I finally got around to seeing Spectre, the most recent installment of the James Bond franchise, and I guess this may be Daniel Craig's final outing as the super spy. That makes sense given how the story wraps up in this one. By the way expect some heavy spoilage as we proceed through this review. I'm just assuming everyone who wants to read this has seen it by now and if you haven't what I have to say is of no interest yet, if ever.
The story picks up as have the other Craig Bond's telling more of the extended story of Bond's rise and falls as a spy and assassin for Her Majesty's Secret Service. He's fulfilling a final posthumous mission given him by the deceased "M" and so he appears to have gone rogue yet again to his boss the current "M". But quickly we learn that there's more afoot as there is a push to channel all of the world's intelligence gathering through a single filter, one managed by the immediately suspicious "C". It turns out it's all a scam by the ultra-secret organization named Spectre which is led by the all-too familiar Ernst Blofeld who turns out to be Bond's "brother" of sorts. And we learn that everything in the previous Craig Bond movies has been the ultimate scheme of Spectre and Blofeld who seek vengeance on Bond for stealing the affections of their shared "father".
It all ties together a bit too neatly for my tastes. Having all the threats of the previous three movies be really Spectre plots I'm okay with, but for it all to be some vendetta because of daddy issues is too much. I was very much reminded of ret-conned comics which end up having all the disparate plot threads of previous years merged into some master plot, usually with some totally boring secret familial reveal.
And that aside, while this Bond movie has all the parts you'd look for in a Bond adventure, and dandy parts they are indeed in some cases, the whole shebang never seems to rise above a simmer and certainly never to a boil. The climax is simultaneously overwrought and undercooked.
Lea Seydoux is stunning but she and Craig have almost no chemistry that I could detect. Monica Bellucci had more but sadly she got the role of the throwaway Bond girl of the first reel.
Dave Bautista is mighty as Mr.Hinx, the dour and silent assassin for Spectre, but despite much effort on everyone's part the fights between him and Craig never get beyond the obligatory. You never feel Craig is ever in any real danger, so Hinx is always just a piker.
Andrew Scott as the devious "C" is a great actor but is given little to chew on in a thankless role that makes little secret of his dubious status. Seems like a double-switch might have been called for since he was so obviously a plant for Spectre.
Most disappointing was Christopher Waltz as Blofeld. Aside from the wonderful introduction scene in Spectre's mysterious boardroom he has almost no presence and giving him a big old scar doesn't help. He's a villain not worth the killing as we learn at the movie's end.
Ralph Fiennes is wasted as "M", and I was really looking forward to some great classic M and Bond repartee. After a great debut Naomi Harris disappears as Moneypenny. These two along with the Ben Whishaw as "Q" form a squad of "Bondettes" who battle furiously at the end for little reason. They seem to have stuff to do in the movie, but sadly little of it seems really to matter much.
I appreciate the effort to keep the Bond misadventures vaguely within the confines of human capacity (which they've violated in previous incarnations for sure) but there are such a things as suspense and tension and this movie for all its glamour and gloss never achieves either.
If this is Craig's swan song for the role as it plays, it's a sad send off to an actor who really reinvigorated a withered franchise.