Spectre (2015) – Review

“SPECTRE”

Spectre is the fourth James Bond film to feature Daniel Craig in the lead role and also marks the return of Skyfall’s Director Sam Mendes to the franchise, so as you can imagine, I was hooked. Skyfall is probably one of my favourite Bond films and my thoughts were that the team of Daniel Craig and Sam Mendes would hit it out of the park again. The critical reaction at the point of this reviews publication is not entirely certain at this point, mainly because as of the day of publication this film has only just been released in the States. That doesn’t change the fact that this film was hyped up to be probably one of the five biggest releases of the year and for Bond fans, it’s another great excuse to go to the Cinema. So, after all that, how did Spectre hold up to the close scrutiny.

Spectre takes place shortly after the events of Skyfall. After a botched mission in Mexico City, James Bond (played once again by Daniel Craig) is grounded by M (played by Ralph Fiennes). However Bond’s mission leaks the information of a secret organisation called Spectre led by the villainous Oberhauser (played by Christoph Waltz) and their networks run everywhere with the plan of underhanded global control. Now Bond is in the position where he has to put an end to Spectre, which may have further links to his past. Ok, before we get too far into the plot, I think we should discuss the theme song of the film, because that’s the first thing after the first action sequence that we see in any of these films. This time it’s Sam Smith not doing a song named after the title of the film, where this one is called ‘Writing on the Wall’. Now granted, it’s not a bad song especially considering I am not a fan of Sam Smith, but the song does fit the film it’s based on, plus the opening sequence is a rather decent job, even if it does kind of spoil a few things that we are going to see in the upcoming film. That being said, however, I think it’s a half decent song, but after Skyfall by Adele, it just doesn’t quite match up and I don’t believe this will get an Oscar nomination like that one did. In fact that’s really an allegory for the entire film! After Skyfall, this one doesn’t quite measure up. Don’t get me wrong, Spectre is not a bad movie by any means, it’s a good film in terms of plot and what it does well, it does really well.

What the film does well is its overt commentary on global surveillance, mainly in light of several other revelations from cases like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange and it essentially asks the question of how much we are willing to let the National Security Services survey our private lives versus what is done with the information and how much of our personal freedoms we are willing to give up for it. The film never quite fully manages to hit it on every level as say Captain America The Winter Soldier did, with its commentary on drone warfare, but the film makes a valiant attempt and does a fairly decent job with it. This mainly comes about because the 00 programme is potentially being cancelled and the new head of Joint Security Services ‘C’ (played by Andrew Scott) is hoping to have a new global surveillance network put in place with 8 other Countries. The plot also feels very personal to James on a lot of levels, which is what all of Daniel Craig’s Bond films have had in common. This one doesn’t quite measure up in that department, but it still does feel like it’s James’s movie, whereas I thought in a lot of the previous Bond films it just felt like James was going along for the ride and was just doing half of what he did because it was his job! The other part of this plot that I liked was the fact that a lot of the characters that weren’t given as much to do in Skyfall, but showed a lot of promise, like Ralph Fiennes M, Ben Whishaw’s Q and Naomie Harris’s Moneypenny, all are given substantial roles and contribute well to the plot and the promise that was left at the end of Skyfall is very well kept here. I am definitely endeared by these characters, I am hoping that all these Actors will reprise their roles in future Bond films because they are building on these characters very well.

