Double “O” Noir: A Review of ‘Spectre’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - November 05, 2015
Double “O” Noir: A Review of ‘Spectre’

Variations on a theme can offer up some fairly interesting results, especially when a fairly trusted and predictable formula gets turned on its ear.  Easily the most anticipated movie of the Fall movie going season, Spectre decides to throw a subtle wrench into the formula that is a Bond movie as we see the character go to some different and kind of refreshing places that while not quite as emotionally satisfying as the previous Skyfall still has plenty of little nuggets for both the casual and the hardcore James Bond fan to go home happy with.

Looking to move on to the next chapter, a cryptic message from the past sends Bond (Daniel Craig) out on the trail to discover a sinister organization behind most of the events of world terror that he himself has been fighting against.  While M (Ralph Fiennes) finds himself fighting against new political forces that are pushing for whole sale change in the espionage business trying to buy Bond enough time as he peels back the layers of this infamous terror group known as Spectre which just might be responsible for more than he could have ever possibly imagined.

While not every part of Spectre works as well as it should, Director Sam Mendes take Bond and his action filled set pieces and give them a genuine sense of pulp filled noir that transcends a variety of genres and styles in cinematic history, giving Bond; The Action Hero a genuine sense of emotional gravitas as this all ends up being about more than just doing the right thing, but about setting things right for himself.SPECTRE-Film-Stills-05872

Kicking off with an opening tracking shot that would make Orson Welles in Touch of Evil proud, much of Spectre plays like a pulp filled Noir from the 1950’s as Bond tracks the bad guys that always remain in the shadows while he is trying to protect the femme fatals from the evils of the world.  He is rogue on this one and not in the fun sense or him against the world.  Things are changing, and for the most part they are actually fucking scary but it is his sense of loyalty to his people and the truth that keep him going.  Mendes keeps it all going at a very healthy but almost playful pace as he clearly is throwing a lot of different stuff at the screen and while cinematography that made Skyfall feel so goddamn epic, Hoyte Van Hoytema plays in the dark and the shadows and he accentuates not only the genuine tone of the piece, but that this time for Bond and co, shit is finally getting real.

The writing team of John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth try and jam a little too much narrative into this one while trying to shoehorn all of the Craig Bond’s into a neat and unnecessary package while dodging some clunky dialogue traps, it ultimately allows Bond and those around him a little latitude to breath as characters and everyone involved actually manages to play into it.  I’ll be the first to admit that it is trying to do too much, and while it doesn’t always work you can’t totally knock it all either as it at least keeps things more then a little engaging as the characters get to play on a more even keel with the Bond character then we have ever seen before.

Craig is easily cementing himself as perhaps the best Bond ever if only because he sells everything that happens around him a lot cleaner than those that have preceded him.  In other movies, it was fantasy or we just felt like we could press the reset button, but in the Craig movies he is quite literally getting the shit kicked out him in search of the ultimate goal.  He is the most physical Bond and it comes through emotionally as well, be it in an extended action sequence or in a quiet little throw back to the other films.  Christoph Waltz as his ultimate bad guy Oberhauser has so many moments to shine as he can throw a fit of laughter out into the world one second, and be goddamn scary the next.  While he never got to really tear into it all, there was enough there to make us salivate at how they could possibly use him against Bond in future films.  This isn’t a one-off by any means and they are building universes here.  Ben Whishaw gets to grow by leaps and bounds as Q getting to jump into the action while Naomi Harris and Ralph Fiennes make for quality supporting players as Bond’s inner circle that aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty when necessary.  Lea Seydoux feels at home as a sexy femme fatale who has the intelligence and the gumption to not just swoon whenever Bond enters the room, but sadly Monica Bellucci is kind of wasted in a throw away role…but it’s nice to see Bond hooking up with someone age appropriate on his never ending series of sexual conquests.

spectre Lea seydouxUltimately, in what might be the final entry for director Sam Mendes (and maybe even Daniel Craig); Spectre isn’t your standard Bond flick but as a myriad of styles and genres get thrown at the screen, you’ll know for sure that you’ve enjoyed one hell of a ride and cinephiles will enjoy what gets put up on the screen by a team of people who are invested in the art form of the moving image and making sure that it is as entertaining as hell.

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David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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