Spoiler warning! This review will include information which will hamper your enjoyment of the movie if you haven’t seen it so stop reading until you have watched the film.
Spectre is the 24th official James Bond film and the fourth to star Daniel Craig. After the fine departure from James Bond tradition in Skyfall, Spectre is a return to first principles. A film franchise which has surpassed 50 years is likely to have a successful formula and Bond 24 follows it to the letter but to assume that using a familiar method makes the result predictable discounts the enjoyable journey which the viewer takes. Admittedly, it does follow the traditional format, we find Bond in the field, a struggle which he overcomes, titles, visit M, visit Q, back out into the field, following leads until he faces the villain in their lair, overcoming improbable odds to become victorious. Clearly it is a system that works and if you enjoy James Bond movies, as I do, you will enjoy this one also.
The plot and imagery, beginning with the first bullet hole crack teasers and continued into the title sequence, focuses on an organisation which like an octopus has all-encompassing tentacles reaching across the world. That organisation is Spectre, a familiar name in James Bond history, mentioned in the very first movie Dr No in 1962 and an octopus insignia had even been seen in Thunderball for example. With Christoph Waltz cast as the villain of the piece it was not a gigantic leap of faith to conclude he would be Ernst Stavro Blofeld and even by the end of Spectre he has acquired the familiar facial scar worn by Donald Pleasence in his portrayal of the character. To call this film a rehash or homage of past glories would be far off the mark.
Spectre brings to a conclusion the four Daniel Craig Bond films, culminating in the complete tying up of a storyline which began in 2006 with Casino Royale. His second film, Quantum of Solace, alluded to this overarching organisation and I am pleased to have had that story brought together in what one can only presume is Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007. He has been a captivating Bond, ably delivering both the witty one-liners and the physical action scenes which have revitalised the brand and brought it into the 21st Century competing with the successful Bourne trilogy. But Craig is just the lead in a spectacular ensemble cast.
Christoph Waltz is fantastic casting with his understated menace accompanied by the experienced performance of Ralph Fiennes. This is also a movie for the newer faces, the physically dominating Dave (Batista) Bautista a perfect henchman, Andrew Scott and Ben Whishaw nailing their characters. For a series of films which is often derided as being chauvinistic the three actresses deliver equally strong performances with each having a role to play in the unfolding drama.
As expected the film sequences are beautiful, shot in a variety of locations including Mexico City, Austria and Morocco. All of the expected boxes are ticked with stunt vehicles on land with a car chase through the streets of Rome, helicopters in the air and boats on the water. There is even a fight sequence on a train evoking memories of From Russia With Love (1963) and a record-breaking film stunt explosion, setting the standards once more for the action movie genre.
Whilst Spectre sticks to the tried and tested formula there is also a move away from the norm in its conclusion, Bond not just gets the girl but keeps her and drives off into the sunset. Although, the final credits reveal that James Bond Will Return, it seems that Daniel Craig will not. His time as Bond is neatly concluded by Spectre and unlike the calamitous Die Another Day which brought to an end Pierce Brosnan’s time with the Walther PPK, Craig finishes on a high. In another 20 years it may be considered to be a classic example of a 007 movie because of the formulaic pathway taken during it’s run time.