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SPECTRE review

Daniel Craig returns as James Bond in what might be his final outing in the role

All the hype, a strong cast, a budget that seemed to be continually rising AND the promise of the return of an old villain… SPECTRE should, on paper, be the biggest and best Bond of the Daniel Craig run. Just to remind you of the hype…

 

We had opening night tickets booked for what seems like months and were ready to applaud another great offering from Sam Mendes.

I suppose the warning bells should have sounded when the theme song by Sam Smith was unveiled. It’s a tepid few minutes of MOR dross – yes I know that short of Live and Let Die and A View to a Kill most Bond themes are “meh” at best – but this is Bond theme by committee. SPECTRE seems to be suffering from that same committee approach. It feels as though a bunch of writers, ad-execs and location managers have simply drawn up a wish list of stock scenes and favourite moments from previous Bond films, and given this to Mendes to paint some magic on.

SPECTRE is visual, very visual. It is BIG Bond again. The introspection and self-analysis that Daniel Craig had injected into a character that had become a pastiche of a pastiche is largely missing here. He looks bored with the part. He still smoulders his way through the key moments – hard as nails botching a hit in Mexico and owning the skinny leg 2-piece suits that he has made his own, but a wasted scene with Monica Bellucci is simply Bond-lite and far too reminiscent of the misogynistic behaviour of the X-Mas day movies…

This is the longest Bond to date and you get the feeling that it has to be, simply to fit in all those committee approved moments. Thankfully a couple of them are so utterly pointless to the story that it seems Mendes has deliberately thought of the aging audience and the potential for much needed pee breaks.

Somewhere at the core of the plot is the merging of the world’s intelligence agencies and how this is a BAD thing. I seem to remember that this Bond was touted as addressing the post-Snowden world. There is a hint that more data can lead to less control but this is nothing that wasn’t already touched upon in Skyfall. The premise of handing everything over to a new bloke and wiping away the old is, I suppose, a vaguely possible response, but the wasting of the talents of Andrew Scott (THE Moriarty of recent times) is unforgivable. You can tell that he is desperate to play the snivelling bullying winner and yet his role is reduced to a manikin with a post-it note on the forehead.

SPECTRE leaps around the globe, as if to hammer home the intelligence-sans-frontiers aspect of Bond’s new world. It gives Craig the chance to smoulder on a lake, smoulder in a white tux on a train, and smoulder in a Dia de Los Muertos suit and mask combo. Considering the realisation that the Bourne franchise had firmly kicked the 00s in the 00s, this seems like a return to the bad old days of Roger Moore and his catalogue poses.

There are some very good set pieces in SPECTRE. The supercar chase in Rome is well paced and testosterone fueled and the opening sequence in Mexico builds tension – only to lose it with a helicopter scene which is reminiscent of the barrel roll car jump in The Man with the Golden Gun.

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I’m writing this review and it hurts. I really wanted SPECTRE to be the best Bond movie ever, and yet as we sat through the credits I was already feeling short-changed. Mendes directs each scene superbly but it just feels that the whole film is undermined by a complete lack of script clarity. Wishaw and Fiennes get some solid dialogue that actually puts them into the M and Q roles. Rory Kinnear is totally over-looked as Tanner this time around, which is borderline criminal given the recent film use of the character. The whole back-up cast have become the Scooby gang – most evident when they all pile into a Range Rover and you start to wonder where the Great Dane is…

The colour toning of ochres contrasting with blue-grays works to show the humanising side of Bond but it becomes ponderous and messy. Elements of the plot are just unnecessary – the existence of the post at L’Americain makes no sense as a simple annual observation post. The clumsy attempt to tie all the self contained elements of the previous 3 movies into a larger conspiracy is a somewhat hack plot device and would work if more than a quarter of the film was given to the “shock” and oh-so unpredictable reveal of the villain, but it doesn’t – it feels bolted on.

When Bond and Swann get off the train in the middle of the desert, you are kind of left wondering if they might just be better served waiting in the nearest Starbucks for the connecting service, rather than plodding into the next 20 pointless minutes of the film.

You might really enjoy SPECTRE. I’m a Bond fan and I will probably go to see it again – just to see if I have spectacularly misjudged this one. Right now I think that this is the right time to close the chapter on Daniel Craig, reassess the good things (the Scooby gang back up characters) and reboot/recast.

Rating? More Fishing License than License to Kill…

 

John is a grumpy old sod who is now waiting for the next Bourne movie. Mrs L left the cinema with concern for the unresolved security of Q’s cats.

 

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