Spectre (2015)

Directed by Sam Mendes

Contains spoilers.

When you make a movie as part of as heralded a franchise as that of James Bond then you've got a lot to live up to. Mendes has found acclaim at the helm of the previous Bond entry, Skyfall, but everything that makes Spectre a Bond film is also everything that's wrong with the film and the series in general.

Daniel Craig's fourth stint in the franchise continues soon after Skyfall. Bond is in Spain to stop a terrorist, Sciarra, but inadvertently sets off a bomb that levels an apartment building. The ensuing media frenzy, soon after MI-6's recent merger (downgrade with increased accountability and less operational freedom) with MI-5, makes the termination of the 00 program a very real possibility. Bond is put on what amounts to indefinite suspension, but still has leads that he needs to follow. He goes to Rome and ends up at a meeting that Sciarra was meant to attend where he's confronted by the leader of a mysterious organization. He runs and tracks down an ousted member of the organization, the Pale King, who can provide information, but only leads him to the Pale King's daughter, Dr. Madeleine Swann. After Swann is saved by Bond from some evil-doers she reluctantly agrees to help. Bond and Swann reveal a plot by the organization, named Spectre, to ruin Bond while simultaneously gaining control over most of the world.

The writing itself is laughable. Overall, the story makes sense and feels modern enough following other recent Bond films as it tackles government surveillance and spy work in the technological age. Beyond this, the dialogue is ridiculous and the film often feels like a parody of itself. How meta...

Mendes and writers Logan, Purvis, Wade, and Butterworth have molded a film made of nothing less than clichés, predictability, uncomfortable dialogue, odd characters, mediocre action, and a painful lack of both logic and reasoning. The sheer mountain of references and catering to the fans leaves little room for actual story or development; the redundant chase scenes and bits of action further dilute the movie; the ending extends for an unneeded 20 minutes; the remainder is hard-pressed to be good.

 

Despite bad writing Craig plays Bond well. In previous iterations he brings a sense of closeness to the spy but in Spectre Bond is less personal and more rugged. He has a mission to finish what M has started and he intends to follow through. Christoph Waltz, regardless of his character being largely wasted, plays Ernst Stavro Blofeld equally well, bringing his own mystery and foreboding air to the established villain. Léa Seydoux is somewhat wasted as the typical damsel in distress; it doesn't matter if she knows how to use a gun or helps in a single fight or throws a bomb because she spends the other 99% of her screen time being scared and needing help and rescue.

The action itself is scarce and unsatisfying: the first fight is quick-cut in a spinning helicopter and is more about the thrill than the fight; the obligatory car chase feels slow, like the heart just isn't in it and they couldn't come up with anything original so they've just written it off with attempts to make it humorous; the chase that's meant to be good is underwhelming and unbelievable, in a made-for-TV way; the fight against Bautista's hulking henchman, Mr. Hinx, is fast-paced, rough, and gritty but only lasts a couple minutes and ends laughably; Bond's escape from capture is meant to be exciting but a few gun shots is an effective way to pull you back out of the action and the Guiness World Record-sized explosion is a simple cop-out for a simple twist.

Hoyte van Hoytema's photography is great but nothing overly memorable. The soundtrack is often effective but also overzealous. It hits crescendos and changes in momentum and pitch without giving the material or mood a chance to breathe on their own, effectively forcing visuals to live by variations of the Bond theme. The movie is not entertaining; Spectre tries desperately to be thrilling by using established techniques but it feels like an old man trying to play rough sports with college kids, no amount of effort is going to make up for the age and James Bond certainly has a lot of age.

Mendes' latest [and possibly last] endeavor in the franchise is as far from the majesty of Skyfall as I am from being British royalty. It's a film of redundancy in which almost nothing makes sense. Sure, it's fun to see Bond fall in love but we don't need to see him, in search of information, seducing a woman for no reason beyond being flagrantly James Bond. It's great for Bond to be more modern but we don't need "Information is the future and 007 is the past" to be repeated every 10 goddamn minutes. Timed bombs have been effective in the past but Blofeld is supposed to be a genius villain who's been kept secret through his intellect, and still managing an international syndicate of Vatican-like proportions, so there's no reason he would use a timed bomb to kill Bond (except for the shitty excuse Waltz prattles off for us). And fuck subtlety, Blofeld explains his motivation for the audience in dazzling, monologue style.

The franchise that was once trendsetting and a source of inspiration for the action, thriller, and spy genres, as well as comedy efforts, is an unfortunate casualty of itself, as it tries desperately to stay relevant by relying on things that proved successful in the past and only look foolish now. Instead of trying to be original or different Spectre feels like the last wind of better days, trying to squeeze meaning out of the reminder of what made the franchise good in the beginning. Its true that Bond has always been suave and stylish but, here, James Bond and the James Bond franchise are officially too sleek, too perfect, too choreographed, and put Bond in a wardrobe that's just barely on the right side of fitting as all reason and logic are officially left in the dust.

 
 

TL;DR: Die hard James Bond fan? Then you'll be able to appreciate this movie. But throughout, I heard "Oh my god" and "Wow" several times around me in that disappointed and unbelievable kind of way. Bond, who once set a standard for spies in cinema, is now as cliché and predictable as every other movie in the genre. There are some good moments peppered throughout the 30-minutes-too-long movie but that's not enough to prop up $250 million. But if Mr. Hinx turns out to be the real Blofeld (and still alive) would this 150-minute disaster be worth it? No, it still wouldn't.

  • Acting – 17 / 20
  • Story – 3 / 20
  • Cinematography – 16 / 20
  • Soundtrack – 6 / 10
  • Entertainment Factor – 4 / 10
  • Spy/Thriller/Action – 5 / 10
  • Other – 0 / 10
 

Grade F = 51 / 100