Spectre

Genre: Action, Thriller

Director: Sam Mendes

Screenplay: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth

Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen, Alessandro Cremona, Stephanie Sigman

Running Length: 148 minutes

Synopsis: A cryptic message from Bond’s (Daniel Craig) past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M (Ralph Fiennes) battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind Spectre.

Review: Given the very high bar that Skyfall had set, it was perhaps an unreasonable expectation that Spectre would outdo its predecessor, even if the production remains largely in the same hands. And while it is true that Spectre is a number of notches below Skyfall, it’s still a very decent Bond movie, and is actually more of a Bond movie than Skyfall is. It’s almost as though Sam Mendes, having broken the mould with Skyfall, had decided that his sophomore Bond effort would instead be something that comes much closer to the roots of the franchise.

Spectre opens with a (literal) bang, and minus the rather lackluster Sam Smith title song, ranks as one of the top Bond opening sequences in the franchise’s entire 53-year history. Set in Mexico on the Day of the Dead, the first five minutes is an ingeniously choreographed one-take tracking shot (mad props to Hoyte van Hoytema, who replaces Roger Deakin as DP), followed by an extended, equally stunningly orchestrated action sequence that culminates in a helicopter doing loop the loops over Zocalo Square. This is just the first of a number of great action set pieces in Spectre, and on their own makes the price of entry worthwhile.

This is Daniel Craig’s fourth appearance as James Bond, and he has firmly established himself as the best modern day Bond, handily beating out Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan by a mile in every aspect (Sean Connery is still the iconic Bond for an old Bond fan like me). However, the rest of the cast simply fail to measure up, with both Bond girls Monica Belluci and Lea Seydoux lacking chemistry with Craig, and Christoph Waltz being particularly flat and uninspired as uber-villain Franz Oberhauser. Surprisingly, it’s the minor cast members that make more of an impression, none more so than Ben Whishaw’s expanded appearance as Q, and Andrew Scott’s detestable turn as government bigwig Max Denbigh.

Unlike Skyfall, there’s never a sense that anything is really at stake in Spectre, and it’s hard to be vested in any facet of the film, especially since the conclusion of any Bond film is a foregone one. It is somewhat surprising that Spectre isn’t pared down to a more manageable length, since the near two and a half hour running time does no favours to the film, and I found my interest flagging a little at times. There is definitely enough going on to not make the film feel like a bore, but it almost feels as though Mendes and crew got a bit lost along the way in an attempt to pull out all the stops for the film.

This is rumoured to be Daniel Craig’s last outing as Bond, and in a way that may not matter, since Spectre manages to wrap up the four-movie story arc quite nicely. It would not be surprising if this film becomes the end of yet another era, and a seventh actor will step up to take the mantle in the 25th Bond film. Although this isn’t the best Bond film in the Daniel Craig era, it will still be a decent swansong for the actor, and a tough act for the next James Bond to follow.

Rating: * * * (out of four stars)

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