Global intrigue, gadgets, cheeky humor, scantily-clad (or gold-painted) strumpets. These have been the hallmarks of a James Bond film for more than a half-century.
“Spectre,” Daniel Craig’s fourth appearance as Ian Fleming’s quintessential secret agent, continues a regrettable slide away from the traditional sometimes-campy cinematic interpretation personified by Sean Connery and Roger Moore.
This may be the inevitable fate of a franchise that by its 24th film has evolved to a higher form absent the frivolity and other risks that a reported $300 million budget would leave little room for.
What is Bonded comes off only cursory. He has a boss named “M” and a confederate in the tech labs named “Q.” He carries a Walther PPK and even in the finest tailored suits moves like a ninja. They’ve even resurrected one of the most famous villains, Ernst Blofeld, so synonymous with Bond that Austin Powers epically battled a parody of him (the Donald Pleasence version, anyway).
Yet, even the exquisitely villainous Christoph Waltz as the head of the eponymous crime organization doesn’t come off as much of a threat. Seriously, we live in a post-Snowden world that readily accepts the specious failure of hard drives with inconvenient information, and we’re to believe the systematic aggregation of surveillance video in Blofeld’s secret lair (in a crater, no less) poses a remarkable threat? C’mon, even Dr. Evil had a nuclear warhead.
Absent the vintage Bond vibe, “Spectre” differs little from a “Mission: Impossible” or “Bourne” installment. Which is not to say this one’s a disappointing film; rather it’s a disappointing James Bond film.
Pity. The opening sequence — a vibrant Día de Muertos celebration in Mexico City — set a trajectory that if sustained might have ranked this one among the best of the brand. Instead, by the time Bond saves the day, he has to endure a peculiar torture session that fits somewhere between Malcolm McDowell in “A Clockwork Orange” and Dustin Hoffman in “Marathon Man.” It should have been unsettling but instead had the effect of making me nostalgic for the old-school unnecessarily elaborate exterminations of days past like Auric Goldfinger’s attempt to vasectomize Bond with a high-powered laser.
Solid but unbalanced action felt longish. Subplot (new boss thinks the double-naught program is obsolete) seemed contrived.
Léa Seydoux (“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Midnight in Paris”) and Monica Bellucci co-star.