Directed by Sam Mendes
Written by John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Jez Butterworth
Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lèa Seyduox, Ben Wishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci, and Ralph Fiennes
After 53 years when a new James Bond movie opens at the cinema, it is like a visit from an old friend. Much like an old friend, sometimes they are welcomed with open arms, like the previous installment “Skyfall.” Sometimes they show up at the wrong time, like “Quantum of Solace.” Luckily, “Spectre” falls more into the former category than the latter. “Spectre” is a return to the classic Bond formula, and that is not a bad thing. When Daniel Craig took over the Bond role in “Casino Royale” the franchise was in a spot where it needed to challenge and change the classic formula to give Bond relevancy in the 21st century. Now that they had succeeded in introducing a new Bond, it is time to bring the classic formula to the new Bond. They cannot run from the Bond formula forever.
Much like “Skyfall”, “Spectre” is a well-shot and well-directed entry into the Bond series. While this film does not have the cinematography of the legendary Roger Deakins, this film does have Hoyte van Hoytema (“Interstellar”) who is a brilliant cinematographer in his own right. “Spectre” opens with one of the best pre-credit scenes in the entire series. The scene opens with a magnificent tracking shot that follows Bond through a Día de Muertos parade and climaxes with an astounding helicopter stunt sequence. Not only is the pre-credit scene one of the best in the series, but the credit sequences is also one of the best, if not the best credit sequences in the entire series. While I still believe that Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall” lacks a certain tonal quality that makes an excellent Bond theme song. The song when paired with the credit scene created for the movie made the song work, and both the elements together made a beautiful sequence.
Craig as with his previous three outings as 007 was excellent as Bond. “Spectre” returning to the classic formula allows Craig to tap fully into the witty side of Bond, a side of Bond that his other outings did not play to as much. There are, however, moments throughout the movie where Craig does appear to run through the motions of playing Bond, not to the level of Sean Connery in “Diamonds Are Forever.” Given the way Craig has talked about playing Bond during the press for both “Skyfall” and “Spectre,” the end of Craig’s contract (Bond 25) is the end of his tenure as James Bond. Lèa Seydoux and Christoph Waltz were also fantastic in the movie. Seydoux was Craig’s best Bond girl since Eva Green in “Casino Royale”. Waltz was excellent as the antagonist, despite being underused, underdeveloped, and absent for a majority of the movie. Waltz was not the only character given the short end of the stick. The much-publicized appearance of Monica Bellucci, the oldest Bond girl, was nothing more than a glorified cameo. Which was a mistake because giving Bellucci an essential role would have added much-needed substance to the boring story.
The great stunt work is not just limited to the opening of “Spectre” there are a few well-executed set pieces throughout the film. The only set piece that “Spectre” could have used was a ski chase. The ski chase is Bond staple not used since 1999’s “The World Is Not Enough,” and because part of “Spectre” takes place in the Austrian Alps it seemed that this was the perfect time to bring back the ski chase.
Despite containing strong performances, and remarkable stunt work “Spectre” suffers from a bloated 148 minute run time, and considering it is from the team behind “Skyfall”, a shockingly weak script. The length of the movie is more than a bit excessive because there is easily about twenty minutes that can be cut from the film. At a solid two hours the movie would have moved faster, and would have had Waltz be more present out of necessity. With a shorter length, they could not have kept Waltz in the shadows for as long as they did. As previously stated “Spectre” has a surprisingly weak script. What was supposed to be the big, shocking reveal at the end of the second act, was not only spoiled about ten months ago in the Sony hacks – damn North Koreans – but was apparent to anyone who knows anything about Bond villains. “Spectre” shot itself in the foot by not allowing that reveal to be surrounded by more mysterious circumstances.
If the MI6 subplot in “Spectre” feels familiar, that is because it is essentially the plot of “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.” That film was originally supposed to be released on Christmas Day, one month following “Spectre”, but was moved to earlier this summer to avoid competition from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” If “Rogue Nation” had kept its original release date, I can not help but to wonder whether “Spectre” would have received a warmer reception regarding the MI6 plot line?
The biggest failing of the script is that fails to tie adequately together the various story threads that have run through the Craig era 007 films. “Spectre,” tells you that all the events that happened throughout the previous three movies, “Casino Royale”, “Quantum of Solace”, and “Skyfall” were all connected via the organization, Spectre. While the makes this assertion about the connection to Spectre, it leaves the how and why of Spectre’s involvement in the events of the previous three installments. Although, I am left wondering if the connection of all the plot threads will be left to Bond 25? Yes, Bond 25 is on Craig’s contract, unless EON decides to end prematurely Craig’s contract he will appear in Bond 25. I hope that is the case because then it would make up for them dropping the ball on those connections with “Spectre.”
While “Spectre” is not “Skyfall”, it is a good successor to it. “Spectre” continues to carry on the theme of Bond’s relevance in a rapidly changing world, in this case whether he is needed with greater drone and surveillance technology. The film is classic Bond; action packed, sexy, and humorous. While the return to formula may be off-putting to those prefer the tone of the previous Craig films, it will be welcomed by those who long for classic Bond and not a Bond who to quote Peter Travers “seems to have come down with a serious case of Jason Bourne penis envy.”