November Issue 2015
Movie Review: Spectre
I have mixed feelings about Spectre. It can be good fun. But fun is all it really achieves, failing to go the extra mile Bond movies go to these days, instead relying on the formulae of old. It is also marred by inconsistencies, with the story unfolding after a dramatic start, in drab fashion, then gradually picking up the pace towards the second half. So ultimately,Spectre is disappointing, paling in comparison to other contemporary Bond adventures.
Spectre begins in Mexico City, where James Bond (Daniel Craig) is conducting an unofficial mission at the behest of the former M (Judi Dench), in which he kills two men trying to blow up a stadium and gives chase to an assassin who survives the attack. It is a fantastic opening sequence, filmed in nearly one take, that well and truly got my blood pumping. Alas, the next hour or so does not follow suit. Instead we are subjected to a convoluted series of events that eventually lead Bond to the villain, Franz Oberhauser (Chistoph Waltz) aka Ernst Stavro Blofeld. He is the head of the titular evil organisation whose aim is to attain world domination (who would have thought?) This is where the problems begin. Waltz is much too qualified to play a villain so dull, and his abilities are done a great disservice. Oberhauser does not contribute to the film in any tangible way, and I doubt I would have noticed much difference had the film altogether done away with a prolific villain.
The first half is laregly dependent on typical Bond commonplaces — seductive backdrops, seductive cars, seductive women, anything seductive really. This is understandable; there does exist demand for such gimmicks. But the film crosses the boundary from innocuously superficial to blatantly ridiculous. Take for example Bond’s escapades in Rome. Even if he is the last word in suave, it is hard to fathom how he could possibly seduce a woman into bed right after killing her husband?
Thankfully, the woes of the first half end as the film enters its second half. This is by far better, entertaining quite frequently with its action sequences. The fight scene between Bond and one of Oberhauser’s strongmen played by Dave Bautista is remarkable. Following this fight is a scene in which Oberhauser has Bond captive and tortures him by way of a tiny drill through his head. Truth be told, it was quite exhilarating hearing Bond scream as the thin drill pushed into his head. If the protagonist weren’t made to suffer a little, an action movie would not be anything but predicable. The train fight sequence was great for similar reasons. In it, we see Bond take a proper beating by a physically far superior hulk of a man. Yes, we all know Bond will win. But if a film can get you to question whether the protagonist will survive in spite of all signs pointing to the affirmative, it is doing a good job at injecting some level of excitement into a scenario with an obvious outcome.
It’s a real shame that Spectre doesn’t get into gear until the second half. By then the die has been cast and the damage has been done. It could have been a great movie, what with recent Bond releases constantly shattering stereotypes in order to find new ground. Instead, it falls back into familiar territory, something that is not expected of Bond anymore.
An undergraduate student at New York University, Ali loves to write about anything under the sun. He is also passionate about politics, cinema and food.