Movie review of “Spectre”: The latest addition to the James Bond franchise is all about iconography, with Daniel Craig displayed as the embodied image of assured masculinity. Rating. 2.5 stars out of 4.
In the title song sequence of “Spectre,” Daniel Craig appears as a shirtless bronze icon. It’s a harbinger of things to come.
The latest and highly anticipated addition to the James Bond franchise, which opens late Thursday, Nov. 5, is all about iconography.
Whether he’s seen in profile, broodingly thoughtful, or photographed in the middle distance in full-figure postures of coiled alertness, the Craig-as-icon look is repeatedly emphasized. Oddly, his features seem somehow to have coarsened from his previous outings in the role. Craig’s Bond now has the aspect of a brute who kills with little conscience. It’s as if all those killings have eroded his humanity.
Movie Review ★★½
‘Spectre,’ with Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes. Directed by Sam Mendes, from a screenplay by John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth. 148 minutes. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language. Opens late Thursday, Nov. 5, at several theaters.
The screenplay seeks to humanize Bond by casting him in the role of protector of a much-menaced blonde played by Lea Seydoux. This results in a ridiculous last-minute save-the-damsel chase scene and an improbable denouement that is wildly out of character for a man with a license to kill.
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Style trumps substance every step of the way. The razor-sharp tailoring of Bond’s suits is so pronounced the clothes are practically characters in their own right. Sharper still are the cars. Much is made of two in particular: an Aston-Martin DB10 and a Jaguar C-X75, sleek sharks on four wheels, both worth staggering amounts of money. When they’re involved in a big car chase, it’s ever so carefully staged. The sharks race through the night streets of Rome, where, oddly, there is no traffic, no untidiness. If ever a car chase could be called “pristine,” the “Spectre” chase is it. It’s like watching a commercial.
Because the sense of image for its own pure sake so predominates the visuals, it seems like ”Spectre” is standing back, regarding itself with unabashed admiration and inviting the audience to do the same.
The action sequences are spectacular, as expected (lots of chases), but they’re so carefully choreographed they’re curiously lifeless. And the intervals between them are so long that the picture repeatedly loses significant momentum in those in-between spaces. This reinforces the impression the filmmakers were so taken with these scenes that they simply wanted to display them, rather than integrate them organically into the story. With a running time of nearly 2½ hours, the movie would have benefited from a lot of tightening.
In a number of key scenes, “Spectre” re-creates classic moments from past Bonds. Think of them as James Bond’s Greatest Hits. Think of them also as signs Mendes and his writers have run out of fresh ideas.
The brutal train fight between Sean Connery’s Bond and Robert Shaw’s Red Grant in “From Russia with Love” is echoed by a scenery-smashing train fight between Craig and a bad guy played by David Bautista. The “Goldfinger” scene of evildoers arrayed around a huge conference table, where evil is done to one of them, is mimicked. There’s even a nod to Bond’s signature silver Aston-Martin DB5. Yes, it was blown up in “Skyfall.” But in the movies, it’s often the case that no death, even of a car, is truly forever.
In the role of the chief villain, Christoph Waltz seems to be recycling his Nazi Col. Hans Landa from “Inglorious Basterds,” only much de-energized. He’s genially smiling. He’s quietly chatty, delivering acres of exposition that ties all of Craig’s previous Bond movies together into a kind of unified field theory of 007. He’s also badly lacking in oomph.
The same, sadly, is true of “Spectre.”