Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci, and Léa Seydoux
Daniel Craig returns to the role of British spy James Bond for the fourth time in the twenty-fourth installment of the long running franchise. With director Sam Mendes taking the reins for the second time, previously crafting the exceptional “Skyfall”, the James Bond saga continues, this time with additional winks and nods to the past but still offering the usual structure of a new villain hell-bent on taking over the world amidst a bombardment of explosions and highly complicated maneuvers. In “Spectre” the excitement and action typified by the James Bond legacy is well intact, it starts with a “bang” and continues with even bigger “booms”. However at 148 minutes even the most extravagant setting and exciting action scene, which are prevalent here, can’t hide the lackluster and slow moving narrative that makes “Spectre” seem just like a typical spy film and not the spectacle that defines James Bond.
Bond (Daniel Craig) begins the film targeting a bad guy in one of the many exotic locales that will make appearances throughout the film. Followed in one long take through the streets, up an elevator, down a hall, and into a hotel room, the environment is established beautifully. An explosion annihilates a building and Bond barely escapes, but so does the bad guy. A chase ensues through crowded streets of people dressed in gorgeous Day of the Dead costumes and onto a helicopter. It’s a grand welcome to the beginning of the film. Director of Photography Hoyte Van Hoytema shot “Spectre” on 35mm, establishing a nostalgic atmosphere that works for many of the scenes.
Everything settles into the usual 007 routines, M (Ralph Fiennes) doesn’t want Bond to ruffle any more feathers, Moneypenney (Naomie Harris) is still the strongest and most steadfast companion for Bond, and Q (Ben Whishaw) quickly introduces Bond to high-tech gadgets and a stunning new Aston Martin equipped with more than just the standard “bells and whistles”. Bond’s new mission involves tracking down a man who is part of a global crime syndicate, an important missing link for Bond’s past.
The villain this time around is Academy Award winning actor Christoph Waltz, who is a fine addition to the Bond legacy of evil geniuses. Waltz, with his distinctive accent and gleefully menacing smile, is an amusing combination of attributes from past Bond villains. The intimidating presence of Dave Bautista, who plays an assassin tasked with killing 007, also adds to the formidability of the operation, especially so when Bond scrappily squares off against the forceful foe aboard a train.
Daniel Craig has grown more comfortable since “Casino Royale”, playing Bond in each film with increased humanity, at one moment on the verge of losing a fistfight or losing control of his calculated emotions. In “Spectre” Bond is somewhat more laid-back, given moments to show emotional intensity but also the playful debonair style that Bond is known for. Mr. Craig does this all with ease.
These characters all play their roles to the best of their ability; unfortunately the issue with “Spectre” comes mostly from a rambling narrative that is overlong by almost 30 minutes and filled with confusing transitions about global terrorism, environmental catastrophes, and political conspiracies in an attempt to create some kind of intriguing puzzle that mostly feels like filler between the action scenes. Still the action is frequent and some of the scenes are very well composed; an airplane/SUV chase through snowy mountains and a car chase through the streets of Rome are especially fun.
“Spectre” tries to be more like the 007 of the past but it struggles to execute throughout mostly because Daniel Craig is a different kind of James Bond. Mr. Craig has been adamant about not playing this character again but that doesn’t mean the franchise will end. The next James Bond will have large shoes to fill as Mr. Craig helped compose a 007 that was more than just a nice suit with a license to kill.
3.25 out of 5.00