Movie Review: Spectre

Official Tagline: A cryptic message from the past leads James Bond (Daniel Craig) to Mexico City and Rome, where he meets the beautiful widow (Monica Bellucci) of an infamous criminal. After infiltrating a secret meeting, 007 uncovers the existence of the sinister organization SPECTRE. Needing the help of the daughter of an old nemesis, he embarks on a mission to find her. As Bond ventures toward the heart of SPECTRE, he discovers a chilling connection between himself and the enemy (Christoph Waltz) he seeks.

Written by: John Logan, Jez Butterworth, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
Directed by: Sam Mendes

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

As you know, I am a huge James Bond fan and considered to be a leading authority on the films, novels and the phenomena that is Ian Fleming’s James Bond OO7. I didn’t do a review when Spectre first opened, because unlike many “critics”, I do not like to give plot spoilers and it is difficult to discuss Spectre without giving at least a few plot elements away. With all that being said, The DVD release of Spectre is February 9th, here in the USA, Digital HD Download already available and since I’ve seen the film three times now; I thought it might be a good time to discuss the film. Warning! There will be PLOT SPOILERS ahead.

I enjoyed Spectre quite a bit. Even a lesser Bond film is still a pretty good movie, just look at the Roger Moore era to see how that is true and Spectre is one of the better Bond films. That is not to say that Spectre doesn’t have some problems, but taken as a whole, it is a very enjoyable Bond film.

The famous gun barrel walk is finally back at the beginning of a Bond film where it should be and is that kick start that only a Bond film can give an audience. The pre title sequence is set in Mexico City during the Day of the Died celebration and is an exciting, tension filled and action packed set piece. There are moments where you are wondering how no one was killed while filming the stunts. The sequence would have to rank as one of the top five Bond pre title sequences and has the audience raring to go into the main titles. I do kind of miss the pre title sequences of the Connery and Moore years, where they were a wrap up of another mission and not directly related to the main story. I always felt that I was getting like a story and a half out of one movie. I do understand that it gets the story started much quicker if the pre title is directly related to the main story, but I still feel a little cheated out of that other mission somehow.
The main titles are once again directed by Daniel Kleinman and produced by Framestore studio and are very impressive. I could have done without images from previous Craig films, but it goes along with the main story. I wasn’t a big fan of the title song“ Writing on the Wall” by Sam Smith when I heard it online, but it works very well with the title images and I have to say I like it much more now. All and all a very imaginative and good looking title sequence.

The main story begins with James Bond [Daniel Craig] being reprimanded by M [Ralph Fiennes] for his rogue actions in Mexico City. We are also introduced to the new head of the combined MI6/MI5, the smarmy C [Andrew Scott], who Bond takes an instant dislike for. Bond is suspended from active duty and will of course have to go it alone as the story unfolds. If you look at the Craig Bond films, you will notice that in three of the four films, Bond is off on his own side missions. Spectre has Bond going rogue for most of the movie and this follows a trend in contemporary action films where they try to be more like a thriller, where the main character has limited or no resources to depend on. But one of the things we enjoy in the Bond films is the resources Bond can have access to, so Moneypenny, Q, Tanner and finally M all lend a hand in Bond’s rogue mission.
The main plot has Bond following clues to uncover the secret organization Spectre, who the leader Franz Oberhauser really is and then stop the plan to take over the world’s intelligence agencies. The subplots of C’s connection to Spectre and the dismantling of the OO section, Oberhauser being Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Bond’s foster brother, Mister White from Casino Royale adds some plot background and his daughter, Dr. Madeleine Swann [Léa Seydoux] who of course becomes a love interest for Bond all interweave with the main plot and for the most part work.

As I said earlier, Spectre is a good movie, exciting and enjoyable, but it does have some weaknesses. Director Sam Mendes has said that his main focus for Skyfall and for Spectre was showing an older Bond and how he reacts to the changes of the espionage world around him. Well if the producers wanted to do that they should have kept Pierce Brosnan on as Bond. The excuse for firing Brosnan was that they wanted a younger actor to match up with young attractive actresses. I think Brosnan wanting more money and profit participation had more to do with his firing than casting choices, but I still think Skyfall would have worked very well with Brosnan. I had hoped that the end scene in Skyfall had shut the lid on pealing back the layers of Bond’s troubled past and the next film would have Bond actually going on a real mission like in pre Craig Bond films. But no, Spectre continues to delve into Bonds childhood and adds a long lost evil brother Ian Fleming never created and who coincidentally happens to be the head of a global crime organization that he started because his dad liked young James too much. This plot line stretches believability more than a little and weakens the movie.
The love interest Dr. Madeleine Swann played by Léa Seydoux continues the trend in the Craig Bond films of casting marginally attractive actresses with limited acting ability in weak roles. Dr. Swan isn’t much of a part for Seydoux to play and she may be a good actress, you just won’t see it in Spectre because the character is weak and one dimensional. The writers also want us to believe Bond would fall madly in love with her and quit the secret service because her father was an assassin and she would understand him. Denise Richards’ Christmas Jones has been criticized as being a vapid character, but she was miles ahead of Madeleine Swann and I cannot see Bond falling for this character beyond a fun romp in bed and in the way Seydoux plays Madeleine, I’m not too sure that would even be fun.
Another weak point of Spectre is near the final climax and Bond is sneaking into the abandon MI6 building and as he walks through the firing range there are pictures of major characters from the three previous Craig films taped to the walls to remind Bond and the audience of his previous missions. As a Bond fan I have always had this idea that Bond had other missions between the films, we the audiences just didn’t get to see all of them, but Mendes and crew show us that Bond did absolutely nothing between the six year period between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall and nothing between Skyfall and Spectre because the pictures only show characters from Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, do we really think Bond had no other missions in all that time?

The main climax takes place on Westminster Bridge, right next to the Big Ben tower and the beautiful Westminster place. On one end is M and on the other Madeleine, showing us Bond’s choice of choosing the OO section or quitting and marrying Dr. Swann. On the bridge is Bond and a wounded Blofeld. Bond has him at gun point and considers shooting him but chooses to not be an assassin and lets him live to comeback in the next Bond film. I think it would have been a much stronger moment if Bond had shot him and been more within the Bond character or at least have him pull the trigger and the gun be empty, you would see Bond really being Bond. But no, Bond tosses the gun away and walks off with Madeleine into the London night.

We then see Bond stopping by Q’s workshop the next day to pick up his restored Aston Martin DB5 and driving off with Madeleine on a bright London day as we wonder has Bond quit the service or just taking a holiday? They certainly hint that Bond has quit, but leave a little ambiguity so that Craig or another actor can carry on the action in the next Bond film. Not a very satisfying ending, not a terrible ending, but it leaves you hanging. There are a couple of reason this doesn’t satisfy; there was never a real connection built between Bond and Madeleine, so for him to quit the OO branch for her doesn’t seem logical. Another problem is Bond is an OO and he knows this. Fleming showed that yes, he fell in love for short periods of time, but Bond knew deep down that the relationships were only brief moments of solace and that they would never be long term things. Bond knows that his life expectancy is short and that he will live it to the fullest and that settling down is not in his destiny.

Spectre is a good movie and well worth watching and if you don’t dwell on some of the plot holes you will have a good time with James Bond OO7 in his latest adventure: Spectre.
Screen Writer Ink
Fade In Is Just The Beginning

You will have a good time with James Bond OO7 in his latest adventure: Spectre.