When I left the latest James Bond adventure, Spectre, I felt like its star, Daniel Craig. I felt tired and worn out by this particular 007. During recent interviews, Craig seem detached and ready to call it quits playing the famous British intelligence agent. I feel the exact same way after the exhausting overcooked 2 hour and 28 minute film. Enough.
The story is a British spy film press kit. In the wake the death of M(the beloved and missed Judi Dench), a new division is making a move to take over MI-6 and close down the 007 program. They have a new technology that can track anyone anywhere. Why? It’s Bond’s world, where anything is possible. Women fall in love with you within a couple days, beautiful sports cars are wrecked continuously, Bond’s suit never gets wrinkled and a lot of people die. With a clue from the departed M, Bond tracks a group of assassins whose group is called…..SPECTRE.
Car chases come every 20 minutes, like room service to a hotel room full of guests who already had a plate full. Bonds meets a woman who connects back to a face from his past, and that brings him to Christoph Waltz’s bad guy who may know James a bit. If he didn’t, he would just be another slick rogue in a suit with shoes not wearing socks. Who needs that?
Maybe it’s getting tiring to see these spy films every year. Filmmakers are either mocking Bond or duplicating him. Seeing Matthew Vaughn rip off Q’s weaponry and tech geekness in Kingsman last year may have kicked over the glass. Paul Feig’s Spy gave the story a sense of humor. Maybe this fourth go around with Craig’s Bond shows how long in the tooth this tortured incarnation really is.
In Skyfall, director Sam Mendes made it feel fresh after a just good enough Quantum of Solace. Javier Bardem was a clever villain, the story was fresh, Craig was wounded yet cool and the castle shootout at the end left a shiny tint on this aging Aston Martin. In Spectre, Mendes and a team of FIVE screenwriters tie all the Craig Bonds together in a sloppy way. It just feels rushed, overdone, a bit bland and not interesting enough. Like a steak that isn’t dry but looked better in the packaging at the store.
The best part of the film was Dave Bautista, a monstrous presence who gets a single word of dialogue yet owns every scene he is in with his ferocity alone. When he enters the film, the little film fan inside you starts to get excited. He is a special breed of villain that Bond hasn’t seen in a while. A villain that can go toe to toe with Bond and create excitement that lifts an otherwise dull film up. Bautista gets warmed up with a couple chase scenes but the best scene in the film involves a high speed empty train, Craig and Big Dave crashing through cars beating each other up. The choreography is kinetic yet not complicated or too quick. Bautista smashes things and Craig takes a licking and keeps on ticking.
The fight reminds you of the first scene in Casino Royale. That wonderful black and white bathroom brawl that introduced us to a blond haired hero with a pitbull mentality and some push. The train scene is excellent. Bautista is fantastic, ferocious and I wanted more of him. When he departs, the film goes back into “been there, seen that, please reload” mode.
Waltz is wasted in a thanklessly dull bad guy role that never really gets going. He’s the limp noodle to Bautista’s filet. Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and the luscious Lea Seydoux come and go without leaving a great mark. Ben Whishaw has a few good lines as Q but doesn’t register much more than what you expect. Monica Bellucci has a brief role that gets forgotten by the midway mark. The supporting cast has quality actors that are wasted.
Spectre is a disappointment because of the level Mendes brought the Bond franchise to with Skyfall. It isn’t a bad film and it is gorgeously shot and has exotic locales like Tangier, Austria, Rome, and the always striking London setting. Maybe the tip off was five different screenwriters. Always gives me the feeling that they just kept passing the laptop around in a circle until something good came out.
Craig is still my favorite Bond, but he feels old in the role here. You can see the lines in his face and the role all at once. For the first time in years, he is simply going through the motions. For the first time in a long stretch, a Bond film feels like it was one too many. There will never be a bad Craig Bond film, but this one comes awfully close.
For a little while, this movie wasn’t going to happen. Mendes nearly didn’t come back and Craig was hesitant. Watching the film, I can see why. They are scrapping the bottom of the jar.
Spectre isn’t a bad movie, but it’s a disappointing finale for Craig’s Bond.
Spend your hard earned cash and time on better films like Bridge of Spies, The Martian, The Walk or Steve Jobs. Save this Bond flick for home.
*Seriously though, give Bautista his own spy adventure. His own movie. I’d pay for more adventures with his Hinx.