Review: “Spectre” begins with a bang, but misses the bullseye

Sam Lee and Chirag Akella

James Bond has returned within the new film, "Spectre." Overall the film is satisfactory, but plot details take away from the action scenes and the story itself. Photo by MGM
James Bond has returned within the new film, “Spectre.” Overall the film is satisfactory, but plot details take away from the action scenes and the story itself. Photo by MGM.

The James Bond franchise has returned with the thrilling new chapter to the Bond series, “Spectre.” The film continues the traditions from previous eras and as well as the story from recent Bond films while paving its own path, differentiating it from other Bond films. Its exciting sequences, iconic references and humorous script is sure to please both casual and die-hard Bond fans alike.

“Spectre,” directed by Sam Mendes, begins with an opening sequence in Mexico City that rivals some of the best opening sequences in the series. The sequence follows Bond (Daniel Craig) tracking down a mysterious villain through the town square during the festive Day of the Dead celebrations. Bond then engages in a brilliantly shot helicopter fight scene which caps the action-packed opening scene. The rest of the movie follows Bond’s quest to track down a person from his past and to take down the terrorist organization, Spectre.

One way “Spectre” succeeds is that it incorporates all the classic Bond moments that old fans will love. The introduction of “Bond, James Bond?” Check. Shaken, not stirred? Yup. The timeless Aston Martin? Of course. There are even many references to past films (“From Russia With Love” train scene, anyone?). However, where this film differs from the majority of the series is in its exploration of Bond’s (Daniel Craig) past, a continuing theme from all of Craig’s past Bond films.

Though the exploration of Bond’s past was done very well in Craig’s previous movies (namely “Casino Royale” and “Skyfall”), in “Spectre” it distracts rather than adds to the plot. Extended monologues takes away from the action scenes and slows the pace of the movie. Also, the focus on Bond’s past does not accentuate Bond’s traditional mysterious and stoic nature and makes him much softer than previous films. It also leads to an unorthodox ending that combined with rumors of “Spectre” being Craig’s final Bond film, fuels many rumors regarding the plot of the next film, “Bond 25.”

Despite those issues, “Spectre” succeeds in many ways. Supporting characters Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), Q (Ben Whishaw) and M (Ralph Fiennes) continue their strong performances from “Skyfall.” Harris plays a great sidekick to Bond while Whishaw does a phenomenal job adding funny moments and continuing to play an exceptional younger Q. Fiennes also does a good job taking over from the longtime Judie Dench as M, incorporating the steely attitude needed for the character. The script is well done, incorporating humor throughout while still retaining the darker feel regarding Bond’s past. The cinematography is shot very well, as the action scenes were captivating and intense. The different locations Bond ventures into, such as Mexico City and Rome, are captured well by the directing, the clothing is classy and fashionable, and the explosions are bigger than ever.

Christoph Waltz (Ernst Blofeld) plays a phenomenal antagonist. Waltz’s idiosyncratic acting fits seamlessly with the role of “Oberhauser,” but there is one problem – there was not enough of him. The first half of the film foreshadows Oberhauser to be an extremely powerful and invincible villain. However, when he is on-screen, he gives too many monologues and isn’t able to have the same impact as past villains such as Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) from “Skyfall.”

Despite the divergence from the traditional Bond script, “Spectre” still retains the traditional Bond moments die-hard fans will look for, and its enthralling action scenes and humorous moments make it a must-watch even for the casual moviegoer.