Before we begin I feel as though I must first tell you two very important things: First, I will include no major plotline or narrative spoilers in this review, so feel free to read on if you’re looking to avoid such information. Secondly, I am a Bond nerd. You know how much Norman Bates likes stuffing birds? Or how Bruce the shark loves the flesh of Amity Island tourists? Well that’s what I’m like with all things 007.
Don’t let that put you off at all. I won’t be biased and I promise not to spend the next few paragraphs fan-boying hard. Having said that, something amazing happens within the opening seconds which is sure to get the franchise lovers high fiving left, right and centre. We are treated to the classic Bondian trope of a gun barrel sequence. What makes this so special is that it’s Daniel Craig’s first to open a film. This was commonplace throughout the franchise until Casino Royale (2006) which began to alter the rules slightly. It continues to get even better from there.
“The dead are alive” reads an ominous caption before we enter Mexico City during the Day of the Dead festival and que a breathtaking four and a half minute tracking shot which weaves in and out, up and down, left and right whilst highlighting the key players in the scene. Craig’s choice of costume here is an obvious nod to Live and Let Die’s Baron Samedi and these homages to earlier missions are scattered throughout which gives the film a great sense of franchise history. As the scene progresses we are treated to the first of many stunning action set pieces; we jump across rooftops, then actually in the carnival parade before climaxing in a phenomenal helicopter fight scene. It even manages to top The Spy Who Loved Me’s (1977) union jack parachute jump opening for spectacle.
As the opening credit sequence began I felt a great sense of relief because Sam Smith’s (who?) song matches the tone perfectly. Initially I wasn’t a lover of his 60s styled, stringed theme, but it’s certainly a grower and sits comfortably within the film. In fairness, as long as it’s not Die Another Day (2002) or Quantum of Solace (2008) musically, then I’m as happy as Q would be if he were to ever get his equipment back in one piece.
As the narrative continues we are transported to Rome, Austria, Morocco and finally back to London, but this is so much more than a box ticking travelogue. Bond uncovers a secret society, (no, not Quantum, even more secret than them) Spectre and he discovers that he may even have a link to them himself. What is wonderful about SPECTRE, is that it’s not just Bond we’re concerned with, M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomi Harris) all go out into the field and get their hands dirty too. Ben Whishaw is a breath of fresh air and not since Desmond Llewelyn stuck his out of office on during License To Kill (1989) have we seen the Quartermaster play such a prominent role.
Monica Bellucci is wonderful yet appears all too briefly and Léa Seydoux portrays heroine Madeleine Swann perfectly and is up there with Eva Green for the strongest female characters/performances of the series. Christolph Waltz’s turn as Oberhauser, the is-he, isn’t-he villain is solid and treads that fine line of quiet yet sinister without hamming it up. He also doesn’t wear any socks, so you know he’s pure evil right? What you need to remember about Spectre is that it isn’t Skyfall. It’s a continuation of Craig’s story as Bond. It’s certainly more action filled and contains more spectacle than its predecessor, but is it better?
That’s like saying what is better between Alien and Aliens. They compliment each other perfectly, but the main plus in the Spectre column is that it doesn’t contain the gaping plot holes which Skyfall was riddled with. Bond fan or not, this is certainly one to be experienced on the big screen. Both Sam Mendes’ direction and Hoyt van Hoytema’s photography are beautiful, and although the running time may be long, there is never a dull moment within. If you’re a fan of the Connery era, there’s more than enough here for you (hello Red Grant style battle scene), a lover of all things Moore? Then you can enjoy the numerous zingers which add great comic relief. There’s also a nod to the Lazenby tenure with a Piz Gloria-looking location.
After a three-year wait, the writing is on the wall and if I can give you one simple piece of advice regarding the film it is this: Go!
Inspired? Get your tickets for SPECTRE here.