Film Bitch History
Oscar History
Welcome

The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R. Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. All material herein is written and copyrighted by Nathaniel or a member of our team as noted.

 

Powered by Squarespace
Don't Miss This!

Review: Ready or Not

Comment Fun

Yes Not Maybe So: Bombshell

" I am not liking this trend of portraits of terrible women, like Meghan and Phyliss Schafly, unless it's camp." - Jane

"Miss Charlize is like, "Do I need to remind you guys again who is the baddest bitch around here?." I just can'ttttt! She looks like Megan Kelly's twin -- that makeup work is insanity!!!" - Jono

"if Nicole doesn't wear a bad wig in a movie.....is it really a must see event?" -Chris

Keep TFE Strong

We're looking for 500... no 461 Patron SaintsIf you read us daily, please be one.  Your suscription dimes make an enormous difference. Consider...

I ♥ The Film Experience

THANKS IN ADVANCE

Interviews

Directors of For Sama


recent
Lulu Wang (The Farewell)
Ritesh Batra (Photograph)
Schmidt & Abrantes (Diamantino)
Wanuri Kahiu (Rafiki)
Jia Zhang-ke (Ash is Purest White)

What'cha Looking For?
Subscribe
« DVD: Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Missing Pimp | Main | Interview: Germán Tejeira on 'A Moonless Night,' Uruguay's Oscar Submission »
Tuesday
Nov102015

Review: Spectre

Tim here. Four films in, it feels like it's been enough time for the Daniel Craig era of James Bond films to stop doing the origin story thing, but nope, Spectre – the 24th film in the franchise, and the first in its second half-century of life – once again finds the rebooted series putting a whole movie's worth of energy into establishing something that was covered in, like, one scene back in 1963's From Russia with Love. That being the existence of the titular criminal organization, the Special Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion. It's not so much frustrating as it is baffling: "learn more about Spectre" is basically the whole of the film's plot, with no real threat that needs to be stopped. There's some weird and unsatisfying business with a multinational agreement to share espionage resources, I guess that's the thing driving the plot. A cache of stolen nukes or an attempt to start World War III, it ain't.

Does any of that really matter? If anything, Spectre reveals the core pleasures of the Bond franchise, by removing even the vestige of an actual narrative. It's an exercise in lifestyle porn globetrotting, with Craig handsomely filling out a whole bunch of Tom Ford suits as director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema take great pains to make a lot of extremely gorgeous locations in Europe and North Africa look, well, gorgeous. At frequent intervals there is an action setpiece, most of which are pretty terrific. [More...]

In fact, Spectre opens with one of the best action scenes in the decades-long history of the franchise. Bond is in Mexico City on the Day of the Dead, tracking down an Italian terrorist, and following him through a parade, into a hotel, and then back out of the hotel along its roofline in one apparently uninterrupted take. It's bravura filmmaking, but it's bravura fimmaking with a purpose: to show the smoothness of Bond's top-notch spying skills, slicing through space with the fluid motions of a barracuda. And then when that's all, he gets into a fistfight on a helicopter that's performing corkscrews over a huge crowd, and Thomas Newman's score jabs at us intensely, occasionally throwing a riff on the Monty Norman surf rock theme that has defined Bond for all these years.

It's an opening that no film could sustain, but Spectre is better than its muted critical reception would have you believe. It just requires admiring the sleekness of its photography and set design more than its cumbersome writing. And in the case of a Bond film, the series faithful have had decades of practice at doing just that. Admittedly, when Spectre goes off the rails, it goes off the rails hard.

That happens exactly at the point where the shadowy villain Franz Oberhauser, played by Christoph Waltz in a significantly less Christoph Waltz-ey mode than he usually manages, steps into the light, with one of those elaborate torture machine sequences the series often brings in. For it's here that the movie fully commits to all of the hints of backstory that have been swirling around the whole time, making the film the bow tying up immediate predecessors Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyall into one overarching narrative that's pretty well daft, any way you want to look at it.

Worse yet, it manages at the same time to tie all those movies into a life history of Bond himself; if it's not quite a Chosen One narrative, it's looking at houses in that neighborhood. All of this is quite desperate and dimwitted, and it makes one long for the days when Bond films could just be one-off adventures of madmen with underwater lairs trying to remake the world in their image. The serialization and world-building of the Craig-era Bond films has gotten tedious, and the bloated last third of Spectre pays the price for it.

