Reviewed by: Harvey Karten for Shockya. Databased on Rotten Tomatoes.
Director: Sam Mendes
Written by: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw
Screened at: Regal E-Walk, NYC, 11/2/15
Opens: November 6, 2015
If visuals were all we look for—and for some in the audience spectacle is all that counts—“Spectre,” which could be subtitled “Spectacle,” would rate high. But even 007—no, especially 007—needs sharp dialogue. Who could criticize the gems of the past like, Customs Investigator: “What is the purpose of your trip?” Bond: “Pleasure. Is there any other?” Or, “Shaken, not stirred.” (By contract the current James Bond utters the same words, but where’s the resonance? And where are the classy bits like showing 007 making a cappuccino in 45 second flat?
And where are the gadgets? Two of ‘em are shown here: a watch with almost supernatural powers, and a car that emits flames if being chased. This is no longer the old, great 007.
And where is Sean Connery when we need him so much?
All in all, “Spectre” is weak in the dialogue department, so-so in acting, by-the-numbers in plotting, and wonderful in visuals as lensed by Hoyte van Hoytema. In the director’s chair Sam Mendes became the first to oversee two consecutive Bond films since John Glen directed “The Living Daylights” and “License to Kill” in 1987 and 1989.
The opening minutes are brilliant, giving the audience considerable anticipation for what would follow. A huge crowd has gathered in Mexico City to celebrate the Dead of the Dead, which takes place each year on November first and second to celebrate departed family members and looks like a combination of New Orleans Mardi Gras and a Halloween party in New York’s Greenwich Village. Thousands of people line the streets leading to the Zocalo, giving Bond (Daniel Craig) the opportunity to run at top speed, shoving people aside in an attempt to catch one of the bad guys. 007 seems more interested in nailing a criminal than in fulfilling the desires of the beautiful Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci), who plays the widow of an assassin killed by Bond. The formula kicks in as Bond pursues the criminal, climaxing in a getaway chopper rather than in the bedroom with Lucia.
All communication between Bond and his boss M (Ralph Fiennes) is dull, even when M forces Bond to stand down for causing an international incident when he was not authorized to act in Mexico. Although James is suspended he nonetheless is given an intravenous tracking device by Q (Ben Whishaw acting as the agency’s quartermaster) to allow M and M’s team to track the agent’s whereabouts, but it takes more to stop 007, who absconds with the traditional Aston Martin and zips with it into Rome. (At this point we in the audience wonder where he carries his passports, how he packs his suits when he has only a small valise, how he is able to finance his day-to-day living or even keep clean-shaven.)
The principal confrontation, of course, is surely not with M but rather with the psychopathic Franz Oberhauser (Christopher Waltz—hands-down the best actor in the movie and sadly underutilized), whose thuggish right-hand man, Mr. Jinx (Dave Bautista) gouges a rival’s eyeballs during an interview, then heads after Bond by car and by a train in Morocco but which looks suspiciously like the Orient Express. The train serves dinner and drinks to Bond and his new girl, Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), a psychologist working in a private medical clinic in the Austrian Alps—a woman who is the daughter of an assassin who, like all others of his ilk meets an unfortunate end.
The aim of the organization known as Spectre is to launch a surveillance network which can hone in on any location without the need to set up hidden cameras or to send agents around wearing wires. Somehow this super-sleuth machine threatens civilization, as information has replaced nuclear fission as the means to control the world. Perhaps the best use to which it can be put is to allow filmmakers to hone in on others in the profession around the world, leading folks like director Sam Mendes and writers John Logan, Neil Purvis and Robert Wade to revive the Bond series with resonant dialogue, surprises here and there instead of formula, and actors with the charisma of a Sean Connery.
Rated PG-13. 148 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – C-
Acting – C+
Technical – A-
Overall – C