SPECTRE
Author: J.A. Hyde
Date: November 5, 2015

SYNOPSIS: A cryptic message from Bond's past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind Spectre.

Oh, yes. You will definitely get your money’s worth from SPECTRE!

Director Sam Mendes and lead actor Daniel Craig deliver both expected and unexpected action. After Sean Connery, Craig is my favorite Bond. Steely blue eyes, angular face, efficient, compact physique – this man looks like he can GET. THE. JOB. DONE. Any job. Craig also offers a slightly more emotionally complex Bond whose motivations are often personal.

If you’re a fan, you already know what SPECTRE is, although in this film, Bond is just now finding out. From the opening credits which once again feature the gun barrel shot and the expected surrealistic, sensual montage to the familiar James Bond theme music, the audience is primed for the trademark components of a Bond film: exotic locales, edge-of-your-seat action sequences, and beautiful women. SPECTRE is the most expensive Bond film so far, and it shows.

At the beginning of the film, Bond is off the grid in a stunning sequence shot in Mexico City at a Day of the Dead celebration. Actually, he is acting on orders, but from an unexpected source. As Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) says, “I think you’ve got a secret you won’t tell anyone because you don’t trust anyone.” He also gets grounded for this exploit by M (Ralph Fiennes) and implanted with a tracking micro-chip. However, with a little help from Q (Ben Whishaw), he manages to get on with his mission.

Meanwhile, M learns that his program has been deemed obsolete and cancelled in favor of a new, Big Brother-style, all-encompassing surveillance program. M is being displaced by new chief C (Andrew Scott). Of course, the 007 program has been deemed obsolete before and that never really works out somehow. So we have two different plot lines: M’s displacement and vehement disagreement with the surveillance program, and Bond’s personal quest. They will diverge and intersect at different points in the story. The audience learns more about Bond’s past in this film as well.

Okay, so C seems to be an antagonist, but who is the real villain? Well, that would be Oberhauser played by the brilliant Christoph Waltz. He turns out to have his finger in more pies than Bond could have ever imagined. Of course, everything comes down to a showdown between the two, but only after some entertaining verbal sparring and the usual seemingly unescapable torture scene.

So what about the love interest? The main “Bond girl” and the one who steals his heart is Madeleinne Swann (Lea Seydoux), the daughter of one of Bond’s former enemies. Before her, Bond romances Lucia (Monica Bellucci) whom he has recently made a widow. Much has been made of Bellucci’s age (50) which seems a bit condescending since Craig, himself, is 47. Apparently, the writers have decided that women of all ages can be interesting.

Bond’s quest takes the audience to an impressive array of international locations. Apart from Mexico City, his journey takes us to Rome, Austria, Morocco, and back to London. Breath-taking scenery punctuated with dizzying car, airplane, and helicopter chases bring the intensity you’d expect, and I applaud the stunt drivers and pilots, especially the helicopter pilots.

Like all Bond films, SPECTRE is predictably unpredictable. There will be expected and unexpected outcomes. The Bond character seems a bit in limbo at the end of the film, but not to worry – Craig has signed on for Bond #25.

Ralph Fiennes makes a believable M, replacing the amazing Judi Dench, and gets to show his tougher side. Naomie Harris’s Moneypenny gets out of the office and is allowed to do more in this one, and Q gets some unexpected outside-the-lab time, also. Their expanded parts enhance the film, and I hope that trend will continue.

SPECTRE is the longest Bond film to date at 2 hours 28 minutes, and that is my main complaint. It is too long, which damages the pace and makes it drag in places. Some judicial editing would have helped. Still, it is an excellent film, and if you’re a fan, you’ll be pleased. - JoAnne Hyde

GRADE: B+


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