Friday, July 15, 2016

Spectre

Directed by Sam Mendes.
2015. Rated PG-13, 148 minutes.
Cast:
Daniel Craig
Christoph Waltz
Léa Seydoux
Ralph Fiennes
Ben Whishaw
Naomie Harris
Dave Bautista
Andrew Scott
Monica Bellucci
Rory Kinnear
Jesper Christensen

The world's favorite secret agent is stepping into what promises to be a brave new world after the events of Skyfall. We catch up with Bond, James Bond (Craig) in Mexico City during what appears to be the annual Day of the Dead celebration. He's tracking some bad guys who are plotting to blow up a nearby soccer football stadium. Bond stops hem, if you want to call it that, as a couple buildings are taken out instead. In addition to however many were killed by this, Bond directly kills three baddies, but not the leader of this operation. From that guy, our hero only gets a snazzy little ring that eventually leads him to discover a super secret evil organization called Spectre, headed by Ernst Blofeld (Waltz). To take them down, he finds he needs the help of Madeline Swann (Seydoux), the daughter of a previous Bond villain. 007 trying to protect her and simultaneously defeat Spectre ensues.

One of the calling cards of the Daniel Craig incarnation of Bond is brutal, Bourne-style hand-to-hand combat along with spectacular action set pieces. Both are present here. As has become par for the course, the opening sequence is a stunning visual treat with all sorts of mayhem going on. We get buildings falling into other buildings, some shooting, a foot chase, mid-air fistfights, and I don't know what this series has against helicopters, but it destroys another one in sublimely ridiculous fashion. All this is before the opening credits. The rest of the film follows suit, giving us plenty to dazzle the eyes as we embark on 007's latest adventure.


Another series calling card, at least of the better Craig-Bond films, is our hero's flawed humanity and a deep reflection on the same. Those films also take an introspective look at their own place in the modern world. The two films I am mostly referring to, Casino Royale and Skyfall, understand the franchise and its protagonist are born of a long bygone era and must take great pains to remain relevant. They put those struggles front and center in the tales they're telling and are better for it. Spectre gives only a cursory nod to those strategies. More often than not, it relies on the same tropes the other films recognized as Cold War relics and/or archaic ideals of manhood. The drinking and womanizing so thoroughly examined in the predecessors to Spectre are frivolously tossed in. The physical and psychological toll of those habits, along with a violence-filled life, are non-existent. We're left with a very average Bond. He's become the same exact Bond we've just spent three movies painstakingly deconstructing.

None of this is to say Spectre is a bad movie. It's a perfectly passable action flick. The fireworks come often enough, and is intense when it comes. The plot is predictable, if unnecessarily convoluted, but hardly a deal breaker. Christoph Waltz gives us another solid villain. The downside there is that his Blofeld feels interchangeable with most other bad guys he's played. The budding romance between Bond and Madeline Swann is tepid, but serviceable. Serviceable, average, mediocre, all good words to describe this movie. Had the main character been someone other than James Bond as played by Daniel Craig and directed by Sam Mendes, I may not be so hard on it. Because that's precisely who it is, this is a highly disappointing effort. This is the A student turning in a C paper. Yeah, it's passing, but we know this student is capable of so much more. Skyfall plumbed the depths of the 007 franchise and found its soul. Spectre returned to the surface, skimmed across it, and pretended we haven't already seen what lurks beneath.


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16 comments:

  1. Later this year, I'm going to get around to doing an in-depth article on SPECTRE like I've done for every previous Bond film. For now, I'm still hurting from how disappointing it was.

    - Cody

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    1. I'm looking forward to it because this was supremely disappointing.

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  2. I still like this film as I didn't have high expectations because it's Bond. Besides, I've seen worse as I had fun watching this. I really Idris Elba becomes the next Bond. He's the one I want to be Bond.

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    1. I didn't hate it, but I did have higher expectations because Skyfall was so great, IMHO. I'd love to see Elba as the next Bond. Hope it happens.

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  3. "Serviceable, average, mediocre" - yep, that is the impression I left with as well which is frustrating. I really expected more. As you said, it isn't a bad movie. But I couldn't help but feel it should have been better. I have been planning on seeing it again though. Just to give it another shot.

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    1. I actually gave it a second chance. I saw it a few weeks after it came out and again a few days ago. Same impression.

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  4. A great closing sentence, my friend. Spectre is passable at best, and in dire need of an adrenaline shot at worst. Flat, tepid plotting and tired, bored acting from Craig can't save this one. The Rome car chase is just stupid, more like a car commercial than a narrative requirement, while the Bloefeld twist is just... well, meh. I've seen better surprises at a Thai brothel.

    I really wanted this one to succeed, I really did, considering how awesome the preceding film was. But it just...didn't... it was just....meh.

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    1. Thanks! Good point about the car chase even though I did enjoy that part. It was at least something happening. Meh is right.

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  5. I felt like Christoph Waltz was almost laughable. He's really not doing it for me anymore. He needs to start fresh in a new direction.
    And so does Bond.

    Happy birthday.

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  6. "the opening sequence is a stunning visual treat with all sorts of mayhem going on" Yep indeed it was and it went downhill from there! I was so disappointed w/ this one Dell. As you said, it's the A student turning in a C paper, spot on analogy there. I didn't care about how Bond & Swan got on as I was so revolted by what the filmmakers did w/ Monica Bellucci's character. To say she was wasted is putting it mildly. It's wildly insulting.

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    1. So much yes in this comment. Bellucci was beyond wasted.

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  7. Especially as it will probably be his last one it was disappointing. Shame as before the film came out it seemed to have everything going for it. Including the name. I love it.

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    1. Yup. If this is his last hurrah as Bond, Craig went out with a whimper instead of a bang.

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  8. I remember that during this movie I felt like it was sucking the life out of me but when I sat down to review it - while I had plenty of issues with it - I couldn't truly bash it. I think its major problem is that it keeps walking the beaten path. Skyfall was so great because it moved Bond forward, this one just drops him back into the same pit of Eva-Green-missing despair he's been in since the end of Casino Royale.

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    1. That's almost exactly the vibe I got from it. The only difference being I didn't even feel the Eva-Green-missing despair. He was just cookie-cutter Bond.

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