Bond is back in Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as everyone’s favorite playboy spy. Spectre picks up shortly after the events Skyfall and follows a Bond gone rogue, tasked with finishing the last wishes of the previous M (Judi Dench). After a lively and disastrous romp through a Day of the Dead festival in Mexico City, Bond is promptly put on forced vacation but that doesn’t even slow down his globe trotting excursions, from snowy European mountains to sweltering African deserts. Back home in London, the secondary cast of agents struggle with the possibility of becoming obsolete; analog technology in a digital age. Always one step ahead of the good guys is the shadowy titular organization with mysterious and nefarious intentions for our Mr. Bond.
Daniel Craig’s run of Bond movies is far and away the most grounded that Bond has ever been but Spectre moves away from the realism in exchange for a more classical Bond style adventure. The film strikes a lighter tone in contrast to the gritty and personal style of Skyfall but Spectre feels like a lesser movie for it. Craig has always been his best when allowed to snarl rather than sleep around; his Bond has been a vulnerable and angry spy rather than suave womanizer. Perhaps this is why the scenes with the women of Spectre come across as more silly than steamy. In one credibility-stretching scene, James and a woman begin to passionately embrace all the while sharing major plot related dialogue. It comes across as more than a little awkward and contrived, especially knowing that this Bond is more than capable of emotionally intimate scenes. The film also squanders its stellar secondary cast (Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Andrew Scott) on a secondary plot that attempts to be commentary on government surveillance but ultimately could have been a lot more; Harris especially should have been give more screen time. Spectre, while full of franchise nostalgia and references, is perhaps most like the Bonds of old in its approach to villains. Of course there’s the aforementioned evil organization, headed by a sneering Christoph Waltz, who you can’t help but wish had chewed the scenery a bit more. There are secret lairs, silently threatening henchmen, and of course all the monologues an evil mastermind can deliver while James is momentarily trapped. Overall, Spectre feels like something from the Moore and Connery eras, rather extravagant and nonsensical, which is at odds with the style of Craig’s Bond. That’s not to say it’s without its merits, the opening in Mexico City is a standout with a gorgeously done long take, and thankfully it’s no Quantum of Solace. In the end, like James Bond himself in service to country and queen, it gets the job done as an entertaining movie but with a lingering feeling that it could have been more. Spectre is out now in theaters.
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