Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Review: James Bond “Spectre” Is A Fitting Follow Up to “Skyfall,” and A Massive Hit


Sam Mendes really directs great live theater. He also has an Oscar for Best Director of “American Beauty.” But somehow he’s become the go-to director of James Bond movies. First it was “Skyfall” and now it’s “Spectre.”

SPOILERS ABOUND “Spectre” first of all ends with the warning: “James Bond will be back.” And you bet Mendes and Daniel Craig will, too. Nothing succeeds like success and Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson are not going to fool around. Two hits, and a third has to be coming in two or three years. Bank on it.

And you want theatre? The opening sequence in Mexico City looks like something Julie Taymor would have dreamt up for Mendes. Outstanding.

“Spectre” is missing Judi Dench, but she makes an appearance, and her M is key to the story. Ralph Fiennes is now M, and he’s fine. We just miss Dame Judi. Ben Whishaw is an expanded Q, loyal to James and ever inventive. Naomie Harris is back as Moneypenny, too.

They are all joined by the purring Monica Bellucci as the Italian wife of Bond’s victim, and one of his many conquests. Bellucci is radiant, sexy and age appropriate. Go back and see “Malena” from 2000– she is a modern Sophia Loren.

Leah Seydoux is James’s real Bond girl here. She plays the daughter of Mr. White, James’s foe from “Quantum of Solace” (Jesper Christensen reprises his role). As Monica, Mr. White’s daughter, Seydoux holds her own with Bond. She’s a knockout, and she can act. Seydoux is an excellent match for Daniel Craig.

Mr. White is not the only Bond throwback. “Spectre” stands for Special Executive for Counterintelligience, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion. The nefarious organization appeared in several Ian Fleming novels and in the movies “Dr. No.” “From Russia With Love.” “Thunderball.” “You Only Live Twice,” “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, and “Diamonds Are Forever.”

SPECTRE was the invention of Ernst Blofeld, aka Number 1, a great Bond villain. Now Christoph Waltz is playing Blofeld’s presumed dead son, who goes by a new name. Waltz, of course, is a delicious villain who takes responsibility for all the bad things that have happened in Bond’s life. Some of his connection is explained, but not all, which is a bit frustrating. But the new Blofeld looks like he may be sticking around for a sequel. I hope so.

Daniel Craig is better than ever, I think. He’s really made Bond his own character. He’s made the movies less about his body and more about Bond’s mind. I don’t blame him when he says he doesn’t want to make more of these– the whole thing looks physically punishing. But one more seems right to wrap it all up. You only live twice, you know!

Kudos for nice references to “Skyfall,” which obviously is on the mind of younger audiences. But the Sam Smith song is really all wrong, I suspect the producers are well aware of that by now. It’s so dull you think about your taxes and ironing while it’s playing. Too bad. For such an action-centric movie, the song has no propulsion.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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