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Review: 'SPECTRE' (2015) Dir. Sam Mendes

Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci, Andrew Scott, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear and Jesper Christensen

A defining criminal organisation returns to the 007 universe, not having been seen since 1971s 'Diamonds Are Forever'...


Returning from Mexico City after carrying out an assassination of a hitman, James Bond (Craig) is grounded by M (Fiennes) for his reckless actions as the Joint Intelligence Service merges MI5 and MI6 into one intelligence group, aiming to close down the outdated 00 section.


But Bond is following a trail thanks to an engraved octopus ring and a name; ‘The Pale King’. Enlisting the help of Moneypenny (Harris) and Q (Whishaw), Bond goes off the grid to Rome and the very heart of a sinister organisation that has links to global terror attacks; SPECTRE.


Bond finds help from one man he once tried to kill; Mr White (Christensen) who, for a price, gives him the location of his daughter Madelaine Swann (Seydoux). Bond must convince her to help him find the leader of SPECTRE, Franz Oberhauser (Waltz), a man who has a personal connection to 007 that will shed new light on the pain of his past and the pain yet to come…

Overall this film, personally, was more enjoyable than ‘Skyfall’. While it has strong points and weak points, as all the Bond films do, this felt like it was Craig’s first “classic” James Bond. Yes, we don’t need to repeat the nostalgia of the past, but we can’t deny there is a winning formula audiences want to see from their 007 regardless of the actor of the era. And those elements are there more so than before; the established mission, a memorable villain and henchman, the Bond girls, the car chase, the stunts, the action, the Vodka Martini.


Daniel Craig finally shows us his established James Bond 007 here. Teased over 9 years and so close to getting there in ‘Skyfall’, here in ‘SPECTRE’ he uses everything he’s learnt before to be a Bond we cheer for, laugh with and feel for. It’s like the past incarnations of Connery, Moore and Dalton come through Craig’s performance. He is more laid-back, witty and confident in situations, but also still a cold-blooded assassin who is vulnerable. Some moments you may see as striking for his interpretation, like for instance his Bond is still reckless and at times a loose cannon and a heavy drinker, but then this is something new and an established character since 2006.

Sadly, 'SPECTRE' is a film with faults that, the more you look into it, the more they become apparent.

It's annoying that both Christoph Waltz and Andrew Scott are given so little to do and be great villains was also a big shame. Much of the film's villain is Mr Hinx, who pops up now and then but doesn't serve much except to cue the action sequences. The villain seemed to be the shadows, and the "unknown" mastermind, but this wasted so much talent and I found myself bored waiting for the reveal of Blofeld and for C to be allowed to be as nasty as he should have been able to be earlier on. Even the London finale bored me - drawn out, gloomy, lacking tension, repetitive music, an awful CGI Brosnan style MI6 jump and a rushed helicopter takedown...bring back the Golden Gate Bridge for me!


A forced love story, very little consequences in the action (hardly nobody bleeds or suffers after torture or a beating), a very boring car chase, a wasted Monica Bellucci and a soundtrack that reminded me about 'Skyfall' and didn't have the action on screen to compete with it. I just felt disappointed and left feeling robbed of what could have been a better film, a better Bond outing, and a better turn for Daniel Craig who comes across more of a thug here who doesn't know what he wants in life, as well as having a very wiry face at times that shows he's not aging the best sadly to keep Bond current.


I'm shocked myself at these feelings, being a hardcore 007 fan, but when I put a Bond film on at home I want to be entertained. Not subjected to a drawn-out 2.5hr slog where things are getting more and more serious and losing the ability to escape in Bond's world. And I know times change, and the series has to grow, I accept that more than anyone, but I can find films that entertain and enthral me from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s over 'SPECTRE', so this doesn't mean you have to be modern and cutting edge at the sake of plot, Bond-qualities and enjoyment.

