(US/UK - 2015)
Directed by Sam Mendes. Written by John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth. Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen, Alessandro Cremona, Stephanie Sigman. (PG-13, 148 mins)
2012's SKYFALL was the best 007 adventure in decades--maybe since 1969's ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE--so SPECTRE, the 24th film in the 53-year-old franchise, wisely doesn't try to top it. Instead, it's a pastiche of the 23 that preceded it, with a wink and nod to just about every one of them, mixed with a continuation of what's become a four-film James Bond origin story since Daniel Craig took over the role with 2006's CASINO ROYALE. With Craig's quartet of films, the Bond series has demonstrated a strong influence by both the BOURNE franchise and Christoper Nolan's DARK KNIGHT trilogy, with Craig's Bond a brooding, damaged man driven by rage, revenge, and grief. With CASINO ROYALE and SKYFALL (and to an extent, QUANTUM OF SOLACE, generally regarded as the weakest of Craig's Bonds), the continuing storyline (other than some recurring characters and a couple of later references to Bond being a widower after his brief marriage at the end of MAJESTY'S, the Bond films are typically stand-alone entries rather than direct sequels) has been an attempt to add depth and maturation to the character and to play him more like the hard-edged killer in Ian Fleming's books. It's mostly worked, brilliantly so in SKYFALL (which played more stand-alone at the time but that changes here), but it grows a little stale in SPECTRE, primarily because the payoff isn't worth the elaborate buildup. Four writers are credited with the script--there were almost certainly more who remain uncredited--and the story was said to change course during production. It shows--the first half of SPECTRE is a big, globetrotting adventure of the classic 007 variety, but the second half stumbles, first with a complex backstory for its primary villain that doesn't really serve a purpose, and then with a shift to a secondary villain whose plans just aren't that interesting. Christoph Waltz was born to play a Bond villain, but his Franz Oberhauser is little more than an extended cameo: he has two brief bits in the opening hour--once seen from behind and then again in shadow--then doesn't turn up again until the hour-and-45-minute mark. Why bring this unique, versatile, two-time Oscar-winner onboard and use him so frugally? With the possible exception of Joseph Wiseman in DR. NO, I can't recall a lead Bond villain having this little screen time. I didn't stopwatch it, but there's no way Waltz is in this for more than 20 total minutes.
"The Man with the Golden Gun."