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Spectre (2015): A Review

After the smash success of 2012’s Skyfall, marking 50 years of James Bond, director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) and star Daniel Craig reteam for Spectre.

Serving as Craig’s fourth outing as Bond – and the first invoking the namesake terrorist group which perplexed Bond in the classic films – the stakes are high. Does the film match the heights of its pedigree? Is Spectre another Bond classic?

The answer: Not quite.

Striking to pull together the continuity of the prior films (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall), the movie kicks off with an absolutely brilliant sequence in Mexico City during the Day of the Dead celebration. Bond is following up on a lead left to him by the now-deceased M. Of course, in the fashion set by Daniel Craig’s version of the spy – the action sequence ends in a ragged harsh way, bringing heat upon MI–6.

It couldn’t be a worse time for Bond to bring scrutiny to MI–6 and the 00 Project, as the British Government is looking to shut it down, instead focusing on an all encompassing drone and surveillance project, called 9 Eyes, lead by the cocky Max Denbigh (Sherlock’s Andrew Scott).

Officially grounded after the Mexico City mixup, Bond – in traditional Bond fashion – chooses to go rogue and follow the lead of M, following a trail of mysteries and death, all pointing to a mysterious group…SPECTRE.

The movie that follows, unfortunately, has one of the worst sins a world-trotting spy film can commit…it’s not terribly engaging.

The movie has all the right ingredients: Christoph Waltz as the mysterious leader of SPECTRE; two incredible Bond Girls in the beautiful (and appropriately aged!) Monica Bellucci and the sultry and independent Léa Seydoux; the wonderful MI–6 supporting cast of Ralph Fiennes’ Mallory, Rory KInnear’s Bill Tanner, Ben Whishaw’s Q, and Naomie Harris’ Eve Moneypenny; even Dave Bautista is an awesome henchman as Mr. Hinx – but Spectre never really gives any of these elements the environment within which to deliver. The action sequences (beyond the amazing Mexico City opener) never feel exciting – just that they’re happening, and we’re seeing them.

Spectre isn’t all bad. The score, by Thomas Newman (also returning from Skyfall) is great. The opening credits sequence is beautiful and surreal (and vastly improves Sam Smith’s theme in context). The cinematography is lovely, another feast for the eyes – this time by Her’s Hoyte van Hoytema. Heck, even for as much as the Craig continuity can drag down Spectre at times, pulling in classic Bond tropes are the moments where the movie is at its most fun.

I truly went into Spectre wanting an exciting, engaging, and beautifully shot spy film. Unfortunately, the one I got was beautiful – but never got into high gear. The movie does a wonderful job of tying up the Craig Bond legacy. Perhaps this is the time to lay his run to rest. Spectre isn’t awful. It’s not terrible. It’s not horrible. It’s just OK.

Spectre is in theaters now.