“Spectre” | Movie Review

Grade (B)

Flashes of greatness but unfortunately just mediocre throughout the bulk of the long run-time. 

Daniel Craig returns for his fourth outing as the martini sipping British Secret Service agent, and when he receives a cryptic message with a connection to his past he goes a rogue mission around the world in search for the answers.

I am a huge fan of the James Bond films and I have also been anticipating this movie since “Skyfall” was released in 2012. The trailers built this as yet another of the intricate espionage actions films that have made the Bond name iconic, and my excitement was high as sat back and watched Craig step into the frame for the signature gun barrel scene that opens the first-act.

The opening scene was beautifully shot (as was the entire film). The long, uncut shot panning over the ‘Day of the Dead’ festival provided yet another visually appealing location that would serve as the backdrop for the first major action set-piece. The action that would ensue was visceral, nail-biting, extremely ambitious in orchestration, and all perfectly captured with great cinematography, which only fueled my excitement more than it already was.

After an opening that has you on the edge of your seat, white-knuckling the armrests, the films pace and intensity took a dramatic swing. It was not long into the story-line one could sense it was not going to be the one of the best written Bond films. Also, coming from a person who wanted to like this movie, I can easily say there were moments throughout that rival the ludicrousness of some of the later Pierce Brosnan entries. For being a script that is somewhat predicated off three movies before it, the material seemed thin and incredibly convenient to get the story to turn the corners the writers wanted.

There was no development of the characters and even Daniel Craig as James Bond clearly seemed to be coasting through this one. The love dynamic with the character of Madeleine played by Léa Seydoux was laughable to the point it reached ridiculous, as the writers try to use their sudden love to pull the emotional heartstrings in the third-act. Like anyone could actually connect to the shallow relationship they, I guess built, during their sexual romp in a train car. It was about as well developed as the relationship between Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry’s characters in “Die Another Day”.

Villains are key to the success of films like these and while I had great expectations of what Christoph Waltz could bring to the this film, the script severely wasted him. To his credit every scene he was in was compelling and instantly made things more interesting, but for a bulk of the film he was absent and for the most part forgotten. It was to the point it felt like the writers themselves did not know how to write his character into the story-line so instead of giving him more time they opted for a silent, but hulking Dave Bautista to serve as a lumbering co-villain.

Do not get me wrong, I really enjoyed Bautista’s performance and he was fun during all of his action scenes but he was clearly nothing more than a top tier henchman, not the character the script tried to make him. “Casino Royale” and “Skyfall” both delivered solid antagonists and the fact those were the best two of Daniel Craig’s Bond entries is no coincidence. In my opinion Waltz was capable of delivering as impactful of a villain that Javier Bardem and Mads Mikkelsen portrayed but this script was not nearly deep enough to give him any chance.

There were some good moments in “Spectre”, the action was well shot, highly creative and everything you could want from another Bond film, when there was action actually going on. The fight-sequences were gritty, realistic and packed a great deal of velocity and they were adrenaline pumping to take in. The backdrops and locations were also perfectly suited for an international espionage film, yet again it all goes back to a rather lackluster story-line. I wanted so much more from it and in the end it really only delivers an adventure that will give you a great deal to take in visually, but not much to wrap your head around. Something that when missing, kept me being able to really build any connection to the characters, their motivations, thus failed to build any tension.

The third-act picked up a bit and tried to redeem itself but it was all for not after an extremely long film that seemed to focus on the less than interesting facets of the story, and simply took too long to tell itself. The film is highly polished, delivered some memorable action scenes, and all the style you would expect from Ian Fleming’s James Bond, but despite all these ingredients it was missing the one that could tie them all together, substance.

Overall “Spectre” had it moments, it was a solid action film albeit a long one, but for the being the 24th Bond film it was lacking that extra tier of quality we have all seen. Daniel Craig says he doesn’t want to play the titular character again and despite him being a fine actor, maybe it is for the better. Regardless of two extremely entertaining entries in his run of films, it may be time to make a change and revive the series, because after watching this one it clearly felt like all involved were going through the motions, and suddenly the series with Craig in the lead feels slightly on the stale side.

– Starring –

Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott

– Directed By –

Sam Mendes

Time: 148 min

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language)