Movie review: Spectre + a look back

Movie reviews

Hello!!!

The latest (24th!) James Bond film – Spectre – has finally hit theaters in its native UK and this is going to be my review!!

To begin with, as some of you may know, James Bond franchise is one of 2 spy/agent/espionage film series that I adore (other being Mission Impossible). And while MI films only had one interpretation of Ethan Hunt, James Bond has been played by a huge variety of actors and all fans have their favorite one. Mine is Daniel Craig’s Bond, just because it is the one that I’m most familiar with and that I actually grew up watching. In truth, I have seen one or two Pierce Brosnan’s Bond films on TV as a child, but they weren’t that good while Craig’s first outing as Bond in 2006’s Casino Royale was amazing. I would also love to check out the earliest editions of Bond and read the original novels by Ian Fleming someday.

Let’s go over the 3 previous films in a franchise, before moving on to talking about Spectre!

SPOILER WARNING

Casino Royale (2006)

Casino Royale is one of my favorite movies ever made. I still cannot believe that Martin Campbell directed it and did such an amazing job and then moved on to making Green Lantern. Casino Royale was the origin story of 007 and it had amazing action (the parkour chase) and wonderful suspense (the best poker scene ever put to film – made me want to learn poker). It also had amazing callbacks to the lore of Bond: the ordering of Martini, the iconic line to end the film and so forth. It was also the film that pushed the boundaries of violence – the torture/whipping scene was something that I have never seen before. It was really uncomfortable to watch but you could not take your eyes off the screen at the same time. This film also had the best Bond girl  – Vesper played by Eva Green. Vesper was resourceful and strong female character, who also had femininity and softness to her. She was just an overall great, well-developed character. It sad that she had to die for 007 to become the real Bond.

Quantum of Solace (2008)

This sequel to the majority of fans was a bit of a disappointment and I have to agree with them. While I really liked how this film based its story on the things that happened in the first film, it wasn’t up to par with its predecessor on any level.The plot was really messy and hard to follow. Quantum was directed by Marc Forster, who later made World War Z, which a lot of people hated while I kinda liked it.

Skyfall (2012)

Skyfall was the big comeback of this series as well as the commemorative film of Bond’s 50th anniversary. While Casino Royale was the origins of Bond and the Quantum of Solace was the Bond-y Bond, Skyfall was all about the broken Bond. It was great seeing a different side of the character as well as being able to glimpse into his past and his family – a theme which will be very important in Spectre. In addition, this film allowed us to spend more time with Judi Dench’s M and introduced 2 great new characters: Ralph Fiennes’s Mallory and Ben Whishaw’s Q. Lastly, as a new inhabitant of Scotland, I really appreciated the setting of the last part of the film, when I’ve re-watched it only recently: Welcome to Scotland!

Overall, this franchise has great acting and really good villains – in the first and third films to be precise. It also is an internationally set franchise which is always a plus for me. It also has a great soundtrack: my favorite theme song (not counting the original James Bond theme song) is still Adele’s Skyfall, but I do like Sam Smith’s Writing’s on the Wall as well. Chris Cornell’s You Know My Name and Jack White’s and Alicia Keys’s Another Way to Die are also great songs, worth the listen.

SPOILER WARNING FOR SPECTRE

IMDb summary: A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

Overall, I’ve definitely enjoyed Spectre but not as much as I thought I would. Casino Royale is still the best Bond movie, to my mind, and, sadly, Spectre is not as enjoyable as Skyfall. Quantum of Solace, not surprisingly, takes the last place on the list.

Opening credits

Spectre had my favorite opening credits of the last 4 Bond films. Skyfall had amazing opening as well, but this one had even a better one. I loved how they started with the theme of fire and then played off of the Spectre’s logo – the octopus. I also really enjoyed the references to the previous films (or at least to 1st and 3rd films – everybody wants to forget Quantum): images of Vesper, M, Le Chiffre and Silva appeared in a breaking glass.

Tone

Spectre was probably the funniest Craig’s Bond film. It had a lot of laugh out loud moments and these were set up not only by dialogue punch lines but by action scenes. For example, I loved how Bond fell onto the sofa after that building crashed at the beginning of the film. At the same time, this movie was really dark and conveyed emotions like hopelessness and loneliness perfectly.

