By Jack Rico
*The following review features some mighty big SPOILERS, so proceed with caution.
The 1-4-0: Despite an electric opening, #Spectre fails to live up to standards of Casino Royale or Skyfall.
The Gist: Following the seismic events of Skyfall, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is given one last, posthumous mission from M (Dane Judy Dench), against the a massive secret organization Spectre led by the mysterious Oberhauser (Cristoph Waltz), who’s origins may be tide to Bond’s own.
What Works: Daniel Craig remains an excellent Bond, in every way evoking Ian Fleming’s original intent. Craig’s Bond is a blunt instrument, a cold-hearted killer constantly in search of his soul. His supporting cast, from Noamie Harris to Ben Whishaw are all effective and each play vital roles in the film. Ralph Fiennes is solid as the new M, proving a worthy successor to Judy Dench. Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) continues to prove himself a surprisingly talented wrestler-turned-actor. The always-stunning Monica Belluci is perfect in a minor role, and it’s refreshing to see Bond seduce a woman his own age.
In many ways this film ticks off every box for a successful entry into the Bond canon. It is a world spanning adventure, featuring incredible action sequences, jaw dropping locals, cool gadgets, and beautiful cinematography. The film’s action packed sequence in Mexico City—complete with a stunning continuous single opening shot—is brilliantly done.
What Doesn’t Work: Despite months of denial, Cristoph Waltz’s Oberhauser is indeed Blofeld, the classic Bond villain and inspiration to Mike Myer’s Dr. Evil. On paper the casting of Waltz as one of cinema’s most iconic villains is an inspired choice. His role as Nazi Colonel Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterd is one the most terrifying and fully realized movie villains, but Waltz’s pedigree cannot salvage the film’s mediocre screenplay.
For a film that promises to be the climatic conclusion to the rebooted Bond’s extended origin story, it’s surprising how much of Spectre feels half-baked. Whereas Casino Royale and Skyfall added an emotional depth to both the series and its central character, Spectre leans too heavily on the franchise’s clichés while only ever skirting the possibility of something deeper. From Bond’s rushed and tepid romance with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) to the poorly executed reveal of Bond and Blofeld’s shared origins, Spectre struggles to find its way out of the shadow of its vastly superior predecessors while never finding its rhythm.
Bear in mind, all of these elements could have worked had the screenwriters let the many twists resonate with the characters, a problem that could have been solved by eschewing an extended chase scene in favor of the quieter character moments that made Skyfall so powerful.
Pay or Nay: I’m honestly not really sure. In another era, Spectre would have been the gold standard of what Bond films could be. The nuances revealed in Bond’s character along with peeling back of his history and his familial connection to his greatest nemesis would have left audiences’ jaws on the floor. But as it stands those twists are not given the resonance they deserve. This is by no means a bad James Bond film—it’s significantly better than Quantum of Solace—but the film ultimately falls short of achieving the near impossible task of living up to Skyfall.