Film Review: ‘Spectre’ (spoiler free)

Bond is back…

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

Directed by:  Sam Mendes / Written by:  John Logan, Neal Purves, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth / 148 minutes

What’s it about?

Whilst the British Secret Service faces an uncertain future, James Bond receives a message from his past that puts him on a dangerous path as he seeks to uncover a sinister criminal organisation known as Spectre…

In review

Ian Fleming’s James Bond – 007 – returns to the big screen for the 24th official entry in the enduring and phenomenally popular spy film franchise.  With the overwhelming success of 2012’s Skyfall, Bond film producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson stoked the flames of anticipation by securing the return of Oscar Winning director Sam Mendes.  Spectre is a solid and thrilling, yet at times imperfect, follow up to that aforementioned game-changing Bond feature.  It’s a well-crafted and often exciting action thriller that perhaps suffers a little under the weight of high expectations and efforts to repeat and surpass the heights of Skyfall and arguably lead actor Daniel Craig’s finest hour, Casino Royale.  With Skyfall we were presented with an interesting progression of the modern Bond film which was more firmly rooted in the pages of Ian Fleming’s original novels and cerebral spy serial Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy whilst melding the very best elements of Sean Connery’s tenure as the iconic spy.  What Spectre does is strive to heighten those elements to mostly positive results, with a few stumbles.

In celebration of what makes a proverbially “good” Bond film there is perhaps a little too much reverence to what has come before, homages to key moments in From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and The Living Daylights (to name a few) are generally pleasing but also evoke a feeling of familiarity that wasn’t present in Skyfall.  There’s also an increase in humour which doesn’t always hit the mark (and even in the odd instance threatens to undermine the drama) and the film’s pacing can at times feel a little sluggish.

Despite these grumbles, the effects of which will likely diminish upon repeat viewings, Spectre certainly delivers the goods.  Daniel Craig makes an assured return as Bond, at ease with his effortless swagger, dapper demeanour and unreserved lethality – the best since Connery and the closest to Fleming’s interpretation of the character since Timothy Dalton.  Lea Seydoux, who had a memorable villainous stint in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, makes for a decent female foil to Craig’s Bond as the sparky Dr. Madeleine Swann and there are some fun moments to be had with Ben Whishaw’s Q and Naomie Harris’s Moneypenny.  Just as Whishaw gets his time in the field, Ralph Fiennes – returning as the new M – also gets a piece of the action as well as sharing some great scenes with Sherlock’s Andrew Scott, who plays the chief of a new intelligence agency poised to replace MI6 and the double-0 programme.

Spectre also provides a physically imposing (and largely mute) henchman in the mould of Jaws and Oddjob in the form of Mr. Hinx, a terrifying muscular powerhouse that’s an ideal fit for Guardians of the Galaxy’s Dave Bautista.  This ultimately brings us to double Oscar Winner Christoph Waltz’s main antagonist, Franz Oberhauser, a shadowy figure with connections to Bond’s past and a requisite agenda of evil.  Waltz is simply great with a wonderfully understated and nuanced portrayal that is non-the-less chilling and leaves the viewer in no doubt that he is a capable threat.

The film’s action sequences are second to none, aside from the exciting opening in Mexico City that’s on a par with Goldeneye, there are fist fights as bone crunching as those in Casino Royale, car chases that stand shoulder to shoulder with Quantum of Solace and a spectacular high-stakes finale that threatens to rival Skyfall.

Beyond its strong cast and adrenaline infused action, Spectre has an intriguing script that crafts an enjoyable contemporary spy thriller that is mindful of the post WikiLeaks climate with twists and turns that, although in some instances are predictable, facilitate moments of genuine surprise.  Director Sam Mendes once again guides proceedings with absolute precision, aided by the striking visuals of Interstellar cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema who makes the most of rich and varied locales – ranging from Mexico, Rome and Tangier to Austria and London – to present a visually sumptuous film that’s complemented by Skyfall composer Thomas Newman’s score (shame about Sam Smith’s underwhelming theme song) in a flawed but ultimately solid outing for 007.

The bottom line:  Although not quite hitting the overall heights of Casino Royale and Skyfall, Spectre is still a strong and skilfully executed assignment for Mr. Bond.

Spectre is in cinemas across the UK now and opens worldwide on 6th November.

Daniel Craig returns for his latest mission as 007 in 'SPECTRE'.

Daniel Craig returns for his latest mission as 007 in ‘Spectre’.

17 thoughts on “Film Review: ‘Spectre’ (spoiler free)

  1. As always another fantastic and spoiler free review! Nothing worse than reading something that suddenly gives away a twist in the film in and you are left sitting there shouting
    “NOOOOOOOOOO!!” Shame about SPECTRE itself though, did have very high hopes for it (like everyone I suppose) and trying to top the likes of Skyfall was a very large hill to climb indeed!! I’ve heard a few times now about the comedy element in this latest outing for Bond. Why do they do that? It’s like Superman 3, does someone just turn around and think “Yep, thats what we need for this high concept drama-COMEDY!! It should be more grittier, not funnier!! Get me MGMs phone number!!
    Still I will definitely be seeing this in the cinema and will hopefully not be asking for my money back at the end and as long as there is more fantastic acting, immersive action and of course the classic Bond being Bond moments!
    I suppose for my own opinion, only time will tell!!
    I must admit I am looking forward to the mentions/homages to the previous classic Bond films though….

    • Thanks very much for the kind words and taking the time to comment! SPECTRE is still definitely worth your time (and money) and of course, your opinion may ultimately differ from mine! The humour does detract from some of the film’s meatier moments and as for the homages they’re pleasing to a point, but they felt a little too numerous and at times overbearing. I do however have a feeling I’ll be more relaxed about those points when I see it again on it’s eventual home video release. Once, again thanks for your thoughts!

  2. My excitement for this was dashed when the first several reviews were bleak. But others (yours is the latest) have really been elevating my suspicions into anticipations and I thank you. 🙂

  3. Can’t wait to see this tonight Chris!! In fact, in its honor I’m dedicating my monthly series Five for the Fifth to the Bond franchise 😉

  4. I have been surprised/disappointed how underwhelmed many of the mainstream critics have been with this. I’m yet to see it, but your review has evened my approach to it. Excellent write up.

  5. Finally catching up on reviews after finally seeing it. Very nice write-up Chris. I had fun with it but several things just didn’t resonate with me. I found myself feeling this was the lesser of the Craig Bond films. That’s not a complete slam. Unlike most, I actually enjoyed Quantum. Still really anxious to give this one another look.

    • Thanks Keith! Ultimately, Spectre just wasn’t as good as Casino or Skyfall. Still, I look forward to watching it again on home video. I’m with you on Quantum, it’s definitely underrated.

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