And it's an octopus? It's not -- you know -- a spectre? I'm confused.
Anyway, Bond (Daniel Craig) is out to stop Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) and SPECTRE, without the help or permission of M (the new M, Ralph Fiennes!) because there's this guy called C (but who was an "M" in another lifetime, Andrew Scott) who came out of nowhere and is trying to do evil things from inside the agency and the only way to stop it is for Bond to go solo (with a little help from adorkable Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (a terribly underused Naomie Harris)), team up with a beautiful young woman (Léa Seydoux) who's important to the plot somehow (have I got this right so far?), wear a tux, drink a martini, introduce himself to someone, fight intimidating henchmen (man -- Dave Bautista), fly, boat, fly, ski, fly, and boat -- in that order, with various gun and hand fights thrown in the mix, all the while looking as expressionless as possible. Did I leave anything out? Oh yes...
|He's got a license to kill. But, he's also got a license... not to kill.|
I've never been very approving of Daniel Craig's 007, though I did enjoy Skyfall, and Casino Royal had its moments as well. Craig has epic action-star abilities, which get put to good use in these films, but character-wise, Bond has never been duller than in this movie right here. A bored expression does not a cool character make. He gets one or two fleeting slick moments, but otherwise the occasional subtle eye-roll is the biggest expression his face ever makes. He's so cool, that he's not actually cool anymore.
Everyone else can be boiled down to one thing: wasted potential. Andrew Scott was where this was most obvious, because who would cast him to play a placid character? No one, that's who. Yet placid his is for placid they all are. I literally the day before seeing this watched Rory Kinnear play an extreme creepy stalker for laughs in Man Up; and then he shows up here, and just stands there... with words coming out his mouth. I know for a fact that these actors are capable of infusing a film with energy and making you care for the characters they are playing. I have witnessed every single one of them do it. But this film is so tonally dull that anything resembling liveliness gets sucked away.
|I was really looking forward to her Moneypenny after 28 Days Later, but 'twas a fruitless hope.|
And what is left is a pompous sense of carelessness, and one dimensional characters that only exist to move the plot along through the paint-by-numbers Bond coloring book. And all the colors are grey. One thing Spectre does that is useful is a kind of experiment, it seems. They appear to have wondered if action films are exciting and entertaining just because they have action in them, and then tested the theory, creating an action film filled with action pieces that are treated as if they were a nice stroll through a park. The result is a high-speed car chase where James is pursued by villainous henchman Bautista, and has a casual chat with Moneypenny on the phone about unrelated plot-development-exposition-what-have-you. I think it was supposed to be for laughs, but it was ironically just like the rest of the film, where casual delivery of action results in boring action.
Technically the stunts and action sequences were difficult and well-executed, and visually the film is pretty fairly striking. Silhouettes is the name of the game here, and I enjoyed the high-contrast (if not colorful) look. But impressive feats and a pretty face mean nothing if there's not anything in a movie to engage you and invite you to care. And no matter how pretty the shot is, there comes a point where it's too long -- here, you can almost see Sam Mendes wave at that point as he flies past it, muttering about how the movie has to be two and a half hours long, and calculating how many extra seconds of how many unnecessary shots he'll need to make that goal.
|"A spy without a gadget is like a shopping cart without a broken wheel." -- Spy Fox|
I don't care what kind of statement you're trying to make; having James Bond toss away his gun like that is just plain out of character. Maybe it could be pulled off jokingly, but I never could tell if this film attempted any jokes. This character and the elements that must surround him are the opposite of conducive to the lesson the film was trying to teach. This serious and bored Bond, trying to be what he used to be simultaneously with a new, hip, moral him is forced and trite. It just plain doesn't work.
Dark but not deep; dull, slow, and plodding but not smart, and filled with trivial action that is too easily forgettable, 007's latest adventure is only able to offer slight, relaxed moments of entertainment in a franchise meant to gleefully thrill. Spectre is not a cool and original octopus, nor a dark and haunting spirit, it's just a dry, grey wisp of expensive and useless smoke -- interesting enough in the moment; gone and forgotten at the next breeze.