Sky isn’t falling: New Bond film ‘Spectre’ a fun ride

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Wednesday, November 4, 2015 6:39pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

The last time James Bond dusted off his license to kill, I lamented the franchise’s reluctance to simply go out and make a good spy movie. “Skyfall” had a glum Bond, too much psychology, and a tired revival of 007’s signature traits.

Then it went and raked in a billion dollars, so it comes as no surprise that the long-running series brought back the “Skyfall” creative team for the new outing. But “Spectre” is, at least, a little more of a Bond picture — there’s less fretting about the hero’s state of mind, for starters.

Bond (Daniel Craig, returning for his fourth go at the role) has bounced back from his “Skyfall” adventure, but has one bit of business left to settle. It leads to the unlikely revelation that a mysterious super-villain (Christoph Waltz) might somehow be connected to all the nefarious action of the three previous 007 films.

That’s a reach, but it provides the excuse for the usual hair-raising stunts and globe-trotting espionage. “Spectre” gets off to a bang with a sensational sequence during a Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City — most of which is staged in a single long-running shot so ingenious it should have mouths gaping.

That’s director Sam Mendes (returning from “Skyfall”) showing an uncharacteristic sense of fun. Mendes and Craig have fashioned a grim Bond — preferable to the flippancy of the Roger Moore era, but a little heavy when it comes to conveying the thrills of being on Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Mendes finds time for Bond’s MI6 colleagues: Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris all have lots to do in their recurring roles. Excellent actors, but did anybody notice that this tends to pull focus from 007?

It also steals time from Waltz, who’s had a red neon sign around his neck reading “Future Bond Villain” since he broke through with “Inglourious Basterds.” He’s up for the part, but he’s just not on screen very much. (The new British spy boss, played by smarmy Andrew Scott, is a more despised figure.)

As for Bond’s romances, they boil down to a brief fling with an Italian widow (Monica Bellucci) and a more sustained flirtation with one Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux, from “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”).

There’s a lot of plot (and various goodies for longtime fans) to cram in. We also travel from Mexico to Rome to Austria to the Tunisian desert, where a huge meteor crater serves as a setting for an international villain’s lair.

Some of the episodes are faintly absurd, but then this is a James Bond movie. Should they choose, “Spectre” marks a good moment for Craig and Mendes to bow out — they’ve rounded off their strangely tortured character. It might be time for a less conflicted Bond to have a run.

“Spectre” (3 stars)

Daniel Craig returns as James Bond in a generally exciting outing — this is still a grim 007, but at least the heavy psychology of “Skyfall” is left out. The globe-trotting and wild stunts are well executed, even if one wishes Christoph Waltz had more screen time as the villain. With Lea Seydoux.

Rating: PG-13, for violence

Showing: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Meridian, Sundance Cinemas Seattle, Thornton Place Stadium 14 + Imax, Woodinville, Blue Fox Drive-In, Cascade Mall

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