Spectre, the 24th James Bond film, takes over the big screen this weekend with Daniel Craig once again reprising his role as the British superspy. Also reprising his role is director Sam Mendes, who directed Craig and much of this cast to box-office glory with 2012’s Skyfall, the most financially successful 007 movie of them all. Sadly, the latest in this never-ending franchise isn’t the event it should be, feeling exhausted and in desperate need for a refreshed cast and crew. In lieu of Daniel Craig’s recently publicized remarks about making another Bond film, it’s no surprise that the film feels like a spent and lazy effort on all accounts.
We join James Bond in Mexico at a Day of the Dead festival, tracking an assassin by the name of Sciarra (Allesandro Cremona) in an old mission left over form the former M (Judi Dench). The film’s initial single shot sequence traverses through the iconic festival and leaves us with Bond as he carefully tracks his target. He then dispatches a couple of men plotting to blow up a stadium as he listens in on their conversation. Uncovered, Bond is now caught in a chase and shuffle. After the improbable collapse of a building, as Bond kills the assassin Sciarra aboard a helicopter, retrieving a ring sporting the famous SPECTRE octopus, thus beginning a search for the elusive organization.
Furthermore, Bond’s recklessness forces him off the grid on his own personal mission to find the leader of the organization, against the orders of current M played by Ralph Fiennes. The new M has to deal with the possible closure of both MI6 and the entire ’00’ program.
One hopes a film like this could be saved at least by it’s action sequences and the allure and charm of it’s cast, right? Fat chance. After the captivating opening scene, James Bond’s search for SPECTRE across Europe is anything but energetic. Mendes’ efforts are minuscule, with scene after scene of effortlessly crafted talking heads, in sets each darker than the next, as Bond sluggishly treks around the globe.
It’s wrong to expect excitement or charm from Daniel Craig’s portrayal of Bond; he plays the iconic character like a jock too cool, and forced, to be in the school play. Craig’s Bond never had the raw charisma of Sean Connery or winking playfulness of Pierce Brosnan, but that wasn’t the point of this darker, seething, and troubled Bond. Craig’s 007 was a humanized killing machine rather than the comic book-like suave male fantasy.
The Bond presented here is the one thing he should never, ever be: boring, going after SPECTRE because there’s nothing else for him to do at the office. The series feels spent, and though Daniel Craig has another Bond film under contract, will this mean the end of Mendes in the director’s seat? After all, he was reluctant to make this film anyway.
Spectre begins and ends with Bond; it’s his franchise, of course, so if he’s ineffective and fails, then maybe a memorable villain could save the day? That duty falls to Christoph Waltz, but his character is largely absent, cast away into the shadows, like a leper, utterly underused. If you get Christoph Waltz in your movie, you use him, damn it! Then we’ve got Monica Bellucci as Sciarra’s widow, Lucia. Gorgeous and talented as ever, she only appearing in a handful of scenes that are entirely too short and a waste of her talent.
Dave Bautista is the brutal and unstoppable Hinx the henchman. I have no problem with him, I suppose, but he’s not in the movie long enough to warrant praise. The only other new star on the bill is Lea Seydoux as the beautiful and talented Dr. Madeleine Swann, daughter of Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), who will help Bond in his quest.
Spectre can be summed up as a whole lot of talking and not a lot of fighting: exciting shootouts, vehicular combat, and high-flying thrills should be the norm in a Bond film. Save for a scene that has Bond piloting a nearly wingless plane, there isn’t much here to get the blood pumping like it should. Tragically, this once politically incorrect franchise has reached the point where it takes itself a little soon seriously, suffocating the life and spirit from its bones. Here’s hoping that Bond 25 can redeem itself, and leave this franchise feeling less shaken and more stirred.