Movie Review: Spectre

 

 spectrethree-and-one-half-stars-rating

 

PG-13  |  148 min

Director: Sam Mendes
by Jason Koenigsberg

Spectre is the James Bond movie that all of the previous Daniel Craig entries have been building towards. That does not mean it is the best Daniel Craig Bond, but where Skyfall (2012) left off with a lot of familiar characters and sets, Spectre picks up and delivers all of the franchise staples the audience expects. Unlike more recent Bonds, this celebrates the history and traditions and utilizes them well in the story.

It gets started off on the right foot from the opening moments. Finally, Daniel Craig gets one of his films to start off with the traditional 007 gun barrel opening to the classic rousing notes from the James Bond theme. We are then treated to a great pre-credits action scene in Mexico City that opens up with striking, bold shots of the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festivities. The cinematography of the opening scene and throughout the rest of the film is truly top notch featuring gorgeous classic wide shots that really take advantage of all of the on-location shooting in Mexico, London, Rome, Austria and Morocco. This is the second consecutive Bond film directed by Academy Award winner Sam Mendes and like Skyfall it is masterfully crafted.

Another tent pole of the 007 series is the music and Thomas Newman returns to score Spectre as he did Skyfall. His score is great and hits all the right notes during the big action scenes and the subtler dramatic moments. The Sam Smith theme song “Writing’s on the Wall” illustrates the British crooners incredible talent, but the song itself is just not catchy. It’s doubtful anyone will be humming the theme song on their way out of the theater, but the title sequence that accompanies the theme song is extremely well done and loaded with symbolism foreshadowing things to come in Spectre, as well as touching on moments from Craig’s previous Bond adventures.

Also like Sam Mendes’ Skyfall, the acting is particularly strong for a James Bond movie. Spectre boasts some of the best performances in franchise history and none more impressive than two-time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz. A villain in a James Bond movie is the part Mr. Waltz was born to play and he does not disappoint. Also very strong is former WWE wrestler Dave Bautista. He was a pleasant surprise in last years Guardians of the Galaxy and in Spectre he plays a Bond villain henchman like Robert Shaw in From Russia with Love (1963) crossed with Richard Kiel’s Jaws. Bautista even has a great fight scene on a train with Bond as Robert Shaw had with Connery back in their Bond film. I think time will prove that Bautista’s mostly silent and ruthless killer will be on par with the great evil henchmen like Shaw, Kiel and Harold Sakata’s Odd Job from Goldfinger (1964). The one complaint is that the main villains in Spectre do not get enough screen time. I wanted to see more of Waltz and Bautista and that is not saying that they have limited screen time, they were just that good I did not want their scenes in the film to end.

Another tradition Spectre excels in is with the Bond girls. Lea Seydoux is great as the main Bond girl and gives a mostly believable performance. Slightly even more compelling is Monica Bellucci, setting a record as the oldest Bond girl at age 51, but she looks beautiful, and in her small role she really leaves a strong impression making you wish she would come back and make an appearance later on.

The costumes are memorable especially Daniel Craig’s suits, Lea Seydoux’s dresses and all of the elaborate costuming that we see during the Day of the Dead pre-title sequence. There are subtle nods to the franchise throughout Spectre and one slightly obvious one involves Christoph Waltz where at one point he is dressed very similar to Sean Connery when he first meets Dr. No in the very first Bond film (remember Dr. No worked for SPECTRE). 

Spectre excels in the action scenes as well. They are all stellar achievements of camera techniques and very impressive stunt work. There are CGI effects but they are so well rendered with real action that they will mostly go unnoticed. One notable action scene involved a great car chase through Rome at night. Spectre delivers the pulse pounding and fun escapist action you expect from a James Bond film.

This 007 film tries to be culturally and politically relevant by tackling themes of voyeurism and globalization. It compares the evil SPECTRE organization led by Christoph Waltz with the British Intelligence Surveillance capabilities. The only weak points in Spectre are in a scene where James Bond is being tortured that felt too cruel and overlong. Also, and this is no fault of the movie itself, but the plot of Spectre is practically the exact same plot of this summers Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation. That should not be held against Spectre but it does feel redundant.

Overall, Spectre excels and delivers exactly what audiences should want from a James Bond picture and it was nice to see Daniel Craig finally get to enjoy all of the traditions that his previous 007 entries were building towards.

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