Movie Review: Spectre
By Ben Gruchow
November 12, 2015
I wouldn’t call myself a loyal fan, but I like the James Bond movies. There have been greater and lesser entries, with actors doing greater and lesser work playing the character. Daniel Craig, in play since 2006’s Casino Royale, is one of the better ones - and the first, I believe, to have a decisive narrative arc that spans multiple films. This makes his series uniquely self-contained among the franchise, and his first and third outings as the character rank among the series’ best. So when I say that Spectre - Craig’s latest and presumably last Bond film - is a thundering misfire, thin on character development or byplay, and somehow full of excess while stumbling mightily in the action department, it’s really nothing personal.
This is an overweight dirigible of a film. It’s gigantic, overwhelming in its scale, and yet once the final descent begins, you’d really rather not be there. I hasten to add that the movie is not a true disaster, but it proves that Eon Productions can go toe-to-toe with Disney/Marvel when it comes to making bloated, fussy sequels that threaten to collapse under the weight of expectation and hubris. This is not helped by the story we’re given, which at least carries the illusion of momentum for a decent sprint before devolving into an episodic mess.
Bond is on a hunt to find the meaning behind a ring with an octopus etched into it; this hunt will take him to various European locations before finally settling on Rome, where he discovers a secret council that controls all of the world. When the society is revealed, Bond barely seems affected. This is appropriate; we have seen so many hidden councils secretly controlling all the world in the Bond franchise by this point that the EU should really start regulations and set up a tax code just to keep track.
To locate and infiltrate the mechanisms behind this council, he needs the help of one of its old members—specifically, the daughter of one of its old members. She is a psychologist at an exclusive mountaintop clinic, which matters little, and her name is Dr. Madeleine Swann, which matters less. She will aid him in tracking down the elusive head of the council, called Spectre, while MI6 faces their own inquiry in Britain from a rival organization, bent on eliminating the double-oh program.
I have described perhaps the first 30 minutes or so of plot, with Swann’s introduction perhaps coming a bit later than that. I hope I have also conveyed, without spoiling anything (it’s eye-opening how little most of the above description matters to the overall story), Spectre’s convolution and general superficiality. Let’s return to that mountaintop clinic. It’s a staggering location, metal and glass and bold architecture seemingly dropped on a snowy peak. The only way to get to and from the place is by plane or by cable car. It’s exactly the type of lifestyle-porn location filming we are accustomed to seeing in a traditional Bond film.