Movies: Spectre

Featuring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Lea Seydoux
Directed By: Sam Mendes
Written By: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth from the characters created by Ian Fleming
Columbia/MGM, 2015
PG-13; 148 minutes
1.75 stars (out of 5)

Daniel Craig is my favorite Bond. Or really, I prefer the semi-realistic style of the Craig movies to the camp of previous incarnations. But when I look at the three previous films, I have to admit I only liked two of the three. Really enjoyed Casino Royale, yawned through Quantum of Solace (and even on attempts to re-watch it, I can't enjoy it), and despite all its flaws I loved Skyfall. So maybe we were due for a down.

Which isn't to say Spectre is a bad movie. It's . . . okay. It seems largely pasted together from known Fleming novels and characters. Here a little Live and Let Die, there a bunch of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, all repackaged for a modern audience.

And yet the modernity may be the problem. In today's world, spying is more a game of information—who knows what and when—versus the romantic idea of having a man "behind the lines." And that's central to the plot of Spectre: Is the 00 program antiquated? Is it necessary now that we can gather intelligence in so many other ways? In Spectre, Bond and his cohorts face dismantling as shiny new initiatives are put into place. And the writers wrestle with having to make intelligence gathering exciting.

Here is my chief beef with the film: It wasn't fun. Barring perhaps the opening scene (there's a reason I don't like helicopters), the action in this movie is subpar to what I've come to expect from the Craig-as-Bond franchise. The car chase was (dare I say it?) boring. The fight on the train was so edited that I couldn't feel any tension for it. There is no real fight in the baddie's HQ. And as Bond races through a building set to implode, again . . . I just didn't feel the tension I wanted and needed to feel.

There were also some glaringly bizarre things that distracted me from the movie. Like, does Bond just keep M's video queued up on his TV so it will play when he turns the TV on? (Okay, okay, maybe he had it all ready to go because he planned ahead to show it to Moneypenny. But still.) Why wasn't the smart blood/vital signs thing put to better use? Q et al should have been able to see Bond was being tortured, right? And why were there no drops of blood on that white shirt when we saw the needle drip? Also, why the big subterfuge with the Mexican woman—that is, why go all the way back to her hotel room when he could have just followed the bad guy directly? I know they wanted to track and reveal—I mean, I know artistically why—but my mind snags on the lack of logic.


I had issues with C being a knowing compatriot of Blofeld. I think it would have had more impact to have him just be a separate obstacle to overcome, just a symbol of "progress" taken to an extreme. I had issues with Hinx (Dave Bautista) speaking that last line when it would have been stronger to have him say it all with his expression. I had issues with Bond not killing Blofeld (even though I do understand he was fulfilling Mallory's earlier statement about "a license not to kill"). In fact, I don't quite understand why Bond didn't put a bullet in Hinx's head at the car accident, either, just to be sure. Maybe I'm cold, but I would have done.

And you can't tell me, no matter how late it is, that there are no cars on the road in Rome. It's fucking Rome. I've been there. People are out all the time. Same for Waterloo Bridge in London. I was just there, guys, and there are people out all the time. And this is, what, midnight or thereabouts? There would have been hundreds of people crowding that scene.

The stuff that was supposed to be funny, like the Italian man in the Fiat (so, yes, there was one car on the road in Rome)? Again, totally pulled me out of the movie. Wasn't funny, just made me think, Why? If they were trying to call back to the whimsy of earlier films, it didn't work. Craig's Bond doesn't do whimsy.

I also didn't buy the romance between Bond and Swann. And I'm still wondering if Estrella called Felix and got somewhere safe. I dunno, but this movie left me weirdly unfulfilled.

HOWEVER. There are some good things. I really liked the music (barring the Sam Smith song, which I think is too . . . something . . . for a Bond theme). And I like that they gave Q and Moneypenny more to do. And I like that Mallory (the new M, yes, but I didn't want to confuse him with the M video on Bond's TV) goes a bit rogue and takes Q and Moneypenny and Tanner with him. I would've loved more of that and less of Bond and Swann, truthfully. I want to see M kick ass more often.

So yeah, I don't know. I was underwhelmed. I go to a James Bond movie to be entertained—highly entertained. This one didn't quite reach that mark. I feel like the cast was brilliant but the story was thin. I also felt like Christoph Waltz needs pants that cover his ankles when he sits down, and I didn't get that either. This one fell short all around.


Christine Rains said...

Thanks for the review. I will likely skip seeing this one in the theatre. I like seeing Bond on the big screen, but if I'm going to sit for over 2 hours for a movie, it can't bore me.

M said...

Well, Scott really enjoyed it a lot. He says he liked it more than Skyfall and was glad Spectre picked up threads from the old movie. He wasn't sorry it didn't surprise him. I just . . . I wanted it to be clever, and in the end I didn't find it to be. So you may not find it boring. I just wasn't wowed.