Review – Spectre

It may well be more than 50 years old, but this barnstorming joyride finds the Bond franchise in rude health and still showing the wannabes how it’s done.

If this is to be Craig's adieu from the Bond franchise, as has been suggested, he could have done a lot worse than make the spec-tacular Spectre his swan song

If this is to be Craig’s adieu from the Bond franchise, as has been suggested, he could have done a lot worse than make the spec-tacular Spectre his swan song

It’s fair to say that 007 is enjoying something of a golden age at present; not seen since Sean Connery foiled Goldfinger and partook in some Pussy Galore.

Daniel Craig and director Sam Mendes’ first collaboration on Bond, 2012’s monster hit Skyfall, is generally regarded as a high watermark for the series and this, the 24th film in the franchise, doesn’t let itself down.

007 (Daniel Craig) and Bond girl Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) in Spectre

007 (Daniel Craig) and Bond girl Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) in Spectre

If anything, Spectre‘s lighter touch makes it more a popcorn-friendly and enjoyable Bond film than Skyfall, although it doesn’t quite match up to its predecessor in terms of character development or emotional heft, while Roger Deakins’ richly atmospheric cinematography was always going to be hard to top in spite of Interstellar DoP Hoyte van Hoytema’s none-too-shabby efforts this time around.

A manic pre-credits sequence set in Mexico City during the Day Of The Dead festival (featuring a bravura opening tracking shot that has attracted favourable comparisons to Welles’ Touch Of Evil) finds Bond going off the reservation to foil a terrorist plot that nevertheless lands him in hot water with M (Ralph Fiennes), who is trying to save the ’00’ programme from being shut down by C (Andrew Scott), a civil servant with plans to form a draconian global intelligence gathering service.

Christoph Waltz plays Franz Oberhauser (or does he..?) in Spectre

Christoph Waltz plays Franz Oberhauser (or does he..?) in Spectre

Ignoring orders to stay put, Bond investigates a cryptic message from his past that leads him to the dark heart of a shadowy cabal run by the mysterious Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), as well as into the life of Dr Madeline Swann (Léa Seydoux), who reluctantly – at first – goes along for the ride.

The “James Bond Will Return” title at the end of the film aside, Spectre would make both a logical and fitting conclusion to the franchise; such is the neat bow it ties on the Craig era. The typically luxurious credit sequence shows flashes of characters who failed to make it beyond Casino Royale and Skyfall (although not Quantum Of Solace, which underscores just what a write-off that film was); while the opening title “The dead are alive” develops a richer significance beyond the Day Of The Day pre-credits.

Bond (Daniel Craig) and Q (Ben Wishaw) check out a pirated copy of Spectre in... Spectre

Bond (Daniel Craig) and Q (Ben Wishaw) check out a pirated copy of Spectre in… Spectre

What Mendes and the screenwriters (Craig included) have managed more than anything else over the past two films is to get inside the head of our favorite superspy by showing us enough of his back story to keep us wanting more. Both Skyfall and Spectre are, at their heart, richly personal films that just happen to have a whole lot of action.

The tone of Spectre may be more playful and the plotting more conventional in comparison to Skyfall, but that’s not to say it doesn’t light up the screen. The supporting characters add plenty, with Ralph Fiennes’ exasperated M, Naomi Harris’ playful Moneypenny and Ben Wishaw’s drily amusing Q as excellent as ever and Dave Bautista’s deadly Mr Hinx reminiscent of Robert Shaw’s imposing thug in From Russia With Love (with a train bust-up to boot).

Humongous henchman Mr Hinx (Dave Bautista) in Spectre

Humongous henchman Mr Hinx (Dave Bautista) in Spectre

Seydoux oozes sultry charisma as Swann, who clearly knows her own mind and is more than a match for 007 (shame the same can’t be said for Monica Belluci’s widow who submits to Bond’s alpha maleness quicker than you can say “keep the British end up”).

