Running Time: 148 minutes
Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci and Ralph Fiennes
AFTER the phenomenal success of Skyfall, British director Sam Mendes has the unenviable task of repeating it all again as he returns to helm Spectre, 007’s 24th big screen outing. Bursting with confidence right from the get-go, Spectre is a wonderfully slick feature that feels quintessentially Bond, embracing the franchise’s rich heritage, yet still managing to keep the character relevant for today’s audiences. Much like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, it keeps itself grounded in the real world as it asks whether we still need ‘guns for hire’ like 007: a blunt analogue instrument in a digital era.
Obviously the main draw for long-standing fans of the series is the return of SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion), returning for the first time since 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever; like the Daleks in Doctor Who it’s great to see the return of Bond’s greatest antagonist. 2008’s under-par Quantum of Solace (more like Quantum of Nonsense) attempted to create a new global terrorist organization for Bond to vie with ; but the resolution of longstanding copyright issues meant writers could sweep that storyline under the carpet and allow Spectre to return front and centre.
Like a good Vodka Martini there are certain things viewers will expect when they’re watching a Bond movie, a globe-trotting plot, egotistical super-villain, beautiful women, gadgets and cars: all those boxes are definitely ticked throughout this movie, but it never feels like mere lip service for the fan-boys. At times though Spectre does feels like an overly long epilogue to Skyfall and more so Craig’s entire tenure as 007. It’s a very different type of film than its predecessor, less grandstanding; but by no means less self-assured.
Clocking in at nearly 2 ½ hours long it’s the longest Bond movie to date and at times it’s a little sluggish and talky, but there’s still some great set-pieces and action sequences throughout its runtime. There’s a fantastic car-chase through Rome’s darkened streets and a brawl on a train between 007 and Dave Batista’s Mr.Hinx that evokes memories of From Russia With Love. My own personal highlight was the film’s blistering opening in Mexico City, featuring a long tracking shot that evokes memories of Goodfellas, Touch of Evil and The Godfather Part Two, It gets proceedings off to a swaggeringly confident start and Spectre never looks back.
This is now Craig’s fourth outing now as 007 and with each performance he seems to get better and better, like Sean Connery he’s grown into the role and very much made it his own. Returning cast-members Ralph Fiennes, Naomi Harris and Ben Whishaw all get their little moments to shine; particularly Whishaw, who’s given much more screen-time this time round as Q and shows he’s an actor fit to take over the mantle left by Desmond Llewelyn (the less said about John Cleese’s brief stint the better).
That said there are some disappointing aspects to the film, Christoph Waltz is great as the film’s principal antagonist, Franz Oberhauser (Who may, or may not be Blofeld), but he’s just not given enough screen-time throughout the movie. Most of the time he’s slinking about in the shadows, letting others do his dirty work; but when he’s finally onscreen, like Javier Bardem in Skyfall he chews the scenery, particularly in his interchanges with 007. Sadly Sherlock’s Andrew Scott, isn’t really that much to do within the film either; it’s a shame because the Irish actor has such a great screen presence, but he’s just not given anything of real substance.
The much heralded appearance of Italian actress Monica Bellucci, a Bond woman opposed to a bond girl doesn’t really get much payoff either; at 50 years of age the actress takes over from Honour Blackman as the oldest woman to play a love interest for Britain’s finest; whilst she oozes sexuality, her appearance is all too brief and really only serves as a medium to move the plot along. Lea Seydoux on the other hand gets much more screen-time throughout the movie, with hints of Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, she plays a much more complicated character than Bellucci’s and she’s by no means a mere damsel in distress.
The return of Spectre might by this film’s central selling point, but it’s the attempt by the writers to explore the psyche of their leading man, which proves to be most rewarding aspect of the movie. Repeatedly we’re told that these ‘assassins’, guns for hire with a license to kill, no longer have a place within today’s modern world; yet it’s Bond’s ability to exist within the everyday world and the shadowy world of terrorism , so often at high personal cost is why he’s able to get the job done.
With its accomplished visuals, beautiful accompanying score and Sam Smith’s old-fashioned Bond theme (It’s a grower, trust me) Spectre feels like a love-letter to Ian Fleming’s iconic creation, even more so than Skyfall, which was released to celebrate Bond’s 50th anniversary. It’s a very different type of film to its predecessor; some may like this, some may not; but I loved it, if as some sections of the media are claiming this will be the last time Daniel Craig dons the tuxedo and Walter PPK, then it’s a fitting swan-song for his stint as 007.