Spectre Review: 007 By the Numbers

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Spectre is aggressively a James Bond movie. The Daniel Craig era has made for some very different entries in the longest running franchise in Hollywood. Casino Royale was an origin story of sorts. Quantum of Solace, while disappointing, was as direct of a sequel you’ll find in the 24 movie series. And Skyfall, well, Skyfall was another class of Bond movie entirely.

But Spectre takes things back to the basics, which is, in a word, awkward. Sam Mendes returns after making the best Bond film in several decades (with the jury still out on it being the best ever) with a very different approach. After the beautifully shot stunner of an opener in Mexico City’s Day of the Dead celebrations, Spectre settle into the Bond tropes that fans have come to know and love. Where things feel off is when you realize that Daniel Craig has zero interest in making that kind of Bond movie.

The actor, now on his fourth entry after starting in 2006, still has a few moments here and there, but his eyes look glazed over and his heart definitely isn’t in it. Considering the old school vibe pervading throughout, it’s hard not to wonder if Mendes would have preferred Roger Moore in the role this outing. That’s the type of film he seems to be trying to make. Because of this, Spectre is at war with itself to deliver both that and something that feels like a worthy follow up to Skyfall.

This entry sees Bond hunting down the head of the mysterious terrorist organization Spectre, Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz). Along the way, he meets Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), who has ties to Spectre through her family. With these characters in place, as well as the returning cast of M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw), and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), Spectre begins checking off tick marks of things that need to be included in a Bond movie.

But the narrative has no flow, moving from set piece to set piece with little or no setup. Then there’s the fact that Oberhauser is supposedly the man behind everything that’s happened in the last three movies, which is a just a cheap way to try and insert drama into something that just doesn’t have it. And this movie just isn’t pulpy or funny enough to make up for it.

Still, Spectre is hardly a failure. Few Bond movies are. The action mostly works and the tropes that are in place exist for a reason. But it’s hard to come out of the brilliant, almost dialogue-less opening scene and feel that the rest of the film isn’t a disappointment. As for the future of the franchise, Spectre makes it clear that we don’t need any more moody, post-9/11 Bond movies. Craig was the right man for that era, no question about it. But it may be time to find a new lead for a new era. The writing appears to be on the wall. Grade: B-

By Matt Dougherty

One Response to Spectre Review: 007 By the Numbers

  1. Skip Coan says:

    Spectre may not be Skyfall, but what is? It is a fine addition to the Bond collection. I like this James Bond, both Daniel Craig and his take on the character. Maybe time for a new director.

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