Spectre (film review by Frank Ochieng).

November 8, 2015 | By | 1 Reply More

Well, cinema’s most treasured and resilient British spy guy is back as the legendary James Bond makes his twenty-fourth outing on the big screen in the highly anticipated and slickly-made ‘Spectre’. Worldwide Agent 007 fans understandably maintain their embedded expectations and vision as to what calculating and cunning mission their suave and sophisticated gun-toting, martini-sipping espionage thrill-seeker will encounter in his latest globe-trotting episode. Whatever Bond enthusiasts have in mind for the future twenty-fifth entry of the ‘licensed to kill’ Lothario, they should simply settle for the present stimulating currents that trickle as mind-bending material in the polished and percolating ‘Spectre’.

spectreAs for the dynamic performer that have served his time with action-oriented cinematic sensibilities through three previous super-charged James Bond installments, the steely-jawed and diligent Daniel Craig is back on the saddle again for his fourth stint as the crafty 007. Naturally, both ardent and casual Bond followers can rattle off the filmography of Craig’s on-screen tour of duty as the debonair and daring secret service operative and even rate the previous films as they compare and contrast each edition.  Some may give special attention to Craig’s first foray into stepping inside Bond’s explosive shoes for 2006’s ‘Casino Royale’ that is considered a spectacular introduction for the dramatically trained actor. In 2008’s ‘Quantum Of Solace’, it was a mixed bag at best as Bond followers for the most part gave this second 007 rendition an ambivalent sign of approval (not too many were thrilled with the awkward movie title neither). Thankfully, 2012’s ‘Skyfall’ bounced back for Craig’s take on the roguish Bond and made for some exceptional brownie points as the cagey spy returning to creative prominence. Now 2015’s ‘Spectre’ hopes to make some hearty tie-ins to Craig’s past big screen adventures as the stoic jet-setting dynamo ridding the world of masterful riff raff.

In actuality, ‘Spectre’ is serviceable in that it is an elaborate and excitable reminder of the preceding Bond films where bits of nostalgic elements from yesteryear are sprinkled throughout its presentation. Sure, some wily 007 fanatics may spot a few of the tossed in nods to the aforementioned ‘Casino Royale ‘and ‘Quantum Of Solace’ in particular as the proceedings unfold. For the most part, ‘Spectre’ acts as a mere bridge to the launching of the upcoming 25th Bond actioner in waiting. To be fair, the other Bond films have served as a welcome mat to the next chapter of the late Ian Fleming’s engaging and charismatic man of action, so why should not ‘Spectre’ be any different in this regard? Still, this spy caper has its signature swagger that Bond aficionados relish with familiarity: heart-pumping action sequences, exquisite locales, desirable and devious Bond women, majestic car chases, larger-than-life villains and their loyal henchmen, imaginative gadgets and inventive technology and yes…the indomitable James Bond at your service. Nevertheless, the minor knock on ‘Spectre’ is that it could have risen to the occasion more than it did as it occasionally feels as if it is going through the mischievous motions. It never resorts to the levels of Bond-ish drudgery in ‘Quantum Of Solace’, so that certainly is a relief in that aspect.

‘Spectre’ does incorporate its share of opulence, mystery, suspense, shadowy tension and perilous plight. However, where the standard Bond filmmaking characteristics are somewhat consistent and captivating, ie the breathtaking opening sequence of the Day Of The Dead celebration in Mexico City, there is also a questionable consideration for the weak-kneed Bond theme song in Sam Smith’s ‘Writing’s On The Wall’ which seems so inadequately suited for a James Bond signature tune. Even the indifferent observers of the James Bond film franchise for the last five decades can attest to the two most important stamps of a Bond film: its opening scene and surging theme song.  Thankfully, ‘Spectre’s grand opening sequence obeys traditional Bond practices but Smith’s doggedly tired-sounding ‘Writing’s On The Wall’ feels as it belongs attached to an old televised ‘After School Special’ from the mid-70s. Wouldn’t you give your kingdom for Paul McCartney and Wings’ ‘Live And Let Die’ or Carly Simon’s ‘Nobody Does It Better’ or perhaps even Sheena Easton’s ‘For Your Eyes Only’?

