The success of 2012’s Skyfall hung heavily over all our expectations. With virtually unanimous applause, it redefined a ‘tough act to follow’. I therefore admit that I was sceptical – could director Sam Mendes really return to make a sequel worthy of its predecessor?
In Spectre, Bond is back, and finds himself once again at the centre of an intriguing narrative, caught in a spider’s web of criminals, lovers, and painful memories, at the centre of which is, of course, the villain who is pulling all of their strings. Bond must uncover a mysterious organisation while M and Q fight to keep MI6 standing. ‘The dead are alive’ are the first words we see, establishing the eerie theme that permeates Spectre. The words also serve to introduce one of the best opening scenes to date which takes place in Mexico amidst The Day of the Dead festival. It is surely no coincidence that it was released so close to Halloween.
Spectre is exotic, sexy, and stylish. It carries the franchise effortlessly into the modern age without forgetting its identity. Mendes manages to take those Bond trademarks we know and love – the Aston Martin, Martinis, gadgets and tailors them to a relevant, contemporary narrative which addresses, as Bond always has, the current insecurities of our society.
It is certainly not a film that falls short of variety. A vast range of locations, characters, and tones are explored within the film, which makes the hefty 148 minutes go by in an instant. The cinematography is especially gorgeous to behold as we visit Italy, Mexico, Morocco, and Austria before finally returning to London. The tone is no less varied, moving from the witty, to the startling, to the tragic, Spectre never ceases to be interesting.
The soundtrack was virtually impeccable, from the glamorously exotic to the brooding orchestral, before the classic Bond theme screams to accompany the Aston Martin’s screeching tyres. I even managed to sit through Sam Smith’s Bond theme without reacquainting myself with my popcorn.
The cast was another asset. Daniel Craig was brilliant as always, and Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz assumed the role of the villain superbly (my only reservation being that the script was not quite on par with Waltz’s acting potential). Léa Seydoux played her part convincingly as did Monica Bellucci, although it would be nice to see a Bond Girl with a more active role. It was good to see that all of Dave Bautista’s acting lessons from 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy were put to the test, his character ‘Mr. Hinx’ almost given multiple words in one scene. Nevertheless, he adequately fulfils the role of the henchman, the fight scenes between him and Bond making me inwardly cry for Craig, and having to reassure myself that it was ‘just a movie’ as Bautista flung Bond across the room.
After viewing Spectre, I can surely say that the Bond franchise is one of the few consistently reliable film series we have left. Its variety, its style, and its awareness of the audience all serve to make it a truly great film, not one without flaws, but one which lives up to the best of the franchise. Spectre will doubtless be shown in cinemas for many weeks to come, so find yourself a spare evening, get the popcorn, and buy yourself a ticket. You’re in for a treat.
Image: Allstar/United Artists