Saturday, January 2, 2016

Film Review: Spectre

I am a big fan of the Daniel Craig James Bond.  I think that Casino Royale is the best purely cinematic James Bond movie.

But I also think that Quantum of Solace is the worst.

Skyfall was a bit better, but lacked the stylish action of the of Casino Royale.

Spectre is a bit better than Skyfall.

The story centers around Bond being put on the sidelines by after a public near catastrophe in Mexico City.  M (Ralph Fiennes) is also being pushed out by a more modernized, computerized information gathering system.  So Bond must go deep under cover without the aid of the Secret Service and infiltrate a nefarious and mysterious organization that we will come to know as Spectre.  In order to get deeper into this he must reach out and protect Dr. Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) from the leader of Spectre (played by Christoph Waltz) and his henchmen, particularly the musclebound Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista).

The biggest downside of these movies is they are all rather bleak.  I don't need them to be cheesy like Moonraker, but these movies lack a sense of fun.  Contrast this movie with Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation and you can see the difference in tone.  Both involve intense spy-fare and action, but the Tom Cruise films have a stronger sense excitement.

The other major problem is that much of the actions don't make sense.  I felt like Jeremy from CinemaSins thinking about why Bond made the choices he kept making in this film and the only thing I could think of was "because of REASONS!"  There is a part in the film where Bond's plan consists of simply waiting for the bad guys to come and get them.  There was nothing more to the plan than "get captured."  And then Bond is not immediately killed.  In fact, the bad guy does the classic Bond villain monologue and explains his entire plan FOR NO REASON.  The same thing can be seen in the budding romance between Bond and Swann.  Unlike the verbal fencing that developed the romance in Royale, this one feels rushed and forced.

The performances are very good.  This is Craig's best turn as the character since Casino Royale, showing a bit more of the man behind the action.  Waltz chews the scenery in a way that is more entertaining than annoying.  Seydoux does a decent job, but she is no Eva Green.

But the action is much better return to form than the last two bonds.  The Mexico City sequence is thrilling and visually eye-popping.  And the train fight scene is a great deal of fun.  If the movie had more of this, it would have been better.

The movie tries to be topical, tapping into the fears of government overreach in spying, as we've seen with the NSA.  It brings up the moral balance between privacy and safety, but it gets lost in an evil organization's evil plans.  As a Catholic, I appreciate how you can see how violence, even done for a righteous cause, can wear at a person's soul.  Perhaps this is why the movies carry the gloom in the main character to make killing seem less glamorous.  But this never really hits its mark.

Spectre is a middling Bond adventure that is worth a look, but has nothing terribly memorable about it.

3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars.

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