‘Spectre’ Movie Review: Great Action, So-So Story

Daniel Craig Lea Seydoux in Spectre
Daniel Craig and Léa Seydoux in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions’ action adventure ‘Spectre’ (Photo © 2015 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., Danjaq, LLC and Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc)

Spectre could be both Daniel Craig and Sam Mendes’ final Bond film and that’s actually not a bad decision for either actor Craig or director Mendes. This latest Bond movie shows signs of wear, not in its spectacular, over-the-top, suspension of belief required action scenes but in its dialogue-driven moments when both the emotional attachment to Bond, James Bond seems off and the pacing turns sluggish. Bond films aren’t meant to challenge the audiences’ intellect, but Spectre does try our patience as it gives us a 007 who appears to have no idea who he is or what motivates him to action.

Mendes and Craig set the bar incredibly high with Skyfall, leaving themselves the near impossible task of topping what’s thought to be one of the best Bond films. With this third outing, Mendes and Craig have not only not topped Skyfall but they haven’t even offered audiences a Bond film that’s better than Casino Royale.

Spectre starts off well enough, with Bond taking out a building in the middle of Mexico City during the Day of the Dead celebration. Next, we see Bond in hot pursuit of a villain who’s weaving his way through the crowd in order to reach a helicopter. Bond, of course, catches up with him, leading to a terrifying fight on board the helicopter while it’s just over the heads of the crowd. Your stomach may match the action on the screen, swooping and swirling as the helicopter looks destined to decapitate innocent bystanders so that Bond can kill just one man.

After that outstanding sequence, the film goes downhill quickly. If you can actually track who Bond is after, why he’s after he/she/it, and how everything is connected, then I applaud you for being able to keep up with all the twists and turns (and incredible coincidences) the screenwriters have inserted in this two-and-a-half hour film.

I understand the action sequences in Bond movies (and Fast and Furious films) do not need to be grounded in reality. That’s simply a given for the spy franchise. But Mendes was able to make Skyfall, and to a lesser degree Casino Royale, establish characters’ actions and motivations that made sense in the framework of a Bond film while also satisfying Bond fans’ thirst for improbable yet extraordinary action set pieces. In Spectre, it’s all about moving the characters into positions specifically for the purpose of setting up an action scene. Rules are bent, characters experience personality changes at the drop of a hat, and Bond himself only occasionally lives up to the charming, sexy super-spy we’ve grown to know and expect.

Because of all the coincidences, intricate backstories, and improbable connections, it’s near impossible to talk about the film without giving away a potential spoiler, but I can say there are scenes that are both superfluous and a bit uncomfortable to watch. I’m specifically referring to a scene between Bond and the widow of the man Bond killed in the helicopter. Monica Bellucci plays the widow and while she’s simply gorgeous, there’s not a whiff of sexual chemistry between Bellucci and Craig which makes his immediate seduction of the grieving widow feel 50 shades of wrong.

As for the acting, again, this Bond doesn’t give Craig many special moments to sink his teeth into. He’s fine in the action scenes and opposite Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Naomi Harris, and Ben Whishaw who handles most of the lighter moments as Q. In fact, it’s Whishaw and Bond newcomer Lea Seydoux who are the stand-outs in Spectre. Seydoux is not a typical “Bond Girl” and for that we applaud the writers and director Mendes. Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann is a strong, independent woman who can handle a gun, understands the world in which Bond exists, and is unwilling to be left on the sidelines and protected.

Christoph Waltz plays a villain with a complex connection to Bond and, unfortunately, he’s only in the film for maybe a total of 20 minutes. Waltz is the cowbell of Spectre…you can never have too much Waltz.

Spectre has one of the silliest action sequences of the franchise, with Bond somehow getting a hold of a small airplane in the middle of nowhere to chase Madeleine’s abductors down a snow-covered mountainside. Yes, the Bond films are full of examples of silly action sequences, but no single Bond film in recent memory has as many Spectre. Amid all of the silliness is a story that doesn’t makes sense, making Spectre a disappointing follow-up from – and farewell to – Mendes and Craig.


MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language

Release Date: November 6, 2015

Running Time: 148 minutes