Spectre (2015) Review:
James Bond films are somewhat event cinema. With a history that dates back to 1962, the series has developed success both critically and commercially, and the following that comes with it. More than that, the series has developed to the point where it has essentially become its own genre, with its own cliches and tropes.
You need the car, the gadgets, the monologuing villain, Q, M, and of course, the Bond girl. He’s gotta introduce himself like he’s in a job interview. He’s gotta order a drink to be shaken, not stirred. These are the things that make up a Bond movie. So essential are these elements that to not include them sounds like sacrilige. The problem is, at a certain point making a James Bond movie stops being a labour of love and feels more like a shopping list. A movie made of a checklist of prerequisites that doesn’t so much entertain is it does qualify.
With ‘Spectre’ it seems to be a little of both. The film kicks off with the usual opener, Bond on a mission, but this time it’s set in Mexico City on the Day of the Dead. The scene shows Bond covering up a loose end of Judi Dench’s M, which of course leads him into the main story. However, Bond has become somewhat a liability for his boss, Ralph Fiennes M. So of course, Bond pulls an Ethan Hunt and decides to go rogue with the aid of Ben Whishaw’s Q. With a brand new tricked out Aston Martin, more suits than you can count and a gleam in his eye, Bond sets off on a mission of his own, and tries to uncover the sinister plot that thickens in a somewhat convoluted form.
See, it’s not that the story of ‘Spectre’ is bad per se, it’s just that the execution of some of its plot points is distractingly poor. The things which move Bond along from point A to point B sometimes don’t feel very organic. Since this is the first time the organization Spectre has been at the filmmaker’s disposal, there’s a very glaring effort to tie it in with the rest of the Craig Bond films. What you end up getting is a retcon of sorts, that only ended up being confusing.
However, these sticky moments aside, I actually did like the main plot of Spectre. The mission itself is a fun one and takes the film to wide range of locations that gives it a sense of global threat. Bond spends time in Mexico City, Rome, Austria,Morocco and of course London. This makes the movie feel like its constantly evolving in scale but the mission never loses its sense of secrecy.
For all of the sticky moments there are quite a few fun ones. Ones that focus on the just how much of a ride the James Bond films can be. Craig is his least Craig in this film and feels more like the swinging one liner slinging Bond of eras past, but still retains his ice cold demeanour.
Aside from that the movie’s action is, well, not great. In the sense that it’s a mixed bag of set pieces. There’s the initial car chase between Dave Bautista’s Mr. Hinx which is expertly shot & edited, but devoid of tension. There’s the opening scene with a helicopter that has more loops than a vine and feels like part of it was shot on a sound stage. But then there’s the car chase which involves a plane barreling down the Austrian mountains and the fight scene which moves from one end of a train to the next. There are more set pieces that I liked than didn’t, but from a film franchise known for setting the bar of what can be done with stuntwork, particularly that of the vehicular variety, I was somewhat disappointed to say the least.
One thing that ‘Spectre’ has going for it, is its cast. As I said, Craig is a different Bond this time and evolves his performance naturally, but aside from him you have Dave Bautista of Guardians of the Galaxy fame playing Mr. Hinx. Mr. Hinx joins the esteemed club of Bond henchmen past with the likes of Oddjob and Jaws. His thing is implanted razor sharp thumbnails used to gouge out his enemies’ eyes. Charming. With the little you see him, his presence definitely threatens, mainly because Dave Bautista is built like a house but also the fact that he only says one word in the entire film speaks to his gravitas.
Aside from that the returning cast all settle into their roles organically. Q, M, and Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny make that first 1/3 of the film feel like this is a Bond film that fits with traditional Bond structure marvelously. Newcomers Lea Seydoux, Christoph Waltz and Andrew Scott all do well in their roles, no matter how undefined their roles may be. Waltz in particular is a definite standout, the only problem is you don’t see enough of him really, which would have been fine, except when he’s not on screen you kind of forget that he’s supposed to be the driving force of this film.
I should close out by saying that, this is by no means a bad film. It’s very well put together, some of the shot composition and cinematography are just awe inspiring. The score is brilliantly executed and all in all I did like the movie more than I didn’t. The problem is it just doesn’t reach the mark of a great movie. As it stands I can’t say that I wouldn’t recommend you go to see it in theatres, it’s definitely worth a watch, but I wouldn’t exactly say you should rush to catch it on the big screen. For a movie that’s supposed to be somewhat of a worldwide event, and a great spy movie, it somehow ranks at not even the best spy film of this year alone.
Rating: Half Price