dir. Sam Mendes
written by: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth
starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott
3 out of 4 stars
Opening with an impressive, explosion fueled sequence is a mainstay of Bond films. James Bond, our ever martini filled, womanizing, tuxedo clad secret agent, parachutes in to assassinate, defuse, detonate, or suave his way to mission completion, much of the time landing a sexy time partner for dessert. Spectre opens with sweeping cinematography by Interstellar DP Hoyt can Hoytema follows Bond through Dia de los muertos in Mexico City wearing a skeleton tux and followed by his gorgeous masquerading date. What transpires opens the film to great promise, showcasing the spectacular history of Bond’s world travels with the added bonus of exceptional special effects. Followed by Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall” among a gold and black cephalopod montage of shirtless Daniel Craig and the destruction laying in his trilogy’s past. The film following has a serious beginning to follow.
Craig’s fourth Bond film is what one expects from a Bond film. 007 locates a villain amidst his evil doings. Along the way, he locates a gorgeous woman connected to the bad guy, and they embark to save the woman’s life and take down a major villain. Along the way, henchmen try to upset their heroics, but ultimately they overcome the evil doings with sexy one upsmanship.
Spectre is not as well crafted as Skyfall or as sexy as Casino Royale, but the movie finds itself among the better Bond movies. Dragging only slightly, Bond must escape certain demise numerous times without the ridiculous history Bond finds himself–invisible cars, never again. Daniel Craig as Bond continues to be enjoyable, as he hasn’t returned to emo-Bond from Quantum of Solace. Lea Seydoux makes a lovely Bond girl, gorgeous as usual with a fierce demeanor that her lines requested. Most stunning, Seydoux’s wardrobe is spectacular, with the green dress on the train highlighting all her sexiest attributes.
Two things were notable about this venture: the prominence of backstory and the ensemble’s participation. Despite the focus on Bond, this movie chose to dive into the man’s origin before the license to kill. In a history lacking character development in the present, developing an origin story with even the slightest details provides additional storytelling growth introduced heavily, and more cohesively, in Skyfall regarding Bond and M’s relationship.
The ensemble cast is also given bits to chew on. Ralph Fiennes, the new M, gives a physical performance reminiscent of his Schindler’s List past, without being pure evil. Much like all his roles, he draws attention with his sharp eyes, dashing appearance, and commanding persona. Naomi Harris, the newest Moneypenny, lacks the substantial role from Skyfall but maintains the almost-agent-turned-secretary role with still more action than her predecessors ever saw. My personal favorite was Ben Whishaw’s Q. As the quartermaster of the Snowden age, Whishaw matches a mild demeanor with shear brilliance. Every move he makes is as well organized as a man controlling massive quantities of arms should have. Both smart and resourceful, Whishaw appears the most human and most likeable of the MI-6 crew.
The villains are exceptional as well. Building off of this recognizable cast, Dave Bautista of pro-wrestling and Guardians of the Galaxy gains henchmen duties. Where he manages significantly less lines, this role is still better than anything The Rock has done in over a decade. Massive and agile, Bautista is certainly no one I want to encounter in a dark alley. Christoph Waltz brings the real story. After the buzz of seasoned badguy Javier Bardem in Skyfall, the increasingly evil foes of Mr. Bond chose one of the greatest villains of the modern era to take the head of Spectre. Leaving the giant grin of his Nazi past, Waltz fits into the suit wearing lineup of men trying to destroy 007. He is a smooth leader of a giant syndicate, and he holds a remorseless face through bullets and boardrooms.
Watching Spectre after binging its predecessors left me with a fresh perspective on the film in the Bond universe. Despite overreaching for Bond’s origins, the movie was an above average action film with a very likable cast. Sharing some of the artistic excellence of Skyfall, Sam Mendes final Bond showcased his talents in adding to the franchise, clearly aided by an accomplished team. Thomas Newman’s score blended his original score with the Bond themes that create Pavlovian desires for gin martinis. Hoyt van Hoytema frames each shot precisely never losing the action, and editor Lee Smith ties the shots with the similar clean hand used on his Oscar nominated work in The Dark Knight. This talented group of filmmakers and the star studded cast came together to create one of the better Bonds. For those interested, I would place the Bond film at #10 of 24, right after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and before Tomorrow Never Dies.