Spectre

****

Reviewed by: Jane Fae

Daniel Craig in Spectre
"The ultimate catch is that Spectre is no longer the villainous outsider. Their badness is corporate: its core, global surveillance and information technology."

I am always very wary of describing this or that movie as the “best in franchise” because, of course, no sooner have I done that then the geek brigade are along two minutes later to explain why I am wrong, why I failed to note the intense subtlety that took place during the 17th minute of the preceding film, and, ultimately, to question my right to grade strawberries, let alone review film.

So I am going out on a limb here in writing: Spectre is one of the best Bond movies ever. It might even deserve the coveted top place, narrowly pipping at the post predecessor, Skyfall, and streets ahead of the critically acclaimed, but otherwise confusing Casino Royale, with which the current incarnation of Bond (Daniel Craig) rebooted the legend.

Copy picture

On the surface, Spectre brings together and concludes a quartet that started with Casino Royale, making sense of apparently random plot strands woven into Quantum Of Solace and Skyfall. Even the latter, which seems to stand alone, turns out to link to Spectre, the ultimate bogey organisation who now, at last, emerge from the shadows.

It starts with the usual spectacular chase and destruction scene, in which Bond eliminates bad boy Marco Sciarra (Alessandro Cremona) in Mexico City. Clue: do not, ever, get in a helicopter with Bond.

Back in London, Bond is chewed out by new M, Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) and stood down. It’s an order he obeys for less than two seconds, before jetting off to Rome to infiltrate a meeting of Spectre – an organisation whose existence he has first become aware of when he rips a signet ring off the finger of the about-to-die Marco. Covertly aided and abetted by Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), he learns that Spectre is a global network of evil-doing led by supposedly long-dead Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz).

(Much credit to the producers for this casting decision: Waltz has mostly trodden water since his brilliant casting as Col Hans Landa in Inglourious Bastards but Oberhauser is a role he seems born to.)

Bond pauses only to trash a £3 million supercar in the Tiber, en route to tracking down Mr White (Jesper Christensen), who we first encountered in Casino Royale and his daughter, Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux). Then we’re on to the BIG destruction scene during which Bond is taken to Oberhauser’s desert hideaway, and blows it up. Or are we?

For the ultimate catch is that Spectre is no longer the villainous outsider. Their badness is corporate: its core, global surveillance and information technology. Which leads us to the existential problem at the heart of rebooted Bond. It is, ultimately, very difficult to distinguish Spectre and big business everywhere. OK, Spectre kill people with rather greater relish than Megacorp plc.

Increasingly, though, the issue is one of degree. This raises some real question marks about Bond’s role in the 21st century. For initial backdrop to the main action, but finally main course, after Spectre is supposedly blown up, is a plan by M’s new boss, Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott), otherwise C, to link up global intelligence services in an over-arching surveillance programme and drop the 00 programme as old-fashioned and dated.

So the real threat is IT, and the final finale comes along with even more pyrotechnics, in London. In the film’s last half hour we learn “what C really stands for”. M, how could you! And we discover the real identity of Ernst Blofeld, who manifests complete with scar and fluffy white pussycat.

Spectre marks the translation of Bond into an ongoing narrative, which some may find challenging. Once upon a time, you sat down and munched your popcorn from start to finish without really needing to know much about what went before. Whereas this latest arc, from Casino Royale onwards has been of a piece.

You can enjoy it without having seen its precursors. But you’ll not really understand the finer detail, from the photo rescued from the ruins of Skyfall, to what Vespa meant to Bond, to why MI6 is in ruins and scheduled for demolition.

There is rather less sexism: the opening credits feature at very least a topless Craig, alongside the obligatory nubiles. There is a rather disconcerting alliance of sex and death, with the former rougher, more earthy than we are used to and closely associated with one or both participants having just killed or avoided being killed.

For long-term fans, there are plenty of nods to Bonds past - from the opening scene, channelling Baron Samedi from Live And Let Die, to the mountain top health clinic where Bond eventually locates Madeleine, a straight lift from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

And we end on a big question. We know that Craig has hinted that this will be his last Bond and, as he drives away, Madeleine at his side, perhaps it is. Perhaps. Fans are betting otherwise. Either one last outing in a remake of Never Say Never Again or – have tissues at the ready – last time Bond found happiness in the arms of the daughter of a crime lord it ended badly: very badly, indeed, with a dead Diana Rigg in his arms and All the Time in the World swelling up over the closing credits.

We shall see. Whatever comes next, it will have a hard job beating Spectre.

Many thanks to the independent Broadway Cinema Letchworth, without whom this review would not have been possible.

Reviewed on: 01 Nov 2015
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Spectre packshot
A message from Bond's past sends him on the trail of a sinister organisation.
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Director: Sam Mendes

Writer: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth, based on characters created by Ian Fleming

Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen, Alessandro Cremona, Stephanie Sigman, Tenoch Huerta, Adriana Paz

Year: 2015

Runtime: 148 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: UK, US

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