Review by C.J. Bunce
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. After re-watching it on Blu-ray, now available this week, it may just be better.
So why is SPECTRE a cut above the rest?
It has the most elaborate, exciting, and best choreographed action scene opener of any Bond film. Ever. We begin with Bond and his attractive companion Estrella, played by Mexican actress Stephanie Sigman, at the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico City. A single-take shot parade walk. Bond is in pursuit of an assassin, for a reason yet to be disclosed to the viewer. 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, solving a puzzle and seeking some revenge for all that has happened to him, and revealed to us since Casino Royale. And physically Craig could still out-match all prior Bond actors at any age.
SPECTRE’s main “Bond Girl” is a well-developed character this time around. French actress Léa Seydoux’s Dr. Swann is compelling and interesting, closer to Eva Green’s engaging Vesper Lynd than any Bond film actress since. But equally appealing is Italian actress Monica Bellucci as Lucia Sciarra, a character widowed by Bond, who Bond actually rescues in an almost uncharacteristic act. Did Bond make sure she was safe because he failed to do so in a similar encounter in Casino Royale with Caterina Murino’s Solange?
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. On second look you can understand even better why the story works so well in SPECTRE: Ben Whishaw’s Q sees more, key screen time than any prior Q, Naomie Harris’s Moneypenny gets more backstory, and Ralph Fiennes’ M takes on his own parallel fight against villainy. These classic Bond characters finally get to be more than props in a 007 story.
SPECTRE also takes itself less seriously than any of Craig’s other three Bond efforts, with plenty of humor sprinkled about. Long-time fans will find plenty of throwbacks to prior franchise 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 story. And another bravo to the Broccoli family for keeping this franchise in top form for more than 50 years.
The features on this week’s Blu-ray release may seem a bit skimpy, but the main feature: “SPECTRE: Bond’s Biggest Opening Sequence” is a superb, comprehensive look at each major aspect of creating such a grand and brilliant film opener. From the 1000 Mexican extras, to the costumers, the blown-up building, and the battle over the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico City in a helicopter, this is as good as bonus features come. The Blu-ray also includes the video logs from the film, many of which we previewed here at borg.com. But you can’t beat watching these behind the scenes mini-previews if you haven’t seen them yet. One other big bonus: An unadvertised UltraViolet Digital HD copy is included with the Blu-ray. And the disc includes the standard photo gallery and trailer fare.
James Bond at his best, SPECTRE is available now here from Amazon.com.