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Spectre
Genre Action
 
Review:

James Bond used to be about cheesy one-liners, full-blown chauvinism, ridiculous spy gadgets and over-the-top espionage action adventure. The franchise was overhauled with Casino Royale, going for a tougher blonde Bond and a deconstruction of 007 as we know it. Daniel Craig has been the poster boy for this modernisation and while it's become more artful and politically correct, something's been lost in the process.

Daniel Craig is a cold rogue and while most of us are convinced he can actually do most of his own stunts and isn't bulletproof, the deadpan expressions of a cold spy and assassin, lacks the charm and heart of the original. It was probably time for the series to grow up a bit from simply being a macho fantasy, but it's become something that seems to have been inspired by the films that heralded Connery, Moore, Brosnan and Dalton, rather than a continuation. The tribute references try to connect the dots, but Craig's tour as Bond has bleached the series and leached most of the fun in exchange for a blast of realism and more respect come awards season.

While it's effectively reinvented Bond, preferring Oscar-calibre cast and crew, the nominations haven't been as forthcoming as expected. Spectre is a follow-up to Skyfall, a Bond that divided audiences with its sleek finish, mature Bond girl and anti-Bond mood. Mendes returns along with Daniel Craig, Naomi Harris, Ben Whishaw and Ralph Fiennes to deliver a second round of Bond with a similar ebb-and-flow to Skyfall.

This time round, Bond has gone solo connecting a cryptic message from his past with a series of clues that give him more information about the dark secrets behind a sinister organisation known as Spectre.

Instead of Javier Bardem, we have new villain on the block, Christoph Waltz. Ever since Inglourious Basterds, Waltz has been a go-to villain in Hollywood with his quirk, sneer and air of complexity. While this wild card seems severely underplayed and always in Tarantino's pocket, he's a joy to watch on-screen.

Mendes continues with flourishes of elegance and flair, injecting more artistic cinematography and a surreal otherworldly feel to the latest Bond. James is still pursuing his own rebellious mission and while lighter than Skyfall in terms of humour, the film takes on a Halloween theme starting with its impressive Birdman-style Day of the Dead opening shot in Mexico City.

The action set pieces are explosive as usual with airborne stand-offs, car chases and the Guiness record for the largest film stunt explosion in cinema history. We're introduced to a much more textured Bond girl in Léa Seydoux, who isn't simply another conquest, but a smart accomplice with no shortage of moxie.

We're also given a glimpse into Bond's personal history, but the characters are a little dry and the timely manhunt story is more about style than substance, leaning on 007 formula. There are flashes from Daniel Craig's Bond portfolio as they try to encompass all of his missions, but Waltz is too shadowy and while Bautista is a hulking presence, his character lacks definition and personality.

Perhaps that's the central criticism with Spectre... it lacks personality. Mendes has created a sleek and sinister Bond, assembled a number of mesmerising international locations and constructed some thrilling action set pieces, but there's very little heart and soul to all the dazzle.

Daniel Craig is more of a fighter than a lover, and while forcing him into a romantic subplot gives Spectre a new dimension, it doesn't really add emotional depth. You don't truly care for the characters, which makes this Bond all about mind games and eye candy.

The lack of identification with the characters protracts the mission and after two hours, you may actually be disappointed when you find out "but wait, there's more". The neo-Bond lacks the entertainment value of its rival, Mission Impossible, and the street smart action of the Bourne series. While Daniel Craig was a catalyst, the series has failed to measure up to the unexpected success and balance of Casino Royale.

The bottom line: Spectacular


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