Review: Spectre

Synopsis: A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

“Spectre” opens today and while it doesn’t top Daniel Craig’s previous entries it does fine-tune the rebooted story that began in 2006. My first reaction leaving the theater was, “They better get Daniel Craig to come back for ONE MORE movie.”

For a Bond picture, “Spectre” is surprisingly light on action and what action they do feature feels a tad forced.

The opening fight within a helicopter looks more irresponsible than thrilling. Later the car chase through Rome has some beautiful┬áscenery but doesn’t get your adrenaline going. Bond eventually chases a convoy with an airplane and then continues the chase in the fuselage after crashing the plane. Honestly that part felt more like a scene out of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Commando” than anything else.

Not that I have any ill will toward “Commando.”

Still “Spectre” gets right what “Quantum Of Solace” got wrong. “Quantum” had an action piece every other scene, trying way too hard to mimic the Bourne formula. “Spectre” keeps to a few big action scenes and is surprisingly more dialogue-heavy.

The lack of action actually grew on me after a few days. One of my favorite James Bond moments is from “Dr. No” where Sean Connery is looking over his hotel room for evidence that it had been broken into. He’s being an investigator instead of a pure action icon.

There are two scenes in “Spectre” where Craig had to do the same thing while chasing after Jesper Christensen’s Mr. White. To me, that packed more of a punch than outrageous high-flying adventurism.

Craig is great and gets to use a little more swagger this time. In many ways this is his first normal Bond film, the famous gun-barrel sequence opens the film instead of being retooled or placed at the end. He’s allowed to make more wisecracks (in one case showing contempt for a Frank Sinatra tune…not cool) and shows off his knowledge of classic British cars.

I’d rank Lea Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann as the second-best Bond Girl of the Craig movies, just a hair behind Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd. Yeah, there’s a big age difference between her and Craig. Yeah, at times she can be a damsel in distress. And yeah, we all thought Monica Bellucci would get just as much screen time instead of a mere cameo…I’m still sore about that.

Seydoux

But throughout the film you get hints that Swann is perfectly capable of defending herself, she even saves Bond’s life at one point. She does a damn good job of projecting some inner turmoil, almost as if she had to kill someone in the past and never got over it. Her character is a doctor who’d rather save lives than take them.

There’s more I can say about her character but it’s spoilery and speculative so I’ll save it for another day.

I should admit that going into this movie I was predisposed to like Christoph Waltz as the main villain. Totally standing by that.

Again, like “Dr. No” at first the bad guy is hidden in the shadows but still heard from. I love that imagery.

Waltz’s character, named Oberhauser, does share a connection to Bond’s past which did worry me a bit. Luckily they pull it off, not being sappy about their shared history or overplaying the personal stuff. I could say more but don’t want to ruin the surprise reveal.

[Fun piece of trivia, Waltz and Seydoux shared a scene in “Ingourious Basterds” when she played one of the farm girls in the opening scene]

spectre

Also, if you’re afraid of drills you will squint a bit during one of the scenes between Bond and Oberhauser.

Moving on to the supporting cast…

Even though she’s underutilized, Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny does well and the banter between her and Bond is better than it was in “Skyfall.” Same goes for Dave Bautista’s Mr. Hinx, the main SPECTRE henchman. He gets a great introduction and proves he can beat the living crap out of Bond…but he only gets one friggin’ line of dialogue!

After picking Bautista as my favorite character in “Guardians of the Galaxy” I had hoped he’d get to philosophize more in “Spectre.”

The rest of the supporting cast, especially Ralph Fiennes’ M, have time to shine. I love how his M is a true jack-of-all-trades, fitting in naturally at government functions and yet excelling in the field, as well.

Andrew Scott, of “Sherlock” fame, plays an intelligence chief trying to dismantle the traditional spy program in favor of more drones and satellites and triumphs at playing a real tool.

“Spectre” also finds a way to reference previous characters that we miss, at one point name-dropping Jeffrey Wright’s Felix Leiter who I wish would come back again. Judi Dench’s M also makes a quick reappearance.

The theme by Sam Smith, titled “The Writing is on the Wall,” improves after listening to it multiple times but isn’t as catchy as the last three themes. The opening credit number also looks weird with the octopus imagery and borders on qualifying as tentacle porn.

One shot of a tentacle next to a woman even looks like concept art for Neil Blomkamp’s Alien movie.

If I could sneak in one final criticism, it’s that “Spectre” does suffer from an “Avengers: Age of Ultron” problem where the plot points feel a little too similar to the previous film. Bond follows up on a lead, goes somewhere else for a lead, confronts the bad guy at his lair and then has a final confrontation on Bond’s home turf (in this case London).

Not a perfect comparison, but it does feel like there’s a hint of “Skyfall” to this script.

From the box office perspective, “Spectre” has broken a few records in the UK (beating the average per screen take set by “The Dark Knight” and the best weekly take set by “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”) and is expected to open number one here in the states.

The only concern is that with such a huge price tag for the film (upwards of $300 million) that it could pull an “Amazing Spider-Man 2” and just be too expensive to make a solid profit. Both films were distributed by Sony.

Coming to a close, “Spectre” is a nice fit among the Craig films, showing off Bond’s spycraft instead of his destructive habits and leaves the door open for a cool take on the franchise.

If I had to give it a grade: B-

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