'Spectre': A Not-So-Spirited Homage To 007 Films Of Yore

28/11/2015 9:18 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Spectre is the latest James Bond thriller to hit the screen -- the 24th film in the celebrated espionage franchise based on British author Ian Fleming's spy fiction books. Directed by British filmmaker Sam Mendes who previously directed Skyfall, Spectre marks Daniel Craig's fourth outing as the dapper spy and reintroduces the supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld - -the criminal mastermind heading the terrorist organisation Spectre and the archenemy of James Bond -- after an absence of four decades, owing to a recently resolved legal dispute. Blofeld (with background and character significantly altered) is played by the two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz. The movie also stars Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Léa Seydoux, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Andrew Scott, Jesper Christensen and Dave Bautista.

Spectre weaves together the storylines of three previous Bond films -- Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall -- together through an overarching storyline that reveals Blofeld as the grand architect of all the evil that has pervaded Bond's life, including the deaths of Vesper Lynd and the previous M. After completing an unsanctioned mission in Mexico City ordered by the previous M through a posthumous message, Bond learns about a secret terrorist organisation named Spectre. Bond is hell-bent on exposing the evil genius behind the organisation but he is grounded by the current M who is furious with him for disobeying his orders.

"Spectre is an attempt on the part of the makers to pay homage to the classic 007 movies but the execution only reflects their confused state of mind."

Bond, however, once again defies M's orders and travels to Rome where he gatecrashes a Spectre meeting and identifies the leader of the organisation as a ghost from his past. Bond barely escapes the clutches of a dangerous Spectre assassin named Mr Hinx (played by Dave Batista) and finally meets his old foe Mr White (a former member of Quantum, a subsidiary of Spectre, played by Jesper Christensen) on his deathbed. White tells Bond that he has grown disillusioned with Quantum and asks Bond to protect his daughter, Dr Madeline Swann (played by Léa Seydoux), who can lead him to Spectre. Bond gives him his word just as a dilapidated White blows his brains out. Bond must now protect Swann and convince her to help him reach Spectre and the criminal mastermind behind it.

Spectre does have its moments but it is one of the weakest of the four films starring Craig as 007. The culprits are its weak storyline and a runtime that's the longest ever for a Bond film. While there is no dearth of thrills and adventure in here, the suspense quotient is surprisingly low especially since the film is being projected as the final missing piece in the puzzle that would unlock the mystery that binds the four films together. A grimmer ending on the lines of On Her Majesty's Secret Service could have worked better. However, the action is top notch and the fight sequences featuring Daniel Craig and Dave Batista are the movie's real highlight.

Overall, Spectre proves to be a worthy addition to the James Bond film franchise but unlike Casino Royale and Skyfall it fails to leave a lasting impact. Spectre is an attempt on the part of the makers to pay homage to the classic 007 movies but the execution only reflects their confused state of mind. The creative think-tank must quickly decide if it wants to return to classic 007 elements or build upon the new ones that Casino Royale brought in. One of the strongest points of Spectre is Hoyte van Hoytema's cinematography. In the acting department Daniel Craig is solid as ever but Christoph Waltz fails to be at his menacing best, though the weak writing is more to blame for this than he is. Léa Seydoux is stunning to watch as Dr. Swann; the French actress has never looked more ravishing. Spectre, despite its several shortcomings, serves as a pleasant viewing experience and is a must watch for Bond movie enthusiasts.

A version of this review was first published at A Potpourri of Vestiges.

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