Tag: spectre


Spectre (2015)
★★★ / ★★★★

After an unsanctioned mission in Mexico which resulted in a catastrophe during a crowded national holiday celebration, M (Ralph Fiennes) orders Agent 007 (Daniel Craig) from participating in any future assignments—active indefinitely. Unbeknownst to his superior, however, Bond is partaking on a different mission altogether—a more personal mission—out of respect for his former handler (Judi Dench) which involves an international organization believed to be involved in recent targeted terror attacks.

“Spectre,” directed by Sam Mendes, is a less polished Bond picture, certainly less emotionally involving, and more interested in tying together the three films that came before it. Thus, at times it comes across as though it is suffering from an identity crisis. And yet despite this shortcoming, it remains a solid action picture since it commands highly watchable, thrilling, and occasionally creative sequences.

The pre-opening credits sequence is an obvious standout. Notice the control from behind the camera as it sashays between celebratory crowds while remaining focus on Bond and his partner, through a posh hotel, up a lift, and along the rooftop. Tension is slowly generated as we wait for the movement to stop. Even though we have little idea in regards to Bond’s mission, the entire sequence demands full attention. The tight editing ensures that we blink—and flinch—as few times as possible.

Equally strong is the night car chase in the streets of Rome. This chase serves as the catharsis after a mysterious business meeting that concludes in a brutal murder. Complaints are surely going to be made because the expensive and stunning cars appear to not go very fast. But the suspense and thrills do not go hand-in-hand with speed. Instead, these are correlated with the sudden turns and the unexpected hindrances along the way. It shows our protagonist’s ability to think quickly—and the sheer luck critical to propel him forward.

One feels the heft of the film’s one hundred fifty minutes. Part of the issue is the dialogue. There is often a lack of complexity in the exchanges. We already know that the characters are highly intelligent and yet there are a handful of scenes, particularly those that involve Bond and Dr. Swann (Léa Seydoux), that sound too expository. Problematic, too, are the exchanges between Bond and the leader of the Spectre organization (Christoph Waltz). We expect every look and every word given to one another to be incendiary given the supposedly profound history that ties them together. I found the charade to be pedestrian.

Slightly better are the exchanges between M and C (Andrew Scott), the latter working to close down the MI6’s 00 program. The seething anger and annoyance between the two men of power is quite entertaining. It is a small but welcome surprise that there are a number of moments where office politics outshine what goes on in the field. However, although they are given their moments, Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw), M’s secretary and the head of MI6’s research and development, respectively, are not used enough. Harris and Whishaw are so charming but the screenplay fails to make the audience love their characters even more.

Unspectacular but still solid, there are a handful of sequences to recommend in “Spectre.” The mano a mano aboard a moving train quickly comes to mind. If the screenplay had undergone more alterations such as eliminating the expository chunks in the middle (and one or two monologues) or changing them in order to amp up the intrigue—especially when it comes to the shadowy organization of interest—it would have been a level above more satisfying.


Spectre (2006)
★★★ / ★★★★

After living abroad for over forty years, Tomás (Jordi Dauder) decides to go back to his small Spanish village because someone has sent him a tarot card. The card, labeled los amantes, is an important symbol from his youth. Cut to sixteen-year-old Tomás (Juan José Ballesta) and his two friends (David Arnaiz, Adrián Marín) discussing a woman named Moira (Natalia Millán) while supposedly studying. Though new in the village, she has received a reputation of being a whore. Because of the hot weather, one of them suggests that the possibility of her naked is likely so they sneak up to her house to spy on her. Meanwhile, the adults have reason to believe that Moira is a bruja, a witch.

Though not particularly scary, “Regreso a Moira,” written by Mateo Gil and Igor Legarreta, is a beautifully made picture. It juggles the past and the present with rhythm; it is more concerned about telling a story that is rooted in the reality of its characters, posing questions, and answering them rather than delivering jolts. It does have some creepy moments involving ghosts but if the more obvious supernatural elements had been taken out completely, it would have preserved some of its mystique.

A specific time and place is created. Its approach in telling the story is intercutting older Tomás’ return with younger Tomás’ first time falling hard for a woman he barely knows. Since more than half of the film takes place in the past, we get used to images of open spaces: the dried grass of summer, the heat settling on one’s skin, and the wind providing temporary comfort. When it does cut to the present, the same place looks a lot smaller: the open field is replaced by modern buildings and the silence is taken over by sounds of vehicles and chattering of people passing by. But just like how it is in real life, though geography changes significantly, a few things remain unchanged.

I enjoyed the way young Tomás’ sexuality is treated. Eventually, an intense attraction grows between Tomás and Moira, but it is consistently tender and never perverse. The latter direction would have been so tempting because the woman is at least ten years older than the boy. Instead, the director helms the memory almost like a dream, thereby allowing a genuine sensuality to be felt and thought about. When Tomás touches Moira’s naked body, there is an innocence that is conveyed right down to his fingertips. We get the sense that the filmmakers know how it is like to love someone.

It does not quite work as a straight forward horror film. It is typical in that the ghost appears in places we might expect like in a hotel bathroom and in the backseat of the car. Because I felt what was coming, I was not shocked or horrified. I did feel a bit creeped out, however. As a mood piece, it works. The camera has an inclination toward lingering on certain images.

“Spectre,” directed by Mateo Gil, works because it is mostly rooted in drama. It deals with real emotions by employing the supernatural as a backdrop. If in-your-face ghost encounters had been taken out in place of a meaningful exploration of the community’s devotion to their religion, it might have made a stronger statement about what it means to be human and trying to find some sense in something that appears to be unexplainable or beyond understanding.


Thunderball (1965)
★★★ / ★★★★

It’s interesting to me when I look back on how the “James Bond” franchise changed over several decades. I can understand why many people consider Sean Connery as the best 007 because he can be dangerous and charming at the same time–and looks like he’s having fun. “Thunderball” is the fourth Bond picture and it’s different from the first three because it has so many cheesy but (sometimes) amusing one-liners. I consider this movie to be uneven because even though rousing action sequences are still present, they are immediately followed by tedious dialogue that only occasionally push the story forward. It’s a shame because the picture truly shines when the audiences are actually seeing SPECTRE’s plan in action, all the while knowing that Bond will somehow keep them from succeeding. It’s hard for me not to recommend this Bond installment because the femme fatales are interesting (Claudine Auger as Domino and Luciana Paluzzi as Fiona Volpe). The audiences know their motivations but that doesn’t mean their goals are predictable. Adolfo Celi as Emilio Largo (also known as SPECTRE #2) is a good villain because he can go head-to-head with Bond. Celi’s character has been parodied many times such as in the “Austin Powers” franchise. And there are many memorable scenes such as the underwater battle scenes in the ocean, when the wounded Bond evades his enemies during a parade, the scene where Bond is trapped in a swimming pool infested with sharks… I just wish that the script would’ve been written better. When it’s time to take a scene seriously, it falls apart because someone would say or do something unintentionally funny. Still, I say go see it for the gadgets, interesting use of color, realistic fight scenes, and memorable side characters.