Published on November 11th, 2015 | by Curtis Mayfield
Spectre – Film Review
Reviewed by Curtis Mayfield M-H on the 5th November 2015
Sony presents a film by Sam Mendes
Written by John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth
Produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli
Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci and Ralph Fiennes
Music by Thomas Newman
Cinematography: Hoyte van Hoytema
Edited by Lee Smith
Running Time: 148 minutes
Release Date: 12th November 2015
Our favourite pompous British spy once asked a classic movie villain if he was anticipated to spill all of MI6’s secrets. The evil genius responded with the memorable line: “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.” Well Mr. Bond I expected you to be awesome! Granted the first half of Spectre has so much potential with its fantastic build up. The opening scene shows James Bond (Daniel Craig) walking coolly through the streets of Mexico on the Day of the Dead celebrations. The scene goes for about five minutes or so and is one continuous shot. This is about as daring as Spectre gets as it soon falls into a predictable and bland plot. The story goes like this: James Bond and MI6 are still licking their wounds from the damage of Skyfall that left the head of the agency dead. The agency’s new leader, M (Ralph Fiennes) finds himself defending the need for the 00 program to the dead eyed C (Andrew Scott) who’s attempting to retire the field agents and replace them with new technology. Bond goes rogue (again) from both of these abbreviated names to infiltrate the mysterious Spectre group, who resemble a movie version of the Illuminati or (for The Simpsons fans) the Stonecutters.
As Bond begins to uncover more and more about this secret organisation and slowly unravels the connections between the group and all of his previous tragedies, the movie gradually becomes less of the gritty reboot we’re used to seeing Craig play in and more of a paint by numbers storyline. Everything Casino Royale and Skyfall did for the James Bond image is thrown away with this one. The goofy car gadgets return. The cheesy one-liners are back. There’s even a Jaws-inspired character with Dave Bautista who says nothing and literally smashes his way through the movie. The dream casting of Christoph Waltz as a Bond villain never lives up to the expectation. Waltz as the calm and polite Oberhauser is just playing on what Bond villains are parodied for now. Once he captures Bond, he takes him step by step through his evil plan while walking through his plush lair as if he was giving a guided tour of an art museum. There’s even a goddamn scene where he straps Bond to a chair in preparation for some messed up torture. These traits are meant to be obvious throwbacks to the Bond movies of decades gone but they just come off as cheesy.
It may be the media coverage Daniel Craig has been getting but it’s easy to see that he’s over playing the character of Bond just from watching his performance. He carries Bond with a muted colour and he just looks bored. But I suppose the biggest giveaway is the quote from the actor saying he’d rather slash his wrists than play the sexist, martini-drinking spy again. Craig has also called out the sexist ways of the character and rightfully so. The media has dubbed the role Monica Belluchi plays as an “older” Bond girl even though her and Craig are only a few years apart in age. There’s been no mention of how Léa Seydoux plays James’ main squeeze and is 17 years younger than the film’s lead actor. Seydoux does a great job of playing Madeleine but the character soon falls short of being impressive. At first we’re introduced to Madeleine as a kickass doctor of some kind, who doesn’t give into James Bond’s bullshit ways. Plus she knows how to use a gun. Sadly, this all changes as she (for no apparent reason) suddenly melts for the British spy and doesn’t do anything kick arse. The character of Madeleine had so much potential to stray away from the typical damsel in distress archetype but I guess the writers thought it was best not to have too many awesome female characters in film. Booooooo!
As for character development, there is none. Even though there was plenty of room in this two and half hour rampage, nothing exciting happens with the characters. There’s a tiny bit of light that’s shed on Bond’s past that acts as an underwhelming twist in the story. Gadget master Q (Ben Wishaw) is given more screen time than the previous movie but not much is done with it. Basically, he gets chased for three minutes and then types furiously on a laptop. M, Madeleine and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) all have the potential of getting their story told but to no avail. Sure, there are lots of explosions and cool car chases but we’ve seen that so (like so many!) flipping times in the Bond series. The dark and edgy James Bond is nowhere to be seen in Spectre and it’s heartbreaking. Director Sam Mendes did such an amazing job with Skyfall that it’s hard to figure out why we’re given a 007 installment that doesn’t take any of the risks of the recent movies. Spectre falls too much in line with the 1960s version of James Bond that used to play well but now just comes off as tacky. Now it’s the darker, brooding versions of action that works, not safe meaningless entertainment.
Summary: Director Sam Mendes did such an amazing job with Skyfall that it’s hard to figure out why we’re given a 007 installment that doesn’t take any of the risks of the recent movies.