While it may not be the Bond for everyone, it certainly is the Bond for the masses who pulls in over $1b at the box-office aged 50 years old. Now aged 53, the franchise shows no signs of stopping. Sam Mendes puts his ‘Skyfall’ stamp over this, with a comfortable look and feel with a crew who showcase everything needed from costume, to set design and editing to make this a sharp looking film full of suspense, drama and romance. It’s a continuing story on the whole, and so it’s nice to have a family who started this new “era” back in 2006 and newcomers since 2012 all here for the ride.


For each location used, director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema expand on what makes each one come alive. The jaw-dropping Day Of The Dead celebration in Mexico City. The architecture of Rome. The frozen plains of Austria. The sun-baked landscape of Morocco. The playground of British Governments in London.


There's no globe-trotting for 2 hours, but a few select choices that are fully used to deliver a rich experience, which each setting lending to the narrative. The cinematography delivers just as much here as it did in ‘Skyfall’, maybe not as picturesque Roger Deakins, but still letting you see and appreciate these gorgeous locations and what they all offer to us as viewers and to Bond traversing them

 

As said, on the whole this has good and bad points. I didn’t find a problem with the pacing at all compared to ‘Skyfall’, and some may say the personal links don’t work but in the wider scheme of things they do, and thanks to the acting talent it all comes across in a way that just makes sense. Nothing is shoe-horned in.


Well, almost nothing. The relationship between Bond and Swann, the crux of this story and the basis of the title song itself, felt rushed and under-developed. I didn’t invest in their outcome as much as I did with Bond and Vesper in ‘Casino Royale’. Granted, Eva Green really owned her part and Léa Seydoux does hers convincingly, but on the whole I couldn’t buy it. Words are said and actions taken that come across as nothing but the result of rash decisions and forced hands. And this leads to my other main irk; the finale. Once we hit London we get into a more familiar “race against time” scenario to stop the evil plan, but once a certain button is pushed (literally) it loses its way for me personally.


It gets a little noisy and a little under-whelming and happy with the CGI. I’d have preferred the finale to take place in Morocco between Bond and Oberhauser, but for sentimental value to link everyone and everything it had to be London. And the closing few minutes didn’t sit with me at all – I don’t know how to take it or what to make of where it’s going now, and I didn’t really want the things I don’t feel we need; blaring brassy James Bond theme and a big nod to the 1960s again. If anything, can we move on from that aspect as well as the personal agenda now? It’s the one thing I can’t stand now; it’s too much a sickly nod to the past.

It’s been done. Let’s move on. But, saying that, I don’t know where they will move on to with the ending of this as. Watching it a second time however, a certain character coupled with a certain few shots that he sees makes me think we may have another personal vendetta in Bond 25. 

So on the whole, a fitting return to more of the welcome 007 traits of the past presented for a modern generation. It’s funny, it’s emotive, it’s brutal and nasty (the sound of drills echoes in my mind). I only hope we can have more from this current family of Bond cast and crew because they’ve ended one journey but started another that I want to see progress. This is solid entertainment, and it’s finally found the right combination of new and classic elements to make something fresh.


However I did still enjoy the blistering pre-title sequence and our continued cast of MI6 characters. The film does look good, and for the first half has a lot of positive tension, drama and development to it but it does lose it's way sadly.  I felt the urgency to re-visit 'Casino Royale', 'Skyfall' and even 'Quantum Of Solace' to get back into a point where Daniel Craig delivered, some of the stories were engaging, and these films didn't feel like a huge personally motivated chore to watch for a wasted outcome that just left me feeling unsatisfied.


And the fact Daniel Craig's Bond still feels the need to bow out every film pretty much with a glaringly obvious "I'M STILL JAMES BOND, REMEMBER! THIS IS THE SERIES YOU LOVED BEFORE 2006!" statement, be it the illogical use of the once destroyed Aston Martin DB5 or the loud James Bond theme...we know it's James Bond. Stop trying to remind us and end every film like it could be the last.

A positive start soon leads to a drawn-out and unbalanced climax with empty characters there for the sake of it, forcing Daniel Craig's 007 on a journey far too convenient and personal.




'SPECTRE' is an EON Productions production


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