After the disaster that was Skyfall (aka THE GREATEST BOND FILM OF ALL TIME!!!!!!!, per mainstream reviewers), a new adventure with our favorite British scoundrel didn’t really enthuse me all that much. But hey, it’s Spectre, so that’s something to look forward to. Since the Casino Royale reboot, we hadn’t heard anything from Bond’s prior evil nemesis group, despite the presence of a similarly structured organization in Quantum of Solace. The promise of seeing Spectre return boded well then, even if the awfulness of Skyfall did not.
Spectre (2015, PG-13) starts out in fairly conventional fashion. In a lot of ways, it follows the Bond formula quite well. Bond is charged with finding a target and killing him. Doing so entangles him in a web of international intrigue involving the aforementioned international criminal terrorist organization of Spectre. Throw in some topical current events issues of government surveillance, privacy, and the globalization of everything, and all the ingredients for an excellent show are present. It even makes a solid attempt to tie together the prior installments of the reboot. While all the ingredients are there, though, the chef still has to be able to prepare them properly.
Sadly, the chef in this case is Sam Mendes, who was also the architect of Skyfall. This makes for another case of lots of plot holes, out of thin air plot turns, and poor overall pacing. I don’t expect for James Bond movies to have plausible explanations for everything. Not hardly. I do expect for Bond films to have either self-awareness or at least effort to make an explanation. Mendes obviously disagrees with me. Somehow he has managed, yet again, to take a very basic and well-established formula for entertainment and maximize the weaknesses of all of said formulas.
Despite that, the performances were very good. People usually ask me why I focus so heavily in my reviews on the directing and acting. Well, geez, what else is there? The average viewer isn’t going to go see a movie for the cinematography. Anyways, I’ve always liked Craig as Bond. Ralph Fiennes takes over as M here and excelled, I thought. That’s a difficult thing, given that M has never really had to do much. That changes with Spectre. Finally, I thoroughly enjoyed Christopher Walz as Blofeld, despite the ludicrous circumstances injected into his character as the film proceeded down the home stretch. On the bad side, I just didn’t like Lea Seydoux as the female protagonist. The character was just boring, and yes, I realize I’m probably the only person who has said that.
Not surprisingly, Spectre doesn’t offer much in the way of Catholic ideas. Bond isn’t exactly known for that. Spectre tries to offer some analysis of what constant wrongdoing can do for the soul. After all, just because you’re doing something “For Queen and Country” doesn’t necessarily make it right. Whether Bond is fornicating his way to information or killing off some man/woman, he’s got a lot of baggage in that respect. That baggage makes it a struggle to offer introspection on the topic and the possible alternative of mercy, given that there still has to be enough screen time for more fornicating and explosions.
For content, there is the usual reboot depiction of sexual encounters (e.g. no real nudity, but plenty of other aggressive romantic contact). The language and violence are pretty much on par with the series as whole. In other words, it’s not Tarantino, but you can expect lots of folks to die.
Spectre is one of those occasions where I spent two-plus hours thinking, “There’s a really good movie in there somewhere.” It just isn’t well-executed. It certainly isn’t the massive disappointment of Skyfall, but it’s also nothing to write home about either. For a matinee price, it’s worth your time to watch for the impressive individual parts and scenes. Alas, the whole is far less than the sum of these. It could have been so much more.
Review by Throwback