Review by C.J. Bunce
If you’ve been too busy buying your advance tickets for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and forgot to get to the theaters to see the latest James Bond film, here’s your wake-up call. Get thee to the theatre before it’s gone! For every new Bond actor there is a handful of films that are forgettable. SPECTRE is not one of those Bond movies. In fact SPECTRE is on the heels of being as good a James Bond formula piece as Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale. It will be hard for any Bond movie to top that one, since it was as close to perfection as an action vehicle can get.
So why is SPECTRE a cut above the rest?
Let’s start with the required action scene opener. We begin with Bond and his attractive companion Estrella, played by Stephanie Sigman, at the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico City. Bond is in pursuit of an assassin, for a reason yet to be disclosed to the viewer, and the result is some of the best action in any Bond movie. Ever. Bond in a skeleton suit is still unmistakably Daniel Craig’s Bond. We get an inadvertently blown-up building. A foot chase through a parade culminating in a hand to hand fight in a helicopter over the crowded festival. Want exciting? This scene has it all.
Gone is the tired, old, worn-out Bond emphasized in the plot of Skyfall. Gone is the disheartened Bond of Quantum of Solace. This is Bond as he is supposed to be–confident, cocky, and calm. And physically Craig could still out-match all prior Bond actors at any age.
Bond’s main “Bond Girl” is a well-developed character this time around.
Léa Seydoux’s Dr. Swann is compelling and interesting, closer to Eva Green’s engaging Vesper Lynd than any Bond Girl since.
The villains are perfect, starting with Dave Bautista’s Mr. Hinx and his Groot-like single word of dialogue, and Christoph Waltz’s mastermind is as classic a Bond villain as you’ve ever seen. He’s creepy, but not too creepy like Javier Bardem’s villain in Skyfall. Also well-written are the classic Bond supporting roles: Ben Whishaw’s Q gets more, key screen time than any prior Q, Naomie Harris’s Moneypenny gets more backstory, and Ralph Fiennes’ M gets to take on his own parallel fight against villainy.
More so than any of Craig’s other three Bond efforts, this film takes itself less seriously, with plenty of humor sprinkled about. Long-time fans will find plenty of throwbacks to prior Bond films, including a classic Bond ride. Gunfight in the snow-covered Alps? Check. Boat escape? Check. A fight on a train? Check. Shaken, not stirred? Check. All required musical cues? Check. Walther PPK, cars, suits? Check. Those with more current tastes will appreciate Craig’s chase on the streets of Rome with Bautista–and their choice of vehicles. For a Bond film not based on any prior, single Ian Fleming novel, SPECTRE may be the best of the bunch. It’s easy to think Fleming would be proud of this Bond story. Bravo to the Broccoli family for keeping this franchise in top form for more than 50 years.
What’s lacking? With all the obligatory world travel from exotic city to exotic city, the film drags a bit at times. For anyone but the diehard Bond fan who can just bathe in the measured, easy pace of Bond at work, the movie may also run a bit long. Beyond that, SPECTRE sports possibly the worst credit roll song, Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall.” The song may not be so bad as lyrics are concerned, but Smith’s falsettos simply don’t fit our man Bond. Finally, Andrew Scott plays C, head of England’s covert operations including MI5 and the 00 program, in what amounts to a poor casting decision. Anglophiles will know Scott as Moriarty from the BBC Sherlock series. Scott simply looks and talks like a bad guy, so it is impossible not to see him for what he is from the first scene. But what’s lacking is little compared to the all-out fun of seeing a good Bond film on the big screen. And SPECTRE is a good Bond film.
SPECTRE is still in theaters in most cities for a few more weeks.