In the title song sequence of “Spectre,” Daniel Craig appears as a shirtless bronze icon. It’s a harbinger of things to come.
The latest and highly anticipated addition to the James Bond franchise is all about iconography. In scene after scene, director Sam Mendes (who also directed “Skyfall”) displays Craig — and display is exactly what’s going on here — as the embodied image of assured masculinity.
Whether Craig is seen in profile, broodingly thoughtful, or viewed in the middle distance, repeatedly, legs apart in a posture of coiled alertness, “Spectre” is all about that Bond image.
We can’t help but notice his suits, so sharply tailored.
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Or the cars. Much is made of two in particular: an Aston-Martin DB10 and a Jaguar Jaguar C-X75, sleek sharks on four wheels, both worth staggering amounts of money. So staggering, apparently, that when they’re involved in a big car chase, it’s ever so carefully staged. They race through the night streets of Rome, where oddly, there is no traffic. If ever a car chase could be called “pristine” the “Spectre” chase is it. It’s like watching a commercial.
Image, for its own pure sake, is everything. It’s as though “Spectre” is standing back from itself, regarding its iconography with unabashed admiration and inviting the audience to do the same.
The Bond action sequences are spectacular, as expected (lots of chases), but they’re so carefully choreographed they’re curiously lifeless.
“Spectre’s” near fetish for iconography manifests itself in a number of key scenes, which re-create classic moments from past Bonds. Think of them as James Bond’s Greatest Hits.
The brutal train fight between Sean Connery’s Bond and Robert Shaw’s Red Grant in “From Russia with Love” is echoed by a scenery-smashing train fight between Craig and a bad guy played by David Bautista. The “Goldfinger” scene of evildoers arrayed around a huge conference table where evil is done to one of them, is mimicked. A fuzzy white cat, the familiar pet of a famous villain, has a doppleganger in “Spectre.” There’s even a nod to Bond’s signature silver Aston-Martin DB5.
In the role of the chief villlain, Christoph Waltz seems to be recycling his Nazi Col. Hans Landa from “Inglorious Basterds,” only much de-energized. He’s genially smiling. He’s quietly chatty, delivering acres of exposition that ties all of Craig’s previous Bond movies together into a kind of unified field theory of 007. He’s also badly lacking in oomph.
The same, sadly, is true of “Spectre.”
☆☆☆ out of 5
Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux and Ralph Fiennes.
Director: Sam Mendes.
Running time: 2:28.
Rated: PG-13, for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language.