Columbia Pictures 148 minutes PG-13
Bond is back in a slick film in a follow up to the highly successful Skyfall. Does it work? It’s slick with over-the-top action in elegant locales with a rich musical score, including a new signature song by Sam Smith. He travels to do battle with Spectre, another international evil cartel. You follow Bond to Mexico, Italy, Morocco, Tunisia, and Austria. The budget was projected to be over $300 million, but the producers are now backing off of that figure. They still spent $37 million just in smashed vehicles alone.
Right from the get-go Daniel Craig as Bond is scaling roof tops, taking out bad guys as buildings collapse, fighting in helicopters as they belly roll over the Day of the Dead Parade over a cast of thousands in picturesque Mexico City. And yet, no one in the parade even flinches. Visually, the costumes and the fighting are impressive. But does it make sense?
Craig sees this as a new beginning after Skyfall. But he’s so serious in this installment. He has permanently pursed lips. We miss the wry, sarcastic and sexy humor of the past Bonds. Craig showed it in Casino Royale. Director Sam Mendes admits Skyfall was more serious, but in this one everyone is so dour and intense.
There were many directors considered for this film, but Sam Mendes says he felt ownership of these characters and wanted to continue to develop their stories. He also wanted to ramp it up with more scenic locales to put Bond and his villains through their paces.
The problem? There are several parts of this film putting Bond in situations that don’t make sense. He and fighting heavy weight hit man Hinx, played by Wrestler Dave Bautista, almost destroy a luxury train at one point, but no one says boo and you don’t see any of the residual damage. He and his main squeeze, Dr. Madeleine Swann, played by Léa Seydoux, get off in the dessert dressed to kill (no pun intended) and ready for more. We didn’t completely believe there was much chemistry here. She just didn’t meet previous standards for a Bond girl. Monica Bellucci is a well-known international star who plays sexy Bond interest, Lucia. He goes to her for information, but gets more.
When Swann is kidnapped in Austria, Craig takes a cargo plane in pursuit flying through mountains and glides this giant aircraft on snow covered roads, chasing after his kidnapped love interest. It is pretty dramatic, but overkill. And no one gets a scratch.
Mendes says audiences are more sophisticated now and expect Bond to do his own stunts. Craig agrees, but did get hurt at one point. Seydoux says she was afraid at first working with high-powered actors, but once they started prep, it went well. She also had to train to do stunts and admits jumping 8 meters from a building was frightening. Talk about a skyfall!
Bond is fond of his tricked out Aston Martin and gets Q, played by Ben Wishaw (Suffragette, The Danish Girl) to look the other way so he can get some answers to what M, Judi Dench, left in a message before she was killed off in Skyfall. Then there’s C, played by Andrew Scott (Sherlock Holmes TV). He’s trying to get rid of Double O section using major surveillance to replace Bond and his buddies. Too many letters and organizations.
Enter the big villain, Oberhausen, who comes back from the dead, played by Christoph Waltz. Reportedly, Gary Oldman was considered but didn’t want to commit to six months around the globe. Waltz plays villain well, but we found him weak in this role. Mendes loves that he can show a range of evil without raising his voice or using any physical weapons. But we don’t think his being so understated worked that well. And his evil lab creations for incapacitation didn’t work. Then, when Oberhausen’s headquarters blow up, why doesn’t the madness stop? We were confused. And his Halloween style scar makeup after the blow up was comically bad.
Is this worth your bucks? It will keep your attention with all the action. But it’s not as entertaining. The main theme seemed to be all about the power of surveillance. There’s a lot going on on the screen, but it just didn’t make as much sense and was often hard to follow. There are some disturbing scenes of a suicide and torture that aren’t necessary. Craig had intimated that he might not come back again, but he admits that, with all the exotic locales and action, this was more fun than all the other Bond films he’s done put together. Wish it had been more fun for us.