Polished Not Stirred


To suggest Spectre, the latest installment in the world of James Bond, offers nothing new would be to miss the point by a margin similar to the gun shots taken at Bond by the bad guys. Spectre is a highly polished and mostly effective escape that will keep its viewers away from the dreary doldrums of daily life for almost all of its 148 minute run-time.  It should be noted keeping today’s attention deficit audience engaged for 148 minutes is about 30-45 minutes longer than the norm.

In a general sense Spectre follows the Bond playbook to the letter; Thin plot with ominous overtones, scene locations that make an exotic travelogue feel pedestrian, stunts that cirque du soleil would applaud, and a theme song single that is catchy and memorable.

Is this installment of Bond the same as the others? Sure it is and this fact should make followers happy. M, played for the 2nd time by Ralph Fiennes (Schindler’s List AAN, The English Patient AAN, In Bruges) – harps on Bond to almost no end.  Monenypenny, played for the 2nd time by Naomie Harris (28 Days Later, Mandela) – almost kisses Bond but thinks better of it. Q, played for the 2nd time by Ben Winshaw (Layer Cake, The International) – is not able to keep the Aston Martin away from Bond any more than his predecessors.  So the crew is back.  How is this installment of Bond different?  Take the three afore-mentioned roles and compare their involvement in Spectre to the original films. Much is comfortably the same and much is enjoyably new. Hint – they all actually leave the confines of their normal environs.

Even Spectre’s soundtrack is different and familiar at the same time. Thomas Newman the 12 time Oscar nominated composer and conductor returns for the 2nd time.  Newman, son of nine-time Oscar winner winner Alfred, and cousin of two-time Oscar winner Randy, provides a crisp and perfectly timed score.  Much of the sound is new.  However if it feels familiar at certain junctures – think Shawshank Redemption, The Horse Whsiperer and The Green Mile and you would be correct – as Newman reuses his work in those films in Spectre.

New on the scene is Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema (Insterstellar, Her, The Fighter). The single-tracking-shot opening of Spectre begins with a street scene in Mexico City’s celebration of Day of the Dead.  It is over four minutes in length before what appears to be the first cut-away. The opening sequence is exceptionally effective as a means to daw in the audience and might best be described as a homage to Emmanuel Lubezki (AA Birdman, AA Gravity, AAN Children of Men) and his 6:18 city warfare scene in Children of Men.  Both Lubezki and Hoytema will admit and salute to the subtle use of Computer Generated Imaging (CGI) to create the appearance of a single-tracking result.  I am on record of not being a fan of CGI, but Spectre applies it in a most appropriate and convincing manner.

And finally to the women of Spectre.  Some excellent female artists from Italy and France are under utilized.  Italian Monica Bellucci (The Passion of the Christ, Matrix movies), and Frenchwoman Léa Seydoux (Inglorious Basterds, Midnight in Paris, The Grand Budapest Hotel) are the female interests of James Bond in Spectre.  Unfortunately Daniel Craig (James Bond) does not appear to have any chemistry with the striking Bellucci or the intriguing Seydoux.  Their scenes feel perfunctory at-best and at-worst stiff and unbelievable.  Now the chemistry between Bond and Moneypenny is altogether different.

All-in-all Spectre is worthy of a trip to the theatre for a viewing on the big-screen.

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