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Bond Is Back But He’s Been Better

Spectre_posterI really should learn to stop getting excited for things; it only leads to heartbreak.

“Spectre” is the 24th and latest entry into the 007 franchise, with Daniel Craig returning for his fourth (and possibly final) portrayal of James Bond. This time around Bond must track down the head of a secret criminal syndicate (Christoph Waltz). Sam Mendes returns to direct and Ralph Fiennes returns as M, the head of MI6.

The opening scene of “Spectre” really is something to behold. Set in Mexico during the Day of the Dead festival, the opening sequence of the film is a four-minute single tracking shot and it is amazing. We are then treated to some more amazing cinematography (Hoyte van Hoytema replaces Roger Deakins as director of photography and doesn’t miss a beat) and a very intense fist fight that takes place in a flipping helicopter. And it is after this adrenaline rush that “Spectre” decides to take a break; a break that for the most part continues through the credits.

The problem with “Spectre” is that most of the film is just Bond following paper trails and trying to find out identities. And this would be fine if (A) the hunt was exciting, or (B) it built up to something grand. But it does neither and the ultimate payoff really wasn’t worth the 2+ hour wait.

Casting Christoph Waltz as a Bond villain should have been an instant home run. He gave us one of the best bad guys in cinema history with Hans Landa in “Inglourious Basterds,” so he should be great and menacing facing off against James Bond, right? But aside from one scene where he just sits at a table like he’s head of a school board meeting, Waltz doesn’t show up until the final 40 minutes of the film. And the few scenes he does have he is just ranting and bragging about everything bad he’s done in the past and how he’s ruined Bond’s life.

This came off as both annoying and anticlimactic, because we never really see him do anything menacing or cool (it’s like the 50-year-old who keeps talking about how good he was at varsity football) and because from a narrative perspective it is really rather lazy to have every event from the previous three films connect back to one single point.

As I said early on, the film is shot beautifully, and the set design is great as well. This is a very good looking film; Mendes and crew know what they are doing. But Bond tossing maps and loading a gun without ever shooting it can only keep us entertained for so long (there are a few action sequences but aside from one train fight they are all brief and without tension).

I was really looking forward to “Spectre” but like many films in 2015 it disappointed. It is very well crafted and some of the throwback nods to the original Bonds are welcome, but I was disinterested throughout much of the film, and since they had all the pieces to make a classic 007 romp, the letdown is even more upsetting. It’s not a bad film, and it is better than “Quantum of Solace,” but that’s like complimenting “Revenge of the Sith” for being better than “Attack of the Clones;” that bar is just set too low to hit.

Critics Rating: 5/10

Variety
Variety
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