Monday, January 16, 2017

Short Take: Spectre

Spectre, the fourth film in the James Bond franchise to star Daniel Craig, has astonishing production values, but the series is back to going through the motions. There was no good reason, other than financial ones, to make it. If the series is to continue, it needs to be rebooted with a new star. This picture is strictly formula. At the end of the previous Bond picture, the wittily subversive Skyfall, the Daniel Craig version of the material had come full circle with the Sean Connery pictures. Craig's gritty Bond was now the cartoonish Connery one, although in a way that ensured one could never look at the Connery Bond the same way again. Spectre is just Craig in a Connery Bond film: weightless heroics, humorously over-the top action set pieces, and affectless misogyny. It's watchable, apart from a grueling torture-porn sequence, but one is glad when it's over, which is a sentiment one suspects is shared by Daniel Craig, director Sam Mendes, and the screenwriters. (The script is credited to John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth.) The film has little in the way of new ideas. The adventure story, which involves a shadow intelligence agency preparing to make mass surveillance ubiquitous, is largely a retread of Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The romantic subplot, which pairs Craig with French actress Léa Seydoux, is poorly developed, and Bond's commitment to the woman never seems more than screenwriter contrivance. Christoph Waltz, whose villain is an updated version of one from the Connery films, is amusing, but the droll manner that earned the actor two Oscars is starting to feel more than a little hackneyed. Sam Mendes' directing has its moments, such as with the dry slapstick of the opening set piece in Mexico City, and the gorgeously filmed nighttime-on-the-Thames climax. Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema and production designer Chris Corbould do themselves proud throughout. Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, and Ben Whishaw reprise their roles from Skyfall.

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