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The film begins during lavishly macabre Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico City, where Bond has been dispatched to assassinate a terrorist plotting a public bombing. Sort of like in the beginning of Casino Royale, but without the cool parkour. You soon discover this mission wasn't vetted by HQ, giving viewers the first in a series of utterly flabbergasting plot devices concocted to shove forward an already flimsy script. How did the person from MI6 who sent Bond to Mexico know who the bomber was by name, when the bomber is part of this multi-layered shadow world of evil-doers MI6 knows nothing about? Who ratted? When? It's a mystery. As is how the bomber managed to escape an explosion that destroyed the hotel he was in. As is why Bond then ends up fighting him in a helicopter in mid-flight. It's in the trailer. It looks great, but his task was to kill the bomber. Quit friggin' around. Take the shot. There, and in the final scene.
Sadly, Spectre feels like cinematic filler meant to fulfill contractual obligations and maybe tie up some loose ends while setting up the real sequel to Skyfall (2012). Like with the Fantastic Four films, it's as though the studio faced losing control of the material or its star if something wasn't cranked out now. That's the worst aspect of this movie: Other than introducing a couple of new characters to the reboot, unlike the last three films, this story doesn't play out as though it actually matters. This episode is the stuff of end credit stingers, not an entire movie. While the bones of cyber terrorism seen in Skyfall are picked through to cobble together the semblance of an Orwellian-like threat the modern world pretty much already lives under, it's never really made clear why the bad guys are considered the bad guys beyond them not being the good guys who do a lot of the same things the bad guys do. Deciding on what the best thing about this movie is might need to wait until the next James Bond movie hits the big screen. That sucks.
Continuing on, Bond soon beds the bomber's widow in an incredibly time- and talent-wasting scene featuring veteran actress Monica Bellucci, and then he stuffs her in a pipeline that whisks her across the border to safety like in The Living Daylights (1987). No, not really. While the rare occasion of 007 having sex with a woman too old to be his daughter does occur, he reassures then pawns off Bellucci's character with the same dated attitude shared by most of Bond's previous incarnations. However, the hunt does lead him to a snow-swept alpine clinic similar to the one seen in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969). That's where he ends up chasing newly appointed heavy Hinx, played by Dave Bautista, who is over-all an amalgam of every memorably ruthless henchman in the James Bond universe, from Goldfinger's Oddjob - without the blade-rimmed hat - to Live and Let Die's Tee Hee - without the metal claw.
Making a 'spot the original Bond source' drinking game out of watching this movie might be its only source of enjoyment for many long-time die-hard fans. There's an ejector seat scene, take a big swig of that Gordon's Gin with Vodka and Kina Lillet. Ooh, there's a fight on a train scene, hammer back four or five more.
Spectre's uninspired colouring book of a screenplay sluggishly drags Bond through a weary maze of increasingly dumb plot points that eventually drop him into the secret worldwide syndicate of meanies and voyeurs called Spectre. And, face to face with the nemesis he never knew he had: Franz Oberhauser, vaguely played by Christoph Waltz. Easily the weakest of the reboot villains, Oberhauser is literally Bond's brother from another mother, being the birth son of the family that adopted Bond when he was still a twelve-year-old orphaned Bond. Out of bizarre sibling rivalry, Oberhauser's pet name for Bond is 'cuckoo', in reference to the parasitic nature of the bird when young. He also faked his own death years before setting up his pre-requisite secret lair seen here, and now goes by the name Ernst Stavro Blofeld. I want to say Oberhauser chose that name because he simply love-loved Fleming's books...
Léa Seydoux also co-stars here, as clinical psychiatrist Dr. Madeleine Swann, the latest (so far) surviving love interest of the now newly recycled old James Bond of the last century. Again, unfortunately, the script has no idea how to make her a consistent enough character to truly care about. She's introduced as a a strong-willed, self-sufficient woman with a shady past who initially stands toe-to-toe intellectually and physically with Bond. She scolds him more than once, and proves she's adept with a gun. Then later on, when all of that would actually matter, Swann uselessly sits back in wide-eyed fear - without her being impeded in any way - while Bond is tortured in front of her. In a final death blow to her character's potential, Swann becomes the tied up victim in distress during the final countdown of yet another big explosion. Does that count as 15 or 20 swigs, drinking game-wise? It's easy to cite movies inspired by the tired Bond trademark that have long since surpassed it for the benefit of fans.
Where the previous three reboot films fearlessly refreshed the franchise by stripping away its past weird gadgets, corny humour and chauvinism while providing Bond with rich character development, Spectre lazily feeds on heavy doses of those rather antiquated clichés while set on the same sad self-defeating auto pilot mode of an addict in relapse. The old James Bond is back, and not for the better. And, that's a shame. Reviewed 11/15, © Stephen Bourne, moviequips.ca.
Spectre is rated PG by the Ontario
Film Authority, citing use of expletives, embracing and kissing,
mild sexual innuendo, and restrained portrayals of non-graphic
violence, and is rated G by la Régie du Cinéma
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