Saturday, November 7, 2015

Spectre [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (3 Stars) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (M. Zoller Seitz) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review coverage* coverage *
TV Azteca coverage*

Corriere della Serra coverage* coverage*

Spectre [2015] (directed by Sam Mendes, story by John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, screenplay by the same three along with Jez Butterworth, based on the characters from Ian Fleming's [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb] James Bond novels [wikip] [GR] [Amzn]) is a good if not great / somewhat uneven Bond Film [wikip] [IMDb] that will probably please if not entrance most fans.  And it offers some tantalizing possibilities for the future at its end ...)

The film does begin strong with an extended introductory segment set in the context of an "amped-up" celebration Day of the Dead (All Souls Day - Nov. 2nd) held in Mexico City[Actual celeb. 2010] [2013]

The actual commemorations of the Day of the Dead  / All Souls Day held throughout Mexico is both more tranquil (involving visiting the cemetery / the graves of one's loved ones) and arguably more complex (involving not merely "costuming" / "performance arts" but also the making special altars at home in memory one's loved ones, baking / eating specific foods, etc).  Nevertheless there is a definite celebratory "laughing in the face of death" aspect to the day that inspires thoughts of parades (desfiles in Spanish).  Here in Chicago, the Day has inspired 5K "Carrera de los Muertos / Run of the Dead" held annually in Chicago's heavily Mexican Pilsen Neighborhood

So certainly, the makers of Spectre [2015] were onto something, and if the presentation of the celebration in Mexico City was a bit "over the top" (obviously evoking Rio / Carnival, my sense would be that both "the D.F.'s" tourism officials and even most Mexican viewers would probably be proud of the film's presentation of the festivity.  The center of Mexico City certainly seemed like "the place to be" on that day. 

Well ... in the midst of the raucous outdoor celebration on and around Mexico City's Zócalo, James Bond [wikip] [IMDb] (played here ever quite well by Daniel Craig - I'd put him in 2nd or 3rd place among the actors who've played the role, behind, of course, the legendary Sean Connery and possibly behind Pierce Brosnan), nominally "on holiday," catches a lead about a shadowy conspiracy involving an Italian assassin named Schiarra (played by Alessandro Cremona) who had been sent there to Mexico City to cause havoc (blow up a stadium full of people) precisely on this Day (of the Dead).  Of course, James Bond "saves th(at) day" and in trademark SPECTACULAR FASHION but ...

... When he comes home, he's dressed-down by the current "M" (played by Ralph Fiennes since the previous "M" played by Judy Dench was blown-up in a bombing attack on MI-6 in the previous Bond-film Skyfall [2012]). 

Why is Bond dressed-down?  Because "spy-craft" is supposed to be subtle "under-the-radar" and here, Bond, admittedly having saved thousands upon thousands of people in Mexico City, nevertheless did so in anything but "subtle" fashion.  Besides, since the "blowing-up" of MI-6's headquarters in Skyfall [2012] the British intelligence community was being restructured into a "joint intelligence task force" that was going to include NOT just "all the British intelligence branches" but ALSO the intelligence services of eight other countries world wide. 

Indeed, the new London HQ of joint British intelligence was being built as a "public-PRIVATE" PARTNERSHIP (HMMM.... partners WITH WHOM?????) with a NEW DIRECTOR who the MI-6 folks quickly code name "C" (played by Andrew Scott) but who DOESN'T particularly like MI-6s "quaint code names" and who seems to look forward to simply firing the lot of them (including "M").  To "C" human intelligence officers are antiquated and the future of ALL INTELLIGENCE WORK -- surveillance, analysis, even "targeted assassinations" -- is to be found in machines (spyware programs, surveillance cams, computers, drones).  People just get in the way.

So "M" is afraid that the ever rogue James Bond, 007, is going to get them _all_ fired.  But, James Bond, just broke-up this massive terrorist plot in Mexico City and isn't just going to "stand down" (even when ORDERED TO ... ;-) whether by the kindly if rather spineless "M" or the far more bureaucratic / spreadsheet oriented "C").  Besides he had a lead, a name "Schiarra," who then he was going to follow-up on, in Rome.

Much then ensues as he discovers that this "public-PRIVATE INTELLIGENCE PARTNERSHIP" seemed ABSOLUTELY PERFECTLY MADE FOR ... well come on folks, if you remember ANYTHING of the first James Bond stories (written by Ian Fleming [wikip] in the 1950s and made into movies beginning in the early 1960s) ... the nefarious organization of EVIL "industrialists" going by the name of ... COME ON ... GUESS (if you DON'T already know it).

In this regard, Ian Fleming [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb] must be smiling ... in whatever chalet or casino of the afterlife he'd be inhabiting.  He predicted the possibilities here 50-60 years ago.

The rest of the film unspools from there, with Christoff Waltz playing the story's chief villain,  Oberhauser, who comes to be revealed to be (and on multiple levels) much more than simply a random "Bond villain" by with a surprisingly "bland" name.

To be honest, I was somewhat disappointed with Waltz's performance here.  It seemed quite flat.  BUT my hunch / hope is that we're not done with seeing him.

Anyway, to some extent this film feels like "an end" of a particular era of James Bond films: "Is there a place for a super-agent like OO7 James Bond, in a world of super computers, surveillance cams and drones?  But honestly, it could also become the spring-board to whole new one.  A key to watch would be what (if anything) will be done with Waltz's character in the future.

So all in all, this is not a bad Bond film (not great but not bad) but one that could send the story to a whole new level.  And if nothing else, it does leave one wondering: What's next for Bond, James Bond?

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