Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
United Kingdom/USA, 2015. B24, Columbia Pictures, Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Story by John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Screenplay by John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth, based on characters created by Ian Fleming. Cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema. Produced by Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson. Music by Thomas Newman. Production Design by Dennis Gassner. Costume Design by Jany Temime. Film Editing by Lee Smith. Academy Awards 2015. Golden Globe Awards 2015.
A trip to Mexico City has Bond chase down a bad guy who leaves him with a token that speaks volumes: a ring with a symbol on it that he knows he has seen before. Back home, headquarters is still putting itself together under the new M (a spry and sympathetic Ralph Fiennes) who has to deal with his double-0 department being dismantled by an upstart (Andrew Scott) who thinks drone technology is the future and a licence to kill is for dinosaurs. This conflict is badly timed with Bond’s sudden need to travel through Europe on his own despite being told to stay put, finding his way to Rome, Austria and Tangier as he begins to realize the presence of an organization of nefarious sorts whose tentacles cross the globe. Teaming up with the gorgeous daughter (Léa Seydoux) of a former henchman, Bond locates the head of this so-called Spectre and it isn’t long before he is taken to a gorgeously ornate lair and wakes up in a torture chair. It’s yet another gorgeously photographed, and exciting outing for the famed superspy, and the gals (who also include Monica Bellucci and the continued presence of the divine Naomie Harris) couldn’t be more inspiring, but it’s no Skyfall. A choppy screenplay that breaks up boring conversations with superb action sequences is ruled over by a listless and uncommitted performance from Craig (who seems to be doing the role for the clothes at this point; he had more spirit in two minutes of getting his thighs felt up by Javier Bardem than he gives any of the ladies here), and the oldest plot in the Bond dossiers (he’s rogue, the double-0’s are in danger, blah blah blah). Impossible stunts and unlikely situations are a staple of the series and should never be criticized, but where unsophisticated minds have applied this criticism to the willfully fun Bond adventures (Moonraker and Die Another Day strained credibility on purpose), this one simultaneously tries for grittiness and the ridiculous, including car chases through a Rome suspiciously devoid of foot traffic, impossible helicopter maneuvers and a woman who decides to pack a satiny gown on a suicide trip to meet her father’s killer. We are not even told what “Spectre” stands for, as the screenwriters know its full name sounds like something from a 1960s comic strip and would ruin the lofty aims of a story that has already been rehashed a million times. Every aspect of the plot feels like an intentionally contrived move to get to what we already know will happen, and it is only sometimes achieved with any grace or elan. It fires at a secondary level in many ways (including the bland opening credits song by Sam Smith) and is far too self-important, but if you are, like me, someone who thinks even bad Bond is better than good anything else, don’t hesitate. For some reason, despite all the above, it’s still pretty good.