Film Review: Spectre - "Latest Bond movie more than just a ‘Spectacle’"

Spectre a Fine Homage to Bond Classics.

Latest Bond movie more than just a ‘Spectacle’

In this the 24th outing for British Intelligence spy James Bond, 007’s latest offering has been as eagerly anticipated like any other. However, with rumours of Daniel Craig’s time in the famous iconic role at an end, Spectre has been of greater significance, at least in the celluloid world.

In this latest instalment, Bond is sent a cryptic message from his past which sends the agent on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. Meanwhile, as ‘M’ battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond uncovers layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

Sam Mendes again directs, in this, his second Bond movie behind the lens. Mendes won over many critics with Skyfall of three years ago and a successful outing once more, would put him on a pedestal with classic Bond directors the like of Guy Hamilton and Terence Young.

This time around – as one might expect from a modern era James Bond movie – the action begins with a typically grand and exuberant opening, as buildings collapse and Craig surfs the Mexico City skyline ala Kelly Slater. To Mendes’ credit, he doesn’t feel the need to elongate and stretch plausibility boundaries too far, as Marc Forster did with Quantum of Solace (2008), whilst adding a dash of humour to the set-piece. 

Humour does play a subtle part in the movie to sporadically pace and segment the action and storyline. Critics might say this is too hammy, but let us not forget that the Bond movie franchise is laced with Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan’s charming, jack-the-lad tones, so such a sugary flavour to the movie merits a presence.

On the subject of the storyline, the plot has more depth than previous depictions of Bond, but that doesn’t become apparent until the second half of the movie. Spectre is named thus, not so much as a precursor to what is to come in terms of sheer bloody-minded explosion and SFX, but more an allusion to the movie’s bigger picture. Spectre is not necessarily that. Not a spectacle, in any case. It is almost less overwhelming, which is a refreshing change in the modern spy-thriller era.

With regards to that, the first hour does seem a little bit of a procession as we are introduced to several shady characters, without knowing who each individual is and what role they are set to play with regard to James Bond and his fate. In the final hour of the movie, these shadowy, covenant-like players are unveiled like a wedding reception spread that has been so un-erringly laid on. To great effect.

The cast on that note complement each other well, as a good balance of good versus bad. When this particular writer found out Christoph Waltz was cast as the ‘bond baddie’ I was delighted. A good old-fashioned European bad guy. As a huge fan of Oscar-winner Waltz, I had no qualms that his casting would be faultless. 

What we get however, is something with a little more zest. Franz Oberhauser – as we shall call him for the sake of this review – has something that has been lacking in the Dominic Greene and Silva bond baddies of late. Mendes’ introduction of his character as a film noir-like figure, serves as to underline his importance.

 He also has genuine menace akin to Christopher Lee’s Francisco Scaramanga (The Man With The Golden Gun, 1974) or Max Zorin (A View To a Kill, 1985). But most importantly, as we see Oberhauser almost single-handedly dominate the final 30 minutes, the pieces begin to come to together as we realise who he really is and it is a joy to watch.

Without wanting to say too much, the moment Bond wakes after being captured with a certain iconic figure appearing as a blurred, hazy sight, made me want leap up out of my cinema seat in elation. It was brilliant, if not a tad predictable. Was it believable I ask myself? Well, bond movie timelines, don’t have to make sense, of course. 

That is what we have with Spectre. The ingredients are reminiscent of classic bond movies of old. Even the cast have traits of the best elements of an old-school Bond film. For example with Dave Bautista’s turn as hired goon Mr. Hinx, the former WWE Superstar has echoes of Richard Kiel’s Jaws; Bond’s former seemingly invincible metal-toothed nemesis who had boomerang-like tendencies to come back from the dead, though he spoke no words.

We are even treated to a classic fight scene in a train carriage – ala Moonraker (1979) – where Bond and the resident bond girl, Dr. Madeleine Swann settle down in the dining car, before embarking on one of the agent’s many altercations on this particular mode of public transport. Heck – it would be a disappointment for them not to.

On Lea Seydoux’s performance as Daniel Craig’s feminine protagonist, her performance is very likeable. Perhaps previously best known for her role in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, (2011) as diamond-wielding assassin Sabine Moreau, Seydoux can now be put in the bracket of Eva Green’s heart-breaking Vesper Lynd, of Casino Royale (2006).

So how will Spectre go down in Bond movie folklore? The word most have described this movie as, is homage. That is the latest adventure of 007 in a nutshell, but there is so much more to it than that. As documented, the final hour of the movie really ramps up the pace and the evolution of the plot, it is a thriller in every sense; you are on the edge of your seat. But the iconic shots and images live with you after the credits roll.

Some have called Spectre ‘the greatest Bond movie ever’. That might be a tad generous and rather flippant, to challenge the crown of the mighty Goldeneye (1995) or Live and Let Die (1973.) The 24th James Bond movie is amalgamation of all great Bond movie moments, but to call it the best would be like describing a Greatest Hits album as a band’s best record.

 Nevertheless, because it is so, Spectre stands with Bond fans as a classic and one of the best.

Words of Neil Leverett