Movie Review: Spectre

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James Bond chases down the leader of a mysterious and omnipresent evil organisation.

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Sam Mendes, 2015

After the death of his former boss M, James Bond (Daniel Craig) follows one last order from her. Killing the man she told him to kill leads Bond down a rabbit hole to someone from Bond’s past, Franz Oberhauser (Christolph Waltz). Meanwhile, in London, the Double-O program finds itself in danger from C (Andrew Scott), a bureaucrat who has proposed a joint intelligence scheme with several other countries that would make the program obsolete. 007 goes rogue, enlisting the help of his friends Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Scott) to track down Oberhauser. To find him, Bond must win the trust of Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), the daughter of an old enemy who protects a deadly secret.

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So much has been made of 2015 being the year of the spy movie, and it seems appropriate that a new entry in the mother of all spy franchises should come out this year. Unfortunately, Spectre is easily one of the worst offerings in the spy genre to come out this year. Apparently, Spectre is one of the most expensive films ever made. It seems like most of that money went to the utterly stunning cinematography, which is the film’s best attribute by far. Hoyte van Hoytema crafts every shot perfectly, utilising the amazing locations to dwarf the characters as they get lost in the tangled webs of the spy game. Even the fight sequences, which are much less bruising and interesting than previous entries in the series as they go further and further into the realm of spectacle over substance, are shot nicely. It’s a good thing the film looks so good, because without the amazing cinematography, it would be a hell of a slog to get through.

Spectre’s major failing is in its attempt to apply old-school nostalgia to the modern Bond franchise. This is clear right from its opening credits, a bizarre octopus-themed montage of naked women draping themselves over Bond that is downright unsettling to watch. This problem also manifests in Madeleine Swann. Léa Seydoux tries her best, but there is just nothing to Madeleine. She has no identifiable character traits, flipping on a dime from hating Bond to having sex with him to being apparently in love with him within a week. The film works much better when Q and Moneypenny are brought in on the action, even if Moneypenny is mostly reduced to following the boys around. There’s so much chemistry and innuendo between Q and Bond, and Whishaw and Scott are wonderful, likeable characters in a sea of boring people. Both Christoph Waltz and Andrew Scott are tragically underused as the film’s more villainous characters. They’re both terrific at playing over-the-top, hammy villains that can turn from funny to scary in an instant, and both are very muted in this film. It rather defeats the point of casting them. The movie goes on far too long, and its attempts at humour don’t quite fit in the darker modern Bond films. There’s also a heap of retconning that feels completely out of place in a James Bond film. Ultimately, the whole thing is just disappointing.

Spectre on IMDb

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