By Jonathan Decker
WHAT’S IT ABOUT? James Bond faces off with the nefarious criminal superpower SPECTRE for the first time in Daniel Craig’s tenure (and the first time in the franchise since 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever).
IS IT ANY GOOD? (GRADE: B) After taking bold chances with Casino Royale and Skyfall (two of the series’ best installments), Spectre delivers what the the ending of Skyfall set up: a classic Bond adventure with all the trimmings. Whether you find this latest 007 film to be too formulaic or a good old-fashioned romp is entirely a matter of taste. Either way, it definitely sticks closely to the time-worn playbook of the Sean Connery and Roger Moore eras (although the misogyny is dialed down).
As a fan of those classic films, I enjoyed Spectre. In a sense, everything is where it should be. Bond butts heads with M, gets gadgets and backup from Q, flirts with Moneypenny, fights giant thugs, travels to exotic locales, infiltrates evil lairs, fights megalomaniacal plots for world domination, and gets the girl. The most intriguing aspect is how Craig’s Bond has evolved across four films from the “blunt instrument” of Casino Royale to the “good man” of Spectre. Sure, he still sleeps around and kills bad guys, but he also displays himself capable of compassion, commitment, and selflessness.
The supporting cast is dynamite, especially the good guys. Ralph Fiennes exudes strength and integrity as M and is a worthy heir to Judi Dench. Ben Wishaw is utterly likable as Q, while Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny has plenty of sass and charm. Lea Seydoux, as Bond’s primary love interest, possesses both tenderness and grit. It’s the villains who fall short. Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) is an imposing physical presence here, but not much else. Christopher Waltz, as the primary antagonist, isn’t given enough meat to craft a truly memorable villain and his backstory feels a bit contrived.
Still, even with questionable plot twists, an overlong running time, and gaping holes in the narrative, Spectre is gorgeously shot, with stunning action scenes, picturesque locales, plenty of dry wit, a little heart, and a solid cast. Its nostalgia for the Bond movies of yesteryear was, to me, a treat. Though not among the very best 007 films, it’s certainly a good one and worth the trip to the theater.
CONTENT OVERVIEW: Spectre is rated PG-13. There are two love scenes, both of which are rather tame (there’s kissing and removal of coats, then the movie cuts away). The traditional nude silhouettes during the opening credits are more risque, though no private parts are seen. A man’s eyes are gouged out by the thumbs of a giant man; thankfully there’s no sound effects or graphic imagery (aside from a bit of blood on the giant man’s fingers). There are numerous fistfights and bloodless shootings. A handful of profanities are present (“sh–,” “b–tard,” and a pair of misuses of God’s name).
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: There are wolves in sheep’s clothing in the world; they pretend to have good motives but secretly seek to harm. If you had to decide between love or career, which would you choose? The ability to fight comes with the responsibility to exercise good judgment.