Star Daniel Craig and director Sam Mendes return for another James Bond go-round with Spectre.
When Spectre opens, Bond has been grounded. The 00 program is on the chopping block as part of a spy services consolidation that could leave boss M (Ralph Fiennes) out of a job. Upstart C (Andrew Scott) is spearheading a push for global surveillance he claims makes Bond and his allies obsolete.
With covert support from Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), Bond undertakes a rogue mission on posthumous orders from the former M (Judi Dench in a video cameo). Bond picks up the trail of Spectre, a global criminal organization with its tentacles in any number of crimes and acts of terrorism. Along the way, he encounters Lucia (Monica Bellucci), the not-so-grieving widow of one Spectre assassin, and allies with Madeleine (Léa Seydoux), the daughter of another, who provides key information. Bond comes face-to-face with the head of Spectre (Christoph Waltz), an iconic Bond villain with a personal connection to the spy, as well as the architect of Bond’s miseries across the three prior movies.
Spectre does a lot right and includes many of the elements Bond fans require. There are impressive action sequences across a variety of international locales. A footrace through Mexico City ends in a fight in an out-of-control copter above a Day of the Dead celebration. A car chase through the streets of Rome is propulsive and impressive. There’s an outrageous plane vs. SUV showdown on a Swiss mountain; Bond’s brutal fight with Spectre enforcer Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista) on a train in Northern Africa; an explosive Spectre encounter in the African desert; a feverish sprint to escape a bomb in the ruins of the old 00 headquarters; and a final confrontation in the heart of London. Panoramic sweeps of beautifully filmed locales make for some first-rate travel porn.
The franchise’s trademark style is evident in Spectre. The clothes, the drinks and the dash of romance. Q provides any number of gadgets that also provide opportunities for conspicuous product placement. Theme song “Writing’s on the Wall” (sung by Sam Smith) play over an elaborate, trippy opening credits sequence. And there are all sorts of callbacks to classic Bond films. It’s a sleek and beautiful-looking movie.
The Spectre script (credited to John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth) makes a big effort to tie the events of the Craig-era movies into one big saga. Maybe too big an effort. Scenes where the villain explains things tend to go on too long and sap momentum. Length is a problem in general for Spectre. At almost 2 hours and 20 minutes, it’s overlong by a good 15 minutes or so. The inventive action sequences are full of zip and dash, propulsive and engaging. But the quieter moments aren’t quite as compelling and many feel repetitive. The trendy topic of global surveillance winds up mostly as a MacGuffin.
Craig is something of an enigma this time out. The actor has been candid about not enjoying making Spectre and that disconnect creeps into several scenes. Expanded and dynamic use of regulars like M, Q and Moneypenny helps alleviate that to some extent. Waltz was born to play a Bond villain, but doesn’t get enough screen time for fans to appreciate the full impact of his character. Seydoux makes a favorable impression as more than just a damsel in distress.
If Spectre doesn’t quite add up to the sum of its strongest parts, it’s still a pretty entertaining adventure. It hits most of the notes the Bond faithful could want. While it won’t convert newcomers, it’s a solid outing for existing fans.
Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on November 16, 2015.