Ironically, of all espionage films released in 2015, this one may be ranked the lowest
In this fourth and apparently final instalment of Daniel Craig's era as 007, it features one of the most popular criminal organisations and supervillains in all James Bond series -- SPECTRE led by Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz). However, disappointingly, they weren't an improvement from their predecessors.
Technically, the film is beautifully shot. There's an impressive single take scene right at the very beginning in Mexico during a massive Day of the Dead parade celebration (a real occasion I didn't know anything about until I watched The Book of Life). Then comes a strong action scene involving a helicopter and an illogically reckless 007. Seriously, if he fights like this since the first instalment, nobody would've labeled this James Bond reboot gritty.
With the great previous film's (Skyfall) director, Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition, American Beauty), returning to do this one as well, it is quite a mystery how much the style, sets and visuals have either retained or improved, but the action is not. Gigantic former WWE wrestler Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) is cast as Mr. Hinx, the typical bigger opponent that the hero has to physically struggle against, but he has no dialogue (for obvious reasons), the way he fights is dumb, and the way he's beaten (sorry, I don't consider this a spoiler) is just too cliched. The action sequences are good and expensive, none of them really thrills or excites like in Casino Royale (2006) or Skyfall (2012). The vehicle chase scenes are so draggy and boring, it's almost like watching two sides jogging at each other. Having the protagonist calmly doing other stuff while being chased is probably not the best idea to engage the audience.
Now let's talk about the absolutely overused plot, most recently used by other espionage films like Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. You know, the one where the protagonist(s) has found its match, an antagonist who knows exactly every move that he makes, while his own agency is in the midst of being shut down, he gets captured but the villain gives him ample amount of time to escape, etc. It is indeed formulaic. The story is set not long after the events in Skyfall, where the former M (Judi Dench) has passed away but she left Bond a final secret assignment, which leads to him finding out about the titular criminal organisation that's on the verge of capturing world dominating power. It is hard to believe that this were thought out by a total of four screenwriters, and some of them had good track records too. I wonder who thought it's a good idea to have tentacles wrapping around nude girls in the opening credits. The pre-chorus in the theme song Writing's on the Wall by Sam Smith reminds of Michael Jackson's Earth Song. The score by Thomas Newman (Skyfall, Bridge of Spies, Shawshank Redemption) is great as always.
Craig is awesome again as 007. He's probably the second best of all time. For all the disappointment of this instalment, it's all definitely on the direction and writing. Christoph Waltz (Big Eyes, Django Unchained, Inglourious Basterds) as the supervillain only has like four scenes in the entire 2 hours and a half of running time, and his role's motivation to evilness is laughable. The gorgeous Léa Seydoux (Blue Is the Warmest Colour) is the latest Bond girl, Dr. Madeleine Swann, is supposed to play out as the hero's true love, but that's awfully developed and it makes the film seem patchy.
Nonetheless, despite plenty downsides due to the high bar set by Casino Royale and Skyfall, Spectre is still far more entertaining and visually engaging than other generic spy action flicks. It also has pretty good humour and the corniness is not unacceptable for an almost goofy approach. Nothing can be cornier than walking into a former sex trafficking victim's shower uninvited and gets rewarded with sex (Skyfall). At least it is not as rubbish as The Quantum of Solace (2008) which is 40 minutes shorter and yet I fell asleep watching that (for real).
Malaysia censorship: I'm pretty sure the sex scenes aren't that short. Apart from that, I believe the violence and kissing were unedited, which is surprising considering that this was classified as P13 here.
Second opinion: My girlfriend liked the film, saying that she didn't find it boring and felt that the "flow is quite good".
Verdict: Third best, second worst in the Daniel Craig era as Bond.
Rating: 3 / 5
Based on: Ian Flemming's "James Bond" book series
Genre: Espionage, action
Running Time: 148 minutes
Director: Sam Mendes
Screenwriters: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth
Cast: Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Christoph Waltz, Monica Bellucci, Dave Bautista, Ben Whishaw, Andrew Scott
Malaysia Released Date: 5 November 2015
Local Distributor: (no info)
Production: Eon Productions
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