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Spectre (2015)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

SPECTRE (2015)

Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Belluci

Written By: John Logan & Neal Purvis & Robert Wade (also story), Jez Butterworth

Directed By: Sam Mendes

The Shot

For Bond fans, Spectre delivers on several longstanding promises in quite indelible fashion.  Newcomers may be lost without playing catch up first, but the payoff is worth it.

The Highball

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Sharp Cheddar.

Pairs Well With...


Extra Dirty.

“To liars… and killers… everywhere.”

With few exceptions, the James Bond film franchise has been composed of individually wrapped parties in a box: films which, though bound by common threads and a loose sense of continuity, could and can be enjoyed either as a series or as single-serving, standalone motion pictures.

Spectre is not one of those movies.

It is, at the very least, the no-one-knew-it-was-essential-until-it-showed-up capstone to the Daniel Craig reboot era.  The prior trilogy of Casino Royale (a fine standalone film none the less, it should be noted), Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall presented a single coherent narrative, ending on a note that invited a return to the classic formula of exciting one shot deals thereafter had that been the direction that Eon Productions’ creative team (and Daniel Craig, who has not-insignificant input as to how his Bond is handled) chose to go in.  Instead, they doubled down with Skyfall director Sam Mendes and – with the help of a very important legal victory that returned a certain set of character rights back to Eon’s control – produced a picture that not only continues the story presented by the prior three films (in an exceptional feat of almost-seamless back pedaling), but which firmly sends 007 on a narrative path that cannot simply be jumped away from.  (The sequel to Spectre will effectively have to be a true sequel.)   

For those who have enjoyed the Daniel Craig era thus far, the results are nothing short of magnificent.  The complex, thoroughly modern James Bond he has spent most of the last decade getting audiences used to becomes even more modern and complex.  Though many tropes are dallied with to be sure – as a franchise that’s thrived for more than five decades must do to remain recognizable – others are turned squarely on their heads, often while twisting references to the very earliest of Bond movies through brilliant translations.  (One could fairly subtitle Spectre “or, all of the Bond movies of the 1960s redux,” which is why a better-than-passing knowledge of the pre-Craig era will make Spectre even more enjoyable.  Those who have read the novels and stories written by Ian Fleming and his immediate successor will find still more treats to catch.)  If Bond has always been a mirror of his times – he has, of course – then Spectre is the ultimate proof that this Bond belongs in ours.

As for exactly how 007’s most iconic nemesis and a health clinic perch atop an alp and a white Persian cat and an Aston Martin DB5 make their way into our time… it’s all the more compelling if you discover that for yourself.  I’ll just say that it is very, very well done.

With that said, if the Craig era hasn’t exactly shaken your martini… Spectre is unlikely to change your mind.  More’s the pity, because this is really great stuff.

All right.  That takes care of the dyed-in-the-tux Bond fans out there.  So what about everyone else?

Everyone else will be able to follow the basic story, but a lot of the details that are making other members of the audience squeal will sail right by them.  But you know what?  That’s okay, because Spectre has this other cool thing to fall back on: it’s a beautifully shot action movie.

How beautiful?  It’s only got some of the most spectacular cinematography of the year.  The opening sequence set during Mexico City’s Day of the Dead celebration – featuring an outstanding continuous shot as Bond walks across a series of ledges and rooftops – is breathtaking.  The establishing shot of a cabin in the Austrian alps is not only gorgeous, but the sense of scale makes the viewer feel small even when shown on the tiniest of screens.  A tracking sequence of a character walking through her home on the way to an expected death is surprisingly haunting.  A near empty flat becomes a lonely world thanks to the brilliance of camera work. 

And then there are the action sequences, which are shot just as beautifully, though if art is the least of your concerns as you watch them, it’s certainly understandable.

One expects a Bond film to have great action, but Spectre truly goes for the gold.  The Day of the Dead action that precedes the credits is over the top fun.  The auto chase through Rome is one of the most entertaining in franchise history.  The plane-vs-Land-Rovers chase is awesome.  The fight in the train is one of the most intense hand to hand combat sequences I’ve seen in a long time.  And that’s all before the third act, which I refuse to spoil for you.  You want action?  Spectre has got more than enough to satisfy, even if you have no idea what the significance of a white Persian cat is in a Bond flick.  The chases and the fights are more than worth the price of admission in and of themselves.  (Though even as I say that, I will again strongly beg that you watch the other three Craig films first.  In order.  Please.)

To be fair, there are flaws to be found for those who wish to find them.  There’s at least one major plot hole.  The score is low key for an action flick, and overall better suited for moody sci fi. (I still liked it, but I can see how others would be disappointed.)  Sam Smith’s theme song suffers mightily from the fact that he’s the one singing it (in a leg squeezing falsetto).  And again, if you haven’t seen what came before, you will miss out on a lot of important story points, and it will be very obvious that Spectre wasn’t really made with you in mind.

But, for those who feel an involuntary rush upon hearing the words “Bond, James Bond…”

And for those who insist on martinis that are shaken and not stirred…

And for those who can positively identify an Aston Martin DB5 from a kilometer away despite knowing next to nothing about cars in general…

And for those who know very well what the white cat signifies…

…for us…

Spectre is the movie we didn’t even know we were waiting for until it showed up.  And it is glorious.

“Welcome, James.  It’s been a long time.  And now… here we are.”

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, November, 2015

More From The Bar! | Octopussy | Licence to Kill | Diamonds Are Forever |

| Listen to the Spectre discussion on "Her Majesty's Secret Podcast"!

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