Action Adventure

'Spectre' Film Review: A shake-up to the latest Bond formula, but not enough to stir audiences

November 4, 2015Ben MK

The Bond films — at least the ones starring Daniel Craig — have always been at their best when things got personal for 007. In 2006's Casino Royale, it was the death of the woman he loved; and in 2012's Skyfall, it was the death of his mentor. Now the situation hits even closer to home in Spectre, the 24th film in the long-running Bond franchise, which attempts to bring everything full circle for this latest incarnation of Ian Fleming's suaver-than-suave super spy.

Borrowing a beat from this year's Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, Spectre finds MI-6 on the cusp of obsolescence. A new, privately-funded British intelligence organization is threatening to supplant it, and its head, Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott), plans to scrap the double-o program in favor of a new worldwide surveillance network called "Nine Eyes." It's a move that will also see all of MI-6's human agents replaced with drones, and if M (Ralph Fiennes) is to ever make a convincing argument for his team's place in the current geopolitical climate, he'll need Bond's help with damage control.

Unfortunately, that's easier said than done, for 007 has more pressing matters to attend to. Operating on a posthumous tip from M's predecessor (Judy Dench), he's taken it upon himself to track a terrorist named Marco Sciarra (Alessandro Cremona) to Mexico City, where he intends to stop him from blowing up an entire stadium full of civilians. Little does Bond realize, however, that Sciarra is merely a cog in a larger — and more evil — wheel known as Spectre, whose shadowy leader (Christoph Waltz) has very specific, very sinister plans in mind for Bond himself.

In what follows, viewers are treated to yet another globetrotting 007 adventure. This time out, Bond manages to make his way to no less than four countries after Mexico City (the UK, Italy, Austria and Morocco), court no less than two gorgeous women (Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydoux), do battle with one formidable henchman (Dave Bautista) and drive one hell of a sleek piece of automotive craftsmanship (the Aston Martin DB10). What's surprising, though, is that he also finds the time to crack a few smiles and make a joke or two along the way.

Yes, despite the film's ultra-serious marketing campaign, not to mention the somber tone of the three previous Bond films, Spectre is actually quite funny and quite campy at times, with humor playing as much of a role in the proceedings as Bond's taste in fine suits. Of course, that's not to say that director Sam Mendes and screenwriters John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth don't deliver on the action as well. On the contrary, the movie ticks all the requisite checkboxes when it comes to car chases and fist fights, especially when it comes to its explosive climax.

As for bringing everything full circle, however, that's where the movie fails to impress, relying on little more than name-dropping and oh-so-convenient coincidences to retrofit Bond's last three cinematic outings into a new, all-encompassing narrative. This also happens to lead into a major reveal for Waltz's character. But even though it's all intended as fan service, the result ends up feeling more like lazy filmmaking than anything else. And considering that the rest of Spectre more or less lives up to expectations, that's double-o disappointing.

Spectre releases November 6th, 2015 from Sony Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language. Its runtime is 2 Hrs. 28 Mins.

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