Spectre

Spectre“You are a kite dancing in a hurricane, Mr. Bond.”

NOTE: No spoilers here.

007 fans and mature audiences will appreciate the lengths that filmmakers stretch this long running film series in this 24th installment titled Spectre.

This two hour and 28 minute film presents an evil organization with a connection to James Bond, played by a returning Daniel Craig who also co-produces the film (a first for a lead actor in this film series). Bond’s on a mission he does not expect to return from, so audiences shouldn’t expect endless cheery quips and happy-go-lucky action as the plot focuses on uncovering this organization and gives audiences their closest glimpse into James Bond yet.

Screenwriters Jon Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (with Jez Butterworth (Black Mass) helping this trio on the screenplay) use focus and framing in the story to give audiences the big picture, but leaves the details to their own devices as they ask the ultimate question – who’s leading who in this situation? Is it sabotage, manipulation or support?

Audiences will flinch, consider and escape into this world if they have the proper perspective within the filmmakers’ well-constructed work where everyone a suspect in this enthralling installment based on Ian Fleming’s characters. The servants and assistants draws more attention, which can challenge audiences as they manage their knowledge on the main characters.

Filming locations include the Austrian Alps, London, Rome, Morocco and Mexico City’s Zocalo square, which was amazingly cleared to create an equally amazing beginning sequence. All the filming locations amaze and enhance this realism. The special effects were not very noticeable and filmmakers reveal the Spectre organization to James bond and audiences.

Returning director Sam Mendes and his amazing film crew impress with unique tracking shots and linear camera movements as audiences literally follow James Bond from the beginning sequences into Spectre’s “no mercy” world.

Filmmakers draw on the previous three film installments with several references to past events and characters. These connections enhance the story to a high level and becomes one of 007’s most memorable. These connections also give the Spectre (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) organization the needed realism and credibility as it reinforces wide ranging elements presented in the previous films ranging from pictures to building collapses.

Spectre offers a theatrical style that works overall mostly due to Mendes’ directing resume, but this style reduces the realism at times as some sequences feel staged, especially the seemingly superlative explosions at a large exterior facility that does not seem to contain anything flammable.

Also, some spy tactics seem to be seriously lacking here, which causes some minor distractions. For example, the destruction of an evidence trial would seem like standard practice, but audiences can assume the character didn’t realize the scope of the surveillance he was under.

Non-veterans to this film series (even only the previous three films) will be at a noticeable disadvantage here due to the rich past references that create a bigger payoff and more audience involvement in the characters and events.

Daniel Craig still keeps all cylinders firing well as the spy/assassin James Bond who uses his special gadgets exactly when he should – when he’s outmatched. Bond is willing to go further than anyone else professionally and personally. He impresses with his defensive skills as well, especially his protective tactics, which are very notable during the film’s climax then connect to the film’s ending.

Craig impressively displays Bond’s defensive skills as well, especially his protective tactics, which are very notable during the film’s climax that connect to the film’s ending. Audiences might expect an emotional breakdown from Bond who’s just holding everything together. A hand-to-hand combat scene illustrates Bond’s emotional survival so well that audiences can easily find themselves rooting for him in Rocky-style fashion if they have a high emotional connection in the story and characters.

MI6 (Military Intelligence, Section 6) leading characters include the Chief of Staff named Tanner, played by a returning Rory Kinnear and lead M, (a.k.a. Gareth Mallory) played again by Ralph Fiennes. Naomie Harris also returns as Eve Moneypenny, M’s assistant, with Ben Whishaw again as Q (quartermaster) who supplies needed field equipment.

Two-time Oscar® winner Christoph Waltz plays the film’s antagonist perfectly though he does not quite match the impact of the menacing antagonist Silva, well played by Javier Bardem, in the previous installment Skyfall.

Léa Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color) plays Madeleine Swann while Monica Bellucci, the eldest “Bond girl” ever, could have a larger role as Lucia, widow of a murdered Mafioso, but filmmakers open the possibility of her return in future installments. Stephanie Sigman has a small role in the beginning sequence as Estrella.

Andrew Scott plays a high ranking British intelligence figure named Max Denbigh, also known by his code name, C. His objectives include eliminating the 00 program; morphing MI5 with MI6; and creating a new intelligence gathering system.

Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) goes beyond the normal henchman duties as Mr. Hinx who is more than a match for 007. Filmmakers alter film speeds to accentuate his fighting sequences as he speaks with his actions instead of words. Jesper Christensen, previously seen in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, returns as Mr. White.

Loyalties and alliances are constantly questioned, but never stretched to the point where the possibilities manipulate the audiences. Audiences can take it as far as they want to. For example, one sequence shows a high ranking official using his phone to confirm his “right hand” subordinate is on his side. Audiences can stop their imagination there…or consider that the subordinate’s phone is masking his true answer because he knows his superior is checking on him.

Filmmakers create a myriad of possibilities that definitely engage audiences as their minds work overtime in a natural, free flowing way. Filmmakers also consider audience expectations and knowledge as they considerately create a more cerebral experience.

Filmmakers also leave some open-ended elements (e.g. Moneypenny’s private life) and present new ones for future installments. There are also still four of Fleming’s novels that haven’t been adapted to the screen yet, so maybe audiences will see them in the near future.

Sam Smith belts out the impressive theme song titled “Writing’s on the Wall” while Thomas Newman returns to create strong, epic musical score including a great tone-setting piece called “Los Muertos Vivos Estan” that features Tambuco that still contains the familiar Bond theme movements. Filmmakers have the music perfectly synced with background musician’s movements as Bond navigates through an immense urban crowd.

Spectre gets a solid recommendation (*** out of four stars) and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language.

Spectre is the widest theatrical release in the famous film series and is also showing in IMAX theaters.

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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