Thrown straight into the vibrancy of Mexico City’s Day of the Dead, Spectre pulls no punches. The 24th instalment of the James Bond franchise is a superbly orchestrated visual feast that dishes out heart pumping action and heart stopping tension in equal measure. Importantly though, Spectre retains the new depth that Bond took on in Skyfall, as well as some of the charm of the franchises more tried and tested devices.
Bond is again portrayed as something more human than his original super-hero-esque iterations.
Firstly, it has to be said that Spectre’s action is absolutely remarkable- it’s breathless, edge of your seat viewing that very rarely sacrifices believability or clarity. Memorable moments include an air-borne punch up inside a helicopter and a car chase through the streets of Rome in two jaw-dropping supercars. Of course plenty of films deliver great action and doing so is arguably the very least Bond’s return had to do. But Spectre’s action sequences exceed expectation and form the foundation of the film. Don’t fret though this film has much more to offer.
It’s the re-appearance of Blofeld as the film’s antagonist though that has accrued the most press coverage, speculation and surprise.
As he was in Skyfall, Bond is again portrayed as something more human than his original super-hero-esque iterations. This evolution of Bond has given him vulnerabilities and Spectre offers one or two more small glimpses of the man behind the licence to kill. Strangely (there’s no real precedent in Bond for this,) we even see, very briefly, where he lives in London and see a redressing of the balance between Bond as a man with emotions and Bond as a predictable womaniser. Craig builds this added humanity into his performance perfectly and shines through-out, alongside a fantastic supporting cast.
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In examining Spectre’s performances though Christoph Waltz and Léa Seydoux have to be singled out. Waltz as Ernst Stavro Blofeld breathes new life into a role that is now decades old and Seydoux makes Dr. Madeleine Swann as mysterious as she is warm and endearing. She’s also a suitably three dimensional character with her own vulnerabilities and her own strengths, which Spectre doesn’t hesitate to put on show. It’s the re-appearance of Blofeld as the film’s antagonist though that has accrued the most press coverage, speculation and surprise. Blofeld has not been a part of the series since 1971’s Diamonds are Forever but was Bond’s arch nemesis throughout the early instalments of the franchise. His reappearance is symbolic of Mendes’ wider desire to hark back and pay tribute to the classic clichés and formulas that make Bond, Bond. The return of the DB5, the even less subtle return of Blofeld’s cat, the increasing use of humour in the Skyfall which increased again in Spectre and the re-appearance of Spectre, as an organisation. All of these factors embody Sam Mendes’ desire, as the director, to re-inject some traditional Bond into a steadily evolving franchise.
It’s much more than a big money sequel, at a time when they are all too common…
Overall Bond’s 24th instalment has impressively lived up to the heavy weight of expectation placed upon it. Having built on resurgent Bond themes that re-appeared in Skyfall Sam Mendes has definitely crafted another memorable addition to the series and made a perfect sign off film for himself and maybe for Daniel Craig. Of course it’s not the perfect film, but importantly it’s much more than a big money sequel, at a time when they are all too common. Spectre is, in essence, another great combination of the original Bond formula with something much more cutting edge. It doesn’t fall into the trap that Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace did by trying too hard to be a modern, cutting edge action film. Instead it plays its cutting edge action and drama alongside the characteristic, hallmark clichés that have made James Bond great.
By George Storr
Want more Bond? Try our run-down of the Top Ten Bond Villains here.