Now I am moving on to my other points, I don’t think the villains are as great in this one. I say villains because I think some of them really hit it out of the park, mainly Dave Bautisa’s silent assassin Hinx who frankly feels like a video game boss fright brought to life and is one of the most relentless characters to face Bond in a long time. This is one cool second in command who can really stand with a lot of the Bond villains of the past. The other villains don’t really feel as good. One of the plot twists is very easy to figure out around the mid way point of the film, but the latter one doesn’t really work, mainly because there wasn’t much to suggest this and some of the identities of the villains in this film may make Bond fans do a bit of a double take and also feels like it’s a concession to older Bond fans. Don’t get me wrong, the villain’s aren’t too bad and their plot is actually quite good for the most part, but yet again, after following Skyfall, it feels like a step down. What’s more, the plot does also bring up a lot of the aspects of more recent Bond films that we felt were finished at this point, there are tons of references to all 3 of the previous Daniel Craig Bond films, even some that we thought were over and done with by the end of Quantum of Solace. Skyfall’s ending suggested that the Bond films were going off in a new direction that looked really promising and by the end of that film I was looking forward to what the future had for franchise, but it feels quite like they don’t want to let go of what these previous films did. Now the previous films were very good, for the most part, though I felt Quantum of Solace was a bit of a let down and a bit of a weak overall film, but that is beside the point. There is just no real reason to continue half of these plots, we can step out of it and go into new territory! That being said, there is significantly less story this time than there was in Skyfall, and I think fans of that film, like I was, may come out of this film slightly disappointed. Pure action fans, however, will get what they need. This film has a plot that drives it very well from one sequence to another, though it does take time to slow down and let the plot build. It had a very similar feel to the previous Casino Royale, mainly in its plotting and the fact that we don’t quite get where the film is going, however, unlike that film, this one doesn’t quite know what it wants to be entirely. It really feels like Sam Mendes has taken time to work on this film’s plot but it also feels like there have been some concessions made from the studio and for this film to seem like a finale in case Daniel Craig doesn’t want to come back and play Bond for the next film. The worst part about this film is one that has been plaguing the Daniel Craig Bond films in particular, ‘The Sheer Blatant Product Placement’, especially for Sony Phones and several Rolex Watches. Aston Martin and Land Rover, both get scenes that look like car adverts and I am pretty sure HP Laptops are everywhere! Now granted, it’s not as bad as Man Of Steel where they were blatant adverts, but this is still something I would like to see less blatantly done.

If there is one thing this film does right, it’s Lea Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann, who is arguably the best Bond Girl in the last 4 films. The Bond Girls in the previous 3 films were good, but they weren’t great. This one is brilliant. I absolutely loved her. Frankly I would like to see her turn up in the next couple of Bond films, and the ending does give us hope that she might turn up in future Bond Films. The ending, however, does feel like it’s finally a finale to all the plot lines that have been dragging over from the previous 3 Movies and it sets up the idea that there could, potentially be future sequels, hopefully with Daniel Craig coming back to play the role. I did say I enjoyed this film’s plot and I would say it works with all the other Bond films, I just didn’t enjoy it as much because I loved Skyfall so much and this was the direct follow up to it. I also think too much of this film has been ruined by its trailer as well which is kind of to be expected.

As for the actors they are all delivering excellent performances. Daniel Craig is once again fantastic as James Bond. He is still my absolute favourite actor to play the role and if this is to be his final time playing the character it’s a shame, but he is going out on a good performance. Lea Seydoux as Madeleine Swann, I absolutely loved her, she is excellent in this role and her performance here has really made me take note of the actress and maybe going to see future films here in, on her name alone. I especially liked Ralph Fiennes in the role as M, he had a tough act to fill with Judi Dench leaving in the last film, but he more than makes up for it and is really coming into his own as M. Hopefully we will get to see more of him in future films playing the character. The same goes for Ben Whishaw’s Q. Q didn’t have as much to do in the first film and as a result I don’t think he was allowed to shine enough. This film gives him more to do and we are really seeing Ben Whishaw put his own take on the character and is a really good choice since the last time we saw Q in any Bond film he was being played by John Cleese who did a pretty good job with the character. Naomi Harris’s Moneypenny, well she is not given as much to do as we might have liked, she probably has as much in her role as she did in Skyfall, she still does an excellent job with her and I am hoping, like Ben Whishaw and Ralph Fiennes, she will be back in the role for the next film, and hopefully given more material. Other actors who do excellent jobs are Rory Kinnear as Tanner and especially Andrew Scott playing C, who while he does risk playing a role similar to his Moriarty in Sherlock does another fantastic job, though his character really doesn’t know the meaning of the word subtlety, though mind you subtlety in a James Bond film! What’s that! In fact that’s another point with these James Bond films, James Bond is not subtle at all the guy has never heard of the term ‘keep a low profile’ my goodness, some of his decisions in this film are dumb. What’s more I really thought Christoph Waltz was going to make an excellent Bond villain. He’s another actor who will get me to see another film just by his name being on it and as much as I enjoyed him in this role, I really think he is kind of under utilised and I think Christoph Waltz is doing his best with the little material he is given to work with. But the standouts for me in the villain department is Dave Bautista as Hinx. I think I was too bad to him when I reviewed Guardians of the Galaxy I didn’t give him the credit he deserved, especially considering on a re watch I absolutely loved his performance as Drax in that film, and he is another one who really hit it out of the park with his silent killer in this film. Dave Bautista is really showing up other actors from wrestling with his fantastic performances and I’m really hoping he can make a decent career out of this, though the only role I know he has definitely got in the future is playing Drax again in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. I will say the rest of the cast do a pretty decent job too, though most of their roles are essentially cameos, especially Jesper Christensen in the role of Mr White, again. So I would actually say this is one of the better casts. I think the only fault in the cast is some of them aren’t given enough material to work with, but Sam Mendes has done an excellent job casting this film and directing the cast to the best of his ability, and he definitely seems to be working very well with these actors. Despite my misgivings I wouldn’t mind seeing him return to direct another Bond film on that basis.

