A License to Thrill is Also a License Not to Thrill

Posted in Movie Reviews on November 18, 2015
Prod 37

Sam Mendes

Running Time
148 min

A cryptic message from Bond's past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

It is no doubt that director Sam Mendes’ take on the Bond franchise with Skyfall was a huge success, both critically and financially. Having joined the billion dollar club for the first time ever, it is no surprise that the heads at MGM and Columbia Pictures wanted to fast-track a sequel. So maybe that’s what is wrong with Spectre, all rush and no quality. It’s to Skyfall what Quantum of Solace was to Casino Royale, a magnification of the precedent film with an ultimately hollow story that sooths none. You could argue that Spectre tries to pull back Bond to the geriatric gadget days with the rich super villain, but it really feels like if Bond was cut and pasted into a modern action movie with its brand name to reel in the box office returns.

In regards to story, one cannot resist but recognize all of the loopholes and flaws in Spectre’s storyline. Let alone that it’s pretty much a clone copy of Mission Impossible Rogue Nation which debuted over the summer, Spectre fills its 2 and a half hour screen time with much of nothing. It’s marketed as a ‘personal journey’ for Bond and discovering more about his past, but really it’s a plain case of going following little breadcrumbs to an allegedly master villain who really is nothing but a plain cardboard cutout of the villains featured on your morning cereal box. Spectre attempts to tie all of Craig’s previous films into Spectre and whether that’s purely for dramatic effect or trying to conclude Craig’s service to Bond is unknown, but it surely doesn’t stick as well as director Sam Mendes intended it to. There is just really nothing linking them together, or if there is there isn’t any justification for it. This super evil organization headed by the worst of the worst ends up becoming a convoluted and bland game of cat and mouse.

What’s even more frustrating than the story itself is the cast itself. When you have respected actors such as Daniel Craig, Christopher Waltz, and Monica Bellucci featured in a movie, you would expect an amount of class acting and decent character development. Instead what we are given is characters with no depth, no intrinsic motivation, nor any real character development that suits with the plot. Christopher Waltz, a winner of two Oscars for his supporting work in Tarantino films, is given barely any screen time and as such cannot really expand on the paper thin character he’s been chosen to play. Monica Bellucci, famous Italian actress, allegedly plays a Bond Girl and yet all she gets to say are a couple lines and some implied off-screen time with Mr. Bond, which severely undermines her talent to a pretty generic role. Last of all is Daniel Craig, who is a remarkable James Bond and yet we never really see it in Spectre. Any emotion, character, and passion Craig may have shown in his previous films is certainly gone in Spectre. With this lack friction between characters, let alone any effort being put into them, all the ‘thrill’ that a James Bond film could’ve brought is just loss into this abyss of grey amounting to much ado about nothing.

You might say ‘Well it can’t be that bad can it? There must be something good to it’. And there is, its beautiful cinematography and production design continues to impress and bedazzle audiences. While you might not be interested in the story at all, your eyes will be able to appreciate the detail and the shots in the film. It’s consistent with the beauty seen in Skyfall, offering us new locations both hot and cold, with a level of detail to impress the naked eye. And while Sam Smith’s theme song ‘Writings on the Wall’ represents Bond as a mushy love song, the film’s score helps dramatize and intensify Bond’s well shot action sequences. The cheap shaky camera escape is replaced with thorough multiple perspective shots of well-done choreography. Spectre is a beautiful set-piece in principle, it’s just let down by an unattractive and hollow story.

Spectre is an all style no substance addition to the franchise, featuring some top of the line action scenes and cinematography to what is ultimately a very archaic and bland story. Bond’s future has not been set yet, but if this were to be Daniel Craig’s last Bond film, then it would serve as an unsatisfying conclusion to a man who reinvigorated the Bond franchise from its cartoonish demise (think Brosnan’s Die Another Day and crystal castles) . Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see what directions the Bond franchise would go with a new actor, perhaps someone ‘a little more street’ like Idris Elba.

In Summary

The Good
  • Beautiful Setpieces
The Bad
  • Hollow Story
  • Underused Cast
  • Sam Smith's Love Song