In a change of pace from the indie films I reviewed from Boston Asian American Film Festival, I went out to see Spectre, the newly-arrived James Bond film, last night!
I’ve been a long-time fan of the James Bond franchise, and I especially liked how the Daniel Craig era brought the franchise a much-needed overhaul in order to stay relevant in the 21st century, starting with the absolutely superb Casino Royale in 2006. It was followed up by the admittedly disappointing Quantum of Solace, but then again by Skyfall, which I thoroughly enjoyed. In fact, I wanted to see Spectre because Sam Mendes was returning to direct having done Skyfall.
I knew I made a good decision right from the film’s opening shot. It was one long uninterrupted shot of Bond in the midst of the Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico City, climbing up to his hotel room with a lady friend, excusing himself, climbing out the window, and hopping across rooftops to set up a sniper’s nest to assassinate a terrorist. This scene, like the rest of the movie, was beautifully shot. DP Roger Deakins returned to shoot in addition to Mendes, and made Spectre easily the best-looking movie I have seen of 2015 so far.
Spectre follows Bond as he investigates the titular organization. Along the way he meets Carl Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) and begins a journey of self-discovery.
Despite the fact that Spectre was supposed to be a more personal story, it was overall a lot more fun than the very somber Skyfall. The movie’s sense of humor always worked to keep the tone relatively light but thankfully never got to the levels it often did in the Roger Moore era.
For the most part, the action was great. The car chase around the streets of Rome stood out (even though it triggered memories of a car accident I was involved in a short while ago) as did Bond chasing thugs racing away in the Alps using an airplane. As I said before, I’m a sucker for movies that make snow look good (even as a veteran of the Boston blizzard of 2015) and Roger Deakins did not disappoint here.
Unfortunately, one action scene I felt to be sorely out of place was a fight onboard a helicopter during the opening scene. The stunts just felt a bit too over-the-top as if they belonged in a Pierce Brosnan film as opposed Daniel Craig; memories of the opening of GoldenEye came to mind. I always felt Daniel Craig’s Bond to be more human than the others, and thus the Daniel Craig films were (relatively) more grounded in reality.
I saw the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes score settle at about 62%, and I was worried that pre-ordering the ticket as I did could have been a mistake. In my opinion, I think the movie is significantly more enjoyable than a 62% would indicate. I will agree that the movie, mainly due to some dents in pacing and the fact that it sometimes could have taken itself a little more seriously, was definitely not as good as Skyfall or Casino Royale (or of course the 1964 classic Goldfinger). Despite that, it was much better than Quantum of Solace and, quite frankly, many other Bond films I’ve seen such as Thunderball. Despite not having seen Diamonds are Forever yet, Thunderball was definitely my least favorite of the Connery era.
Overall, if you’re expecting another Skyfall, you will be pretty sorely disappointed, but you will have a good time if all you’re looking for is a nice, fun James Bond movie. I think Roger Deakins’ cinematography is enough to make dropping some extra money for the IMAX experience to be worth it.