Wednesday, November 11, 2015

'Spectre' film review

The most brilliant part of the Daniel Craig James Bond films is how connected each movie is.

"Spectre" brings all that home.

In the week or so before its release, I intended to watch everything from "Casino Royale" through "Skyfall." I'm sure I would have caught more nuances in "Spectre" had I done the Craig-Bond marathon, but luckily this fanboy brain of mine had my back.

The days of Sean Connery's 007 were the last time I believe the same director handled back-to-back films. Sam Mendes directed "Skyfall," still the best of Craig's flicks, so it's no surprise his team uses "Spectre" to deepen this rebooted Bond universe — all while continuing to reintroduce the elements we 007 fans came to expect from the Connery, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan films.

There was now a Q in "Skyfall." Ben Wishaw's Q is full-on nerd, now known more for his prowess using computers than being an inventor. We do see a few goodies from the quartermaster in "Spectre" – but much to Bond's disappointment the hot sports car in Q's garage is for 009 to use, not 007.

Note to Q: Don't show Bond a car and then tell him he can't drive it; it might get car-jacked. …

Ralph Fiennes is back as the new M — not to mention the retro leather office door that's out of date, yet still ever so chic. Fiennes brings class to Bond's boss and continues to show he's not just a pencil-pusher.

The very likable Naomie Harris returns as Eve Moneypenny, but she has very little to do. Bond trusts her enough to inform her that the late and previous M has sent him on a mission from the grave.

(Did anyone else notice that the current M orders Bond to stand down from his rogue mission, but by the time he's tracked down the big baddie, he thanks 007 for his service? Intentional or continuity goof? Or is M supportive of Bond's mission, yet forced to order him off his seemingly self-assigned case due to the pressure he's receiving from the government? You decide.) 

Basically, Moneypenny is relegated to doing nothing more than being at Bond's beck and (cell phone) call.

"Spectre" has a much different tone and pace than "Skyfall." It's by far the slowest paced Bond film of them all — even in the handful of action sequences.

Throughout the first half of the flick, the audience is attempting to figure out whom Bond is hunting — much less why. To that end, "Spectre" is more of a slow burn without nearly as many explosions or action sequences we're used to seeing. And virtually none of the spy-work.

Actually, there is some spying — but it's not done by Bond or Her Majesty's Secret Service.

007 is tracking down the organization he later learns is called Spectre, the behind-the-scenes terrorist group that has orchestrated the events in "Casino Royale," "Quantum of Solace" and "Skyfall." In "Solace," Bond learned there was a common denominator, but now we know all the baddies he's faced were hired by Spectre. That's right; true to its name, Spectre has been doing the spying and working in the shadows on Bond and the nation's master spy network.

And its mastermind, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, has taken great glee in attempting to tear down Bond. Blofeld has a surprising and intimate connection with Bond, putting a dynamic and unexpected twist to the 007 mythos. It's a doozie of a Big Reveal right before the obligatory Bond torture scene (but not totally unexpected if you paid attention to certain news clippings and a photo Bond sees earlier).

Christoph Waltz is decently creepy (in a restrained type of way), but not nearly as menacing as other 007 big baddies. Blofeld's overall motive is unclear.

The three-film plot line build-up to "Spectre" is fascinating — especially as the previous three movies are seen in light of this one.

The denouement is an emotional-driven one instead of being action-oriented. As M tells a Spectre spy early in the film, Bond's license to kill is as much about choosing when to pull the trigger and take a life as much as it is deciding when it's appropriate not to kill.

When 007 faces that dilemma with Blofeld at gunpoint, there's a nice visual symbolism of the choice the superspy is facing. Does he ultimately choose M (his previous life being dedicated to his country) or a new life and love (the chance to live happily ever after and step away from it all)?

Let's hope Craig can take one more for the team — and the betterment of the Bond world — and play 007 again to show us what happens next. Lifelong Bond fans should know or hope that he won't be domesticated and we haven't seen the last of this new Blofeld and Spectre. Grade: B

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