Movie Review: ‘Spectre’ delivers another Bond film, another hit song
Special to the Sun-Bonanza
* *1/2 (B-)
• Directed By Sam Mendes
• Starring Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Dave Bautista
• Sony//Rated PG-13//Action//148 minutes
Keeping the James Bond films fresh through 24 installments and 50 years has been challenging. Although the films have been updated to reflect changing times, one unchanging aspect is each film’s introduction — a song set to an abstract that reflects the film.
Some of these have been stunners: “Goldfinger,” 1964, “Live and Let Die,” 1973, “For Your Eyes Only,” 1981, and “Skyfall,” 2013. Spectre does not disappoint. “The Writing’s On the Wall,” sung by Sam Smith, is filled with longing, embroidered with whimsy. It’s a love song mining the depths of both loss and triumph.
In the theater, listening to Smith’s tenor, followed by a soprano counterpoint, I assumed the song was sung as a duet. Not so! Like Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees, Sam Smith’s falsetto seems destined for high C. Deeply felt, the song moved me and I eagerly anticipated the incredible film to follow.
This fourth film starring Daniel Craig as a quiet, bulldog sort of Bond, boasts the occasional fine moment or setpiece, but it lacks a hook on which to hang its promise.
No longer simply rakish and playful, recent Bond films address serious topics and themes. Here, the writers (John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Jez Butterworth) take on the laissez-faire with which governments and anyone possessing the financial wherewithal, can use technology to watch, eavesdrop, and follow our electronic foot, like prints — ultimately revealing virtually everything about us. The film questions our complicity in these events.
Of course, there’s more to a Bond movie than its topic, or even its plot. This time, James goes rogue in order to find the shadowy puppet masters running the evil organization known as Spectre. Initially, he receives covert support from Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw), then, events draw in his supervisor M (Ralph Fiennes).
Bond also falls hard for luscious blonde Madeleine Swann (French actress Lea Seydoux). The innocent progeny of a technical whiz involved with the wrong side, she decides to join Bond’s fight against Spectre.
This means tracking down the superbaddie pulling the strings (Christoph Waltz), but their eventual face-off proves to be simultaneously bland, even fanciful, with Waltz obliged to spin a laughable backstory involving himself and Bond.
We miss the previous action sequences, not because they made sense, but because they were fun to watch and broke up the talkie exposition.
Having spent $300 million to make this film, Sony is counting on a worldwide blockbuster. Sure, the studio will make its moneypennies, but this ain’t no “Skyfall,” and is therefore unlikely to match that film’s windfall.