Spectre review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
All of the momentum built up by Daniel Craig’s arc as James Bond screeches to a halt with Spectre. Moving on from the backstory and development of the character, this latest Bond feature finds itself slipping into the same old formula with none of the grit or substance. It’s not a massive misfire, but rather average for James Bond. And after the amazing redefining of the titular character from Casino Royale to Skyfall, the series now seems to be struggling to find somewhere else to go.
The setup is promising enough with Bond foiling a stadium bombing in Mexico during the Day of the Dead. After a fantastic opening featuring Daniel Craig scaling rooftops and trading fists in a moving helicopter, he notices an emblem on the ring of his target. It’s a cryptic message alluding to the secret crime organization Spectre that happens to be tied to Bond’s past. While the new M (Ralph Fiennes) is in the midst of a department merger which shuts down the ‘00’ program, James goes rogue as he tracks down clues which will bring him closer to the mastermind of Spectre. Only Q and Moneypenny can help him with information and creative gadgets.
Initially, that plot sounds engaging the way it delves more into James’ past with clues that reach into previous movies from the series. But the continuing story is mostly put on hold for another world domination plot where the fate of the secret service and free world is on the line. Most of the dialogue is the usual quipping of Bond banter or overlong exposition for what essentially amounts to just another villain for the secret agent to foil.
Bond’s nemesis for this picture is Franz Oberhauser played by Christoph Waltz who feels underused in the role. He delivers that sinister grin he does so well, but never really steals a scene with how standard a villain he portrays. There’s a bit of a twist thrown in with identity, but it appears as more of a plot padder than a real development in the story. The same goes for his muscle played Dave Bautista as a mute goon fulfilling the a-typical baddie for Bond to combat. Bautista does make for a great bad guy with his powerful stance and death grips, but he could’ve used a better hook besides digging his thumbs into eyeballs.
While Spectre is lacking in its script, it does its best to make up for that shortcoming with its set pieces. The opening is dazzling as it takes place during the festive Day of the Dead before buildings start toppling. Every car chase has plenty of collisions, gun play and even a bit of humor the way 007 fumbles with the controls of his car. There’s even a fantastic chase with the bad guys in cars and Bond in a plane, soaring around cliffside roads of a snowy Austria.
But for being such a standard Bond flick, it’s needlessly drawn out at two and a half hours. For every thrilling sequence of Bond utilizing gadgets and smarts to dispatch his enemies, there’s a longer section of exposition. For every decent joke here and there, there are five more that act as ineffective nudges and winks to the series. The manner in which Bond states his name in the typical method and orders martinis for his evening of romance make this picture feel as though it were a nostalgic reboot than a continuation of Craig’s storyline.
As a simple action picture, Spectre is serviceable for those who want average James Bond antics. He gets the girl, he gets the car, he gets to drink, he gets to shoot and he gets the bad guy in the end. But if you’ve enjoyed the series up to this point, you’ll be very disappointed in this rather mediocre James Bond movie that pales in comparison to its predecessors. If a longer running time and bigger budget can only muster such a substandard Bond picture, it may be time to let the series rest and regroup before it tragically fizzles out of ideas. Because I like my James Bond movies shaken with action and intrigue; not stirred with the same old tricks.