Film Review: Spectre

“Just because you’re beautiful doesn’t mean I have to like you.”  That saying has been around ever since I was a little kid. The term was often used to describe the prettiest girl in class, especially if she made fun of you to your face. Despite the stigma behind the term, I grew quite fond of it.  Not because I would use it to describe people, which I thought had grown stale by the age of 12.

I started using it to describe the movies I was watching.

Which brings me to my point.

Spectre, just because you’re beautiful doesn’t mean I have to like you.

In a year with too many Spy films, including a film actually titled Spy, things weren’t looking too bright for Spectre. I didn’t let the over-saturation of the genre detere my excitement though. I still had faith.

I should’ve lowered my expectations.

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Image via Sony Pictures

The fact that Spectre is essentially Skyfall Part 2, An ode to Roger Moore Bond films, and an overlong spy thriller all wrapped in one didn’t sit well with me.  I admired that the plot focused on Bond’s past and featured some exciting set pieces, including the train fight, but it was never as great as it seemed on paper.

Maybe director Sam Mendes was trying to make his definite Bond film. One that saluted the past and still tried to be a moody character piece. Imagine Bond facing the demons of his past in a post Snowden world where his every move is recorded? Sounds amazing right?

Unfortunately his directing style doesn’t mix with the script at hand. However, he does succeed at starting the film off right.

Like any other Bond film, Spectre begins with a BANG.

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Image via Sony Pictures

The opening scene in Mexico was a thing of beauty. It utilized amazing stunts during the helicopter fight sequence and the cinematography was a thing to behold. It was almost as good looking as Bond himself.

Throughout the entire film, Hoyte Van Hoytema brings his A-game in the cinematography department. The train sequence in particularly comes to mind. It was perfectly lit and felt tense, romantic, and lush all at the same time. In my opinion, he was the true hero of Spectre and Thomas Newman’s pulse pounding score helped underline the visuals wonderfully.

All those factors made the first thirty minutes fly by and it also features some great moments with the cast.

Daniel Craig is still the best Bond in my opinion and his charm and physicality is brought up to an eleven this time around. His style is as suave as ever, making him look old fashioned yet modern…unlike the film.

It almost feels like he’s trying harder than usual to make his Bond more likable, which was kind of shock during the first thirty minutes.

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Image via Sony Pictures

Even though Moneypenny and Bond don’t have the flirtatious and fun vibe they should’ve had, Craig and Harris’ chemistry works really well. I almost wish the beginning had her in Mexico with him, leading his every move as he made passes at her. It would’ve been classic Bond and entertaining.

Having Ralph Fienne’s M in the movie adds some prestige to the proceedings, but when his role is just there to further the Snowden laced plot, it’s underwhelming.

Thankfully an expanded role from Ben Whishaw’s Q makes for some intentional comic relief. He’s a joy to watch every time he’s on screen, even though the script is often at it’s most predictable when he’s in it.

As I’ve mentioned before, the film is about how we are always under surveillance and how Bond’s actions have been watched since Casino Royale. If that were true, Quantum of Solace would’ve been a far better film movie because it would’ve at least added some tension.

When the script isn’t being predicable, it’s busy making my eyes roll from the character motivations.

When the Lea Seydoux’s Bond girl is introduced, she’s beautiful to look at but she is quite a snore. Which is a shame because Blue is the Warmest Color proved Seydoux is one of the best actresses working today.

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Image via Sony Pictures

From her daddy issues to her “particular set of skills”, she’s a walking cliche that the writers somehow thought was compelling. What’s even worst is that we’re supposed to believe that after Vesper Lynd, Bond could fall for such a woman. Sorry, we’re not drinking this kook-aid. Monica Belluci’s brief appearance as a widow left more of an impression because she did so much with her god given sensuality.

Even Bond was hypnotized by her.

Sadly the biggest sin Spectre commits is it’s failure to make a memorable villain.

Bond villains are broad, evil, and best of all, hard to forget.  Spectre succeeds in making a broad villain, too bad he’s pathetic in the worst kind of way.

His reasons for being a villain are laughable, especially when you find out how Bond factors into his career as a bad guy. I’m still in shock by how little pay off I felt from the main villain.

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Image Via Sony Pictures

If Oscar winning actor Christoph Waltz wasn’t playing him, I’d hate to see how much worse this role would’ve been.

It’s not all bad in the villain department though. David Bautista plays a henchman, who is a nod to classic Bond villain Jaws, and gives an intimidating performance. He uses 99.9% body language in his performance and he was the best new character Spectre brought to the table. But just like the audiences expectations, they fail to do justice to Bautista’s character.

During the third half, all the good will the first thirty minutes had brought me disappeared. What was left was an overblown finale that featured unearned pay offs, predictable character reveals, and of course…explosions.  I think I would’ve been able to give the film a modest pass if it weren’t for the ending.

I’m not going to spoil it, but let me just say, it made me angry and felt so unneeded that I would not have been surprised if Aliens appeared out of nowhere.

Daniel Craig stars as James Bond in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions’ action adventure SPECTRE.

Daniel Craig stars as James Bond in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions’ action adventure SPECTRE. Image via Sony Pictures

I’m not against a full on Roger Moore styled Bond film. I’m against making a Bond film that tries to have it’s cake and eat it too.

You can’t make a Bond film look absolutely beautiful and have a slower pace and expect it to also pay homage to the old ones. It’s tonally never going to work.

I feel like the baby boomers that this film is desperately trying to appeal to will enjoy it more than others.  To the lovers of Casino Royale and Skyfall, this will undoubtedly be a let down and worse…a forgettable one.

I hope Daniel Craig gets another go as Bond, so he can have the send off he deserves.

Not the random and unearned ending this film gave him.

★★½  A beautiful looking yet cringeworthy addition to the Bond canon.

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