James Bond is back for his 24th adventure. He’s faced every secret terrorist and power-hungry mad man and singlehandedly brought them down. Now, he’s going to face one again.
The villainous organization, Spectre, is back in the focus in the Bond series and has apparently been making waves in Bond’s life. Soon after the events in Skyfall, Bond has been tracking down everyone seemingly involved in the conspiracies surrounding him. This rogue attitude is not taken too well by his superior M (Ralph Fiennes), who is trying to keep MI6 afloat after announcement that MI5 is taking over for the outdated 00 agent program.
So, it’s up to Bond to go rogue again and find out who sits at the top of the organization that has haunted him throughout his espionage career.
The villain this time around is the typically great scene-chewing Christoph Waltz. He plays Franz Oberhauser, the puppeteer behind Spectre. He is a great actor that plays evil well, even when it’s more than obvious. He is largely absent from the movie until the final third, where he gets plenty of time to monologue like an old fashioned Bond villain.
The brawny villain we see for the majority of the movie is Hinx (Dave Bautista), a mostly mute hulking assassin with sharp fingernails. It’s a James Bond movie, did you expect anything less? His role in the movie is to chase James Bond from unique location to location and provide the threat that precedes every close call.
Daniel Craig’s run on Bond is far different than what’s come before. There are far fewer gadgets or bad puns. His Bond is a brute mostly grounded in realism. Skyfall brought a good balance to the series, with a grounded modern story mixed with enough throwbacks to feel like classic Bond. Since Skyfall, we’ve seen a number of love letters and homages to old spy movies with Kingsman and Man from UNCLE, and it feels like Spectre is trying to keep up. You have to wonder if they wanted to be so faithful to a ’60s Connery movie, that they threw plot out the window of an underwater submarine.
The first act is nearly perfect. The opening scene set in Mexico during Day of the Dead stands among the classic Bond openers. Even from there, where Bond makes his way into a secret Spectre meeting, it will never lose your attention. It’s not until Bond goes globe-trotting that the movie starts to get into the “I’ll just accept this because it’s a Bond movie” territory. The locations are beautiful and director Sam Mendes sets up every scene with patience and brings the viewer right in. However, there’s a lot of convenience about it. Now, convenience works for the Bond movies. They are basically comfort food at this point. But, there’s a problem when convenience becomes cliche.
Am I being too hard on a spy movie? Probably. However, I couldn’t invest myself into it. The pacing is incredibly uneven, the action is largely uninspiring and some elements are just too hard to swallow.
The Bond girl, Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) is one of the worst in recent memory… Okay, I’m remembering the Brosnan days and I take that back. Her character is basically a love-sick puppy who has occasional mood swings. It just didn’t fit. One thing I loved about Skyfall is that the Bond girl was basically M (Dame Judi Dench).
Here is what there is to like in Spectre. Hardcore fans may enjoy the not-so-subtle Easter eggs about the history of the franchise. There is plenty of action, both silly and intense. There is more humor than both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace combined. Also, Daniel Craig still manages to be one of the best Bonds.
On the downside, Spectre feels like retread of a place that fans have already been. The plotting is a mess and shows that there may not have been an ending in place when initial shooting started. Oberhauser claims that he and Spectre have haunted Bond from the beginning, but gives little reference to how they actually ruined his life. In many ways, much of Spectre feels shoehorned into putting a cap on Craig’s Bond run. C+