Thursday, November 12, 2015

Spectre (**1/2)

Directed by Sam Mendes


The James Bond franchise is one that I'm not totally familiar with, I will openly admit. Spectre clocks in as the fifth Bond film I've seen overall, along with Goldfinger, Goldeneye, Die Another Day and last year's Skyfall. The allure of the Daniel Craig Bond is very easy for me to comprehend. Most of the Bonds we know are unflappable, but Craig seems to be giving this infamous secret agent some inner torment. He's too good an actor to give off the kind of laissez faire that Connery gave off so effortlessly; Craig has to give us something. Under the direction of former-art-house-filmmaker-turned-commercial-director-for-hire Sam Mendes, James Bond has some reluctance, and doesn't tip-toe his way across the tightrope of being a 00 agent so elegantly. Spectre felt less compelling to me than Skyfall. Most of it has to do with their villains. Where Javier Bardem was at his sadistic best in Skyfall, there's an element to Christoph Waltz here - he plays Blofeld, a terrorist leader who holds a devilish partnership with a surveillance squad planning to make British espionage irrelevant - that feels a bit undercooked. The character is too hackneyed to really stand-out and the actor is simply doing Christoph Waltz karaoke at this point - I've seen him look much more interested, let's just say that. But the action set pieces are truly impressive here. There's one sequence in a helicopter and another on a train, both show that the Craig-Mendes partnership is one that can make highly entertaining thrillers, if not particularly substantial ones. Lea Seydoux plays Madeleine Swann, the daughter of a former assassin who Bond must fight to protect once that father dies. Seydoux is one of the sexiest women on the planet, and a talented actress to boot - if she didn't have that French accent, she would be a movie star. Ralph Fiennes reprises his role from Skyfall, but like Craig and Seydoux, the script doesn't really provide anything for this collection of talent to do. This is a romp, it has all the classic lines you want to hear, and a nice tip of the hat to the classic Bond movie formula (a bad guy explaining his plan too soon?!). It should make it's base audience happy, but I found myself having a bit of fun as well.

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