Waltz has an oily threat that reveals itself in increments, while Craig once again fills the shoes of the leading man with a consummate deadpan ease that leaves you wondering what’s left to mine for his successor.

If this is to be Craig’s adieu from the Bond franchise, as has been suggested, he could have done a lot worse than make the spec-tacular Spectre his swan song.

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41 comments

  1. vinnieh · October 30, 2015

    Wonderful review, I’m seeing it on Monday and can’t wait.

  2. Stu · October 30, 2015

    Good write-up mate. I enjoyed Spectre but it’s not quite up there with the very best Bond films for me. Certainly in the second tier though, which is no bad thing. I hasten to add that I’m a massive Roger Moore fan, so you can take anything I say about the franchise with a pinch of salt!
    I’m with you on Bellucci’s character, by the way; that scene was ridiculous. I don’t think Bond had built up a smidgen of steam, never mind a head.

    • Three Rows Back · October 30, 2015

      Thanks for the feedback Stu. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to be a Moore fan! I love old Rog, but Craig’s Bond movies are a cut above and I have to say I had a blast with this.

  3. jameshaseltine · October 30, 2015

    My issue with Spectre: why try to make the whole draconian intelligence agency plot central, if only to have Bond quite clearly give less than two shits? Make the film about Bond and Oberhauser and this could have been so much better.

    • Three Rows Back · October 30, 2015

      Hey James. I agree that the Bond/Oberhauser dichotomy was the most interesting part of the movie and deserved to be explored more. As for Bond giving less than two shits about the intelligence agency plot, well, he is a single-minded bastard isn’t he?!

  4. Thomas Brownridge · October 30, 2015

    Spectre was a let down for me, some scenes didn’t have to be in. It was like they ran out of ideas and had to fill in the gaps.

    • Three Rows Back · October 30, 2015

      Hmmm, naturally I don’t agree as you’ve probablt gathered from my review. I’d be interested to read your take on it.

  5. le0pard13 · October 30, 2015

    God, I looking forward to this! Fine review, Mark. Only heightens my resolve to see this…maybe three times now. 😉

    • Three Rows Back · October 30, 2015

      Cheers mate. I really hope you enjoy this as much as I did. Some have taken against it. It’s not up there with Skyfall, but it’s a rollercoaster.

  6. vinnieh · October 30, 2015

    I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts on it when I’ve seen it. Especially with you as you’re a huge Bond fan.

    • Three Rows Back · October 30, 2015

      Look forward to reading them mate!

      • vinnieh · October 30, 2015

        Much appreciate that. I did a post recently with links to all my Bond reviews, be sure to check out any you might have missed.

      • Three Rows Back · October 30, 2015

        Will do mate

      • vinnieh · October 30, 2015

        Thanks mate.

  7. Victor De Leon · October 31, 2015

    Cannot WAIT!!! Argh, I can barely contain my enthusiasm, Mark! Will bounce back after I’ve seen it, and read the entire write up, buddy!

  8. ruth · October 31, 2015

    Oh man, so jealous you’ve seen this already Mark! Great review man, I can’t wait to see this next Wednesday!

    • Three Rows Back · October 31, 2015

      Ha ha; have a blast with it Ruth!

      • ruth · November 4, 2015

        I’m seeing it tonight, Mark, can’t wait!! Hope you stop by for a special Bond edition of Five for the Fifth 😉

      • Three Rows Back · November 4, 2015

        Always do 🙂

  9. Chris Evans · November 1, 2015

    Great review, as a lot are saying SPECTRE’s not as good as Skyfall (or Casino Royale in my opinion) but it’s a solid effort that’ll I’ll probably appreciate more on repeat viewings.

    • Michael in Cannes · November 2, 2015

      “Casino Royale” was the movie that really regenerated the franchise, bringing it truly into the 21st century.

    • Three Rows Back · November 4, 2015

      Skyfall was such a success on all levels that Spectre was always going to struggle to top it. I think what they did to not copy Skyfall tonally was the smart decision.

