Spectre (2015)
Spectre (2015)

Genre: Action and Spy Running Time: 2 hrs. 28 min.

Release Date: November 6th, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Sam Mendes Actors: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Stephanie Sigman

 


 

F

ollowing clues from his former superior’s cryptic final communiqué, British Secret Service agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) heads to Mexico City to search for a member of a clandestine criminal organization. From there, he uncovers “The Pale Man” – a rogue agent on the run from the shadowy syndicate – and strikes a bargain with the defector to protect his daughter Madeleine (Lea Seydoux) in exchange for the location of the conglomerate’s sinister leader, Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz). But as Bond inches closer to his target, a lethal assassin (Dave Bautista) zeroes in on the cunning operative, while powerful forces begin work in London to destroy the 007 program from within.

There are certain essential elements that compose and ultimately define a James Bond movie – the pre-credits sequence, the title song, the villains, the girls, the locations, the cars, and the stunts are but a few (somewhere in the mix, a drink must be ordered and James’ name must be revealed in his signature way). With “Spectre,” the opening scene is an immediate indicator of a good start – a Mexico City celebration of the Day of the Dead boasts dually ominous and colorful costumes; plenty of crowded arenas for explosions and gunfire and chases; and a camera that seems to perfectly follow the superspy’s movements across hazardous, crumbling, bullet-riddled terrain. And the music is sensational (here by Thomas Newman but sounding reminiscent of Junkie XL), thundering with bass and percussion as authentic festival notes saunter in and out of the tense beats. The entire setup is one of Bond’s very best.

Unfortunately, the title tune is another matter. Despite garnering plenty of attention and praise, Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall” just doesn’t sound like a Bond song, nor is it upbeat enough for musical motifs to reappear throughout later action scenes. This is compensated by the introduction of Monica Bellucci, who is one of the most appropriate Bond girls to have never before been cast in a 007 adventure. Sadly, her role is minimal and seems included merely to either increase the number of female characters (and boost Bond’s sleeping companions) or to console the actress for having tragically neglected to cast her decades ago.

The greatest problem for “Spectre” is not its little failures in obligatory incorporations, such as the oversized henchman expectedly showing off his lethalness or engaging in hand-to-hand combat with the secret agent, but rather the overall pacing. In its longwinded attempts to reinvent and reintroduce classic Bond characters and scenarios, the script allows for numerous lulls and enough subplots for more than one movie. SPECTRE’s originations and development in theatrical adaptations throughout the ‘60s took several pictures to fully establish; in this latest film, the evil organization’s purpose and history is exhaustively revealed, even without understanding all of the continual references to minor points from the last three episodes. Director Sam Mendes and his enormous conglomerate of writers (including John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Jez Butterworth) are convinced that audiences will soak up every minute of this crowded project, regardless of the many minutes of uneventful exposition (particularly with bureaucratic and political entanglements) or romance or drama.

“He’ll find a way. He always does.” No matter the odds or the seemingly inescapable predicaments, Bond manages to come out unscathed. Perhaps that’s why, despite so many moments of dire seriousness, an early stunt featuring a lighthearted, last-minute rescue by a well-placed sofa is one of the most memorable and enjoyable shots in the film. As for the rest of the action, great attention is given to making the CG disappear in favor of practical effects and authentic destruction, bringing back the amusement of older 007 adventures, during which computer animation was basically unavailable. It’s difficult not to be impressed with the sharpness and quality of “Spectre’s” technical efforts, even if it never gets better than that absolutely stunning cold open.

– The Massie Twins

  • 6/10