But what of the first two-thirds? They're not perfect, but the film has more than its share of pleasures: Ralph Fiennes, as spymaster M, Naomie Harris, as quick-witted secretary Moneypenny, and Ben Whishaw as sardonic tech guru Q, have a lot of fun camaraderie with each other and Craig, and an appealingly expanded role in the proceedings. The ad-hoc family feeling of their interactions are the one truly new thing Spectre brings to the franchise, and it's great. In a much too small role, Monica Bellucci is terrifically flinty as the first-ever age-appropriate sexual partner for Bond; Léa Seydoux's much bigger part as the "actual" romantic lead isn't quite as special, but she does come across as exceptionally self-reliant, intelligent, and prickly in her independence for a woman in a Bond picture, right up until the film makes the terrible choice to really commit to their emotional connection.

Meanwhile, the film's action scenes are mostly reliable – one gratifyingly large explosion to kick off the last act, and a basic but beautifully-shot car chase focusing on the most gorgeous car in the entire franchise (an ultra-rare Aston Martin DB10, made specifically for the movie) – if not ever particularly jaw-dropping in their originality after that Mexico City opening. Even as pure spectacle, this isn't up to the level of Skyfall (which has, honestly, only a slightly better screenplay), and its superficial pleasures have a lot to overcome as the plot disappears into its own rectum. I would not want to speak of the film's value to anyone who isn't already onboard with Bond's characteristic absurd action and glossy aesthetics, but for those of who look forward to those things, Spectre delivers. It's not a film worth loving, but there's really a good deal to like.

Rating: B

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (10)

I mostly liked this film and I even liked the whole "it's all connected!!!" retcon that they reached far and beyond to do. Probably because they kept bringing up Vesper and I loved her/Eva Green. Shit, i'm even a fan of the title sequence even though I totally get the cries of "tentacle porn!" and Sam Smith's theme which fared a bit better with the addition of the visuals.

I'll admit that there's a great deal to dislike about the film. Especially with Monica Bellucci. Not only her screen-time but everything to do with her and Bond.

It's odd. Even though the movie is longer than usual, other than Daniel and Lea, i really feel like the rest of the cast really didn't have much to do at all.

Plus, I *really* missed Judi Dench's M and her "I don't have time for your shit, 007" attitude.

November 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck.

Have not seen this one but outside of Bardem I was not a huge fan of Skyfall. Casino Royale is still Craig's best bond film by far.

November 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

I agree that the most enjoyable part of the film is the Fiennes/Harris/Whishaw "ad hoc family' -- a welcome dose of personality amidst all of Craig's stoic moments.

November 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

I liked the "ad hoc" family too. That family was just desperately missing Judi Dench (as was I).

One of the great things about Paul Feig's "Spy" this summer was that they really let all the supporting characters shine. Maybe that's a good direction for the Bond movies to try.

November 11, 2015 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Not only the storyline starts going nowhere interesting after the Rome fireworks, but the brief presence of the utterly glamourous / sexy / feminine / charismatic Monica Bellucci (and her immediate chemistry with Craig) makes Léa Seydoux's character look very bland in comparison. And don't even talk to me about the Christoph Waltz terrible storyline that nearly ruins Skyfall's impact ... Anyway, Spectre is beautiful to look at but totally vain, and this is coming from someone who thinks Skyfall was one of the best pictures of 2012...

November 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterClément@Paris

I knew Skyfall was going to be a tough act to follow (no Albert Finney or Judi Dench), but I was hoping for something better than this. I still want to see Spectre, but without some narrative drive, two and a half hours of traveloguing might be better spent with The Cooking Channel.

November 12, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Just save your money, folks. "Spectre" is a clunker, and it's time to replace Daniel Craig already.

November 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaulie

It was okay, nothing special though, some terrible casting by the way.; far better than Craig's previous three Bond films, which were awful, especially the dreadful and dreary Skyfall.

November 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLee

I felt Skyfall had some holes in the overall plot and believability issues in terms of the villain's abilities, but overall I was sucked in and enjoyed the film. Casino Royal is my favorite, while Spectre is 'ok'.

May 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

Just saw the film yesterday. I found the film so boring that I fell to sleep and the explosions woke me up. I thought that the best part of the film was the opening scene

May 10, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGOTLucille 4507

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>