[By Nic Lindh on Sunday, 08 November 2015]
This review is spoiler-free.
Let’s get my biases out of the way from the get-go: I’m a huge Bond fan and have seen every movie, most of them several times. So reviewing a new Bond outing is tricky, since I look at it both as a movie and as a Bond movie. Different scales, different expectations.
As a movie, Spectre earns ★★★★☆. It’s a gripping, entertaining spectacle with spectacular visuals and solid acting.
As a Bond movie, Spectre earns ★★★☆☆. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, even has moments of greatness, but like all the Craig movies I’m not sure about the direction it wants to take the series.
Parenthetically, and these might be fightin’ words, I’ll go on the record as saying Craig is now my favorite Bond, a smidge above Connery. Like Connery, he has the character’s sociopathic brutality and menace down cold, but Craig’s also a better actor.
Which brings us back to the direction of the series. During Craig’s run, it’s been about Bond coming to terms with the way his life has turned out, the incidents that have made him, and just how emotionally damaged he is. Which is fine and good. But at the same time, the franchise is a spectacle. A glorious, popcorn-chomping cavalcade of beautiful locations, women, and cars guided by the Man You Can Never Be—always cool, always in control, always resourceful.
This man is also of course a horrible sociopath and misogynist, but in the past we’ve sort of made a deal to shrug that off. Bond was never about realism, to understate the case.
The Craig run wants us to focus on the struggles of the man who commits these acts, but it also wants to bring us the spectable. This tension makes the movies weaker.
Since Casino Royale I’ve wanted them to pick a side, dammit! Go full tortured soul or full “Oh, well, that’s just how Bond is nudge-wink” instead of half-assing it in the middle.
The good about Spectre: It’s visually stunning and raises the bar for elaborate action sequences yet again. For the die-hard fans there’s also a generous helping of inside references and jokes to reward your fandom. And the actors do great work.
The bad about Spectre: Two hours and 20 minutes is way too long for the plot. You could trim at least half an hour and make it much more energetic—sometimes the movie seems like it just doesn’t want to leave a scene even though it’s over.
And the tortured-soul bit is getting old. I really don’t need that much existential angst in my escapist entertainment.
But be that as it may, Spectre delivers a solid installment in the series. And holy smokes, that Aston Martin DB10…