SPECTRE review: If Skyfall was your high-octane journey down memory lane, SPECTRE is your slower-paced ride into unchartered territories…
SPECTRE is the 24th official James Bond movie, and actor Daniel Craig‘s fourth outing as Britain’s favourite super-spy, following excellent turns in Casino Royale, Skyfall and the rather less seducing Quantum Of Solace. Sam Mendes picks up the reins once again following on from his Skyfall success, which became the most successful British movie of all time, raking in over $1.5 billion in worldwide takings, which also made it the most successful 007 adventure ever too. Not too much pressure with the follow-up then Mr. Mendes…
The action this time around sees Bond receive a cryptic message which sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation – the SPECTRE of the title (which stands for Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Revenge and Extortion), who first appeared in Ian Fleming’s Thunderball novel in 1961, and in the debut Bond movie Dr. No a year later. SPECTRE kicks off with the action located in Mexico City; Bond on a rogue mission which you’ll find more about a little later in the film. The opening sequence is as thrilling as you’d expect with Craig front and centre from the off, happily dragging a young lady around the streets of the city during their annual Day Of The Dead festivities. Mendes delivers an opening shot which lasts a good few minutes, sans cut-aways, just one flowing, beautiful shot that starts outside, and ends on the rooftops. It’s brilliantly executed.
Soon after he’s done his business in Mexico, and following the customary title sequence, set against Sam Smith‘s moany theme ‘Writing’s On The Wall’, Bond is back in London, and after a thorough bollocking from M (Ralph Fiennes), and a trip to Quartermaster Ben Whishaw, he moves on to Rome. After a brief liaison with Monica Bellucci‘s Lucia, he infiltrates a secret meeting of the aforementioned organisation, which is headed up by the mysterious Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz). What follows is a two-and-a-half-hour epic, taking in locations in Austria, where Bond meets Lea Seydoux‘s Madeleline Swann, Tangier and the streets of Blighty, as 007 attempts to stop the intentions of SPECTRE, and the destruction that comes with ii.
SPECTRE was always going to suffer from the huge success of Skyfall. One of the top films of 2012, the film was virtually flawless, with the movie almost resetting the franchise, taking us down memory lane and introducing new characters in Naomie Harris‘s Moneypenny, and Ralph Fiennes’ M. Both are present here once again, and although Judi Dench’s M is long gone, her legacy lives on, and she has quite a deep involvement in this story. We have been asked by Sony not to release any major spoilers, and of course we won’t, but SPECTRE‘s plot is not a straight-forward one – in fact it is rather confusing in places – but Mendes once again builds on the solid foundations that Skyfall‘ laid. We have a fairly decent opening scene (though, in our opinion nowhere near the perfection of what we saw in Casino Royale – though we loved the opening shot), some excellent action set-pieces, with most of the stand-outs featuring Dave Bautisa‘s Mr Hinx, a silent-assassin and a huge throw-back to the Bond henchmen of old. In fact, there are many nostalgic nods for Bond fans, some subtle, some not so subtle.
The character development is decent enough, though the film’s one downfall is that there’s hardly enough time devoted to each of them. Some of the more major characters pop up in just one or two scenes, and while I won’t reveal as to which ones, it was a little disappointing not to see more of them.
Waltz is menacing enough, a really good turn and at least an equal to Janier Bardem’s brilliant Silva, and in the scenes he’s in, he pulls all of the focus and attention away from Craig’s still very strong turn as James Bond. His character is possibly more layered than at first glance; sinister, slightly campy and destructive. He is amazing.
As for Craig? Well, it’s definitely more of the same from perhaps the best Bond since Moore, and is easily his strongest turn as the super-spy to date (in our eyes). The actor is in pretty much every scene, and his Bond, now in perhaps his last movie (though probably not) has all of the quips you’d expect, though again, both he and Mendes fall just short of falling into the realms of cliché. Only just.
So, it’s time to top comparing SPECTRE to Skyfall, as this is a very different journey. If Skyfall was an unrelenting car chase through the confined streets of London, SPECTRE is a slightly slower-paced ride through the country, with some great moments and some that are more relaxed. We still enjoy the ride, but it’s a very different experience, with, it could be said, more depth, and more to take in. There are many layers to this film, and it could probably do with more viewings to fully appreciate what Mendes and his team have delivered. Even now, as we type this under two hours after the credits have rolled, our minds are thinking back to what we’ve experienced, and we’re liking it all the more. Some truly exceptional work.
Mendes has done the impossible; he’s matched his success of Skyfall with a Bond film that while it hasn’t left us as shaken, we can’t help but be as stirred with SPECTRE. Definitely not as fast-paced, but judge it on its own merits. It’s really, really good, and it is potentially even BETTER than its predecessor.
SPECTRE review by Paul Heath, October 2015.
SPECTRE is released in the UK on October 26th, 2015, and the US on November 6th, 2015.