A Bond film is only as good as its action scenes, and once again this film lives up to the absolute high standards that the other films have left. The hand to hand combat is well directed. The car chase in Rome is excellent. The scenes in Mexico City are brilliantly action packed and incredibly well shot, especially early scenes to make the whole opening sequence look like it was done in one take, with a few cheeky cuts that you will probably be able to spot more on a rewatch. The gun fights are pretty good and film is overall well shot for its action scenes. The only down side is the over reliance on CGI. Now granted the Bond films have always had a bit of a problem with this since CGI has become common usage, but with films like Kingsman and Mad Max Fury Road showing how good a job you can do with practical effects, and practical action sequences, this one does kind of feel like it’s trying too hard by instigating too much CGI, but luckily the CGI is integrated very well. This film also has another issue, that I think it was meant to be in 3D. I know there were a lot of shots that look like they were tailor made for 3D movies, especially in the beginning, but it looks like they may have shot the film to be in 3D then chickened out at the last minute. Now as someone who is a bit half and half on 3D I’m not sure whether I’m actually happy or upset that this film might have chickened out on it being 3D, but as it stands, this film looks pretty good. The shots are excellent, especially the on location shots like the scenes in Mexico City and Rome in particular, and I would say this films cinematography shines brilliantly and that’s thanks to the terrific editing, even though it does occasionally cut too much during the action scenes and as a result it can make some of the scenes hard to follow. It shows how good Sam Mendes is doing as an action Director.

Is there a major negative to Spectre? Not really a major negative, I just think the plot wasn’t quite as good as Skyfall and made a few too many retrospective continuity changes to what we have established so far in the Bond films which doesn’t bother me on too many levels. Spectre is a pretty good film, it’s just not a great film and fails to live up to its predecessor Skyfall in a couple of ways, mainly in plotting and its villain department. However it delivers some excellent action and while the plot might not be great it’s still pretty decent. I also think the acting in this film is excellent and we have had one of the best Bond Girls in a long time. Everything you would expect from a Bond film is pretty much here and Bond fans will eat this one up with all the others, just don’t expect for this one to be on the top of your list in your next Bond marathon. When I reviewed Kingsman ealier this year I said I was worried I wouldn’t be able to take Spectre seriously but that really is not the case though I did prefer Kingsman overall I would recommend actually going to see this one in the Cinema, This will take a while to come on DVD and I don’t think you should wait that long. But don’t go in with really lofty expectations like I did, because it won’t quite match up to them and that’s a mistake because it’s actually a pretty good film when you really look at it.

So what are your thoughts on James Bond’s latest film? Does it match up with mine or are your thoughts contradicting to mine? Please leave a comment in the comments section, or if you are on Twitter send your Twitter comments to me under the hashtag Axia Film Society, or you can answer this weeks question, which is:

“What is your favourite James Bond Film, and which is your favourite James Bond Theme”?

While I can’t say off the top of my head what my favourite James Bond film is, it’s probably a close call between, Goldfinger, Thunderball and Skyfall, I will say that my favourite theme is “Golden Eye” by Tina Turner. So I am really looking forward to seeing what yours are.

Now it’s time to move on. The Awards season has just started up and I am kicking it off by reviewing a film which has had serious Oscar buzz for most of the year already, the latest adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel “Brooklyn”.

Thanks for reading this review and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you haven’t heard Sam Smiths Bond Theme and you want to comment on what my thoughts are on it, I will leave a link to it below.

Thanks very much.

Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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