Movie Reviews
Spectre
By Philip Schweier
November 16, 2015 - 12:15

Starring: Daniel Craig
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Produced by: EON Productions
Running Time: 148 minutes
Release Date: Nov. 6, 2015
Rating: PG13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
Distributors: MGM



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Even after more than 50 years, the James Bond film franchise continues to evolve to keep up with the times. Skyfall (2012) ended with a return to a simpler premise, with M (Ralph Fiennes) sitting in a quiet office, handing out assignments to his double-0 operatives in the name of Her Majesty’s government. I found it disappointing that the follow-up, Spectre, did not continue this trend.

What follows is a bit of spoiler. Sort of.

Our hero returns from a mission, only to be scolded by the head of his national security agency for going off-script. Said agency on the brink of being made redundant as science and technology has revolutionized the intelligence gathering process. Agents in the field may or may not have a role, as computers can target and assess potential threats. The head of said agency is not likely to go quietly into retirement, turning our hero into a rogue agent of sorts. There is a clandestine meeting in the agent’s apartment; his dead superior sends him on an assignment to challenge a threat to their organization. Who do you trust?

Eventually said agent is teamed with a woman, and together they locate a hidden computer facility containing decades old equipment and intel. Clues lead the pair into the lion’s den, where they discover the villain of the story is someone from the hero’s distant past. A world-wide organization of evil, with an stylized octopus logo, has corrupted their national security agency, and is on the verge of launching its technological threat against the innocents of the world.

Escaping, their course is clear: with what few allies they have left, they must infiltrate their former headquarters, where a villainous traitor, once an ally, is awaiting them.

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But enough about Captain America: Winter Soldier. We’re suppose to be discussing Spectre, the latest James Bond movie. But is it a James Bond film? Yes, of course, with all the tropes we’ve come to expect from a James Bond film: the girls, the gadgets, the opening song, the over-the-top villain.

The famous Bond girls include a villain’s widow, as we have seen previously in such films as Casino Royale, and the daughter of Mr. White, who was featured in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Bond locates her in a health resort high in the Swiss Alps, much like the Piz Gloria featured in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Bond’s infamous toys are somewhat at a minimum. The only one we see is an explosive wristwatch (previously seen in Moonraker), though the gadget-laden Aston Martin (last seen in Skyfall) does make an appearance.

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The villain is Ernst Stavro Blofeld (previously seen in the James Bond franchise). He is aided by a Mr. Hinx, a giant of an assassin with metallic body parts (previously seen in Live and Let Die and Moonraker). But in a fist fight aboard a moving train (previously seen in Live and Let Die and Moonraker), James Bond defeats him. Bond later uses an explosive wristwatch (previously seen in Moonraker) to destroy Blofeld’s headquarters, which is hidden in a crater (previously seen in You Only Live Twice).

Spectre makes a number of references to prior Bond films, beginning with skeletal figures in top hats during the opening sequence. Blofeld’s Neru jacket (Diamonds are Forever), his cat (Diamonds are Forever), and his eye scar
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(You Only Live Twice) may be intended to reinforce the character’s history within the franchise, but if that’s their only purpose, then they serve no purpose. “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it,” is often a direct path to failure.

Overall, I haven’t seen so many touchstones to previous Bond adventures since Pierce Brosnan’s final outing, Die Another Day (2002). That film reinforced the idea that from time to time a successful film franchise will descend into self-parody. Producers and screenwriters, believing they have a captive audience, perhaps grow a bit lazy in their efforts.

The expectation is that Spectre is Daniel Craig’s swansong as James Bond. While I appreciate how Casino Royale reinvigorated the franchise, the nine years since have been a mostly downward slope. While we may see a new actor in the role in the years to come, perhaps it’s time for new personnel behind the camera, as well.


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