Spectre Review

Posted: November 9, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

spectre posterWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

In 2012, the 23rd official James Bond adventure Skyfall came out to a ton of positive reviews, huge box-office, and in the midst of “Bondmania” celebrating the 50th anniversary of the franchise. I was one of the many who sang the film’s praises but looking back, I was clearly blinded by the hype. I still like Skyfall a lot, but it isn’t the great film I used to think it was. The writing has a lot of problems, but more frustrating, the film almost seemed embarrassed to be a Bond film. The script seems to constantly want to outsmart the series and the allusions to Bondian tradition felt like forced fan-service. As a Bond fan, I want the series to embrace its roots, not shun them. I’m all for modifying the character for the times, and I should also stress that I love 2006’s Casino Royale, but I also want James Bond to be James Bond. This is why Spectre, though far from perfect, is exciting.

After taking an unofficial mission in Mexico, secret agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) discovers a ring with a suspicious symbol belonging to a crime lord. Bond suspects that the symbol denotes a greater criminal organization and soon finds his suspicions are correct. Bond’s investigation brings him back into contact with Jack White (Jesper Christensen), a fugitive who had dealings with the secret organization. White points Bond to White’s daughter, Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), who knows enough to aid 007. The two engage in an action-packed investigation as a mysterious villain (Christoph Waltz) lurks in the background. Meanwhile, a merger of MI5 and MI6 threatens to destroy the double 0 program, despite the efforts of M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw), and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris).

As a dedicated Bond fan, the biggest joy from Spectre comes from how the film embraces the series tropes. This feels like a Bond film through and through. The gun barrel opening, pre-credit action sequence, musical credits, deformed and mute henchman with severe physical strength, multiple Bond girls, evil villains meeting in secret, big action sequences, humour, the Bond theme, and interactions with the likes of Q, M, and Moneypenny. Unlike Skyfall, which referenced the series as either overt fan-service or to undercut the series, Spectre simply embraces the Bond formula and proceeds. The film also incorporates the elements which have come to define the Craig era. There is still an emphasis on the emotional toll the action has on Bond and the tone maintains some grit, but it uses this in conjunction with the series’ charms.

Much as I am thrilled to see a James Bond movie comfortable being a Bond movie, Spectre does have a lot of problems. The central issue is the plot, which is very thin and simultaneously flimsily held together. One might say this is true of most Bond films, but the problem is exasperated here by the amount of “plot scenes” and the films long running time. Additionally, the subplot involving the potential cancellation of the double 0 program struck me as repetitive after Skyfall dealt with similar material. However the biggest problem comes in the writing of Christoph Waltz’ villain. First off, the producers’ decision to keep the character’s identity a mystery is really pointless. Any Bond fan worth their salt will know EXACTLY who this is and trying to make it a reveal is totally unnecessary. What’s worse, the film gives he and Bond a past connection which struck me as cliché, pointless, and kind of dumb. The film could have spent this time developing the character and his current goals, which would have been better. To Waltz’ credit, he’s entertaining in the role, I just wish the villain be better written.

Despite the writing problems, Spectre is largely saved by director Sam Mendes, who keeps the film entertaining and engaging throughout. Like Skyfall, the cinematography is once again a highlight. Hoyte van Hoytema’s work may not be as showy as his predecessor Roger Deakins, but it is quite good and blends with the film well. The music here is also quite good. The Bond theme is used effectively (though still sparingly) and Thomas Newman’s original score works well. I’m not totally crazy on Sam Smith’s vocals for the opening song “Writing’s on the Wall”, but the instrumental arrangement and lyrics are strong. Also the opening visuals are pretty good. Finally, the film is full of fun action sequences. The highlights are the opening Day of the Dead scene, a car chase through Rome, a brutal fist fight in a train, and a climactic ticking clock scene.

Most of the response for Spectre has had an air of disappointment. All told, this probably is inferior to Skyfall as a film, but as Bond fan, there’s a real thrill in seeing James Bond be James Bond on screen. It’s been a long time since the series has just been allowed to be itself and I’m glad it’s back. Does that mean I’m blind to the film’s flaws? Hell no. I really wish the plotting could have been tighter and the decisions regarding the villain in particular baffle me. These hurt the film, but they don’t ruin it. This is still an exciting and entertaining blockbuster which works for those seeking blockbuster thrills, and for long time series fans.

B

Comments
  1. Damien Riley says:

    Nice review. I’m glad to hear “Bond is Bond.”

  2. Dan O. says:

    Good review Dan. It’s a fine movie. However, compared to Skyfall, it’s definitely paling in comparison.

  3. A B’s a pretty accurate grade, in my opinion. Wasn’t nearly anything at Skyfall’s caliber, but it was still a pretty enjoyable Bond movie.

  4. brikhaus says:

    This was an accurate review, although I really feel it’s more a C-grade Bond film compared to the others. The only thing I will definitely disagree with you about is the cinematography. As I mentioned in my review, the whole goddamn movie brown, and looks boring as hell. Van Hoytema did a terrible job, especially coming after how beautiful Skyfall looked.

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