“So what’s going on, James? They say you’re finished.”
James Bond is a myth, an imagination ingrained in our minds because of the lore surrounding 007. More so, James Bond should be a called a cultural creation, curated by author Ian Fleming and then brought to life through cinema for the past five decades. Spectre takes it back where it started, ditching imagination at the door and following the precedents established by the first Bond film Dr. No. This may be an original story and introduce us to new characters, but Spectre’s overarching plot elements are largely reimagined, and in some cases even borrowed. Now, I’m no Bond expert. I haven’t seen every film, let alone half of them. But I know story, what works and what doesn’t, and in that regard director Sam Mendes’ second Bond film resembles a runway model. Gorgeously defined face. Its outrageous two and half hour run time is comparable to their lengthy legs. Spectre is beautiful, but it struts down the catwalk on a script held up by cheap stilettos. Needless to say, they break, and the film looks up to see who saw it fall from such great heights, laying their in embarrassment.
If anyone tells you that they enjoyed this movie – or if you did yourself – the natural question to pose in response is, “Okay. What happens?” The response to that is spring-loaded, a jack-in-the-box waiting to erupt. Spectre cannot be summarized, mostly because little of it matters or resonates. Granted, successful films exist that have little logic or story. Sometimes what we see doesn’t matter, but we should always – without fail – interpret the sentiment of the situation. Cinema is like life. Rarely do people remember what you said or how you acted; they remember how you made them feel. When that is applied to Spectre, you realize, or should notice, that you feel almost nothing. Every time it elicits an emotional reaction, the film either drags on for too long or is poorly written to the point that you forget what triggered the response in the first place. James Bond is meant to be fun and daring. Spectre is neither.
Continuing the strand of timeline started in the dapper Daniel Craig era with Casino Royale, Spectre begins with a literal and figurative bang. In Mexico City on the Day of the Dead, we’re tricked into believing it’s all one fluid shot, and the work by cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema is outstanding. Similar to Hitchcock’s grand opening in Touch of Evil, Hoytema utilizes cranes, steadicams, and the standard diversions to make cuts in large crowds and claustrophobic spaces without us really noticing (i.e. posters, people’s backs. Look closely and you’ll see). It’s an amazing feat, and sets up a film that’s unable to reach the same level of expertise. This Bond is a tentpole movie that comes shipped with too many rods trying to prop up too small of a canopy. Everything all crammed in, never nice and cozy, poking out here and there while puncturing the canvas. During a chase scene, James flips a switch in his luxury car that’s supposed to spray bullets at his pursuer, but the ammo was never loaded. It’s meant to serve as a joke and instead oddly plays against the beat of the moment. Mr. Bond is enticing, and here air-headed, stuck in a story happy to hold and point a gun but never aware that the safety is on.
You’ll get brief laughs from Ben Whishaw as tech genius Q, as well as a decent wisecrack or one-liner every so often from Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and M (Ralph Fiennes). The Italian femme-fatale Monica Bellucci becomes the oldest Bond girl, and doesn’t look it. There’s the lumbering Hinx (Dave Bautista), the backstabbing C (Andrew Scott), and on and on and on. Outlining Spectre involves the word “and” so much because it refuses to quit and give up. Mendes has an impressive cast lined up here, including Oscar winner Christoph Waltz in a villainous role amassing less than 30 minutes screen time. Craig is again dependable, although sometimes phonier than ever, and his performance is easily overshadowed by the otherwordly talent of Léa Seydoux as his new mistress Madeleine Swann, stealing every frame she graces. In the end, Spectre is as flat and boring a Bond as you’ll see, all despite an airplane gliding down a mountain, an imploding building, and a worldwide network of crime responsible for countless disasters. As Sam Mendes’ 8th feature, this is his only bad film. Regardless, it’s still his, and he must own it. Spectre is comfortable being silently emphatic in a loud world where nothing can be communicated, and as such, reflects its fruitless bounty through a mirror of human interaction. “What happened?” I can’t remember everything. “How’d it make you feel?” Where the hell do I begin…?
“It’s not personal. It’s the future, and you’re not.”
Rating: 1.5 out of 5