REVIEW: SPECTRE (2015)

Theatrical Release Poster – Eon Productions – Columbia Pictures

The following is a spoiler-free review of Eon Productions’ SPECTRE, a Sam Mendes film.

James Bond – Agent 007 – is a legendary film character from a legendary film franchise. A franchise that, through the good and the bad, has been obligatory viewing for all film enthusiasts. Daniel Craig’s run of films has been rather memorable so far, but SPECTRE, doesn’t stand out as one of the best in the franchise.

In SPECTRE, Bond (played by Daniel Craig) is on a hunt for information following the events of Skyfall. His missions are unofficial, and thus they frustrate M (played by Ralph Fiennes), who is in a power struggle with C (played by Andrew Scott) – the head of the Joint Intelligence Service. Though officially sidelined, Bond must now search for an organization known as SPECTRE, while the 00-program might be terminated for good.

One of the noteworthy things that SPECTRE does is that it perfectly bridges the new Bond with the old. You have the Jason Bourne-inspired action, but also the more gadget-based action. Thus Q (played by Ben Whishaw) feels much more important than he did in Skyfall. On a side note, I do think that the James Bond-franchise has learned to adapt to a new audience by mimicking one of the reasons why Mission: Impossible is so popular right now: the spy team. Q, Moneypenny, M, and the main Bond girl all felt perfectly utilized.

Seeing as this is somewhat of a return to what made Bond great back in the franchise’s heyday, though with some new tricks added to it, it must be judged somewhat on the more classic set of criteria that James Bond-films demand: the apéritif (opening scene, as well as opening credits), the henchman, the villain, and the Bond girl.

A James Bond film is a full course dinner, complete with an apéritif, an entrée, a main course, and a digestif. SPECTRE’s main course was brilliant, and the digestif even more so. The entrée, which is to say the thickening of the plot, could have used some more work to let it flow better. But as I am not to spoil the film, I will not go into the details of the entrée, main course, or the digestif.

However, I am able to properly discuss the apéritif. So before this gets too dinner-based, let’s talk about how we are re-introduced to the world of James Bond and the SPECTRE chapter. We begin on the Day of the Dead in Mexico – Bond is on one of his unofficial missions. The sequence is properly action-packed, but its action is not what makes it great. Instead, we should focus on the symbolism and the camerawork.

Starting with the former, the Day of the Dead is of huge importance. At this point in his life Bond is being haunted by the ghosts of his past – lovers and enemies. How his past fits with the evil organization SPECTRE I will not specify – but I enjoyed how they respected the continuity of the Daniel Craig films. And the camerawork is outstanding as well.

The film opens with a brilliant tracking shot of Bond, and it sets the bar high ahead of a film that doesn’t disappoint. The opening credits seqeunce was actually a real highlight for me, as I felt it was one of the best looking credits sequences I had ever seen in a Bond film. However, the song, “Writing’s on the Wall” by Sam Smith, still feels out of place to me.

There were times in the film wherein I felt that the villain of the film was less than pleasing, which did surprise me quite a lot, seeing as I am a fan of the actor. Ultimately, he does work – but it does not seem like the writers spent a lot of time on him. I wanted much more of him. But that is one of the only notable criticisms that I can divulge in a spoiler-free review.

Now, the Bond girl is of huge importance in the franchise, yet only Vesper Lynd has been of real importance in the time that Daniel Craig has been Bond. In SPECTRE, we see both Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydoux as Bond girls. The former isn’t that important, which did disappoint me somewhat. I really like Bellucci, but she didn’t have a lot to work with in SPECTRE. On the other hand, Léa Seydoux is a worthy Bond girl, working much more as a sidekick than a throwaway character, which some Bond girls have been.

Final Score: 7 out of 10SPECTRE presents a full-grown version of Daniel Craig’s James Bond – no longer inexperienced, but with a high number of haunting ghosts from the past.

I’m Jeffrey Rex