Director: Sam Mendes (2015)
From the breathtaking beginning to the doom laden finale, the 24th James Bond adventure is an extraordinary explosive and epic episode of the franchise.
Now the daddy of espionage returns to slap down the young pretenders.
Returning in his fourth and possibly final film of an extraordinarily successful tenure, the 47 year old Daniel Craig offers an interpretation of Ian Fleming’s alter-ego at least equal to the very best.
Spectre is fresh and ambitious despite the weight of history and expectation.
So spectacular, sexy and superb in all departments, it sometimes feels less than the sum of its magnificent parts.
Yet British director Sam Mendes is playing a bigger game than merely creating a standalone action thriller.
He’s also made a fabulous final chapter in a four film reinvention of an overly familiar character.
Prior to Craig each Bond movie was a self-contained story connected not by story but by character.
It’s now clear we’ve been watching a long form story which began way back with the Englishman’s debut in the role in Casino Royale (2006).
This approach won’t harm the home entertainment box-set sales.
The famous gun barrel opening sequence is re-installed and few themes create a shiver of expectation as effectively as Bond’s does.
Following on from Skyfall (2012), a message from beyond the grave sends 007 off-piste and outside the law.
As he follows a trail of clues from Rome, to Austria and Morocco, he once more encounters the deadly Quantum organisation.
It’s a procession vodka martini’s, dangerous women, gorgeous locations, terrific stunts, powerful henchmen and a completely cuckoo villain. Bond’s car is quite beautiful even by his standards.
There’s paranoia, conspiracy, betrayal, torture, sex and death.
And as a riposte to those who suggest Craig’s interpretation lacks humour, it’s also very funny.
A trio of European stars add indispensable talent and glamour.
As the oldest actress to be cast opposite Bond, Monica Bellucci’s widow riffs on a character on in The Italian Job (1969).
They also contribute to the two and a half hour running time and if anything was to be trimmed, it would be this extra muscle.
As cinema owners will be forced to have fewer screenings per day to accommodate Bond’s length, it will be interesting to see if this affects the box office.
This potential shortfall may be compensated for by more expensive IMAX tickets. The opening Mexico sequence certainly warrants the extra cost to the cinema-goer.
It’s dynamically photographed by Dutch-Swedish Hoyte van Hoytema. His work on Interstellar (2014) was one of the few high points of Chris Nolan’s pompous ego trip.
But here the rich wreaths of shadows he wraps around the players are more reminiscent of his glorious work which contributed so much to the success of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011).
Sam Smith’s theme song sounds thin on the radio but works well in situ over the sensual opening titles.
Mendes encourages his actors to play every scene as if it’s their last. Which for Daniel Craig, may well be the case.