After a grueling October line up of films, the first weekend in November has a reward for us and Sony is delivering it: Spectre. The next installment of the James Bond franchise can only be summed up by calling it "phenomenal."
Opening on a continuous shot reminiscent of the epic continuous Age of Utlron Hydra fight in the snowy woods or even Alejandro Inarritu's Birdman, Spectre goes full throttle from the start. It's Day of the Dead in Mexico, just one small stop on the globetrotting adventure, and Bond (Daniel Craig) finds himself investigating a cryptic message he received from the fallen M (Judy Dench). His efforts put him on the scent of The Pale King and from here, the world must be saved.
It's an instant trip back to Bond movie roots. He's suave, at times funny, and a true action hero.
Spectre features some of the James Bond franchise's most mysterious story telling. Some may claim it to be a touch predictable but the new villain here, Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), takes Spectre into the realm of Dark Knight. A villain so cruel and genuinely cold-blooded hasn't been captured on the silver screen in years. "The author of all [Bond's] pain," manipulates a truly menacing story which creates a layer of personal conflict for Bond while global security is truly in jeopardy.
Craig delightfully takes us back to a feeling of classic Bond with his performance this time around. The level of his skill in his acting is on par with the quality of suits he wears throughout the film. It's that in-your-face Pierce Brosnan charm, just polished and delivered with more compelling and believable supplements around him.
Spectre doesn't shine because of Craig alone. This time, it's a full team effort. The new M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw), and Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) assemble beside Bond to save the world in truly heroic, and sometimes appropriately comedic, fashion.
Don't forget the henchman, here. Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) checks in as Hinx, a man who wants to be the new world order's assassin and absolutely crushes action scenes around the world. The dialogue is quite scarce but his demeanor doesn't demand him to say more than a single word.
Just when you might look at your watch and wonder how much longer you've got in the theater (the film does run 148 minutes), cue an innovative, creative, and intense action scene. Director Sam Mendes got his moneys worth from his actors, stunt men, and set designers here. Be it a helicopter barrel rolling above a panicked crowd, a table flipping to kick off a brawl, or some classic James Bond shoot 'em up moments, Spectre puts in a bid for best action scenes this year.
Several times through the film, including the beginning sequence's epic helicopter quarrel, Bond seems to be truly in trouble. The action sequences are where we fear for Bond most. There a few moments which might make us think of Scott Evil's message to Dr. Evil in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, "Let's just go get my gun and we'll shoot him right now!" It's just like the jab Kingsman took at Bond films, saying the bad guy outlines the plan to the hero and chooses to let him watch instead of die. Spectre often diverts a moments of should-be peril for Bond at the hands of some its baddies.
Perhaps the best part of Spectre is not the action, but the manner in which it ties together all of Daniel Craig's James Bond movies. Rather than becoming another standalone effort, previous films play a major factor in the plot and conclusion of Spectre. If Craig chooses to come back to the franchise, it would be a more than welcome new chapter, but Spectre also opens the door for him to hang up the suit and pistol for good and none of us could possibly be mad at him for it.
All things considered, Spectre is the best film to hit theaters in a long time. October wasn't all bad, let's not forget the Martian came along, but November is a month movie goers can be thankful for, already. Mendes crafts a captivating Bond thriller while taking us back to his suave, action hero roots.
Bottom Line: Spectre is a phenomenal entry into the James Bond franchise which takes us back to the suave, action hero roots while also providing a closure for Craig's run as the English spy. 9.0/10