Starring Daniel Craig and Léa Seydoux. Rated PG. Now playing
We are now in a run of spy movies that stretch the genre in interesting ways. The standard of comparison is the Bond movie, an international brand for five decades.
Like the vodka martinis he is constantly swilling, James Bond makes a virtue of repetition. All the elements are preordained. He is perpetually a fit middle-aged alcoholic, a retired Commander in the British navy who's fond of callous one-liners, the Walther PPK and promiscuity. He travels around the world to exotic sights that he then causes to explode, while looking good in a tux and an Aston Martin.
Spectre gives us these essential ingredients in a reasonably well-paced global adventure that reintroduces the Bondian gadget element (and a signature character, whose name is SPOILER) missing from the Daniel Craig run to date. The evident desire was to please Bond fans with numerous winks to canon while also summing up the Craig era by suggesting that a master villain was pulling the strings from Casino Royale onward.
Sam Mendes returns to direct the resultant assemblage of explosions and highly competent cast, which includes Léa Seydoux as the daughter of one of Bond’s enemies and Dave Bautista as a well-dressed henchman, hatless alas.
There’s no knockout visual scene to rival the neon skyscraper battle in Skyfall. Nor does the movie, for better or worse, indulge in the goofy and sometimes surreal slapstick of the Roger Moore '70s. It makes some jokes but mostly strives for intensity. To that end, Mendes pulls some real tension out of a torture scene.
In terms of mere spectacle, Spectre has some wonderful driving stunts, a tremendous introduction for the character played by Christophe Waltz, and a production lavish in glass architecture and supercars. Novelties are all well and good, but sometimes you want an actual Bond movie.