Is it Spectre-ular..?
This will probably read as a rather unique review of the latest James Bond release, as I have to make the admission that I have never actually seen a James Bond movie at the cinema. In fact, I have never seen the entirety of a James Bond movie. From bits I’d seen and tropes that have entered cultural infamy (cars, women, booze, guns and repeat) I had somewhat written them off. But – if you have forgiven this near-heresy and are still reading this – you may be pleased to hear that I may be willing to admit I was wrong. Well, a tiny bit. All of the factors that put me off are present by are portrayed in a way that is almost self-referential, lovingly poking fun at the Bond mythology without crossing into the boundary of satire. The tone is almost playful, with nods and winks instead of revelling in history. Yet, whilst reliant on what I can ascertain to be the well-established 007 formula, Spectre is a compelling and exhilarating movie. The fact it manages to maintain viewer interest when clocking in at 2.5 hours is no mean feat…
James Bond (Daniel Craig) is in Mexico during Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). Bond’s order is to kill an assassin who was previously unknown to him. Upon returning to London, as a result of his actions in Mexico, Bond is placed on leave by the current M (Ralph Fiennes). But, believing there to be more to his mission than he initially realised, he must rely on the help of Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) uncover threats both personal and that could destroy the 00 programme forever.
Bond and his helpers are incredibly well-played. Craig is a balance of head-strong and charming, playing his Bond as rather self-aware. His rapport with Q, Moneypenny, M and the Bond girls is whip-crack smart and believable. The main threat to his current way of existence is C (Andrew Scott), who believes the 00 programme to be out-dated – that the only way countries can monitor national threats is through constant surveillance and sharing of information between countries. Scott uses his experience as Moriarty in the BBC series Sherlock to great effect – creating a seemingly sinister and smarmy character. Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista) is a fantastically malicious force, though with little dialogue he manages to have truly terrifying screen presence. Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) is a rather great Bond villain – essentially presented with less obvious malice than Bautista’s Hinx, he is swiftly revealed to be a true threat.
The opening sequence of the film, set in Mexico during Día de Muertos, is a stand-out sequence. Well-paced and action-packed it hooks the viewer in. The amount of extras is extraordinary, literally thousands all dressed in astonishingly beautiful costumes. It is then followed by a truly weird titled sequence, with a use of octopuses that seemed akin to a certain genre of Hentai. Perhaps an attempt to ensure the Japanese box office..? In this – admittedly rather bizarre context – the song works. Sam Smith’s Writings on the Wall sets up the films bittersweet tinge. The film that then proceeds has enough twists to entertain, big set pieces set all across the world and is solidly good. Perhaps on the overlong side, Spectre is a solid packed with enough punches to ensure that you’re paying attention, and filled with some excellent cast performances.
It’s good. As good as you’d exSpectre…