre, which is headed by a shadowy figure known as Franz Oberhauser (Christophe Waltz), who allegedly died in a skiing accident with his father so many years ago. The decision to cast Waltz as a Bond villain (especially this particular one, a character who was around during the Sean Connery days) is genius, but Waltz is hardly even in the movie, and is given next to nothing to do until the film’s final third. It’s a case of a great actor being underused to an almost stunning degree.
Bond eventually teams up with a woman named Madeline Swan (Léa Seydoux), the daughter of another one of Bond’s old adversaries. We’re supposed to believe that Madeline is, like Vesper Lynd from Casino Royale, the woman to win Bond’s heart, but there’s absolutely no chemistry between Seydoux and Craig, and their first big love making scene (which happens directly after a particularly brutal fight on board a speeding train) is so abrupt that it’s laughable. And while she comes across as resourceful in the earlier segments, she is turned into a clichéd damsel-in-distress in the final third.
Spectre was directed by Sam Mendes and penned by many of the same people who wrote Skyfall. How so many people who were responsible for one of the crowning jewels in the Bond franchise came up with this mess is beyond me. For a movie that runs on for a patience testing two-and-a-half hours, there’s not even sort of enough story here to keep audiences engaged, and the action scenes are surprisingly underwhelming. There’s one sequence where Madeline is kidnapped by a hulking giant of a man named Hinx (Dave Bautista), and Bond chases after them in a plane, and the question in my mind was: where did he get that plane from?
To be fair, the behind the scenes crew do splendid jobs (Thomas Newman’s banal score being the sole exception), with special mention to cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, who bathes the movie in a beautiful visual glow. Outside of the film’s opening set-piece, the aforementioned action scene on a train (where James and Madeline face off against Hinx) is very well choreographed. Craig is just as commanding as ever as Bond, and he’s helped by stellar supporting performances from Ben Whishaw as Q, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, and Fiennes as M.
The end credits promise that “James Bond Will Return,” and news has is that Craig will be playing him one more time. His first outing as Bond was the great Casino Royale, while his second was the very bad Quantum of Solace. The series hit a grand slam with his third outing Skyfall, and now here we are with another bad Bond movie. I’m detecting a pattern here, and if it holds true, we should expect a cinematic masterpiece once James Bond returns to the big screen. If so, maybe they can pick a better theme song than what we get here. Here's hoping.
Rated PG-13 for action violence, sensuality, and language
Final Grade: ** (out of ****)
Other Thoughts on Spectre (2015)! :D
- More like James Bore: No fun to be had in ‘Spectre’ - The Washington Post
In this 24th installment of the 007 movies, Daniel Craig goes through the motions.
- Combustible Celluloid Review - Spectre (2015), John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Jez Butterw
- TheFilmFile Review: Spectre (2015) by Dustin Putman
Spectre (2015) - 3/4 Stars - Delivering tautly designed thrills, handsome production values, and welcome shades of personality, 'Spectre' is savvy commercial moviemaking with the right amount of edge to stand out from the crowd.