Daniel Craig suits up for his fourth mission as Great Britain’s most famous secret agent in Spectre.
Synopsis: A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.
Eon and crew spared no expense, funding the film to the tune of $250 million dollars, as well as a $100+ million advertising and promotions budget. Lucky for us, nearly every dollar shows up on screen.
From the first scene (ignoring that confusing music video preamble of Sam Smith’s theme song) globe-trotting action is the special du jour, and they want you to know it. Planes factor into the action often, and their call-signs are painted 10 feet tall on all sides of each aircraft. In England, G-LCPL, in Austria, OE-xxx. In an era of CGI everything, director Sam “Spare No Expense” Mendes wants you to know that if Bond chases some baddies by slaloming a C-130 cargo plane down a snowy a ski-slope in Austria, he’s in a real plane, on a real ski-slope, and really in Austria.
While in England, a chase scene involves a brand new Aston Martin DB10 driving up and down stairs, across monuments, and naturally, eventually getting trashed. Aston Martin actually designed and built the DB10, a brand new model, specifically for the film. Again, Mendes makes sure the car’s number plate, DB10 AGB, makes it into the shot a number of times.
Bond fans rejoice, Craig continues to define the consumate Bond archetype, while every actor joining him does as much or more than expected for their roles.
Lea Seydoux, hot off The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) and Blue is the Warmest Color (2013) proves as enchanting as ever, while Dave Bautista continues to demonstrate his skills on the big screen equal if not better those in the ring. If he’d been given more screen time, Oddjob might be worried…
And this brings us to where Spectre comes up short: the writing. Spectre credits four people with conjuring up this new adventure for Ian Fleming’s favorite hero. FOUR. And not one of them adds a single new idea, nor any bombastic one-liners ( save one) for viewers to feast on. Here are their names posted on a wall – writers who died on the job: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth.
One almost wants to believe none of the $250 million budget was spent on story, but if it was, these writers should give the money back. Naomie Harris and Monica Bellucci barely register – a terrible waste, especially as Harris showed such promise last round – and Bautista’s Hinx has little more than two meaningful scenes. Voldemort makes only token appearances. And once we meet the “real” villain later in the film, it’s difficult to appreciate why he’s going to all this effort – and this is in a genre where viewers don’t expect much on that front to begin with. At least Andrew Scott (Moriarty to all you Sherlock fans) gets enough time for us to feel how creepy he can be. Still, shame on the writers. Seriously.
The result is a visually resplendent adventure, filmed in exotic locals, with the expected over the top action, but die-hard Bond fans will recognize every twist and turn in the story, and by the end, despite two and a half hours of international intrigue, will leave the theaters feeling somewhat unsatiated. The opening sequence involves blowing up a building, and fighting bad guys in an upside-down helicopter, flying over 10,000 parade goers. In the middle, Mendes blows up an artificial habitat in the middle of a desert, earning recognition from Guiness for the largest explosion ever created for film, and by the end, well, more explosions, helicopters, building collapses… and boats. Don’t ever forget the boats.
Oh well. It’s James Bond. Big, loud, fun. 250 million dollars worth.