      • Chris Evans · November 4, 2015

        True about the tone, although I think some of the humour was a little too much (the car chase in Rome for example).

  10. vinnieh · November 3, 2015

    Saw it yesterday and it was magnificent stuff, as soon as I got home I reviewed it and really want to see the movie again.

    • Three Rows Back · November 4, 2015

      Nice one mate. It’s a whole lot of fun isn’t it? I’ll be catching this again soon too 🙂

      • vinnieh · November 4, 2015

        I hope to see it again, please check my review.

      • Three Rows Back · November 4, 2015

        Will make sure to mate.

      • vinnieh · November 4, 2015

        Cheers man.

  11. Dan · November 6, 2015

    Sounds good. Looking forward to catching up with this. The reviews, in general, have been positive so it’s encouraging to read another one.

    • Three Rows Back · November 13, 2015

      Well, I enjoyed it, although there has been something of a backlash.

  12. Tom · November 7, 2015

    “Craig once again fills the shoes of the leading man with a consummate deadpan ease that leaves you wondering what’s left to mine for his successor.”

    Well that is a brilliant observation, dear sir. I have to say it’s something I haven’t thought of yet as Craig really has made this guy his own and in my humble opinion, he’s the best of the lot, with Connery registering a very very close second (mostly due to all that sexual charisma rather than his blunt physicality in the action set).

    I find myself very torn on Spectre. Waltz and Seydoux were dazzling additions though i wish the latter hadn’t fallen into such a damsel-in-distress type role despite her indications early on she would be no such thing. and i could nitpick several other things, but really, what’s the point? The film was still a whole lot of fun and well worth seeing again if my bank account allows! 🙂

    • Three Rows Back · November 13, 2015

      Why thank you squire! Craig has really made the part his own hasn’t he? There were a few times when it looked like he was going through the motions here, but then I realised it’s probably just his very laid back, very British delivery. I worry that if I watch this again it won’t stand up to scrutiny nearly so well, but that’s for another day.

  13. Adam (Consumed by Film) · November 11, 2015

    Great work mate, wholly agree. Lots to have fun with here, and a bit of character depth to match (though not quite as much as Skyfall). I really enjoyed this.

    • Three Rows Back · November 11, 2015

      Glad to hear it mate. It’s overlong and a couple of bits don’t work but it’s bags of fun.

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  15. The Dippylomat, Esq. · November 16, 2015

    I swore never to see another Bond film after Skyfail. In fact, I only watched that after the epic let down of The Bourne Ultimatum which prompted my desperate bid to try and found a new quasi-sophisitcated action hero for an annual cinema guilty pleasure.
    I’ve never really enjoyed a Bond film as an adult, but Live & Let Die stood alone as a genuinely good film. I revisited a few others of late while suffering from a bout of the flu: Goldfinger, The Man With the Golden Gun, Octopussy and found them all to be utter tosh watches as an adult.
    So, quite the surprise that my anti-action movie wife suggested we went to see Spectre. Maybe this was just the right film at the right time, but for me this is the best Bond film ever made. Having read a little of late of what it was Ian Fleming wanted to portray in the character, it feels like the script and Craig’s interpretation have finally achieved that goal – proper classy-like.
    I felt a bit let down by the ease of which blondie fell in love with Bondie, but it did feel like they are slowly ironing out the overtly sexist glitches.

    • Three Rows Back · November 23, 2015

      Hang on a minute. “Epic let down of The Bourne Ultimatum”? I thought you loved that film! Unless, your whole comment is ironic and I’m being slow! Glad you loved Spectre; for me it ain’t the best Bond, but it’s ridiculously entertaining, if somewhat overlong. Thought the ease with which Monica Belluci’s grieving widow shagged 007 was nonsense, but then he is James Bond!

      • The Dippylomat, Esq. · November 25, 2015

        Fuckity fuck fuck… Legacy, I meant Bourne Legacy.

      • Three Rows Back · November 25, 2015

        That’s what I thought! I recall your text after watching Ultimatum- “Best. Movie. Ever.”

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