Spectre

Spectre is Daniel Craig’s fourth go round as 007. In the nine years that he has been overseeing the role, he’s brought a fresh influx of danger, humanity and even vulnerability to the character. After Casino Royale, I was hoping that they would show him growing into the sophisticated, slick operative we all think of as Bond. It hasn’t quite worked out that way, largely because Quantum of Solace, the second outing was such a serious misstep. And then in Skyfall they went directly to washed up and emotionally damaged Bond. But that film was still a triumphant return to form for the rebooted franchise. It adhered to the classic Bond formula—pre-title action sequence, two women—but it also gave us a peek into Bond’s past.
This continues in Spectre as Bond gets wind of a super-secret criminal organization called Spectre. He infiltrates a meeting of the evil cabal, led by Oberhauser, played by Christoph Waltz who was born to play a Bond villain if anybody was. Bond has a personal link to Spectre, something in his past that I won’t spoil, and goes rogue with the help of Moneypenny, played by Naomie Harris and Q, played by Ben Whishaw, to pursue the information.
Meanwhile back in London, the new M, played by Ralph Fiennes is battling to save the 00 program. This is ironic because he was the one trying to defund the program in the last movie. The new head of the British Intelligence agencies, Max Denbigh or C, played by Andrew Scott, who also plays Moriarty in the Cumberbatch Sherlock Holmes series, has been pushing for all the spy agencies in an eight member coalition to pool their information in one technologically advanced data gathering entity. Instead of spies they would use drones and phone taps.
This theme of technology vs. old fashioned leg work and infiltration skills caught my attention. I have no idea if it’s an issue in the real world of espionage but in the context of Bond films I think it represents a kind of hardening of the arteries, a nostalgia for the early days of the series. As I’ve said before, my iPhone can do more things than any gadget in the early Bond films. But computers just aren’t as cinematic as those old mechanical gadgets. Whether the filmmakers realize it or not, this is an issue going forward. Gadgets have always been a large part of these films.
Spectre seems a little flat to me. Daniel Craig has expressed a desire to move on and frankly he looks a little bored in this. Certainly the project didn’t have the full attention of the director Sam Mendes who is skilled at bringing out terrific performances and bringing originality to his plots. Christoph Waltz acts like he was told to tone down his natural charisma, which is a mistake. He and Bond have a connection from the past but you really don’t feel it. There are pacing issues. The movie is over two hours long and there are long sequences where the plot just lies there, not moving and not giving you any characterization worth caring about.
At the end of Skyfall, they indicated that they would be returning to a more traditional Bond film feel and they’ve done this. I’m not sure it was a good decision though.
Still, if we’re being honest with ourselves, Spectre is better than a lot of the Bond films over the years. And it’s not like I’m going to stop seeing them. As long as the cars are fast, the gadgets are cool and women are beautiful, Bond always gets a pass.

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