‘Spectre’ on Amazon Prime and Hulu

Daniel Craig is James Bond in 'Spectre'

Spectre (2015), the 24th James Bond film and the fourth starring Daniel Craig, continues to explore the origins of 007. The opening scene, set in Mexico City in the midst of the Day of the Dead celebrations, is one of the best in the series, and we get the fun of Bond once again going rogue, this time with the covert help of both Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris). Even M (now played by Ralph Fiennes) has his back. Léa Seydoux is the love interest this time around (for a rather unconvincing romance), Monica Bellucci has a single scene (kind of a waste of such a strong screen presence), and Andrew Scott (Moriarty in BBC’s Sherlock) is clearly up to no good from the moment he steps on screen.

It’s directed by Sam Mendes, who came to the Bond franchise from American Beauty (1999) and Revolutionary Road (2008) and helmed Skyfall (2012), the film that gave Bond an origin story. There are big set pieces, beautiful Bond women, and Daniel Craig as stoic and steely as ever—this is still the haunted, damaged revisionist Bond—as he goes off the reservation and leaves epic destruction in his wake. But Spectre puts not just Bond of MI6 under threat from a covert criminal organization that is taking over from within as well as without and builds to his connection to a supervillain nemesis (played by Christoph Waltz) whose “secret” identity should be obvious to any fan of the series. In fact, it’s kind of a comic book origin story of a supervillain and a bit out of place in the franchise.

You could say it’s the 007 version of Captain America: The Winter Soldier with SPECTRE filling in for Hydra, which (curiously enough) was created by Marvel in the sixties Nick Fury comics inspired by the Bond movies. Fifty years later, it seems like Bond is now playing catch up with the superhero movies. After seeing the franchise revitalized with Casino Royale, which brought the series back to a grittier, tougher sensibility without losing the splashy set pieces or signature gadgets, it’s a little frustrating to see it slip farther away from its defining core. Given that, Mendes does know how to stage a fight (see his brutal close-quarters match with Dave Bautista, which recalls Connery’s fight with Robert Shaw way back in From Russia With Love), shoot a spectacle (CGI overkill aside, the Mexico City prologue is impressive an opening as the franchise has ever delivered), and design a modern supervillain lair. In other words, it still fulfills the basic 007 conventions, even if it insists in going darker and more serious than the spy fantasy can really support.

PG-13.

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Also on DVD and Blu-ray
Spectre [DVD]
Spectre [Blu-ray]
Spectre [Limited Edition Steelbook Blu Ray + Digital HD]

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About Sean Axmaker

Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears in Vulture, Turner Classic Movies online, Keyframe, and Parallax View.

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