FILM REVIEW: Spectre (2015)

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Spectre is filled with many things you would now expect from a classic Bond film. Beautiful cars, ladies, locations and stunning action set pieces. Much like Skyfall went back to the ever elusive James Bond’s roots this film also explores Bond’s past and neatly ties up all of Daniel Craig’s Bonds with a nice big bow should, as is rumoured, this be Mr Craig’s last venture as Bond. If this is the case, the man that successfully helped reinvent the franchise again could not have wished for a more fitting end to a genuinely impressive run of high quality Bond films.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie but I realise that people have had mixed feelings towards Spectre, which was very different from the rest of Craig’s Bonds. It seems to be referencing what has come before even more closely than even Casino Royale and Skyfall. Bond in this outing seems to be quicker with the quips and the even more tongue-in-cheek action sequences and car chase scenes seem to reference the days of Connery and Moore’s Bond.

But it also closely references what has come before with regards to Craig’s previous Bonds. Characters long forgotten gain significance once more as we delve into Bond’s past as everything comes full circle. In this respect, Spectre isn’t technically a standalone movie, it’s a bookend to Craig’s career as Bond. With the ‘00’ program under threat from new management, Bond is very much working independently from M, Q and Moneypenny. A new age of British intelligence has arrived and the question is, does Bond have a place in it? This film explores Bond’s own past and eventually brings him face to face with a man from his past that has been lingering on the fringes of Bond’s life from the very beginning. Bond has a lot of battles to fight before he can drive off into the sunset in his DB5 with his Bond girl.

Spectre is simply a beautiful looking film. It has unrivalled locations from the fantastic ‘Day of the Dead’ parade in Mexico, to a car chase through the streets of Rome, snowy Austrian tundra and a scenic train ride through the barren plains of North Africa. Even the opening title sequence with its recurring octopus motif is a feast for the eyes. Everything about this film is highly aesthetically pleasing. This is most apparent during a funeral scene where James Bond and the rest of the mourners just seem to turn into a mass walking advertisement for Tom Ford. But that’s what we love about Bond isn’t it? Bond is by definition glossy, stylish and attractive.

The set-pieces and action sequences are spectacular. We literally get action sequences on planes (helicopters), trains and automobiles. Although sparser than in some films, when the action scenes do happen, they are lengthy, detailed and well-choreographed. The one on the train in particular is outstanding but perhaps lacks the grit and brutality of Casino Royale fight scenes. But then the Bond we see in Spectre is not quite the same Bond. which I feel is a good thing. Who knew the day would come when a Bond would actually get some semblance of a character arc?

The casting as always is spot on. Craig in his fourth outing is very comfortable stepping into his now well-worn Bond shoes. Ralph Fiennes is a very convincing M who isn’t afraid to step from behind his desk and show his mettle. Q and Moneypenny provide Bond with perfect support and prove they are independent characters in their own right, not simply Bond’s little minions. Christoph Waltz makes a wonderful entrance not once, not twice, but three times. His character’s significance is shrouded in mystery for most of the film and Waltz relishes in this. Waltz is a great actor and has the presence a villain should have. The ‘Bond Girl’ played by Lea Seydoux is very refreshing and is very capable of handling herself against any enemies that get in her way. She also (shock horror) doesn’t fall into bed with Bond quite as easily as previous female leads.

However, Spectre is by no means a perfect Bond. It has the longest running time of any Bond and, at times, it feels like it. In order to keep Waltz’s character’s significance hidden, he is absent for much of the film and his all too brief appearances leave the audience with a distinct lack of closure. The segments between Craig and Waltz should have been meatier and not left until the final quarter of the film. Seydoux, although making the most of her limited role, still falls into the cliché love interest trap eventually and let’s not even mention the other ‘Bond girl’ scene that involves Monica Bellucci and Craig sharing a clinch that is almost too awkward to watch and lasts almost as long as her total screen time.

Despite these clichés, I found Spectre thoroughly enjoyable. What is Bond if not clichéd? Craig should be proud to bow out knowing he has left behind very hard shoes to fill for the next reincarnation of Bond.

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