Story

The film’s script was written by a group of people: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth. All of them, except Butterworth, have previously worked on other Bond films. Logan has been nominated for an Oscar for writing Gladiator, The Aviator, and Hugo. Purvis and Wade have worked on other films together and Butterworth wrote Edge of Tomorrow and this year’s Black Mass. All of these accomplished writers did an okay job, however, I believe that they could have refined the story a bit more. A few supporting characters could have fared better with some more development and the plot could have made more sense: at times it felt that Bond was going from point A to B to C for no reason. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the dialogue of the film, which was brought to life by amazing performances from the whole cast. The way Spectre’s story tied the whole series together is also worth praising. The theme of modernity versus tradition was an interesting idea to introduce into the Bond franchise as well. Lastly, I do not know about you, but I would definitely not feel safe if I am constantly being watched.

Directing

Skyfall’s Sam Mendes returned as a director for Spectre. He did an amazing job in 2012 and did not disappoint this year as well. I loved the opening crowd chase scene in Mexico as well as the car chase in Rome. I also liked how the ending of the film was set in Bond’s home – London. It was nice seeing the old MI6 base. Speaking about Mendes’s other films, I really want to watch American Beauty, which earned him an Academy Award for best director.

In addition, not only the action scenes were exciting, but the whole film was visually appealing, glamorous, luxurious and elegant. Praises for this go to cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema.

Acting

  • Daniel Craig as James Bond, agent 007. This was Craig’s 4th time playing Bond and it was yet again a different side of Bond. If Skyfall showed us a physically broken Bond, Spectre gave us an emotionally damaged one. It also showed that even though he is a stone cold assassin, he would like to change his way and find his ‘happy ending’. I’m sure that that ‘ happy ending’ won’t last long since Craig’s contract states that he has one more movie left (at least according to the Internet). However, there has been some rumors that Craig will refuse to play Bond moving forward, so I guess we will see what happens.
  • Christoph Waltz as Ernst Stavro Blofeld was a good villain, who could have been great if we just have spent more time with him. I believe that it was a wasted opportunity not to put more of C. Waltz in the film because he is amazing in villainous roles. Just watch Inglorious Basterds if you don’t believe me. Check out Django Unchained as well if you want to marvel at how great of an actor Waltz is.
  • Léa Seydoux as Dr. Madeleine Swann. Finally, a Bond girl (well, not really) who challenges Bond and who was actually as good as Vesper! I loved her character and would have wanted to spend more time with her as well. Seydoux is an accomplished French actress with films like the aforementioned Inglorious Basterds, Midnight in Paris, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Blue is the Warmest Color and The Grand Budapest Hotel on her resume.
  • Ben Whishaw as Q. I loved how Q’s abilities were crucial to the plot of Spectre and I, once again, wish that we could have spent more time with him. I have talked more about him in my Suffragette review.
  • Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny. I quite liked the brother-sister relationship that she and Bond have. However, her character was kinda wasted in this film – it is a shame that they didn’t give more things for her to do.
  • Monica Bellucci as Lucia Sciarra. I have always been skeptical about Bellucci as an actress and never really paid any attention to her. However, she was perfectly fine in this film as the sex toy-Bond Girl. You see there are different types of Bond girls and she played the most stereotypical one.
  • Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory aka the new M. As much as I like Fiennes as an actor, my favorite M will always be Judi Dench. Having said that, Fiennes did a nice job in the role and I did love his serious facial expression.
  • Andrew Scott as Max Denbigh – C. He was a really unlikable character even before it was revealed that he was working for Spectre. You could sense his douchebagness from miles away, so the twist was not that surprising.
  • Jesper Christensen came back as Mr. White and I really liked the fact that his comeback was meaningful and not just a random cameo to please the fans.
  • Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx – the assassin of Spectre. He was not really developed as a character but, not surprisingly, did an amazing job in the fight/action scenes as in Guardians of the Galaxy.
  • Lastly, it turns out that a Lithuanian actor (I’m Lithuanian also) Gediminas Adomaitis, who I have never heard before, was one of Oberhauser’s Right Hand Man, according to IMDb. That’s pretty cool.

