I caught an early screening of “Spectre” last night and decided to share my thoughts. I really liked parts of it, but thought the movie tried and failed to do something new and potentially impressive with the Bond series. Read on for the full review. It’s spoiler free for the most part, but if you’re determined to go into the film without knowing a single detail you may want to bookmark this page and come back later.
James Bond and I go way back. I grew up watching his movies on a VCR and TV in my parents bedroom (the only set in our house at the time). I always enjoyed seeing Pierce Brosnan fill the roll of the British spy as each new movie rolled into theaters, but everyone in my family agreed that the original 007, Sean Connery, was the best Bond by a long shot.
When Daniel Craig took on the roll—and the tuxedo that goes with it—in 2006 he quickly won me over with Casino Royale, though the films that followed were a little less even. Now almost ten years later, in what may be Craig’s last James Bond film, Spectre tries to outdo everything that’s come before it. Unfortunately it fails under the weight of it own ambitions. At 2 and a half hours it’s also way too long.
Spectre attempts to turn the last four movies (this one included) into one coherent story. That’s an unprecedented move in the world of 007, where each Bond movie typically ends with our hero riding off into the sunset with a beautiful companion until his next unrelated adventure begins. Instead, this new film argues that everything that’s happened since Casino Royale has been connected. It’s an interesting idea, but it doesn’t work for several reasons.
First, I have trouble believing that there’s anything in the preceding films to back up these claims. Spectre’s big reveal seems more like something drawn up at the last minute than a carefully sketched out masterpiece, though I may have to go back and watch all four movies at once to be sure. The movie also relies heavily on unfinished business from the mostly forgettable Quantum of Solace. Of all the villains to bring back, Mr. White and his plan to seize control of Bolivia’s water supply seems to be the least exciting choice.
The villain behind it all, played with skill by Christoph Waltz, also doesn’t come across as very convincing. He’s intimidating and downright scary at times, but at the end of the day his motivation isn’t greed or revenge but pure insanity. Where’s the fun in that?
David Bautista (who you might remember from Guardians of the Galaxy just without all that makeup) is a lot more entertaining in the role of henchman/assassin. He’s all brawn and grunts, barely saying a word through the entire film. His climactic showdown with Bond on a train racing through the Sahara is entertaining as well, though I still can’t believe a fight scene set on a train never manages to get the character on top of that train. Some movie tropes are classic for a reason!
The best part of Spectre may be Bond’s supporting team. We get a great performance out of Ralph Fiennes as the new M, Naomi Harris as Money Penny and Ben Wishaw as the gadget-obsessed Q. All three scurry around London facing off against a nefarious new boss bent on replacing British spies with data collection and drones. Of course, most of the focus is on James Bond himself, but the movie might have been better if the rest of the cast had more time to shine.
True James Bond fans will probably find something to enjoy in his latest film, even if it falls below their expectations. But if you missed the last few movies there isn’t much reason to bother with this one. As for the future of 007, rumor has it the series is heading towards another reboot, and after Spectre we’re definitely due for a fresh start.