Even a movie that is less than spectacular by Bond standards is still somehow spectacular. Daniel Craig has set the bar so high in his prior three performances that audiences are still left shaken and stirred. Craig continues to crank up his Bond on so many levels. He is more serious, sensitive and credible than his predecessors,
“Spectre” is the 24th Bond film over 50-plus years. It is gorgeously filmed throughout its numerous international locales, packed with non-stop stunt action supplemented with CGI effects, and cast with the requisite stunning women and wicked villains. It is the longest and most expensive Bond film ever, but setting box office records globally.
The opening scenes are worth the price of admission alone. In Mexico City’s Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) celebration, Bond takes down bad guys in an out-of-control Red Bull helicopter, barrel-rolling and free-diving 30 feet over 1,500 extras (CGI’d into a crowd 10 times that size). Mexico City was rewarded with its first international Bond premiere. Of course, the premiere was November 2 (Day of the Dead).
After “Skyfall,” the most successful Bond film ever, director Sam Mendes returns. Sure, this film has its faults, but there is so much to enjoy. Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Basterds”) is typecast as the master villain. WWE Champion Dave Bautista makes a most menacing goon. Fifty-year-old Italian actress Monica Bellucci has become the oldest-ever Bond Girl – and still looking good; are we right guys?
The Rome car chase sequence between Bond’s Aston Martin DB10 and Mr. Hinx’s Jaguar C-X75 marks the first time two prototype (non-production) vehicles have been featured in a Bond film. As a throwback, the gadgets are enabled by stainless toggle switches labeled with cheap Dymo Tape, used in the original 1964 “Goldfinger” car.
In this chapter, Bond has gone rogue based on a cryptic message from a mysterious source. Fortunately, he has a LoJack device installed in his veins. Meanwhile, Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott), called “C”. This new head of security challenges the relevance of M’s entire MI6 organization; strangely similar to “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.”
On a rogue mission to Mexico City and eventually Rome, Bond meets Lucia (Bellucci), the beautiful widow of a notorious criminal. Bond uncovers the sinister SPECTRE organization. Moneypenny tells James, “They say you’re finished.” Bond asks, “And what do you think? She explains, “I think you’re just getting started.” We think she’s right.
Bond secretly enlists Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) to help find the daughter of his archenemy Mr. White (Jesper Christensen). White warns, “You are a kite dancing in a hurricane, Mr Bond.” Daughter Madeleine (Lea Seydoux) holds the clue to SPECTRE. She scolds Bond, “You shouldn’t stare.” He responds, “You shouldn’t look like that.” Better yet, she connects with Bond as more than just another Bond girl.
Eventually, Bond greets the depraved Mr. Oberhauser (Waltz), saying, ”I came here to kill you.” Oberhauser responds, “And I thought you came here to die.” Bond concludes, “Well, it’s all a matter of perspective.” It’s also a matter of perspective whether Daniel Craig has now surpassed Sean Connery as the all time favorite Bond, James Bond.
“Spectre” is 148 minutes and rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, disturbing images and language. Sure, all these films are similar anyway; but over time, the producers have minimized the silliest and most chauvinistic aspects of early Bond. The ludicrous stunts and way cool characters continue to generate solid entertainment.
Sam Smith lives up to Bond tradition with his booming theme song, “Writing’s on the Wall.” Bond’s best line is always his introduction, but it seems a spy might not want to tell everyone who he is. Craig is contracted for the next Bond film, but he indicated he has had enough. After all, you only live twice and can die another day.
Ron’s Rating: A- Leigh’s Rating: B