All in all, Spectre was definitely an enjoyable film, however, it could have been and should have been so much better. I don’t know whether my expectations were too high and that’s why I am so harsh on this film. Still, I firmly believe that the film’s script was its weakest part. While I loved the tone and the dialogue, the plot could have used another revision. Nevertheless, the acting and the visuals, both in the opening and in the actual film, were splendid.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Spectre trailer

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Movie review: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation + a look back

Movie reviews

Hello!

The latest sequel of the beloved 90s franchise rolls into theaters this weekend, so I’ve decided to spend my Thursday re-watching the first four entries of the series, despite the fact that Mission: Impossible films aren’t known for being very connective to each other. The only things they have in common are the same main character and very subtle references to past events.

1996 ‘s Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible was the film that turned Tom Cruise into an action movie start. Although, the movie is a year older than me, it still holds up today. The suspense is mind blowing and the CIA infiltration scene is one of the best action movie scenes I have ever seen.

2000’s John Woo’s MI-2 is my least favorite film in the series. It turned careful and clever agent Ethan Hunt in cocky- carefree-James Bond wannabee. The action wasn’t that great either, because they exchanged the suspense of the first film into slow motion parkour extravaganza with guns.

In 2006, J.J.Abrams had his directorial debut on the big screen with MI-3 and injected much-needed suspense and energy into the franchise. The series was back on track. Even the, now infamous, lens flares worked really well. I am a huge Abrams fan (Star Trek and Star Wars, are you kidding me?), so I am really happy that he stayed as a producer on the later films. MI3 also had one of my favorite supporting casts. Philip Seymour Hoffman (may he rest in peace) played a great villain and I wish they would find a way to bring back Jonathan Rhys Meyers’s character. This film also introduced us to Simon Pegg’s Benji, but I’m going to talk more about him in the MI5’s review because he is back for the fifth entry.

Ving Rhames’s Luther is also back for the fifth entry, after sitting the 4th one out and only cameo-ing at the end. Can’t wait to see his and Simon Pegg’s character having a hacker dual.

2011’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is my favorite MI movie to date. Brad Bird did an amazing job (I’m really sad that I hated his last movie – Tomorrowland). MI4 also was the film that added Jeremy Renner into the cast. I was really happy about it, because I believe that Renner doesn’t get enough credit for his work. Plus, his character William Brandt was weaved into the series very organically. Anyway, I can’t wait to see him in Rogue Nation as well.

In short, although I’m not a huge fan of crime dramas or spy movies (or action movie that take place in the present day and urban setup in general), I’ve always made an exception for two franchises – Mission: Impossible being one of them (James Bond – the other). Moreover, I have always applauded the fact that MI films have a truly worldwide appeal because of their international setting and diverse cast. Lastly, I feel like Mission: Impossible films are actually getting better with each entry in the franchise (except maybe MI2). I hope that this trend continues and that MI franchise stays a rare exception of a series, whose quality goes upwards and not downwards.

My review of the latest entry in the franchise – Rogue Nation – is down bellow, should you choose to read it.

IMDb summary: Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate – an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF.

Now, after finally seeing the film, I can assure you that the trend continues and Mission: Impossible movies show no signs of stopping.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Directing and Writing

Rogue Nation was directed by Christopher McQuarrie. This was only his 3rd time directing a motion picture but his 2nd time teaming up with Tom Cruise. They have previously worked on Jack Reacher together. McQuarrie was also one of the writers on the latest Cruise’s film – Edge of Tomorrow (review)Moreover, McQuarrie co-wrote Rogue Nation’s script with Drew Pearce, who was one of the writers on Iron Man 3. As you can see, all the people behind the camera are quite well acquainted with the summer blockbuster genre. And they definitely delivered.

