Film Review: Spectre (Eon Productions, 2015)

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Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures

Thomas Carvill, Contributor

Following on from the billion-dollar grossing blockbuster Skyfall (2012), Spectre opens with a fantastic long take of Bond walking through the streets of Mexico City on the Day of the Dead. Shot with a cast of thousands of extras and featuring destruction the likes of which Connery’s Bond could only dream of, Mendes offers a remarkable pre-credits scene that immediately immerses the audience in Bond’s life following M’s death.

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Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures

The main title sequence may be one of the most striking in recent Bond history. The inclusion of a rogues’ gallery of 007’s previous nemeses instantly sets the audience up for what will be a journey into the murky depths of Bond’s past. Sam Smith, though no threat to Shirley Bassey’s crown, delivers a serviceable Bond theme in ‘Writing’s on the Wall’ which fits the tone of the title sequence better than expected.

Throughout the film we see the intertwining of two storylines as Bond sets out to fulfil one last mission set by Judi Dench’s M. Meanwhile the current Head of MI6 (played by Ralph Fiennes) struggles against the changes brought about by the merger of MI6 with MI5. Fiennes does an exceptional job of filling the void left by Judi Dench’s departure from the series, with M having a more ‘fists-on’ role than ever before.

As villain Franz Oberhauser, Christoph Waltz’ acting can’t be faulted. However, at times it feels like the writing for the villain falls flat. The lack of a truly iconic moment or line for Oberhauser misses the opportunity to elevate Waltz’ superb performance into the upper echelons of Bond villainy.

Craig’s fourth adventure as Bond serves to highlight how much the actor has grown into the role over the past ten years. Craig’s Bond is now more refined and slick in execution of his duties than ever before. It seems that the franchise as a whole is now comfortable enough in the rebooted continuity to allow for a liberal application of classic Bond tropes. That being said, each classic Bond cliché in this film feels more like a nod to long-term fans of the series rather than cheesy script-fillers.

Overall, Spectre successfully builds on the phenomenon of Skyfall. While all four Daniel Craig movies are pulled together to form a single, coherent storyline, the filmmakers seem to be aware of the thousands of new fans drawn in by Skyfall. Each call-back to a character in a previous film is explained sufficiently that new fans can follow the story without having seen the previous films, though the opening act may be slightly jarring. Meanwhile, devoted fans of the franchise are treated to martinis shaken not stirred, an exhilarating car chase in an Aston Martin (and other less conventional craft) and a diabolical pet guaranteed to raise a smile. If this is to be Daniel Craig’s parting shot as Bond, he has certainly gone out with a bang.

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