Spectre – Review

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Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Jasper Christensen
Based on the character James Bond 007 written by: Ian Fleming
Story by: John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade
Screenplay written by: John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth
Directed by: Sam Mendes
IMDb Score: 6.9
Metacritic Score: 60
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 64%
Winner of One Oscar For Best Song (“Writing’s On the Wall”, performed by Sam Smith)

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language

Of course, a disclaimer: I started watching the 007 series beginning with the Pierce Brosnan films. And, honestly, this started at the same time Mission: Impossible started up, so Bond always felt like an also ran to Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt in the M:I series.

Then, I started watching the older ones, finally seeing what so many people like about these movies. Finally, Daniel Craig became Bond and started with the incredible Casino Royale, a film that not only deconstructs the Bond mythos, but also reconstructs it into a Bond for this generation.

The last two, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall were middling and great, respectively. Spectre, on the other hand, has great potential with a villain played by the excellent Christoph Waltz.

So, where does Spectre fall in line with the Bond oeuvre?

After receiving a cryptic message from his past, 007 (Craig) find himself in the crosshairs of a mysterious organization led by the villainous Blofeld (Waltz).

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Compared to other Bond films, Spectre is a decent film that will be forgettable in the ways The Living Daylight will be forgettable: it’s a good movie, but really nothing special.

This is especially since the last movie, Skyfall, was so beautifully shot and had exquisite cinematography and direction. Comparatively, Spectre is surprisingly a going through the motions spy film that entertains when it should entertain, charms when it should charm and give the cinematic tingles of the franchise when it should.

So, in essence, it’s a good action movie but it’s also a mediocre Bond film.

Bond films have a lot of different ways to differentiate itself from action franchises like M:I and The Fast and the Furious, which gives these films a special tinge. The little touches mean something: which is why it’s been refreshing to see Craig and the spin they put on his brutal, efficient and cold Bond.

In Spectre, he veers into some campy territory, which is good for Bond’s like Brosnan, Dalton, even Connerry. But what has been refreshing with Craig is that the campiness comes with a tinge of darkness and danger that has been missing with previous Bonds.

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Craig’s Bond goes into more of the campy than in the brutal and cold, which works in some ways, but doesn’t in others. It works because it allows some of the lighthearted, winking humor to be put into this Bond, which really only comes in drips in other films.

Yet, this counteracts itself with the fight scenes and sequences. Make no mistake, they are good, but they are also lacking. There’s nothing that compares to the bone cracking, brutal  one on one fighting foreplay of Casino Royale or the majestic, beautifully over the top set-pieces in Skyfall.

In honesty, it’s just rather ordinary for an action film. Again, though, it beats the crap out of anything from The Fast and Furious franchise, but that’s really not a high bar set either.

The Bond girl, Lea Seydoux, is good, but like most Bond girls she’s underutilized, which is another thing that the Craig Bonds changed for the better. This is particularly sad since Seydoux is a very capable actress (see: Blue is the Warmest Color for an absolutely exquisite performance), to see her in the movie as is is quite disappointing.

Lastly, what’s most disappointing is the villain of the film, played by Christoph Waltz. For a character so important for the entire Craig Bond series, a villain that is supposed to mean so much, his character is only shown in about 30 minutes of the film at most.

And when he is on screen, he’s merely a campy, over exaggerated villain more akin to Dr. Evil than a man with so much power and reach to be extremely dangerous. This villain heads into classic Bond villain way too fast as well: Within minutes of him finally getting decent screen-time, we go into the archaetypical “explain the plan while torturing the hero” exposition.

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There is a lot to complain about in the film, but in the end, it’s entertaining and fun. Of the Craig Bond’s, it’s snug above Quantum of Solace, but well below Skyfall and Casino Royale. But I’d feel more comfortable recommending M:I Rogue Nation than this movie.

But here’s hoping that they don’t decide to suddenly return to the overly campiness that they dug themselves out of, because it’s seeming like they are learning heavily back into it.

The Wiz Says #59

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