‘The dead are alive’: a review of ‘Spectre’


Jordan Parkhurst

The latest installment in the world’s favorite spy franchise welcomes back a memorable nemesis and showcases the world, yet lacks some of the familiar thrills.

Daniel Craig’s Bond is consistently met with mixed reviews, with each film earning both the titles of “best” and “worst.” This movie deserves neither. “Spectre” revisits the franchise’s old glory and maintains the modern excitement that makes big-budget film fans swoon.

Even with a familiar cat-petting villain, played by the acclaimed Christoph Waltz of Tarantino fame, there is undeniably a spark missing from the newest installment.

The film opens with the words, “The dead are alive,” and begins in Mexico, with Craig in full Day of the Dead regalia. From the start, “Spectre” places extreme emphasis on the locations, which span the globe. The ability of director Sam Mendes to capture the vast beauty of the locations is obvious.

At the start of the movie the signature music, masked crowds and vibrancy of the location all work to create a sense of thrill. Despite the constant awe-inspiring scenery, nothing matches the specific tone of dread and anticipation that pervades the opening.

Starting with the opening credits, the film shifts notably away from a sense of impending doom. The pace slows to a focus on the more bureaucratic elements, weaving in and out through the generally action-based narrative.

There is mention of the controversial issue of surveillance, a topic relevant to the modern world but not especially exciting in the world of James Bond. The socially conscious topic should be largely used to inspire fear in the film. Yet, it is more of an annoyance that impedes Bond’s adventures and eventually leads to a kind of predictable villain role.

Though Waltz, playing the leader of the mysterious Spectre organization, is meant to be the grandest and most fearsome of villains, his character is lackluster. Waltz’s acting is not to blame, as he barely appears onscreen. Rather, the background and role of his character, Franz Oberhauser, are to blame and are not sufficient to create any kind of effect.

Had there been more onscreen time and content for Waltz to work with, his inclusion would undoubtedly have been a high point in the film.

Unfortunately, there is no eerie feeling of discomfort as one might have felt from Javier Bardem’s villain in “Skyfall,” and Oberhauser’s presence is just too small to feel pity or a sense of understanding.

The antagonists of other Daniel Craig era Bond films resurface time and time again, with no real emphasis on their importance. Yet, I found myself longing for their return over fearing the villain which the film offers, Franz Oberhauser, who is consistently overshadowed.

The primary women in the film, Lea Seydoux and Monica Bellucci, have differing roles but are both successful in their intentions. Bellucci, a more stereotypical “Bond girl,” is present only briefly, but is instrumental in progressing the story.

Seydoux as Dr. Swann, however, is quite significant throughout the film and delightfully threatens to kill Bond if he touches her. Saving his life and helping him to find the man behind Spectre, Swann is indispensable to the success of Bond, despite initially being protected by him. If Seydoux’s character is actually indicative of a shift to more independent and meaningful female characters, the series is truly taking one small step into the modern age.

As always, Craig plays his quiet and knowing version of Bond, generating moments of understated humor and powerful tension. However, his acting is really secondary to his ability to perform stunts and look classy. In those categories, as expected, he succeeds beautifully.

The film is what should be expected from a big-budget sequel: a spectacle. The entertainment value is indisputable, with frequent action and breathtaking cinematography to entertain even when the plot lacks creativity.

Going into the film and expecting to see a nuanced cinematic masterpiece will lead to disappointment, but viewing as a James Bond fan looking to be entertained will prove successful despite the aspects that fall short in this latest addition to the beloved series.

Jordan Parkhurst, A&E Reporter