Film Review: ‘James Bond: Spectre’

Directed by Sam Mendes

Starring: Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Andrew Scott

Certificate: 12A

Original Release Date: October 2015

Review by Miriam Atkinson

I went into this film armed with the knowledge that it had already made over 40 million pounds in its first week, so I was expecting Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as Bond to be somewhat spectacular.

After fifty years I believe the James Bond films have managed to transcend the action/adventure genre and become a separate genre of film in their own right. Within Spectre were all the ingredients of a classic Bond film – thrilling high speed car chases, engaging fight sequences, fantastic locations and a villainous plot of mystery and mayhem. An enjoyable twist saw Bond denied his usual array of spy gadgets until he could learn to obey MI6’s rules. The audience was then treated to 007’s child-like glee as he secretly ‘borrowed’ certain items. In fact one of the things all four of Craig’s films have been successful at is knowing the balance between when to be comedic and when to be serious.

Another big part of the franchise is the film’s opening credits. I confess I don’t usually understand the credit sequences. Often they just seem to serve as an excuse to have Bond’s silhouette dancing with the silhouettes of naked girls in front of a fancy background. Alright Spectre had this too but this time the credits actually told a story. Seeing the faces of fallen friends and enemies in shattered glass hit home how important Spectre was going to be to develop Bond as a character as he confronts his past. In an excellent use of metaphor, an octopus’ tentacles ensnared and entrapped the figures on screen. While the fiery effects alluded to the danger and burning intensity of the coming film.

The supporting cast were all spectacular. Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw all returned as M, Miss Moneypenny, and Q respectively. I would honestly watch a spin-off film with Fiennes, Harris and Whishaw as their characters try to keep things running smoothly at MI6 while the various double O agents dot around the globe causing trouble. Newcomers to the franchise are Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux and Andrew Scott. Waltz played Bond’s new nemesis Franz Oberhauser while Seydoux portrayed ‘bond girl’ Dr Madeline Swann. There are twists a plenty as neither character is exactly as they first appear. Finally Scott showed Sherlock fans what Moriarty would be like as a shady secret agent. A special mention must go to actor Dave Bautista who played Mr Hinx, an assassin for Spectre. He had an impressive and engaging on-screen presence and I wish he’d had a more screen time.

I really liked Spectre but I believe as with most action films you need to let go of your scepticism and disbelief for a couple hours and simply enjoy what you are watching. Of course our resourceful hero survives impossible situations that would kill or at least break the bones of lesser men. And naturally the bad guy would send Bond a Rolls Royce to take him to the evil lair in order to explain the evil plan – really what is it with villains and explaining their plans for world domination to the one person they know could stop them?

In between all the exciting pandemonium that is Bond’s life, Spectre also wraps up all the story threads from Craig’s first three films (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall). This does means audience members need to have paid attention during the last instalments and I have no doubt parts of the plot were confusing for any new viewers.

When I originally wrote this review it was unknown whether Craig would return for another stint as 007. As of 2020 we now know that he will have one more outing as the secret agent in No Time to Die so the story is not quite over yet. Nevertheless, Spectre was a thrilling adventure with an arguably predictable classic Bond format that nicely linked the key moments from four films into a nail biting conclusion.

This review was originally published in the online magazine Cuckoo Review in November 2015

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