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Director: Sam Mendes

Genre: Action

Perhaps the most fascinating detail of James Bond’s post-Brosnan reinvention is that only every other release is actually worth a watch. SPECTRE is in many ways to SKYFALL what QUANTUM OF SOLACE was to CASINO ROYALE, and although Daniel Craig is often lauded as the greatest 007 since Sean Connery, he’s been steadily batting a meager 50. The phenomenon of Craig’s iteration of the suave assassin henceforth lies entirely in the undeniably fresh approach that the franchise has taken in its two recent instances of success. Taking full advantage of Mads Mikkelsen and Javier Bardem as fantastic villains and spoiling viewers with a rich visual aesthetic, the franchise has been elevated from camp and into a cinematic realm that soars high above the saturated blockbuster thrill rides of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE and its genre peers. To many, Bond quickly became the thinking man’s spy film, limiting its releases to four films over the course of nine years. With a franchise that has avoided annual releases, it only becomes doubly offensive when the screenplay feels so coarse.

spectre james bond gif

“Write me a screenplay about an octopus, Ringo”

Allowing for the growing interest in superhero films (notably 2005’s BATMAN BEGINS and 2008’s IRON MAN) to replace the gadget-heavy superhuman abilities of previous Bonds, Craig’s 007 wiped the slate clean, replacing the franchise’s exaggerated antagonists with characters that came across as notably more human. Following in the footsteps of the wildly successful SKYFALL, Sam Mendes realized that he had to switch up the formula. Tying SPECTRE’s narrative – about an agent’s desire to retire his license to kill – into the events of the previous three films, Mendes’ film feels larger than previous releases, playing out like canon rather than another inconsequential adventure. Bond’s hunt for an organization’s mysterious leader feels personal in the same way that SKYFALL culminated its narrative with a shootout in Bond’s family home rather than an antagonist’s lair, and although SPECTRE has all of these things going for it on paper, they are executed in a disappointingly haphazard manner fit with unmotivated action scenes.

Although not as visually impressive as Roger Deakins work on SKYFALL, SPECTRE does hold its own as a gorgeous Bond film, and by hearkening back to older 007 releases, incorporating everything from the classic Bond-is-tied-up-and-tortured scene to a brand new Aston Martin, SPECTRE benefits from a playful sensibility that isn’t quite as unwelcome as one would expect. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the newly incorporated comedy, which seems to be attempting to cash-in on the success of Simon Pegg’s growing presence in the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE franchise. Craig and his supporting cast lack the comedic heft to make for compelling gags, and save for a handful of visual jokes, moments intended for laugh-out-loud reactions end in awkward chuckles. But where SPECTRE falls flat on its face is in how lazily it transitions from one location to the next, constantly bookending every dialogue scene with an action set piece, allowing its narrative to progress with the subtlety of an action-adventure video game.

spectre every day is dio de los muertos

The crossover with THE BOOK OF LIFE caught everyone by surprise

Essentially, the narrative lacks the depth to make the explosive action feel deserving, and although viewers are treated to a great opening in Mexico City and an exhilarating chase down the Austrian mountains, they also have to slug through a trivial train melee brawl and a disappointingly conventional damsel-in-distress finale. Mendes also shoehorns a completely pointless performance by Dave Bautista, who in this scenario can only be described as a poor man’s Richard Kiel. However, where SPECTRE really loses traction is in how awkwardly it stumbles in what exactly it does wrong. If the first and second act offer great action with boring narrative development, the third act does the exact opposite. Entering the lion’s den of Christoph Waltz’s base in Tangier is absolutely thrilling, and the steady buildup ratchets up the tension as Waltz tours Bond through his base, heavily reminiscent of GOLDFINGER in all of the best ways. What ruins this entire experience is how disappointingly short-lived it is, ultimately breaking the third act into two separate set pieces, one in Tangier and one in London. Waltz consequently feels sorely underutilized and the intimidating stature of his desert fortress is reduced to little more than a magazine of ammunition’s worth of effort on Craig’s end.

spectre learning to fly



Borrowing narrative beats and plot twists that had already been explored in THE DARK KNIGHT and CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER in order to make statements about worldwide surveillance and the duty of the heroes that operate on the fringes of government, SPECTRE’s biggest letdown isn’t that it’s a bad Bond film, but an uninspired blockbuster front and back. In a time where 007 releases should represent the most thoughtful level of popcorn cinema, Mendes has produced a film that offers nothing new, resulting in a Bond release that relies on its name value in the same way that most Marvel films do these days. It’s odd that everyone lives under the illusion that Bond films are always great, because out of Craig’s four releases, only two have been worth watching. If viewers are looking for a comprehensive conclusion to Craig’s canon, SPECTRE will just barely satisfy that appetite.

Verdict: Do Not Recommend

"When I make love, I realize eating steak was the preferable alternative." Sergio is the Crossfader Film Editor and a film connoisseur from Romania. He pretends to understand culinary culture enough to call himself an LA foodie, but he just can't manage to like scallops.

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