Spectre

 

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The 24th 'official' Bond is not quite Skyfall, but it still delivers on all the right levels.

 

Spectre
Running mates: Daniel Craig and Léa Seydoux

 

It doesn’t matter who’s behind the camera, who sings the theme song or who the girl is, the latest James Bond film has to be seen by every self-respecting film buff. Sam Mendes’ Skyfall set a new gold standard and even with Mendes back in the director’s chair, Spectre was never going to top it. Even so, it’s a damned good Bond film. The choices in its creation are all intelligent ones: a double Oscar-winning actor as the villain, a fresh and particularly alluring French star as ‘the girl’ and a topic – that of global, unfriendly surveillance – uncomfortably close to the bone.

 

What’s so compelling about the re-booted Daniel Craig Bond films is that they’re all connected, so that the last film overlaps with the next. Thus, Mr White (Jesper Christensen) is still at large, Bond’s love for Vesper Lynd still an emotional bruise and the presence of Judi Dench as M more than a shadow – at the least a warm glow. As the new M, Ralph Fiennes – one of the finest actors of his generation – has still to make his mark (at the moment he recalls a more handsome Leonard Rossiter), although Naomie Harris has Miss Moneypenny in the bag. As Q, Ben Whishaw has more to do this time round and we learn that he lives alone with two cats. But those cats mean an awful lot to him.

 

The surprises, both large and small, keep on mounting and the narrative momentum of Spectre, the twenty-fourth ‘official’ Bond film, never lets up: even though, as tradition dictates, it hops all over the planet. The prologue, set during the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico City, is suitably gobsmacking and once again MI6 is forced to question the sustainability of their most famous secret agent. And there’s a new suit in town, a jumped-up arrogant pen-pusher (Andrew Scott) who’s threatening to dismantle the entire 00 programme. Meanwhile James Bond slips off the grid in an attempt to preserve the status quo, even with his superiors and the preternaturally gorgeous Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) and egomaniacal Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) wishing he’d go away. But you know Bond. Even in the middle of nowhere he manages to rustle up a Tom Ford suit and exhibit supernatural abilities, while constantly keeping his eye on the bigger picture. And as the Bond films become ever more sophisticated, so the torture scenes intensify accordingly. Of course, there’s always been an ugly side to the violence in these films, although prior to what Bond experiences here, he quips to his tormentor, “nothing can be as painful as listening to you talk,” which momentarily alleviates the horror.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen, Tam Williams.

 

Dir Sam Mendes, Pro Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, Screenplay John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth, Ph Hoyte van Hoytema, Pro Des Dennis Gassner, Ed Lee Smith, Music Thomas Newman, Costumes Jany Temime.

 

Eon Productions-Sony Pictures.

147 mins. UK/USA. 2015. Rel: 26 October 2015. Cert. 12A.