Snap-review: SPECTRE

IMG_1821Hello Bond fans! Been a while since I’ve posted and it’s wonderful to see all of you again. Not much has happened in the past year that I can recall. In fact, only three significant events come to mind. First, my dear friend Tom and his wife Lesley had a little baby boy so congrats to them! Second, the mighty mighty Mets made it all the way to the World Series and came damn close to winning it all. They blew leads in the 8th once and in the 9th twice, but who’s counting! We’ve all moved on right, right? Right. And the third big event, why the release of Bond 24, AKA SPECTRE! Along with quite a few of you ($73 million worth of you in America alone) I shelled out my $14.75 this weekend for big screen Bond experience and I will now dutifully report on what I … experienced. As I did with Skyfall (2012) three years ago (Three years!?!?!? Jesus I’m getting old) I will not give SPECTRE the full Blog James Blog/ martini glass rating treatment until the home video release. This is so I can re-watch bits for close study and so I don’t give away any spoilers for those who have yet to make it to the theater. So, on with the official, spoiler free, Blog James Blog, snap-review of SPECTRE. Enjoy.

SPECTRE is a throw-back in the best sense of the word. Blofeld returns, in the person of Christoph Waltz, for the first time since Connery tussled with SPECTRE’s #1 in Diamonds Are Forever (1971) (I’m not counting the For Your Eyes Only (1981) open) and the Bond universe is better for it. (And GTFO of here right now if you’re acting like you didn’t know. We knew last year, just scroll down two posts…) The Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion has come a long way since the 70’s and this film sets the table perfectly for the tentacles of the shadowy organization that “is everywhere” to weave into the fabric of our surveillance reliant 21st century. The return of the “gun barrel” open telegraphs this will be the first Craig Bond in what I would call the “classic” style. Gone is the heavy psychological torture that has defined Craig’s take on 007. In its place we see Craig in the “world is my oyster” and “gadgets, gears, and guns boys and their toys” mode. In other words, Craig finally loosens his tie and has some fun. This isn’t a full 180 degree swing back to Moore era Bond but a more of a slight tack left into bemused Connery “You must be joking” mode. Twice do we get the wide-eyed, disbelieving stare from locals as they watch Bond pull of an impossible feat, a staple from “classic” Bonds that fits right into this new adventure. It’s not to say there are no stakes, SPECTRE is involved after all so you know the world is in peril, but it’s more of the “you-have-three-minutes-to-save-the-girl-from-the-ticking-timebomb” variety (with some cool funhouse/horror lite elements thrown in for kicks.) To my mind, it’s a logical course correction after the emotionally heavy and quite dark Skyfall. Not that that film was a downer or a drag. It was a ton of fun in its own way and it’s one of the best Bond films because it pulls of the near impossible high wire act of being heavy without crushing Bond or the audience. But I think it’s a trick that can only be pulled of every once in a while (On Her Majesties Secrete Service (1969) comes to mind as the other time this worked for Bond.) To continue down the “heavy, dark” path would be to sinking into Nolen Dark Knight Rises (2012) territory, or worse, Dalton Bond, and suck all the fun out of the thing. (Not to mention, we can only kill M once.) No, SPECTRE doesn’t have nearly as much on its mind as Skyfall but that is not a bad thing. Sadly, SPECTRE falls short of its predecessor in the looks department but boy howdy does it have its moments. The opening shot plays as an apology for the slash and hack that was Quantum of Solace (2008). From there we get a cat and mouse game played in Mexico City during the Day of the Dead celebration that makes for a stellar pre-credit sequence with a “you are there” immediacy. Along the way we also get a car chase through Rome complete with Craig delivering Han Soloesque “It’s not my fault” lines when the car gadgets malfunction; not one but two secrete bases, one on a snowy mountain top and the other in a desert crater; a fantastic silent villain with a signature kill move; and a train (we love trains!) winding gun-1through the desert sands like a 20 car long snake. Blog James Blog was also thrilled to see Q and Moneypenny in expanded roles and Ralph “Don’t call me Ralph” Fiennes settling quite nicely into M’s storied leather chair. And Waltz, well, let’s just say Blofeld’s back baby, and while this may be Craig’s last spin in the Aston Martin, we hope #1 and his white, furry, friend stick around for years (and films) to come.

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