Thursday 5 November 2015

Review: Spectre

Year: 2015
Director: Sam Mendes
Screenplay: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth
Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes

Synopsis is here:

The returning adventures of Bond are a mixed affair. Hoyte van Hoytema brings across some gorgeous warm visuals. The film’s opening sequence is one of pure spectacle and delivers that Bond style thrills that one would hope for (as does a particular explosion later on). These things and a few other things in Spectre helped distract me from the usual concerns I hold with other Bond films of the past which often involve our favourite drunken misogynist having to navigate tiringly convoluted plots.

Nods to previous alliterations and versions of Bond were understandable in previous films. Die another Day, for instance, was not only celebrating the 40 year anniversary of Bond on film, but was also the 20th official film in the franchise. Coming out two years after the turn of the millennium, with such a self-aware actor as Bond made sense at the time. All in spite the film’s weak execution.
Spectre’s wish to remind viewers of the Connery’s white Tux from Goldfinger (1964), over-elaborate villains’ lairs and Charles Bronson-esque henchmen are cute enough. Yet such elements now seem flimsy. Particularly as Daniel Craig’s stint as Bond has strived hard to incorporate a more modern view of the character, after the franchise found itself looking outmoded in comparison to the likes of Bourne.

The likes of Casino Royale and Goldeneye, melded the modern with tradition, and did so comfortably. However Mendes’ second undertaking of the Bond series, loses much of that dour retrospection that gives Skyfall (amongst much of Craig’s Bond entries) such an intriguing appeal. The film’s secondary plot, involving national surveillance, is actually quite appealing in its relevance. Unfortunately Spectre must make sure that Bond seduces a lady to advance the so called real story. No matter how little chemistry Craig has with Monica Bellucci. Does it matter that the sequences comes off as wildly forced? Or a waste of such a quality actress? Nope, Bond must get his end away at least twice. No matter how laboured it may feel.

Spectre (and perhaps much of the newer Bond’s) still struggles with some of the retrograde trappings of the character. Sometimes when the stars align, it doesn’t matter. Other times such as here, everything feels off. Craig’s performance sounds resigned and tired. We’re left to wonder if that’s the character or the actor coming through. After Craig’s recent comments, it’s hard not to think it’s the latter.

There’s still fun to be had with Spectre. Giving Q (Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Harris) more to do is a nice touch. Despite a well spoilt revelation (due to hunches, marketing hype and weak scripting), Spectre holds an excruciatingly painful torture sequence which works incredibly well in the grand scheme of things. Andrew Scott is a fine addition to the film and while, despite looking a little tired with it all, Craig is still an interesting figure as Bond.

Annoyingly, Spectre’s third act tries quite hard to dismantle the more alluring directions that Bond had been heading in. It's rushed A to B plotting hurriedly accumulates to an inelegant climax, which only frustrates, as it balances on a decision that rings quite false of the character. The toning down of Bond in his more unfavourable traits, may not appeal to everyone, but are understandable. The awkward compromise which goes against one of the key elements of Bond's complex dynamics, is uncomfortable. Even for a causal Bond fan.

Spectre will certainly have its fans, and is far from the worst Bond film ever made. Be that as it may, as the credits roll, it was hard not to think of one of my favourite Radiohead songs. No Surprises.