Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, and Naomie Harris.
Warning spoilers ahead:
Certainly the Best Pre-title Scene in Many Years
After the overwhelming success of Skyfall, the top grossing British film of all time, it must have been difficult for director Sam Mendes and Eon productions to do it bigger and better. Spectre does not try to break the Bond formula in the way that the previous Daniel Craig era Bond films have done. It is clear from the pre title sequence; an immersive tracking shot through the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico City and the climax of a helicopter somersault above its skies. Certainly the best pre title scene in many years, showing that Spectre is not short of ambition.
This Bond film is different to the stock we have been getting used to in recent years. Despite the big set pieces it feels much more like a John le Carre adaptation than a blustering action adventure film. Spectre is very well paced and a real slow burner. I never felt fatigued by either the action or the numerous conversations and surprised leaving the theatre those two and a half hours of my life had disappeared so enjoyably.
Technically Spectre is visually stunning. Swiss Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema makes the best use of Bonds extraordinary frequent flyer miles as well as his previous experience working on Tinker Tailor Solder Spy (2011) and Interstellar (2014). The previously mentioned pre title sequence is a technical wonder. His ability to bring out the best of settings, contrasting the warmness of Mexico City, Rome and Tangier to the clinical brutalism of London and the Austrian Alps. Combining this with the Editing of Lee Smith and soundtrack of Thomas Newman creates a very atmospheric moody film, throwing back to not only the early Bond films but similar ‘Rivera classics’ such as To Catch A thief (1955).
The main threat (if it’s not obvious enough being the title of the film) is Spectre; a shadowy organisation that it turns out has been Bonds nemesis for quite some time. Their master plan does not involve a giant space laser or anything so extravagant. Spectre’s plan is to hijack government snooping programs to control the world. The Snowden revelationsbleed through and helps turn bond into a poster boy for pro-Snowden ideals. It leads the film to have much more of a political and ethical edge. Giving government power that it can so easily abused. Spectre’s plan does not force a change; it merely encourages a trajectory of thinking that started with 9/11. To the reviewer that’s much scarier than a giant space laser.
Thankfully Bond is not alone in his fight to thwart Spectre. He is accompanied by his old allies at MI6 including M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris). New additions include Bond girls Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci) and Madeline Swann (Léa Seydoux). By all accounts the acting is fantastic. Daniel Craig has naturalised himself into the role of Bond, so much so that I question if he is even acting at all. Christoph Waltz is great as Franz Oberhauser, a throwback to classic Bond villainy. However it is Q and Dr Swann that particularly shine through, giving resounding performances and really creating some quite substantial shoes for those replacing them.
But not everything is enjoyable. The long plot questioned me to how we got all the way here. The car chase through Rome seems underwhelming and while in a sensible place almost feels forced in because the audience expect it. The tentacles in the opening credits are questionable. But the biggest problem is that unlike Skyfall, Spectre plays to what the audience loves about the franchise and clearly references them; the cat .Nevertheless this is not a problem if you’re a long-term admirer of the Franchise; you just overlook those things because it’s what makes the franchise. But I can see those who are not, getting frustrated with what they might see as blatant plot holes (Why is he inviting him back to his lair?!)
Supported by great acting, camera and a slow burning plot, its smarts and style makes Spectre a resounding success. The worst it could do is be a classic, the best is becoming a benchmark for the future of the Franchise. Five Stars.
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