The cast and crew behind “Spectre” manage to prove two things: first, that in what is the twenty-fourth film featuring the crafty Agent 007, James Bond is just as fun and thrilling to watch as ever. And second, that it is probably impossible to top the franchise’s last film, “Skyfall”.
Sam Mendes returns to direct “Spectre”, with Daniel Craig also returning to reprise his role as Bond, James Bond, for the fourth time. “Spectre” finds Bond pursuing a man named Marco Sciarra, who the deceased M (Judi Dench) asked Bond to kill should something ever happen to her in a video he found. The movie starts off with a bang, with Bond tracking – in Mexico City during the Day of the Dead festivities. What ends up with him blowing up part of the city and battling thugs in a careening helicopter infuriates the new M (Ralph Fiennes), as Bond was not acting on official business, and a merger of MI5 and MI6 is threatening the very existence of the 00 program, with Bond now giving the new head of the Centre of National Security (Andrew Scott) more reason than ever to shut it down. But of course that doesn’t stop Bond, who convinces tech guru Q (Ben Whishaw) to make him disappear for a few days, as he follows the course of events to Austria. Eventually he meets up with the daughter of an assassin (Lea Seydoux), and she helps him piece together the rest of the puzzle of the mysterious organization known as Spectre.
“Spectre” delivers on everything viewers could want in a James Bond movie. There are car chases through exotic countries, fist fights, gun fights, and a creepy, sadistic villain. The plot is convoluted and sometimes difficult to follow, but it’s typical Bond fare, jumping from country to country, on the trail of some mysterious bad guy. The aspect of “Spectre” that is markedly different from other Bond films is that it is more personal; the viewers are actually given a sliver of information about Bond’s childhood, and makes an interesting connection between him and baddie, played by Christoph Waltz. The bad thing, though, is that this aspect of the film doesn’t hit the right notes. It doesn’t resonate emotionally as it should; in fact, it feels quite contrived. In revealing too much about Bond’s past, the filmmakers’ took away from the mystique that makes the character so interesting.
Waltz is great as the villain—but then again, he always is—even if his true identity doesn’t come off as much of a surprise. Scott is quietly threatening in every scene he’s in, while Dave Bautista appears as Mr. Hinx, a strong Spectre thug bent on taking out Bond. Seydoux makes for the perfect Bond girl, smart and able to hold her own against Bond, while Monica Bellucci also makes a brief appearance as an exotic widow. Whisaw, Fiennes, Naomi Harris as Moneypenny and Rory Kinnear as Tanner all have great chemistry with Craig, who continues to prove that his Bond is one of the—if not the—best incarnations of the character thanks to the perfect combination of charm, wit, emotion, and sense of loneliness he brings to the role.
Although, by the end of this movie Bond isn’t really lonely anymore. This is the happiest ending, by far, of any of Craig’s Bonds, even of most of the Bond films in general. It’s so unexpected—him riding off into the sunset with Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann—that it feels false. And it begs the question: what’s next for Agent 007? Is he rejecting his career with MI6 and embarking on a new journey, or merely taking a bit of overdue holiday?
“Spectre” is a solid Bond film, and it’s often enjoyable to watch, but it’s nearly impossible not to compare it with “Skyfall”, which was not only likely the best Bond film made yet, but an absolutely flawless espionage thriller. Waltz’s villain comes off as meek and unthreatening compared to Javier Bardem’s frightening -. Watching the development of M’s story and her relationship with Bond provided the franchise with some of its most emotionally resonant moments. The story was top notch. The stakes were higher. It was more intense. Can I also say that the theme song was better?
“Spectre” doesn’t try to be “Skyfall”, and that is commendable. It takes the series in yet another interesting new direction; unfortunately, it doesn’t play off as well as the filmmakers were likely hoping it would. Still, “Spectre” is worth seeing, and hey, at least it can’t get any worse than “Quantum of Solace”.
Runtime: 148 minutes. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language.
Check out showtimes for this movie and more at the following St. Louis-area theaters:
- Wehrenberg Theatres
- AMC Theatres
- Regal Movie Theatres
- Galleria 6
- Chase Park Plaza
- Moolah Theatre
- Hi-Pointe Theatre
- St. Andrews Cinema
- Plaza Frontenac Cinema
- Tivoli Theatre