One thing that can be said about Craig’s Bond in ‘Spectre’ and that is his image transformation has been elevated to that of a fashion plate whose GQ stylised look has taken quite a step up. Not since Roger Moore’s Bond has there been a clear case of dazzling attire on display for Agent 007 to strut his stuff in spiffy clothing accessories throughout his ventured travels. Craig, billed as a ‘blue-collar’ Bond whose demeanor is more blunt and workman-like, takes comfort in basking in the finesse shadows of a classic Agent 007 almost foreign to his distinctive spin on the iconic spy. In fact, the overall vibe for ‘Spectre’ seems to lie in the middle of old school and new school James Bond mythology where the shading suits both camps of the ever-lasting film franchise.

Director Sam Mendes, who handled the direction for the previous ‘Skyfall’, finds the right tone and temple for ‘Spectre’ that certainly shows off its lavish and ambitious production values as the set designs, scenic locations, fabulous pre-credits action sequence are all indescribable in majestic scope. No one can accuse ‘Spectre’ as to not holding its own in visual functionality. Wisely, Mendes does not forget his ‘Skyfall’ background players as they reunite with Craig’s Bond and partake in the sensationalised cat-and-mouse caper. It is refreshing to see Ralph Fiennes back as ‘M’, not to mention Ben Wishaw’s ‘Q’ front and centre  and a Craig-fronted Bond film would not be the same without Naomie Harris as Miss Moneypenny.

Agent 007 fans will find a common "Bond" with Daniel Craig and his fourth outing as the licensed to kill Lothario in the stunning and kinettic SPECTRE

Agent 007 fans will find a common “Bond” with Daniel Craig and his fourth outing as the licensed to kill Lothario in the stunning and kinetic SPECTRE

It is a given that the diabolical criminal network known as SPECTRE has always had its affiliation with the Bond universe especially in the classic Sean Connery Bond-age years. Instinctively, SPECTRE’s evil heart and soul was pumped continuously by that organisation’s dastardly mastermind Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Oscar winner Christoph Waltz does the sordid honors of taking the reins as Bond’s nemesis Franz Oberhauser in ‘Spectre’ with devilish delight and is more colorfully corrupt thanks to his handy go-to muscular minion Mr. Hinx (ex-professional WWE wrestler and ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ star Dave Bautista) echoing the memories of beloved brute Jaws (played by the late Richard Kiel) from ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ and ‘Moonraker’). 

We can never forget that along with Agent 007 folklore comes the responsibility of being labeled a treasured Bond babe. Although the latest sultry women represented in ‘Spectre’ will never make us forget the iconic likes of ‘Dr. No’s Ursula Andress (Honey Ryder) or ‘Casino Royale’s Eva Green (Vesper Lynd) for that matter, they still hold their own and give a measure of titillation to both Bond and the vast amount of male admirers wishing they carried a gun and wore expensive tuxedos while being at the receiving end of a provocative smooch by these vibrant vixens. Lea Seydoux’s Madelene Swann and Italian siren Monica Bellucci’s Lucia are on board as the Bond bombshells-for-hire.

As a whole, ‘Spectre’ has its up and down moments and never is quite sure about standing alone as an independent Bond story or being dismissed as a pit stop for 007-related flashbacks and reference bits ode to yesteryear’s glory of the super spy’s engaging and raging exploits. The verdict is that ‘Spectre’ ultimately satisfies one’s craving for the invincible James Bond, whether you can to relive his vintage reputation or look forward to a millennium-enhanced production that will grow with the ageless wonderment pertaining to Fleming’s literary ladies man-turned movie-making mainstay of action-packed cinema for half a century. As one-time Bond songbird Carly Simon would attest in her soothing lyrics, ‘nobody does it better…’, yet in the dimensional escapist world of James Bond, this particular go-around could have been a tad bit better.

Spectre (2015)

Sony Pictures

2 hrs 28 mins.

Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci and Andrew Scott

Directed by: Sam Mendes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Genre: Spy-Espionage Caper/Action & Adventure/Suspense Thriller

Critic’s rating: ** 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)

(c) Frank Ochieng 2015





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Category: Culture, Films, MEDIA

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About FrankOchieng

Frank Ochieng has contributed film reviews to SF Crowsnest off and on since 2003. He has been published in other various movie site venues throughout the years. Ochieng has been part of The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and had written film reviews for The Boston Banner newspaper (USA) and frequently is a media/entertainment panelist on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 AM on "The Jordan Rich Show" in Boston, Massachusetts/USA.

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