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The past has haunted me before,
Mistakes, heartaches I tried to flee,
And when at last I think they’ve gone,
I find not everyone’s moved on,
Sometimes including me.

My enemies have bones to pick,
A few more personal than most.
When bullets make their presence known,
I’ll gladly help to pick the bone
And silence any ghost.

MPAA rating: PG-13

After the exceptional storyline of Skyfall, it was certainly a difficult task for the next installment in the Bond franchise to match it, and it’s not very surprising that it doesn’t. Spectre is a solid Bond adventure, but even with Sam Mendes returning as director, it pales next to its predecessor, if only because it returns to predictable action-movie formulas.

Spectre does start in style, with a long flowing shot that follows a masked Bond from the Mexico City streets up to a sniper position on a hotel roof. The subsequent destruction and helicopter chase exemplify what makes Daniel Craig’s Bond so entertaining in the action department, but after he returns to London for a slap on the wrist, he sinks into suave spy mode with the same ease. From investigations into yet another mysterious international organization to rendezvous with women and an old foe, the plot does what one would expect of a Bond movie, and all of the supporting “good guys” do excellent work with it, including Ralph Fiennes’ M, Ben Whishaw’s Q, and Léa Seydoux as the latest Bond girl named Madeline Swann, who has an interesting connection to Bond’s past adventures.

However, it’s the villains who are the biggest letdown. After Javier Bardem’s malicious Silva in Skyfall, Christoph Waltz fails to make as much of an impression, which is a shame since we know he can play an expert villain. Part of the problem is that he’s absent from the picture for too long, floating in and out of events more like a plot device than an evil genius. Another character is so obviously working for him that I’m not sure if that was meant to be a surprise, especially when he’s played by the clearly untrustworthy Andrew Scott (a.k.a. Moriarty on Sherlock). The sad part is that Waltz’s character is meant as Bond’s arch-nemesis but isn’t given the screen-time or strong motive to warrant that title, even with his supposed mastermind status over Bond’s past exploits.

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The film’s technical aspects also feel more pedestrian next to Skyfall. After that initial continuous shot I mentioned, the artistry Mendes showed in the past is hardly noticeable, and the action scenes feel born more out of necessity than creativity. One kidnapping car chase, for instance, takes place in the snowy Alps, and Bond decides to pursue in a small plane, begging the question how he intended to rescue the hostage from the air.

I sound like I’m being harsh, don’t I? It’s a James Bond movie, and I shouldn’t expect much, but after thoroughly enjoying Skyfall, it was hard not to feel a bit let down by Spectre. Nevertheless, taken by itself, formula and all, it’s still an entertaining mission and a deserving member of the Bond franchise. It fits comfortably among the franchise’s second tier, making it probably my least favorite of the Daniel Craig movies, but on the List-Worthy level of Bond’s older, more conventional escapades.

Best line: (C) “You can’t tell me an agent in the field can last long against all those drones and satellites.”   (M) “Yes, you have information. You can find out all about a man, track him down, keep an eye on him. But you have to look him in the eye. All the tech you have can’t help you with that. A license to kill also means a license not to kill.”


Rank: List-Worthy (tied with the older Bond movies I’ve seen, which are headed up by A View to a Kill)


© 2016 S.G. Liput
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