Film Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and Applicant to be the Next M
With an action packed formula that still works and is still as predictable as the sun rising in the East, the 24th installment in the now half century old James Bond franchise still manages convincingly big explosions, lavish set pieces and more seductive women that you can point a Walther PPK at…yet, one gadget still to be mastered by Q division is the ability to dazzle a willing audience with something fresh and new. You know, like Skyfall.
Despite its catchy hook of a name, Spectre isn’t it.
Since the end of the last Bond film, one M has fallen while another has stepped up to head MI6. In a last effort to unveil an evil shadow organization behind the world’s ills, Bond’s former boss (Dame Judi Dench) leaves a secret video message to her most unruly of agents (Daniel Craig), advising him to follow a trail of potential members of a sinister group known as Spectre, led by a mysterious yet charismatic mastermind (Christoph Waltz).
With Gareth Malory (Ralph Fiennes) now heading MI6 as the new M, Agent 007 must rely on allies from within — think Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) — to assist him in buying some time to investigate this less than credible and mysterious threat, before world governments sign an agreement that would see global intelligence agencies merge resources, effectively eliminating the need for a Double-O program.
Is Spectre behind this latest machination? Can Bond find the answers in time, especially given that his enemies have dispatched a most lethal, relentless and capable henchman, Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista), after him? Will the secret daughter of one of his foes (Léa Seydoux) prove a threat or an asset?
As with all Bond films, nothing is what it seems, and Her Majesty’s Secret Service’s most capable agent will stop at nothing to save the world from chaos.
I hope you’ll forgive me for being a little vague on the plot details, somewhat of a requirement when describing the plot of a Bond film in an online review, so as to not reveal key reveals in what could instrumentally be a larger piece of a franchise puzzle. At least, in the sense that you see the Craig series of films as a reboot, starting with Casino Royale.
All of the series’ elements are still there: the fancy cars, the double crosses, the daring chase scenes across the four corners of the globe. And yet, after the personal angle that made Sam Mendes’ Skyfall so vital to the DNA of the Bond mythos, this attempt at unveiling the looming threat of the well-known evil corporation that is Spectre, comes off as a little overly familiar.
Daniel Craig doesn’t seem to have his head in the game, whether by lack of enthusiasm or by mere ennui after three successful films, as if he were ready to pass the baton on to another up-and-coming Brit.
(Paging Misters Cumberbatch, Elba, Lewis, etc…)
Overall, the great arching evil scheme at play here (a villainous group with a megalomaniac leader, based on a desert fortress with a legion of goons) simply doesn’t feel like all that much of a threat, with its recognizable features all too well known by millions of Bond fans.
I’ll give the filmmakers points for their valid effort in tying in all of the previous Craig films together onto this latest chapter, if only to somehow justify this culmination of activities allegedly originating from one nefarious source. How convenient.
Were the introduction of an amazing Oscar-winning actor not so blatantly telegraphed, it wouldn’t have come off as such a waste of a good actor, one who doesn’t get nearly enough screen time to really warrant such a menacing presence in Bond’s life. You almost feel sorry for Waltz, that is, when you’re not too busy enjoying the scenery chewing at hand.
I’ll also applaud the return of the henchman archetype, with Dave Bautista’s Hinx providing one of the more pleasantly surprising goons since the late Richard Kiel’s Jaws in the late 70s; alas, his role in the film is misplaced and unfulfilled, dismissed all too soon, much to the chagrin of film goers.
At least there’s still some workable chemistry at play within the MI6 core team, with Ben Whishaw’s timid Q providing some timely laughs, Naomie Harris playing the sexy yet coy secretar…ahem, executive assistant, and Ralph Fiennes holding his own stepping in for Dench.
I could say much to dismissively erase this film from your mind in terms of cinematic value in the overall Bond pantheon. And yet, it still manages to touch on all the right points to make for a watchable spy action film.
Is it worth watching? If, like myself, you call yourself a 007 aficionado, then absolutely. Is it something you’ve never seen before? Absolutely not. Don’t be surprised if you get a certain sense of déjà vu by the halfway mark. Just don’t get catty about it.
3 out of 5
Dominic Messier is a media veteran who’s written and discussed movies for over 20 years, from entertainment radio shows to newspaper columns to websites. Follow him on Twitter via @dommessier or join the Pop Culture Landscape with Dominic Messier page on Facebook.