Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond has seen Ian Fleming’s iconic spy stripped back to basics and rebuilt from the ground-up over the course of four movies. SPECTRE now delivers the Bond film that fans have been waiting for since Craig first slipped on the tuxedo in 2006’s Casino Royale. The stage was set at the end of Skyfall when all the elements were in place to make the quintessential Bond adventure and Sam Mendes, Daniel Craig et al deliver on that promise. What you have here is the most relaxed James Bond film in years, and one that embraces everything which has occurred over the last 50 years. Homage is paid to every era in Bond’s cinematic history, from Sean Connery to Roger Moore and even Pierce Brosnan.
SPECTRE begins with a stylish and action-packed sequence in Mexico City. It’s a tremendous show of confidence that riffs on the Bond legacy and again shows Craig’s physical prowess in the role. Humour and action intermix to deliver a tense sequence that culminates with a helicopter fight that infuses Paul McCartney’s Live And Let Die theme into Thomas Newman’s score, while also incorporating the car flip from The Man With The Golden Gun (kazoo-style soundtrack included). The spectre of the Roger Moore era looms large over Craig’s fourth Bond film, with a lot of the film’s stylistic choices harking back to many of Moore’s best moments.
Things take a serous knock with Sam Smiths’ flacid Writing’s On The Wall, before things get back on track as Bond is lambasted by M (Ralph Fiennes), meets with Moneypenny (Naomi Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) before hot-tailing it to Rome in 009’s new Aston Martin, on the trail of the mysterious SPECTRE organisation. Along the way he meets Monica Bellucci’s as the glamorous widow, before finding himself in the midst of a SPECTRE meeting, where a blast from the past comes in the form of Christoph Waltz’s Franz Oberhauser. Bond escapes, chased by henchman Hinx (David Bautista) leading to a spectacular and witty chase through Rome. There’s the usual globetrotting before Bond meets Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), the daughter of his old foe Mr White (Jesper Christensen). Bond must thwart Oberhauser plan’s to steal the world’s intelligence information and use it for nefarious purposes.
SPECTRE continues the tradition of all Daniel Craig’s Bond movies by building on what has gone before it. Sure, the Quantum organisation has now morphed into SPECTRE but the general narrative of Bond’s tale remains the same. Craig has finally relaxed into the role and he’s let many of the traditional Bond traits come to their natural resting places around him. One-liners and gadgets are now de-rigour, while it’s finally good to have Q and Moneypenny once again rally around Bond when he’s in need.
Before Skyfall you’d never have imagined that Sam Mendes would have been the man to get Bond back on track, but he brings a schoolboy enthusiasm to his direction. You can almost here him ticking-off his wish list for Bondian moments. If you created a bingo card for Bond moments, you’d be calling ‘Bingo!’ at the half-way mark – and that’s before you get to the villain’s elaborate base, the boat chase finale and even Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his snow white pussy. Yes – Christoph Waltz’s Franz Oberhauser is indeed playing Bond’s long-standing nemesis.
This is the first time the character has graced the screen in an official capacity since 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. Legal troubles meant that SPECTRE and Blofeld were off the table for the Broccoli family for decades, but those problems have now been ironed out as the character is once again able to pull the strings behind future evil plans. Mendes, Craig and the Broccalis have managed to reboot Blofeld in the post Austin Powers age, whilst maintaining all the tropes that make him so iconic. Cat, scar and Nehru jacket are all present and correct alongside his plans for world domination.
SPECTRE isn’t without its flaws. The aforementioned theme song is a bust (but that can be said for nearly all the ditties over the last decade); Monica Belluci and David Bautista are criminally underused and a few plot points are a touch too convenient. However, these niggles don’t hinder the enjoyment of such a first class piece of big budget entertainment.
SPECTRE delivers everything that James Bond fans would want. Great stunts, plenty of humour and glamorous locations connect to make the most iconic Bond film over the course of Daniel Craig’s decade in the role. Now that everything is in place, it would be great to see him deliver a fifth and final film that continues to offer-up all the classic Bond traits. No matter what happens in the 25th adventure, it’s great to finally say that James Bond has finally returned.