Movie Review: SPECTRE
The MPAA has rated this PG-13
Sony, via the union of Columbia Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer give us “Spectre”. This is the 24th movie in the James Bond franchise of films, or 26th if you include “Casino Royale” and “Never Say Never Again”. Daniel Craig is 007 for the fourth time. The criminal organization of SPECTRE returns from the other stories featured in past Bond pictures. The letters of SPECTRE signify Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion.
Director Sam Mendes is back from the previous Bond picture, “Skyfall”, and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema lights the classic Bond look in a way that will please fans. This movie was shot entirely digitally. Just as in the shift from film to digital, the story centers around the push to eliminate real members of Her Majesty’s Secret Service in favor of digital surveillance with technology. Plans are in the works to tie all nations security systems into one general surveillance service. Actor Andrew Scott plays “C”, the instigator of this new order of watchfulness. Early in the picture “C” breaks the news to “M”, played by the always elegant Ralph Fiennes, that his days and that of the 00 agents are at an end. You may well imagine how that goes over.
This seems not to affect our hero Bond, James Bond, who we first see on a mission of his own in Mexico City, during the pageantry of Dia de los Muertos as he tracks a killer with links to SPECTRE. Following a spectacular building destruction, huge crowd scenes of the costumed revelers, and some fine helicopter acrobatics, Bond gets his man, only to find that it turns out to be a lead to Rome.
Don’t all roads lead to Rome?
Bond is witness to a secret international meeting of the all powerful SPECTRE, the Illuminati of international crime world, but is singled out in the room by this movie’s top villain, Herr Oberhauser, played with calmness by Christoph Waltz. With clever and typical derring-do, Bond wiggles his way out and makes his sudden departure in the pride and joy of the Aston-Martin firm of motor makers; a car just for Bond, the Aston Martin DB 10, of which only 10 cars were made.
Bond now must find Oberhauser, for he suspects a connection between his nefarious plans and that of “C” back at MI6. Of course, his adventures lead him past many faces (and more) of beautiful women, beginning in Rome, then eventually Austria where he finds Madeleine Swann, played by lovely Léa Seydoux.
On board the Orient Express, Bond and Swann move from the wagon-lit to the dining car where we see a moment of calm before a typical Bond movie interruption; This movie’s tough henchman, Hinks, played by Dave Bautista, who you may remember from “Guardians of the Galaxy”, attacks Bond relentlessly, channeling “Oddjob” from “Goldfinger”. There’s a nice tip of the hat in this scene to a moment in “Jaws”, but with similar shaped objects all in a row being pulled overboard (or in this case, off the railroad car) one by one. It just might spell Hink’s demise, but you’ll have to see it to find out.
With all of the great expense lavished on each of the Bond movies, and this is no exception, you’d think we’d have a hit on our hands. The fantastic photography, stunts and beautiful international settings don’t bring this 007 to life. This movie falls flat. The story wanders lightly from one event to the next. The characters are not developed to the point where you want to hate them or like them.
The only exception, where the movie has some lightness deftly handled, are the scenes featuring actor Ben Wishaw as “Q”, a role he recreates from the last Bond release, “Skyfall”. As the nerdy MI6 gadget guy who has dependent cats, he offers some charm in a movie that is slick without substance. We don’t even get the cleverly named Ian Fleming type Bond girls, aside from Miss Moneypenny.
The best line of the movie comes from Oberhauser as he tells of the many women in Bond’s life by saying “a long line of pretty faces on your way to death” I’ll paraphrase that and say: after a long line of excellent 007 movies, this one dies an unfortunate death. Perhaps they should not have started the picture with “Dia de los Muertos”. I was shaken, not stirred by this Bond offering. Too bad, they can be so fun! In IMAX and standard screenings throughout the nation.