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Spectre - Review * 27 October 2015


Exceptionally directed, produced and acted, Spectre ultimately comes off as a sporadically entertaining grab bag of Bond's greatest hits while never quite gaining a full handle on its moderately overstuffed plot, often to the detriment of the numerous villains it packs into its overlong runtime.

Acting as a direct sequel to the superb 50th anniversary celebration that was Skyfall, Spectre makes a strong attempt at weaving all four of Daniel Craig's Bond films into a single cohesive narrative - the nefarious and secretive organisation that finally slips out of the shadows here was actually controlling all the previous villains (and some of the allies) from Casino Royale onwards. But where Skyfall doubled down and went deeply personal with the secret history of James Bond, Spectre is almost self aware in its need to match the success of its predecessor, continuing to unearth skeletons from Bond's closet in an attempt to heighten the stakes while bolting it to an eventual global level threat. Without delving any deeper into the plot for fear of spoilers, it doesn't quite come off.

Daniel Craig has settled into his interpretation of James Bond, snarky rather than smarmy, and not one to crack a proper quip. He remains a brutally efficient and muscular presence rather than a truly suave creature, most at home with an automatic weapon pressed into his shoulder. The biggest revelation here is Ralph Fiennes as M, bringing an equal edge to both the political battles and physical action. Ben Whishaw as Q dominates the returning allies of Naomie Harris and Rory Kinnear through his nervy energy, at one point stuck out in the field and being forced to rely on his own considerable wits. And while Monica Belluci doesn't feature enough screen time to make any form of impact, Lea Seydoux is a spectacular romantic foil to Bond as Madeline Swann - in particular, her genuine physical capability glosses over the fact that in the end, she's there to be rescued by the hero after all.   

Top billed villain Christoph Waltz is sadly slightly wasted as Oberhauser (yes, there is a Star Trek Into Darkness style non-twist relating to his identity), not gaining enough early screen time to make a true impact while never featuring the level of personality displayed by Javier Bardem's Silva in the previous film. Faring far better is Dave Bautista as the brutish, (almost) mute henchman Mr Hinx who finally proves the physical superior of Craig's Bond, while not being allowed to be as verbose as his star making turn in Guardians of the Galaxy.


And of course, there's Andrew Scott, in fine, smarmily English accented form as Max Denbigh, the new head of MI5 and the butt of the film's strongest moments of humour as various characters hint at suggestions of potential versions of his code name of C. For Sherlock fans, there's a rather good moment relating to his final moments on screen that could be very well appreciated - depending on how you want to interpret it. Most importantly, there's no sign of Jim Moriarty at all here, despite some fairly obvious temptations relating to the material - a testament to Andrew's acting skills.

Beautifully directed by Sam Mendes, shot in amazing locations worthy of a Bond film - once again, London feels like a real character itself in proceedings, particularly in the final sequences - Spectre ultimately lacks a true wow moment to match Skyfall. It seems churlish to label the film underwhelming, but one feels there's a great Bond movie lurking under the slightly bloated surface here that could appear with some fine editing. But as a potential capper to the retconned story arc set out through the entire Daniel Craig era thus far, it succeeds as a protracted final narrative act that's furnished with some spectacular set pieces.  




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