The actions scenes looked amazing, especially the underwater one. It was extremely suspenseful. The car chase scene which turned into the motorcycle chase scene has also been done impeccability. Story-wise, this movie must have had a script consisting of a ton of pages, because a lot of things happen in the film. We have a variety of different locations, proving once more that MI is a global franchise. There is also a plethora of espionage and a bunch of spy gadgets, which, for me, are a few of the most interesting parts of any movie. Moreover, twist and turns did not disappoint. The usage of glass chambers and masks was also cool. The movie’s run time is quite long, but it never drags or slows down.

References and Product Placement

This movie calls back to previous MI films much more than other MI films have ever done. The rabbit’s foot had a nice cameo. The twist with the mission’s message was really cool too. The signature Mission: Impossible theme with a slight moderation was, of course, used in the film as well. Also, when they mentioned Great Britain’s MI6, all I could think about was that the meeting between James Bond and Ethan Hunt would be a-ma-zing! However, this film didn’t have a scene where Hunt is horizontally hanging from a rope. They had a few scenes involving ropes, but none of them were similar to the famous shot from the other 4 films. Nevertheless, the money shot – Cruise on a motorcycle – was in the Rogue Nation.

Now, moving on to my least favorite part of the film – the product placement. They must have tried out all of the models of BMW in this film. And not just BMW cars, but motorcycles as well. In addition, I’m looking for a new laptop to buy and the Rogue Nation really wants me to purchase a DELL computer.

Acting

  • Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt. There isn’t much to say about Cruise in this role. He has made it his own a long time ago and now he just proves everybody – the fans and the studio – that he is irreplaceable to this franchise (at one point, Fox wanted to fire Cruise from the project because of his personal life). The fact that he is 53 years old (!!!!) and still looks great and does his own stunts is mind boggling and deserves a standing ovation.
  • Jeremy Renner as William Brandt was also really great. As I have mentioned, I am really happy that Renner is a part of this franchise. His court scenes were amazing and the twist/betrayal was really good as well.
  • Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn was the scene stealer of the film. I was really happy that he had such a big role in Rogue Nation. His comedic timing was also perfect and a nice addition to the 5th installment.
  • Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust was the most bad-ass and my favorite leading lady of Mission: Impossible films. MI4’s Paula Patton was also a bad-ass, but Ferguson was even better in every aspect. I loved the fact that she didn’t have a romantic relationship with Ethan (where is his wife, BTW?). Also, her double or even triple agent story line made her into one of the most interesting characters in the whole film. I haven’t seen other movies she is in (except Hercules, but we all should forget that that film ever happened), but I really want to watch the TV show she starred in – The White Queen. I had that series on my radar for a long time because Max Irons is in it but still haven’t found time to check it out. Because of Ferguson’s performance in Rogue Nation, The White Queen definitely moved up a few places on my list of TV shows I want to watch.
  • Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell. It was really nice to see him back. And the way they handled Luther’s and Ethan’s friendship (Luther being his oldest friend) was perfect.
  • Sean Harris as Solomon Lane was quite a good villain. Not as good as Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Owen in MI3 but definitely better than most action movie villains of this summer in general. Actually, he kinda reminded me of a comic book character. His long coat and slightly crazy eyes added to comic book-y appearance.
  • Alec Baldwin as Alan Hunley was also a great addition to the cast. I am so happy that we will probably get to see more of him in the sixth film. Because I surely feel that they are going to make more of MI films.
  • Tom Hollander as the Prime Minister. He had a small role and I wasn’t expecting Hollander to be in the film. However, when he was introduced as a Prime Minister, I completely believed it, because I have this image in my mind of Hollander always being the politician or the leader of an organization. This image probably comes from my childhood/early teen years when Hollander played a chairman of East India Trading Company in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

To sum up, I really loved the film. The third and final 90s franchise didn’t disappoint. The story was interesting, the action – exciting and the acting – superb. I really really really want to see more Mission: Impossible films. They make me feel like I am a 9 year old once more.

Sadly (or luckily), this review will NOT self destruct in 5 seconds, so read it as many times as you want.

Rate: 4.9/5 (-0.1 for product placement)

Trailer: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation trailer

P.S. You can find the reviews of this summer’s sequels of the other 90s franchises here: Jurassic World review / Terminator Genisys review.