Film Review: ‘James Bond: Spectre’

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

Original Release Date: October 2015

Review by Miriam Atkinson

Spectre is Daniel Craig’s fourth film as James Bond and the twenty fourth film in the 007 franchise. As the double O programme is under threat of being abolished, Bond once again goes rogue. With the help of Moneypenny and Q, Bond tracks down the shadowy organisation know as Spectre. A link to old nemesis Mr White sends Bond in search of new antagonist Franz Oberhauser. With external threats from Spectre and danger within MI6, Bond must race to save the people he cares about.

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 cars and weapons 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. One thing Craig’s Bond films do well is knowing when to add the occasional light moment to balance the serious tone of the story.

A big part of the franchise is the opening title credits. Sam Smith takes up the gauntlet left by Adele and produces the suspenseful and atmospheric Writing’s on the Wall. Like the previous Skyfall, Writing’s on the Wall became a number one hit before its corresponding film was released. It joins the list of incredibly memorable 007 opening songs.

As for the visual elements of the title credits, if you ignore the silhouettes of naked dancing girls, there were a lot of storytelling elements included in the sequence. 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 allude to the danger the characters must face in the coming film.

Returning actors Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw are all spectacular. The chemistry between all four is great. Side note – can we please have a spin-off solely from M, Moneypenny and Q’s point of view where they and Rory Kinnear’s head-of-staff Tanner deal with the regular issues faced by MI6?

Image from the film ‘Spectre’

Spectre also welcomes Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux and Andrew Scott to the franchise.

Christoph Waltz plays the film primary protagonist Oberhauser with hidden links to the Spectre organisation and Bond. While Waltz was menacing in the role, Oberhauer clearly hadn’t read the part in the villain’s handbook where it says don’t invite the hero to your secret lair and explain your plans for world domination. To be fair Skyfall’s antagonist Silva did the same but to far greater success. In my opinion Oberhauser unfortunately never feels as much of a threat to the heroes as previous villains of the series.

Ironically Andrew Scott’s Max Denbigh feels a far more present threat to the protagonists despite his smaller screen time and lack of secret bases. Scott answers the question of what Moriarty would be like as a shady secret agent as Denbigh attempts to take control of MI6 from M and end the double O program.

Spectre’s main heroine is Dr Madeline Swann played by Léa Seydoux. Swann is difficult to read at first and unimpressed at Bond’s interference in her life before the pair begin to develop feelings for each other. The audience is treated to plenty of revelations that show there is far more to Swann and her past than anyone previously thought.

Special mention to Dave Bautista who plays Mr Hinx, an assassin for Spectre. Despite having no lines Bautista has an impressive and engaging on-screen presence and I wish his character has been used more in the film.

While I enjoyed the film for me it does have a very big issue. The previous three films all work as both stand alone films whilst continuing an overall story arc. Spectre is entirely reliant on audiences knowing the events of the previous films. While Spectre does a good job at connecting to past plot threads, new viewers would no doubt be confused as to why certain plot points are significant. Released three years after Skyfall I too was confused at times when I first saw the film at the cinema.

Nevertheless Spectre is still a thrilling action adventure that uses all of the classic 007 elements. Spectre is better to watch in sequence with the previous films rather than solo. If you do, viewers will be rewarded with key moments from all of Craig’s Bond films linking together – propelling the story towards its nail biting conclusion.


This is a revised version of my original Spectre review which was originally published in the online magazine Cuckoo Review in November 2015


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