Posts Tagged ‘007’

SPECTRE-Film-Stills-05872

If you believe the reports, Daniel Craig is definitely done playing James Bond. Unless you believe the other reports that he definitely intends to return for the final film in his contract.

That type of behind-the-scenes uncertainly wouldn’t normally be an issue, especially for a franchise where perpetual casting changes are built into the machine, but for the fact that in Spectre, Craig et al deliver a film that very much feels like the final chapter in a Bond quadrilogy.

There’s a gravitational pull with most franchises to deliver the movie that Ties It All Together™, and more often than not its an impulse best avoided. Such is the case with Spectre, which attempts to retcon all of Craig’s villains – Le Chifre, Mr. White, Dominic Greene and Silva — into a shadowy organization headed by Hannes Oberhauser (Chistoph Waltz), a figure with a mysterious tie to Bond’s past.

But before you can say “Wait…how?” the film skips off to Tangier in an attempt to distract you with beautiful women, beautiful locales and beautiful fights on a train so that you’re too occupied to question how Oberhauser could have possibly orchestrated the events of Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall. For one thing, QUANTUM already gave us one shadowy organization, which now was a subsidiary? Is this a Bond movie or a quarterly earnings report?

It’s par for the course of Spectre, in which THINGS HAPPEN out of necessity, with little time spent on the “why?” of it all. There are plots and subplots, villains and sub-villains, but they’re parceled out like a paint-by-numbers book as the film follows the establish Bond formula established decades ago (the introduction of Andrew Scott as a drone- and surveillance-minded head of British security intent on shutting down MI6 is the definition of an afterthought).

And that’s a shame, because the Daniel Craig era has been marked by an overall sense of freshness and experimentation. Beginning with Casino Royale (still the strongest entry of Craig’s time in the tux, IMHO) the four films have enjoyed a sense of unpredictability, even while calling back to the tried-and-true aspects of the cherished (by many, myself included) franchise. Spectre, on the other hand, is quite predictable, from the car chase in Act I, to the love interest in Act II and the Big Twist Reveal in Act III.

None of this is to say that Spectre is a bad film, it is not. The visuals are delightful (the film opens with a beautiful tracking shot meandering through Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico) and the introduction of classic bond elements like Moneypenny and Q that began with Skyfall continue to pay dividends as the new era of the Bond Team develops. The female characters in Spectre (you know, the Bond Girls) are also more developed than their predecessors, with Lea Seydoux in particular offering more than just a pretty face.

Spectre’s greatest challenge is its own success, coming off the heels of Skyfall and hearkening back to Casino Royale. It falls short of those elevated expectations, but continues the trend of overall quality that has defined the recent exploits of 007.

Grade: B

*Spectre opens nationwide on Friday, November 6

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For the readers who may not remember from last year,  as part of the annual Wood’s Stock Top 10 (coming soon), we like to award a special 11th-Best Film of the Year Award.

Number 11 is more than just “what would have been number 10 if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids.” It is a loving tribute to populist, popcorn cinema; a slot specially reserved for a film that was produced for broad, mass market appeal but still managed to keep things classy, smart, and show us something new.

So without further ado, the 11th Best Film of 2011 was:

Skyfall

There have been many Bonds and even more Bond movies. In the 50 years since the dapper British womanizing spy first took names and saved the world, the tone of the films shifted from fun, to silly, to outlandish and back again before landing on the bruised face of Casino Royale’s Daniel Craig. Royale was sensational and (in my humble opinion) a superior film to Skyfall, but despite its strengths, the legions of Bond fans disappointed with the Union-Jack-Jason-Bourne-style had reason to gripe.

In their haste to adopt the “realism” that had infused the action drama post-Bourne, Royale’s makers had all but thrown every essential Bond element out with the bathwater. Gone were the dry one-line quips, gone was Q and his gadgets, gone was Miss Moneypenny and her innuendo-loaded sparring with 007 and long gone was the tuxedo-wearing Lothario who somehow beat villains to a pulp with his bare hands and escaped again and again from the sure clutches of grim death without so much as a drop of sweat on his French-cuffed shirts.

Again, many of those decisions made Royale a superior film but to many fans, it just didn’t seem like a Bond film anymore. Then came Skyfall.

In what is seemingly the perfect marriage of new and old, Skyfall reintroduces long-lost elements to the franchise while still preserving the mortal and bleeding Bond that won over new fans in Royale. Also, Director Sam Mendes added a sort of dramatic heft to the plot, which was tied together in a pretty red bow by the off-kilter brilliance of Javier Bardem as the villain Silva.

Bardem, as the silver-haired tech terrorist, somehow oozed a disquieting presence out of his poured and slipped sociopathy and madness into every syllable he spoke. Every great action film has a great villain, and Bardem turned in the goods.

Because of Skyfall, Bond seems to have an extra spring in his step for a 50-year-old, and what was becoming a shaky and inconsistent franchise suddenly has a breath of new life.

 

 

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