Cine Reviews: ‘SPECTRE’ (2015)

In the allegedly final installment in the Daniel Craig James Bond series, a cryptic message involving his past will force Bond to follow a trail leading to a secret organization. As M faces political issues, Bond must uncover the sinister agendas of SPECTRE.

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SPECTRE goes back to the roots of the previous Bond films that came before it, and ultimately homages each and every one. Some obscure, while the rest is all too obvious. Sam Mendes express his love for the classic Bond films by turning the successor and conclusion to Skyfall into an old-fashioned adventure with hints of suspense and old-school styled mystery and intrigue. Though, despite of reverting back to that traditional Bond “feel”, Mendes’ touch is still felt due to the intensity of the film’s tone and its’ dedicated approach to the theme. However, don’t get fooled by the return of the conventions, because Mendes still gave SPECTRE that dark tone, and never got lost in touch with realism. In terms of its’ top-tier set pieces, the film isn’t afraid to go out with a bang every now and then. Right out of the gate, it flaunts by immediately impressing us with its’ big opening sequence that I consider to be a brilliant intro since it opens the film on a high note. During said intro, I said to myself “This is Bond immaculate”. But I guess that it was way too early to give an assumption because as it progressed, the more that I noticed its’ flaws.

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Right then and there, you’ll already get the idea that this will be very bountiful with the action and for the subsequent hours or so, the film delivers it proudly and with boastfulness. Sadly enough, it uses those high-end actions sequences as a strength to cover up its’ weakness; the formulaic plot that is very much predictable. The mystery aspect does enough to feed you excitement as we are put alongside Bond to figure out the enigmas he’s been presented, creating terrific tension-filled scenes. However, there’s a revelation in the film’s ending that can be seen coming way too early; one can shut his/her eyes and still guess how it will all go. This takes away the element of surprise because one can easily predict that it would occur in the film. It just leaves no thrills when that twist arrives because it was all inevitable. I know that they’re following the traditional James Bond vibe, but the story could’ve been so much better than the one that ended up in the film. I’m not calling it weak or anything because even if it had predictability, this entire “detective styled clues-uncovering” element of the film adds a sliver of noir into the film. The whole plot point involving Bond’s personal journey of discovery brings back that grim feeling that Skyfall let us feel and left an impact that changes his life for better or for worse. That was particularly striking because we got to see Bond having difficulties unlike those he faced before. Considering the length of the film though, the pace runs smoothly with help from the electrifying set pieces that are given to us to bring entertainment in spite of the story’s shortcomings. SPECTRE wraps up the Daniel Craig James Bond quadrilogy with a story that chooses to go old fashion; resulting into the rediscovery of tropes and cliches. That doesn’t necessarily make the film any less better because it treats that as one of its’ strengths and it is highly confident with it’s use. However, it got too confident because it made (at least) parts of the story too formulaic and a tad bit foreseeable.

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Just judging by the fact that this is the grand finale, Daniel Craig’s Bond character is given closure by taking him back to his past for us to see. This includes showing his vulnerability and convincing us (the viewers) that he really is having a hard time getting by. The film does a great job of exhibiting his weaknesses both physical and psychological; hence, stripping him down once again. This time, his pain isn’t felt as excruciatingly torturous but rather it pokes more at his emotions and the ghosts of his past. Craig once again brings yet again an enjoyable performance, and just by the looks he gives, you can feel what he’s going through. In short, SPECTRE (the film) shows us a weakened Bond akin to the one we saw in Casino Royale, only in this one he is trying to find peace and he wants to move on. There is clearly an evolution to his character, and the film favors it through in depth-characterization that exhibits a James Bond experiencing conflicts with his feelings and mentality. At least that’s how it goes according to my interpretation.

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Lea Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann spices things up with her sexiness and the engaging relationship she forms with Bond. Their romance is lovely, and Seydoux is highly appealing with her presence. Just like Bond, her character Madeleine is put in this game where she will get tested to see if she will break. This aspect brings up yet again, Casino Royale. It is through this plot point where again, we see Bond’s emotions get restored; leaving us a James Bond that is no longer cold-blooded. This facet didn’t have the need to be more elaborate though, because exploring it too much would just ruin the pace and also, if you want more of the “Bond gets emotional” stuff, Casino Royale does it so with justice. Christoph Waltz’s Franz Oberhauser is one of those villains that shows how much broken they are inside and with the delivery of his lines, he makes you feel the agony that has inflicted him. If anything, Christoph Waltz was emphatic in the film, and saving him for the final act was a good decision. That way, it established anticipation to leave us wondering about his character’s background and the fire sparking up within him. Calling Christopher Waltz a disappointment is just an understatement since he was really good and he did his job cogently and showed enthusiasm to his character. Frankly, I thought that he was a great antagonist.

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If one were to think about it, SPECTRE is a classic Bond feature wearing a new (metaphorical) suit tailored by Sam Mendes with the use of his passion and immense affection for the series. To be more blunt, the conclusion to the Daniel Craig/James Bond series does its’ thing in the reins of its’ predecessors, but does it with modernity and twists courtesy of Sam Mendes’ own flavor. It definitely isn’t afraid to go big, for the action became even more bigger and that classy Bond feel was much present than before. SPECTRE is a worthy but flawed closure to a game-changing Bond film that we first laid eyes on 9 years ago.  Thankfully, its’ strengths are convincing, and makes us overlook its’ weaknesses by feeding our nostalgia with a trip to memory lane and coming back to that classy James Bond that we all longed for a long while. It does divert from the uptight tone that the first film opened with, leading to some expressing hate while the others give it praise. I’m in between, but I mostly commend it since I had a great time.

4/5 stars.

‘SPECTRE’  is now showing in Philippine cinemas nationwide. Distributed by Columbia Pictures Philippines. See it in IMAX.

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