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Movie Night – 'Spectre' brings thrill ride to Bond fans (Nov. 18, 2015 issue)

Bond. James Bond. I admit it, I get a little giddy for a new movie starring the legendary British secret agent. Who doesn’t? From the opening action scene to the rolling of the credits, 007 is always entertaining. James Bond is a cultural icon whose movies can be enjoyed by almost everyone. “Spectre” is the twenty-fourth film in the franchise.
“Spectre” picks up over a year after the events that transpired in the last Bond adventure, “Skyfall.” Bond (Daniel Craig) is in Mexico City hunting a man after receiving a cryptic message from his deceased former boss. After destroying an entire city block Bond returns to London to face the new M (Ralph Fiennes). Bond is summarily suspended for his unsanctioned actions in Mexico City, though he doesn’t seem to mind.
Bond is on the trail of a sinister criminal organization known as Spectre. The members of the organization are difficult to identify and locate. The leader of Spectre (Christoph Waltz) is so elusive that James doesn’t even know his name. A dying former member of Spectre tells bond that his daughter, Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), can help Bond find Spectre’s lair. Naturally, Madeleine is a beautiful young girl.
In the meantime, Q (Ben Wishaw) is trying to help Bond behind the scenes. Because Bond is suspended any assistance must be rendered covertly, which turns out to be rather easy because M is busy fighting his own bureaucratic war. M is fighting to keep the 00 program from being disbanded in the face of the merger of MI6 and MI5. This merger will create a new joint intelligence service that relies almost exclusively on electronic surveillance rather than men and women in the field.
Bond travels from Mexico City to London to Rome to Austria to Tangiers in search of Spectre. Along the way he begins seeing a pattern, the names of the previous enemies that he vanquished in the prior three films keep popping up as he investigates Spectre. Revealing any more of the plot would contain too many spoilers.
It’s a Bond film, so you’re guaranteed a thrill ride, beginning with the opening action sequence in Mexico City includes a fight in a helicopter that has no equal. There’s also plenty of fistfights, shootouts, and even a car chase or two. Bond is always entertaining, and Daniel Craig is the best of the actors to portray Bond on the big screen. Craig is at his best as the tortured spy in “Spectre” and Lea Seydoux and Christoph Waltz are excellent as supporting actors. Dave Bautista makes a memorable appearance as the hulking Mr. Hinx, who’s a throwback to the undefeatable Jaws character from the Roger Moore films.
The problem with the movie is that the filmmakers apparently couldn’t decide whether “Spectre” is a throwback to the ridiculous-to-the-point-of-being-absurd Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan films, or whether it’s one of the brooding and intense films starring Daniel Craig. The Moore and Brosnan films were all about mindless entertainment. You were expected to ooh and ah at the insane stunts and gadgets (the films reached the apex of absurdity with an invisible car in “Die Another Day”) while not thinking about how the plots didn’t make much sense.
Starting with “Casino Royale,” the Craig films are not just popcorn movies where no emotions or thinking are involved, but real dramatic movies with great plots and superb acting. Craig brings an intensity and brutality to the role that Bond has been lacking. Pierce Brosnan was more of a lover than a fighter. Craig plays the role with the panache and style of Brosnan but also like a coiled viper waiting to strike at his enemies.
The first half of “Spectre” was almost flawless. The scenes were full of intrigue and excellent dramatic acting. The second half of the movie reverted to mindless entertainment version of the Bond films. The writing seemed to drop off considerably in quality and the action scenes reverted back to the patently impossible.
“Spectre” is a very good Bond movie. It has everything that you’re looking for in a Bond movie and will no doubt keep you entertained for the length of the film. It’s not on par with “Casino Royale” or “Skyfall,” but that’s a very high standard to meet.
Grade: B+
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality, and language.