- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 5, 2015


To those who idolize all things James Bond, “Spectre,” the latest installment of the iconic spy movie franchise, is a much-appreciated return to the classic Bond days of Sean Connery and Roger Moore, but for Bond amateurs like myself, hoping for a repeat of innovative 007 installments like “Casino Royale” and “Skyfall,” “Spectre” feels like a big budget copycat of the campy films that inspired “Austin Powers.”

Director Sam Mendes — returning from helming “Skyfall” — tries to re-envision iconic Bond with modern-day appeal. The end result is a movie that is, for the most part, entertaining, with glamorous sets and heart-pumping action sequences, but utterly lacking in character and plot development.

“Spectre” seemed promising, with an ambitious plot that attempts to weave together the last three Bond movies, led by Daniel Craig as the world’s favorite British spy, but the final result leaves much to be desired with a 007 that lacks the complexity of previous Bonds and a throwaway villain reminiscent of “Dr. Evil.”

The crowning moment of “Spectre” is it’s opening scene — a breathtaking chase following Bond through a Dia de los Muertos celebration in Mexico City filmed in one continuous shot. The sequence is a rush for the senses filled with pumping music, bright colors and high energy.

But after Bond’s departure from the exotic locale, the movie slowly tumbles downhill.

“Spectre” picks up where “Skyfall” left off, and we learn that Bond’s reason for being in Mexico City — naturally, without MI6 approval — is to fulfill the final request of M (Judi Dench), who was killed in the last film.

After being suspended by the new M (Ralph Fiennes) for his reckless behavior in Mexico, Bond, predictably, goes rogue to track down an elusive crime syndicate known as Spectre.

“Spectre” ties together the villains of Daniel Craig’s Bond past, all leading up to the head of the illuminati-like organization, supposedly the ultimate villain.

And this is precisely the most disappointing aspect of the film. The cheesy one-liners, the in-your-face product placement, Bond’s random and arbitrary conquest of Monica Bellucci that borders on rape — all of these sins can be forgiven. But turning Christoph Walz, arguably one of the greatest actors of modern cinema, into a glorified Dr. Evil is an unforgivable offense.

Typically, when a film has a great villain, it makes sense for him to remain in the shadows to build suspense and fear. But when Mr. Waltz — a two-time Academy Award winner and the man behind such great movie villains as Col. Hans Landa in “Ingolrious Basterds” and August in “Water for Elephants” — is playing your villain, you give him as much screen time as possible. The man was practically born to play a Bond villain, what with his cunning smile and delightfully evil charms.

When the mysterious villain, Oberhauser, is finally revealed, Mr. Waltz is wearing slippers and a gray shirt looking exactly like Kim Jong Un, or, again, Dr. Evil.

Oberhauser parades Bond and his latest fling, Dr. Madeline Swann (Lea Seydoux), around his desert lair, showing off such ridiculous treasures as a space meteor. At one point, he affectionately picks up a white, long-haired cat.

I’m not kidding.

The film also brushes off Mr. Feinnes’ M, Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), giving these beloved characters almost no opportunity to prove themselves as capable field agents.

In general, “Sprectre” tries to tug on the generational nostalgia, too frequently by nodding to previous Bond films. The problem with that is you get a Bond picture that feels like it was cobbled together from bits and characters that past films did better.

While “Spectre” falls short of its predecessor, it certainly is not a total flop. In between heart-stopping action sequences (including several chase scenes on land, water and in the air) audience members will be swept into a glamourous fantasy world that feels romantically nostalgic while managing to fit modern expectations.

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