Spectre

Not as good as “Skyfall”, but still quite entertaining.
★★★
Movie Review #1,029

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Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Action, Adventure, Thriller
2 hours, 28 minutes
Rated PG-13 (intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language)
Released November 6, 2015
Directed by Sam Mendes
Screenplay by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth
Story by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade
Characters by Ian Fleming
Starring Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen, Alessandro Cremona, and Stephanie Sigman

“Spectre” doesn’t start off all that great. Watching Bond (Daniel Craig) trek through Mexico City on a personal vendetta, return back to London to be reprimanded by the new M (Ralph Fiennes), and court the widow of a man he’s just killed (Monica Bellucci), isn’t all that exciting. To make matters worse, those opening scenes are plagued by a dry pace. Simply put, nothing really seems interesting starting off.

Then, there’s a sudden kick around the thirty-minute mark, and “Spectre” finally takes off. One might say it’s the moment director Sam Mendes re-enters the cockpit and turns the film off autopilot. I’d like to think, though, that the first thirty minutes are a necessary element of the film, controlled entirely by the director. Whereas “Skyfall” had an immediate lift-off, “Spectre” spends 30 minutes on the runway, maneuvering its story to try and figure out where it’s supposed to be heading, its director promising us once every five minutes that it should be lifting off soon. The difference between a commercial flight and “Spectre” is that Mendes doesn’t warn us when we’re about to take off, which makes the experience all the more exciting.

While “Spectre” isn’t quite quite so dynamic as the film it follows, it continues on the same track. Like “Skyfall”, “Spectre” shines a deeply introspective light on the hero’s psyche. His vulnerability is once again exposed as his past meets his present. As the double-0 program is at risk of being dissolved, James Bond learns of the program’s apparent arch-nemesis: an organization known as SPECTRE.

We discover that the organization’s leader, Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), has known James since his parents died and has played a major role in the events of the last three films. For Bond fans especially, Oberhauser is a great villain. Much like the presence of SPECTRE in the new movie, his persona suggests a key villain from the Sean Connery era. Christoph Waltz captures this character’s personality sublimely, in a role that, on paper, seems so unlike him.

He’s not the only one who makes such an achievement. Léa Seydoux’s performance is a major highlight of the film. We’ve known her in the past for her work in French cinema (“Blue Is the Warmest Color”, “Diary of a Chambermaid”). This is her first major role in a major motion picture, and there are certainly more to come after her performance. Seydoux plays Dr. Madeleine Swann, the most badass Bond girl since Vesper Lynd (Eva Green in “Casino Royale”), and one of the most memorable of the entire Bondology.

At 2 hours 28 minutes, “Spectre” is the longest James Bond movie to date. Indeed its opening sequences could have used some trimming, but the film thereafter flies by. “Spectre” may not be quite as entertaining or as brilliant as the film before it. Nonetheless, by the end, we’re begging for Daniel Craig to return for a fifth round.

Note of interest: Monica Bellucci, a Bond girl early in “Spectre”, is now the oldest Bond girl. She was 50 when filming the role–four years older than Daniel Craig. The previous recordholder was Honor Blackman, who was 39 when she played Pussy Galore in “Goldfinger”, the 3rd Bond film, released in 1964.

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