Directed by Sam Mendes; written by John Logan, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade
Starring Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, and Christoph Waltz
After her death (at the end of Skyfall), M leaves 007 an assignment: to kill a man and to start uncovering the clues of a mysterious criminal organization at his funeral. Isolated from the British Secret Service and increasingly more determined to know the truth and get revenge, Bond crosses paths with the beautiful Madeline Swann, the daughter of an old enemy who is perhaps the key to the heart of the organization…
For what is (apparently) to be the last chapter of the tetralogy in which Daniel Craig has redesigned the character of the most famous secret agent in the world, Spectre plays the entire game from the very first moment. Its title is borrowed from Bond’s most brutal enemy, and the many questions and mysteries present in the previous films with regard to Spectre, the organization that over the years has given James Bond a hard time, finally come together.
From a strictly technical point of view the film does not disappoint. In fact, it puts together a series of spectacular sequences, from the opening scene in Mexico City during the Day of the Dead, to the car chase sequence through the streets of Rome. It is worthy of its best traditions, which heighten the film’s key moments, from the Aston Martin to the famous Martini, shaken, not stirred (which, in an era of health consciousness, we see Bond is denied).
The plot really takes off, however, only in the second part of the film (Monica Bellucci’s role as the not-so-sorrowful widow of an assassin in the criminal organization is forgettable), when, while searching for his elusive enemy on a sort of treasure hunt that hides a clue at every step, Bond is joined by Madeline Swann, a woman who has long sought to escape her assassin and criminal father’s legacy. To save her life and the life of her partner, Swann will have to— at least partially— retake possession of this legacy.
This occurs at a time when Bond loses his “license to kill” (the license that, as noted by M, is also a “license not to kill,” as human instinct is always a better judge than hard facts). Yet, even more importantly, this occurs when Bond begins to feel contempt for his work, or perhaps, simply begins to age.
Moreover, the great deception curiously calls us back to what is behind the plot of the last Mission Impossible film, where both terrorism and plots are aimed at the creation of a multinational criminal organization capable of combating and controlling completely whole nations, and not only some of their citizens.
Tom Cruise makes up for the absurdity of certain situations with his physical effort comparable to that of a superhero. Bond stays true to his tradition, facing his enemies in impeccable suits, and alternating physical confrontation with inevitable flirting. The love story of this episode can certainly be counted among the most interesting points of the film. It is precisely the movie’s inability to deepen this love story, as we would have liked, that prevents Madeline Swann from becoming an unforgettable character, as Vesper Lynd was in Casino Royale.
The past continues to haunt James Bond (from the past also comes his bitter opponent, a Christoph Waltz, who is at ease with his usual over the top role), but the atmosphere in which we are immersed is less compelling than the previous chapter. Granted, some situations are cultured citations. Yet they remain at the level of pleasant amusement and do not dig deep into the psyche of the protagonist.
It might seem foolish to expect all this from an action saga with ancestries that are undoubtedly politically incorrect. Yet if the viewer – albeit entertained with action and performance—is left somewhat dissatisfied, it is due to the excellence which previous chapters of Craig’s Bond — at least the first and the third — made us accustomed to.
Viewer discretion is advised for several scenes of violence, a scene of torture, and some sensuality.
Laura Cotta Ramosino is a story editor for Rai Uno, the national Italian broadcaster, and contributes to several magazines and websites about cinema and television.