What’s the point of reviewing a James Bond movie? Its formula is so rigid that any deviation it may have from its predecessors is trivial. Spectre is a work of a consortium—seven screenwriters worked on it, the marketing division was essential, the studio executives integral. It’s a vetted product, tasteful and palatable. It’s not art, it’s the twenty-fourth episode in a franchise embedded in our culture. In premise and theme Spectre’s similar to Mission: Impossible 5. In M:I 5, as the IMF faces extinction, Ethan Hunt goes on the lam to chase down a shadowy menace called the Syndicate. Likewise, in Spectre, when James Bond’s “Double-Oh” program faces extinction, he goes on the lam to chase down a shadowy menace called Spectre. Both films address digital surveillance and the changing face of terrorism. Devoid of romance, Mission: Impossible 5 is pure action, moving from setpiece to setpiece. Spectre is more moody and, in sticking to the formula, serves up two love interests (Léa Seydoux and Monica Bellucci) for its boozy main character. Both films deliver action generically, cutting too often from shot to shot, which makes it difficult to process what is going on. Spectre’s most impressive action sequence is a hand-to-hand fight between Craig and Dave Bautista: it’s visceral and mostly unaccompanied by Thomas Newman’s imposing score. (And yet, even that scene is not as powerful as this.) There’s been talk that, despite his commercial success as Bond, Daniel Craig will bow out. The writers seem to have anticipated this; Spectre neatly ties up the storylines from each of Craig’s films, from Casino Royale to Skyfall. Whether Craig reprises or not is immaterial—Bond will return, and it’ll be business as usual.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White