Spectre

James Bond, holding a gun in front of a masked man, with the film's title and credits

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.

Spectre’ epitomises the sophistication of the Daniel Craig Bond-era, with a great Bond entry that draws from the past to tell a modern story. At 47, Daniel Craig looks noticeably wearier in the role but that almost feels by design. His Bond has been on a journey since ‘Casino Royale’ and the events of the previous films are clearly starting to take his toll on him – never before in the series have the events of the past affected the legendary spy so severely. The film begins with a thrilling sequence at Mexico’s ‘Day of the Dead’ festival as Bond tracks down the dangerous assassin, Marco Sciarra (Alessandro Cremona). This almost entirely wordless sequence is a breathtaking technical achievement, as we’ve come to expect from the opening salvo, taking in an immense number of costumed extras, a massive building explosion and a helicopter battle, before we break for the opening credits.

A lot has been said about Sam Smith’s theme song and I have to side with the critics on this one – it doesn’t fit the tone of ‘Spectre’, nor does it feel like a Bond song. Smith’s whiney voice struggles to bring a mediocre song to life and you can’t help but feel a film as polished and well created as this deserved something better to match. Luckily, it’s a minor low point in an excellent film. At the end of the opening sequence, Bond manages to take a ring off Sciarra’s finger before he perishes and this leads him to shady organisation SPECTRE via Sciarra’s widow (Monica Bellucci, magnetic but underused), a collection of powerful individuals hellbent on dictating government policy across the globe. Bond’s attempts to find out more about this organisation lead him on a globetrotting adventure (well it is a Bond film!) taking in Italy, Austria and Morocco, before returning to London for the conclusion. Closer to home, the 00 programme is being closed down by a bureaucrat, ‘affectionately’ christened C (Andrew Scott) by Bond, who believes he is moving foreign policy into the 21st century with an increased focus on extensive surveillance at the expense of individual spies. Rarely has the plot of a Bond movie so accurately mimicked the issues of today.

The supporting cast has hardly been better and Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris all get their opportunities to shine, with Whishaw particularly good value, and the transition to 007’s new team has been handled superbly between ‘Skyfall’ and ‘Spectre’. As the main Bond girl, I really enjoyed Lea Seydoux’s performance and she gets sexier and sultrier every time I see her, with the train sequence in particular emphasising her chemistry with Daniel Craig. Speaking of the train sequence, this provides Dave Bautista’s silent henchman a chance to shine in a brutal and violent fight and the scene is directed well to emphasise the level of the task Bond faced to defeat this mammoth foe. And then we have Christoph Waltz as Bond’s nemesis for this entry, Franz Oberhauser. Oberhauser feels like a culmination of the villains in the three films leading up to ‘Spectre’ and he ties everything together, with Waltz relishing the role. Waltz has done his finest work with Quentin Tarantino, leading to two Oscars, and some of his other work has verged too much into caricature. Here, I believe, he gets things just right, bringing colour to the character but imbuing him with sufficient menace, and his character’s arc is extremely satisfying for a long term fan of the series.

The concluding sequence in London isn’t quite as effective as it could have been for me, relying too much on an implausible ticking clock scenario that feels out of kilter with the more grounded feel of the Craig Bond films, although ultimately the ending works, and if this is the final Bond film with Daniel Craig in the lead role, he’s gone out in style.

Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Sam Mendes

Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen, Monica Bellucci, Alessandro Cremona and Ralph Fiennes

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2379713/

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