Wednesday 18 April 2018

Movie Review: Spectre (2015)

The twenty-fourth installment in the James Bond franchise, Spectre is tired, bloated and devoid of ideas and enthusiasm.

On a rogue mission in Mexico City, Bond (Daniel Craig) destroys a city block but eliminates terrorist leader Marco Sciarra (Alessandro Cremona). With the entirety of the 007 program threatened with closure due to the bureaucratic careerism of the Joint Intelligence Service head C (Andrew Scott), M (Ralph Fiennes) grounds Bond. But he anyway gets assistance from Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) to continue his investigation.

In Rome Bond seduces Sciarra's widow Lucia (Monica Bellucci), and infiltrates a meeting of a secret terrorist organization chaired by mastermind Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), who was thought dead and knows Bond since childhood. Bond tracks down Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), who broke away from Oberhauser, and then White's daughter Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux). She reveals that Oberhauser is the head of Spectre, a consortium of criminals looking to control the world through terrorist acts and the massive harvesting of information from all the world's leading intelligence agencies.

The second outing for Sam Mendes as Bond director, Spectre finds the series sinking to another unfortunate low point. Despite the usual location hopping and well-staged action set-pieces, the film never kicks into gear, and ambles along with a long yawn. At the heart of the many problems is Daniel Craig exuding stony faced boredom and contributing to an emotionless core. But Spectre's  troubles extend well beyond a disinterested star.

The running time of 148 minutes is inexcusable. There simply is nowhere near enough plot to justify two and half hours of screen time, and the bloat is painfully obvious from the first pre-credit scene. Bond's tussle with Sciarra on board a helicopter takes forever, the two men punching it out for long minutes, sucking the energy out of the sequence. The pattern continues throughout, every chase and every fight prolonged to conceal the scarcity of meaningful content.

Worse still is the lack of any tension, drama or sense of genuine urgency. The worst that the bad guys come up with is sitting around a dark table discussing data breaches. Terrorist explosions take place on background television screens, while Christoph Waltz, first revealed as Oberhauser and then Blofeld, is a toothless bystander under both incarnations, his elaborate base in the desert used for...what, exactly? The shared history of Oberhauser and Bond is a muddled backstory, Mendes committing the cardinal sin of telling rather than showing what is supposed to be the emotional apex of the film.

Monica Belluci is wasted in a couple of scenes, while the sparkling Léa Seydoux emerges as one of the film's few sources of energy, almost overcoming the 18 year age difference between her and Craig. The Sam Smith moany and falsetto-hampered theme song Writing's on the Wall is one of the worst in the history of the franchise.

What remains is Bond on an unsanctioned mission to chase down information, his next destination and target barely explained as the film jettisons basic narrative exposition in favour of snazzy visuals. With the evil British intelligence desk jockeys angling to kill the 007 program, Spectre appears to give them a good reason to do so.

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