The Hippo


Jul 23, 2019









Spectre (PG-13)
Film reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

Spectre (PG-13)

Craig dons the Bond, James Bond, suit once again in Spectre, a Bond movie that checks all the Bond boxes.
International action scenes? Yes, kicking off with a series of chases and explosions during a Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico City and including jaunts to Rome, Austria, Morocco, a secret desert compound and, of course, London. Bond ladies? Check — one played, excitingly, by the age-appropriate Monica Bellucci (she’s 51 to Craig’s 47) and one, of course, played by the 30-year-old Léa Seydoux, who reads younger, making the pairing a little jarring (the way Hollywood plays with age, he could easily have been cast as her father in some other movie). Creepy Bond villain? Check — Christoph Waltz, who has been essentially playing a Bond villain for years. Evil criminal organization? Why, yes, that would be the Spectre of the title, though, other than provide Waltz with a lair in the desert and run international prostitution, I’m not really sure what Spectre does. I guess spies on everyone, but then so do my cell phone and the ninety billion store loyalty cards I carry to get 10 percent off shampoo, so get in line, Spectre.
After the opening scenes in Mexico, Bond — who is chasing down a man as ordered by previous M (Judi Dench) for reasons that may have something to do with the Craig Bond movies’ overarching, totally confusing mythology — is grounded by new M (Ralph Fiennes), who tells Bond his latest adventures have given the newly reorganized security service the excuse they need to get rid of the 00 program. Everybody’s new boss, C (Andrew Scott, Moriarty of the Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock series), agrees with the new school of thought that says surveillance and drones can get the job done better than a bunch of kill-license-having secret agents who run around ordering martinis and bedding supermodels. A tracker is put in Bond to keep tabs on him and force him to stay in London, but with Q’s (Ben Whishaw) help Bond is able to flit around Europe to romance a dead assassin’s wife (the aforementioned Bellucci), find a dying spy (Jesper Christensen) and then find that spy’s daughter, Madeleine (Seydoux), who has clues to help Bond track down Blofeld (Waltz), this movie’s big evil. Urgency and a related B-plot are supplied by the MI5 and MI6 reorganization, which isn’t just getting rid of the 00s but also launching a surveillance and intelligence sharing network, with all the major countries of the world participating, that will create a global information hub. Again, I’m pretty sure that already exists and it’s called the Internet and its aim is to sell me those shoes I looked at two weeks ago but, sure, I’ll buy that the nations of the world, in a misguided attempt to “fight terror,” are pooling their information in such a way that the evil Spectre will be able to control it. Probably with the aim of world domination and selling me shoes and a coat.
Also, wasn’t this basically the plot of Captain America: The Winter Soldier?
Spectre is missing something, some essential spark of Bond fun and energy. The James Bond franchise and the Mission Impossible franchise share a lot in that they are both action-filled jaunts through sexy locales with familiar borderline-campy theme music and plots that are ultimately kind of irrelevant to your enjoyment of the film. But this summer’s Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation had the “something” that made it a delight to sit through and Spectre does not. Perhaps it’s because most of the action scenes feel highly skippable. Perhaps it’s because Waltz was way creepier and more menacing when reciting Tarantino dialogue as basically this same character. (There is a scene where Bond, about to be tortured by Blofeld, tells him to bring it on because anything is better than listening to him talk. I found myself agreeing. Waltz’s never-ending monologue was a lazy forgettable hash of every “Daddy never loved me” and “there’s a new world order” villain motivation explanation ever. Yeah, I though, torture Bond, not the audience.) Perhaps it’s because that climactic Blofeld-versus-Bond meeting seems to have the most “unnecessarily slow dipping mechanism” of torture devices outside an Austin Powers movie and feels like a parody of itself. Or perhaps it’s because neither Bond nor Craig seem to be having any fun. Whatever the missing ingredient is, the result is a movie that is more bleak and dull than a Bond movie should be.
There are moments when a more fun movie is suggested. Toward the end of the film, M, Q, Moneypenny (Naomie Harris, who seems to be the only actor enjoying being in a Bond movie) and Bill Tanner (Rory Kinnear), a character whose Wikipedia entry makes me wish we saw more of him, play a kind of Scooby gang helping the rogue Bond track Blofeld and stop the launch of the surveillance network. More!, I thought, more of this! I realize these are James Bond movies, not Bond and Friends, but still, the existence of the group gave the movie, however briefly, a bit of life it otherwise lacked. C
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language. Directed by Sam Mendes from a screenplay by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth (from characters by Ian Fleming), Spectre is an unnecessary two hours and 28 minutes long and is distributed by MGM/Columbia Pictures. 

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