Possible spoilers ahead!!
As a longtime fan of the James Bond film series, the arrival of a new film is a momentous event for me. The excitement of seeing my favorite secret agent embarking on a new mission and interacting with new characters is one of the best movie going experiences of my life, and the 007 film was no exception.
In “Spectre,” the 24th 007 film, we first find James Bond in Mexico City on a rogue mission that sets him on a path to discover the criminal organization (and it’s leader) that has been responsible for all the terrorist attacks of the last few years. As in any good Bond movie the trail to the bad guy takes him to exotic locations such as Italy, Austria, and Morocco. And along the way he meets alluring woman like the widow of a man he killed (Monica Bellucci) and the daughter of former foe, Dr. Madeleine Swan (Lea Seydoux), who leads Bond on to the next clue in his quest for answers.
As the film’s title suggests, the end of Bond’s quest leads to the classic criminal organization known as S.P.E.C.T.R.E., which featured prominently in many most of the Sean Connery Bond films but has been missing from the series since 1971 due to legal complications. Sitting at the head of this revamped version of the organization is a man named Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) who has a unique connection to James that I won’t spoil here. But I will say The “twist” that accompanies their return was very predictable to this Bond fan.
However, I will say that everything leading up to that was an absolute delight for me. The opening sequence in Mexico City is a thrilling piece of filmmaking. In particular, the opening shot of Bond and a lady friend walking through the parade and into a hotel in a single shot, is one of the best scenes I’ve seen in any movie. The music was perfect, the cinematography was epic, and the costumes were spot on. I love this scene because of its pure simplicity, which is a thing of beauty.
The gorgeously designed opening title sequence makes Sam Smith’s disappointing theme song more impactful, and Bond’s team of M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), and Bill Tanner (Rory Kinnear) are all in fine form and allowed to get in on the action in many ways.
Other highlights include Dave Bautista as the hulking henchman known as the silent killer, Hinx. He and 007 have an epic throwdown on a train traveling across North Africa. It’s an intensely brutal fight that rivals the battle between Sean Connery’s Bond and Red Grant on the Orient Express in 1963’s “From Russia With Love” as one of the best fights in the series’ history.
Maybe Dave Bautista isn’t the best actor around, but he sure can throw a punch. Plus his role as Hinx, reminded me of the old school henchmen from Bonds of old.
The rest of the cast is routinely excellent through the entire film with Daniel Craig proving once again why he is one of the best actors to play the role of 007. The biggest surprise for me was Lea Seydoux who did a marvelous job as the leading lady even though her relationship with Bond feels rushed at one point. Regardless, I thought she had great chemistry with Daniel Craig, and is one of the best Bond girls of the modern era.
As for the main villain, Christoph Waltz is fine in the role delivering another solid villain performance. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to call it his best performance. Not that it was the actor’s fault, it was the script.
The notion that he and his group are behind the events of the last three films is flimsy at best and his scheme to have access to the world’s biggest intelligence gathering facility lacks the punch of earlier threats posed by the organization in films from the 60s and 70s.
I also blame the script for another thing: The lack of Monica Bellucci in “Spectre.” I have been waiting nearly twenty years for this woman to appear in a Bond film, and all I get is 5-10 minutes. ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?!? Monica Bellucci deserved better than that, and so did fans.
Anywho, as successful as his run has been, I think its fair to say Daniel Craig has had the most interesting run so far as 007. Starting with “Casino Royale,” his three films have essentially rejected the classic formula, the gun barrel at the top of the film, shaken not stirred, etc. All the elements were still there, just in a new way.
I loved the changes because we go to see Bond make his first kills to become a 00, then fall in love, and learn not to trust anyone. Over his run, Craig’s Bond also discovered the choice between killing and mercy, revisited his childhood home, and lost his surrogate mother figure in Judi Dench’s M.
To some Bond purists, it was blasphemy that Q and Moneypenny didn’t appear until “Skyfall” and that Bond never ended a film with a beautiful woman in his arms. Well, all the pieces are now in place, and those fans should be happy because “Spectre” is a “proper” James Bond adventure, and a fitting end for thus era of 007.
“Spectre” final score: 8.5