Spectre (review)

The mixed early reviews for Spectre seemed to confirm my worst fears that the movie was not going to be good. My reasoning was based on information the people who hacked into Sony Pictures had put online. But when I walked into the theatre, I put my preconceived notions aside, and decided to judge Spectre as if I had no clue as to what would happen. When it was over, I thought it was pretty good. I actually liked it. Surprise! It’s amazing what happens when you leave your inner butthurt fanboy in the lobby.

That being said, if you go into Spectre expecting another Skyfall or Casino Royale, you will be disappointed. But Spectre is no Quantum of Solace either. If anything, Spectre is the closest to a pre-Daniel Craig era Bond film so far. It’s your mission, if you decide to accept it, to figure out if it’s the sort of thing you’re looking for.

In the three previous Bond movies, there have been allusions to a shadowy organization that has been working behind the scenes of the various plots 007 was tasked with foiling. For a while there, it was a group called “Quantum,” but now that Eon Productions has the rights once again to use the name Spectre, things have changed. It’s only a small retcon, but I went with it.

The head of Spectre is Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz). If you know anything about SPECTRE from the Bond films or novels, you know who Oberhauser is. Why the filmmakers thought that keeping it a secret was a good idea is anyones guess, but I will save spoilers for a future post.

Another plot point is the one involving Max Denbeigh (Andrew Scott). Denbeigh is a government official who wants to merge MI5 with MI6, and do away with the “00” program. It’s one of those things that pops up from time to time in the Bond series. Some character feels like it’s time for 007 and his ilk to call it a day, and Bond has to prove them wrong.

Along the way, Bond has to protect Dr. Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) from Spectre, because (minor spoiler). Monica Bellucci also appears in Spectre–all too briefly.

Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, and Ben Whishaw reprise their roles as M, Moneypenny, and Q, respectively. Whishaw has quite a bit to do in Spectre, and I for one am glad. He’s a great actor, who is perfectly cast in the role that the late Desmond Llewellyn made famous.

Dave Bautista plays Mr. Hinx, who is basically the Odd Job or Jaws of Spectre. The character’s name is never mentioned in the movie, but thankfully we didn’t have to wait until the action figure was released to find out.

Spectre isn’t quite as dark as the previous three Bond movies; but it’s not campy either. The humor comes from character moments and not set pieces. I think that this is a good thing since Bond is not a man without humor. I don’t want to see Bond driving a gondola down the street, but I don’t want to see unrelenting darkness either.

In some ways, Spectre, directed by Sam Mendes, looks like an old school Bond film. Part of this is due to the locations, and partly because it was shot on film by director of photgraphy Hoyt van Hoytema. His work, along that of production designer Dennis Gassner, at times reminded me of Stanly Kubrick. When 007 infiltrated the Spectre board meeting, Eyes Wide Shut came to mind; and the requisite torture scene would not have been out of place in A Clockwork Orange. But for the most part, Spectre has the feel of classic Bond, and that’s a good thing.

I think.

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