November 8, 2015
Since its inception more than 50 years ago, a new James Bond film is, and has always been, a must-see film. Especially after its spectacular franchise reboot when rough and tough Daniel Craig took over the iconic spy role, anticipation for a new Bond film had been thoroughly revived and is at an all-time high. After the huge critical and commercial success that was "Skyfall," expectations run very high for this latest Bond outing, "Spectre," even if several other spy films had already come and gone earlier this year.
In this episode, James Bond (Daniel Craig), based on a tip from his previous boss M (Judi Dench via video recording), is going against the instructions of his present boss M (Ralph Fiennes) to investigate a highly secret crime organization called Spectre. Meanwhile, Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott), codenamed C, the new head of Joint Intelligence, is pushing his own Nine-Eyes international intelligence cooperation scheme, in effect trying to get the 00 system closed down for good.
Wait, didn't that summary sound familiar? Yes, wasn't that the plot in the last Mission Impossible film? In "Rogue Nation," agent Ethan Hunt goes rogue to prove the existence of a super crime organization called the Syndicate before the IMF gets closed down. Not to worry though, there are still a lot of classic uniquely Bond elements and gimmicks to make the seemingly unoriginal story of "Spectre" still pass as a Bond movie.
The various action scenes were very well set up, with Bond elegance and sense of humor. I liked very much the pre-opening credits action sequence set in Mexico City during the celebration of the Day of the Dead, especially with that vicious fistfight set on a flying helicopter. There would also be an exciting Aston Martin vs. Jaguar supercar chase scene in the narrow streets of Rome, even down to the embankment of the Tiber River. The breathtaking action cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema, with gripping film editing by Lee Smith made the action scenes outstanding. The final action sequence in London though looked like they already ran out of fancy ideas as they even recycled elements from the fantastic initial Mexico City scenes.
I found it funny how those scenes with Christoph Waltz harkened back to classic spy movie tropes where the villain would want to slowly torture the hero to death (instead of just simply outright killing him), all the while explaining his elaborate evil scheme in the process. I like the sense of Bond history evoked when the name Ernst Stavro Blofeld was dropped, with his white Angora cat and the scar over his right eye (like Donald Pleasence had in "You Only Live Twice"). Dave Bautista's silent brute henchman character Mr. Hinx never really becomes as memorable as Jaws was in "The Spy Who Loved Me".
Gorgeous Monica Bellucci finally becomes a Bond girl at 50, three years older than Daniel Craig. Admittedly though, her role was not really substantial or even entirely necessary in the story, which is a pity. She could have been Pierce Brosnan's Bond girl in "Tomorrow Never Dies" back in 1997, but the producers back then gave the role to Teri Hatcher instead. Lea Seydoux's smart and savvy Dr. Madeleine Swann initially felt like she could do something badass, but too bad she also ended up a typical damsel in distress towards the end.
A main beef about "Spectre" would be the slow sections in between the action sequences where the momentum sagged. While I appreciated the exotic locations, beautiful scenery and camera angles, the development of the story seemed very slow especially since the story was already quite evident. To be fair, it did not bore me, but some other fans may find the pace tiresome. Daniel Craig still has one Bond film left on his contract, and surely that will be another highly anticipated affair. Let's hope it has a better story to give Craig a proper Bond sendoff. 7/10.