Spectre: My View

The twenty-fourth “official” Bond film, fourth starring Daniel Craig, and second directed by Sam Mendes.  First let me say that Spectre is a very well-made film, but what would you expect from this franchise and the $154M budget?  Money doesn’t mean quality, especially in the film industry, but in this case the money is on the screen.

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The first 5-6 minutes of the film are worth the price of admission.  The seamless action during the Day of the Dead sequence in Mexico City is as awe inspiriting as the opening of Birdman or the Scorsese nightclub tracking shot in Goodfellas.

The rest of the fill is not without its moments, intriguing story lines and characters, but when the lights finally go up at the end, your mind is trying to connect and make sense of it all.  Clocking in at 148 minutes, not counting at least 15 minutes of previews, makes for a long experience.  My hip will tell me when a movie has gone on too long and this one did.  A tightened script and a little less Bond life-story exposition would have increased the enjoyment.  More is not always more.  There are four listed screenwriters, and perhaps other uncredited typewriters that worked on the script.  More writers is definitely not better.

The film reintroduces audiences to Spectre, the criminal organization usually associated with Ernst Stavro Blofeld, a frequent Bond film villain.  See the film to understand the connection between Bond and Blofeld.  Bond film scripts and the connection to the Ian Fleming books is always an interesting one, simply to see how scriptwriters try to draw as much from the books while keeping a finger on the current film-going public.  For me, the script tried to cover too much ground and the plotting of well-produced action sequences do not really propel the story forward as previous films in the franchise have done.  Aside from the first major sequence, and another one later in the film, there is very little dramatic tension, and it dissolves with too many dialogue scenes that either explore Bond’s past or take side roads into the other stories.  Granted, after more than 50 years of Bond films, learning more about the character should be a bonus, and while it is, the viewers are trying to follow ancestry arcs of other characters.

Bond films are about villains, gadgets, women and the music.  The villains here are okay, they are effective and there is a connection to the Bond past.  The gadgets are held to a minimum, no rocket packs or cars that turn into submersibles.  The Bond babes are good including the dazzling Monica Bellucci, who at age 50 is the oldest Bond girl.  Thomas Newman returns to pen the music, and Sam Smith sings the title song.  Both are okay, pleasant but not really memorable.

Recent media reports have Craig tiring of the Bond role and ready to move on.  Certainly, the final scenes of the film give the impression that Bond is done with the game, but don’t bet on it.  James Bond is a cash cow for the Albert R. Broccoli estate and the various studio interests.  Bond will be back, but who will wear the white tuxedo?

Did I like the film?  I would give it 2.5 out of 4 stars.  It had high points and low points: crisply directed action scenes; well-placed humor; a script that was too ambitious and overly long; the brooding Daniel Craig; and a world view of danger and high risk global security uncertainty.

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