by Jordan Canahai
James Bond is back with a vengeance in Spectre, the 24th film in the legendary spy franchise, as well as the fourth (and possibly last) to star Daniel Craig as 007. Here, he reunites with director Sam Mendes, who also helmed the previous entry in the series, Skyfall. That Bond film ranks alongside From Russia With Love and Goldfinger as among the best in the series. Boasting a budget of $300 million and an all-star cast filled out by such distinguished actors as Ralph Fiennes and Christoph Waltz, how does Spectre compare to its predecessors?
Pretty good, I’d say. I always loved 007, and traditional fans of the series will appreciate how closely Mendes and the screenwriters stick to the classic Bond formula, even if Spectre shares the darker tone which has defined the series since the franchised was re-launched with Craig in Casino Royale. Spectre offers another globe-spanning, high-stakes adventure with plenty of action and espionage, one which finds Bond going rogue and disobeying orders from the newly-appointed M (Fiennes) to pursue a personal vendetta (sound familiar?). This time, he’s working to avenge the death of the former M, which leads him to uncovering a global conspiracy involving the shadowy, all-powerful criminal organization, SPECTRE, headed by a mysterious evil genius (professional bad guy Waltz, having lots of fun chewing scenery as only a classic Bond Villian can). His evil plot involves taking control of the world’s intelligence communities via political maneuvering to give the New World Order-esque cabal unlimited access to the top governments’ military and surveillance data, dismantling the traditional 00 program and effectively giving him the ability to manipulate world events in favor of his totalitarian agenda.
Despite the timely themes involving surveillance, terrorism, and drone warfare, Bond has never been about pushing a geopolitical agenda, but rather offering high-octane thrills through a combination of cool cars, high-tech gadgets, and healthy doses of sex appeal—all of which Spectre delivers. Craig continues to cement himself as the best Bond since Sean Connery. Equal parts brooding and sexy, his physical presence and wry sense of humor encapsulate everything that makes Bond a great character. The film also features two of the most beautiful actresses in the world, including the drop-dead gorgeous Lea Seydoux, both tough and vulnerable as Bond’s love interest, as well Monica Bellucci, whose role I wish had been expanded. The celebrated studio-director Mendes once again proves he does his best work as a genre specialist for-hire, handling the set pieces with expert confidence. Much of the movie seems to play as a greatest hits collection of Bond moments, which keeps the pace of the film moving briskly despite the overlong 148 minute runtime. The standout sequences include the film’s opening in Mexico city, in which Bond’s attempts to assassinate a high-profile target ends with a fight inside a helicopter, as well as a knock-down, drag out brawl on a train involving a massive henchman (pro-wrestler Dave Bautista of Guardians of the Galaxy fame).
In spite of (or perhaps because of) how closely this film attempts to duplicate what worked so well with Skyfall, right down to that film’s cinematography (this time provided by Interstellar’s Hoyte van Hoytema—who does an admirable job, admittedly, of mimicking the masterful compositions and use of lighting displayed by the legendary Roger Deakins in Skyfall)—Spectre ultimately doesn’t feel quite as full-blooded and joyous as the last Bond outing. It also doesn’t help that there’s some clunky attempts at tying the film’s back story into previous films in the series, or that Adele gave us a way better Bond song in Skyfall than Sam Smith does here. Still, fans of 007 are sure to enjoy this endeavor, and regardless of whether Craig or Mendes stick around, I’m interested to see the direction the series will go from here.
Watch the trailer for Spectre
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