Kurt Loder Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Spectre

Daniel Craig back for now in an underwhelming Bond opus.

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Spectre
Columbia Pictures

If Daniel Craig actually were contemplating an exit from the James Bond franchise, Spectre could be a handy off-ramp. The movie delivers the usual barrage of wild, expensive action, but its mood is autumnal and its conclusion feels like an escape. Director Sam Mendes, back for his second tour on the 007 beat, presents the story as a summing-up, a procession of elements that clearly echo the early Bond films—chiefly Thunderball, but also From Russia with Love (a fierce train fight) and Goldfinger (a funny riff on Bond's gadget-packed Aston Martin). And of course there's the titular international crime syndicate—the Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion—which has been lying low for some 50 years. Now, in this heavily retconned tale, it, too, is back.

The movie begins in Mexico City, in the midst of the annual Day of the Dead festivities. Craig's Bond, in a snazzy skeleton suit, is on a self-assigned mission to take out a terrorist named Sciarra (Alessandro Cremona). After some fancy aerobatics in a helicopter not all that high above a teeming plaza, he naturally does so. Then he quickly takes off for Rome to confront (and of course bed) Sciarra's widow (Monica Bellucci, possibly the first age-appropriate Bond Girl). He also infiltrates a meeting of what turn out to be SPECTRE operatives (gathered around a conference table the size of a tennis court) and is spotted by their leader, a silky psycho going by the name Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), although Bond devotees will quickly guess his real identity. Bond barely eludes capture and manages to flee, but with a metal-thumbed brute called Hinx (Dave Bautista) in furious pursuit.

Meanwhile, back in London, we find Bond's boss, MI6 chief M (Ralph Fiennes), attempting to fend off a bureaucratic coup by an intelligence weasel named Max (wonderfully wormish Andrew Scott, the onetime Moriarty in Sherlock). Max wants to disband the licensed-to-kill Double-O section—after all, who needs it in an age of killer drones? Bond's loyal associates Moneypenny (Naomi Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) are understandably apprehensive, and agree to covertly assist him with his current, unauthorized quest.

Cut to a remote hideaway in the Austrian Alps, to which Bond has tracked his old nemesis Mr. White (Jesper Christensen). After some business we needn't go into, Bond promises to find and protect White's estranged daughter, Madeleine (Léa Seydoux), now a doctor at a mountaintop clinic not unlike the one in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. (Madeleine's professional bona fides are only marginally more believable than those of the nuclear physicist played by Denise Richards in The World Is Not Enough, but Seydoux is an actress of actual talent.)

After an airplane-and-auto chase in which Bond winds up sliding down the side of a mountain in his damaged craft, Bond and Madeleine take off for Tangier. There they are predictably mistreated in Oberhauser's desert headquarters (one room of which salutes the ovoid interiors of original Bond production designer Ken Adam).

Here we realize that, like the hulking Hinx, who has little of the exotic menace of such past henchmen as Oddjob and Jaws, Waltz lacks the flamboyant lunacy of a classic Bond villain (he's basically playing Christoph Waltz). In addition, the radical reconfiguration of Bond's backstory is woefully strained, and we miss the snappy quips and hyper-stylish sets of the best Bond films (this one's a little drab at times). It would also have been nice if spyware master Q had armed Bond with something niftier than an exploding watch (although lobbing one at Sam Smith's drippy theme song would certainly have been appreciated).

The movie and its star both seem tired, tearing around the globe in search of thrills that are long gone. It shouldn't require two and a half hours to do this. When Bond tells Madeleine "It's not over yet," you might sadly wish it were.  

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  1. I blame Dave Bautista for everything, but I hope Loder’s review is off as I want this to be good. I want it!

    1. Mr. Loder is right. “Uninspired” is probably the words that best describes the film. It was almost impressively unoriginal and predictable. Craig and Waltz’s talents were squandered by poor writing. Monica Bellucci was also wasted on what turned out to be a tertiary role, while the main love interest is probably the most forgetable Bond live interest in recent memory. At least Denis Richards’s poor acting drew attention to her from time to time; this one, you could have just swapped in a random blonde extra at random scenes I wouldn’t have noticed the change.

      I’m really shocked that this got 60% score on rotten romatoes and metacritic. Usually they’re not that generous. Anyway, I was disappointed. And what’s more, I’m disappointed that I was disappointed.

      1. I blame Mendes. The last entry was awful as well; made all the more soul-crushing by the first & to some degree second Craig Bond films, which were excellent.

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  3. Saw it last night. Enjoyed most of it, though some parts fell flat. Basically nothing in the desert crater lair works. I think it picks up again afterward as it moves towards the ending, but by that point the movie has been going on a bit too long.

    There’s some more humor this time around while not going over the top, which was appreciated.

    I wouldn’t put it in my top 5 Bond movies (Casino Royale is my favorite, and Skyfall is top-5 also IMO), but it’s in the second tier. Definitely worth seeing.

    1. I liked Casino Royale and Skyfall too (though the latter was most uplifted by Bardem’s performance; God that guy can play a villain). And I’m one who was a skeptic originally of Daniel Craig as Bond. But this one, meh, not with a bang but a whimper.

      Anyway, if it’s true that Craig is done being Bond, anyone else hoping the role goes to Tom Hardy?

  4. Noooooooooo ! It should be good !

  5. This is the most naturalistic and least comic book Bond film. Bond settles down, only beds two women, and we learn about his whole childhood.

    It’s also the most libertarian. The villains are basically the UN and the NSA being controlled by the Clinton Foundation.

    1. You say that like the UN and the NSA aren’t actually controlled by the Clinton Foundation.

      1. Shhh. I’m already on an IRS hit list, lil wood chipper.

  6. Never thought Daniel Craig looked the Bond part.

    He should have a Russian accent and be the villain from SMERSH

    1. You are right on. Personally, I like James Blond, but I think he would make and OUTSTANDING Red Grant. Just the right kind of sociopath.

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  11. I saw this last night. It really left me missing the Roger Moore era Bond movies, which I grew up on. Moore’s Bond, for all his silliness, had a sense of fun and style. Craig’s Bond may be gritty, but he’s painfully tedious. Can’t the writers give him some one-liners to be delivered with a sly wink?

    Q did get some lines like that, e.g. about bringing back the Aston Martin in one piece, rather than bringing back one piece, but it just wasn’t enough to overcome Bond’s dreariness. To me, the movie felt like an amusement park ride deliberately made to be dreary and bleak. Perhaps others like that sort of thing, but I can’t help but feel that Bond movies are supposed to be fun, and this movie really wasn’t.

  12. I saw it opening night with my son. I really enjoyed it. I noticed that it seemed dark and colorless in places but took that as an add-on for the darker story line (the ties to the bad guy part).

    The action was good, the car chase was ok, the car/plane chase was a good twist.

    I’m not a Bond purest which could be why I liked it more than others.

  13. Was good enough. I liked the idea of the movies having a common theme but it seemed to be a be contrived in Spectre, not a total failure though.

    Casino Royale is still the best Bond film by a large margin. If you count most of the Bourne movies (the first 2 for sure) and several of the Bond films we’ve had a decent run of spy v spy movies in the last decade or so. Not too bad.

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