2015 / Sam Mendes.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
SPECTRE is classic Bond. It falls back upon the fundamental hallmarks that make 007 so iconic, and it never relents for a second. Daniel Craig and director Sam Mendes return with this follow up to their previous (incredible) chapter SKYFALL, and they continue to push the franchise to its limits.
Since Daniel Craig stepped into the role the series has fallen upon nostalgia and has attempted to update old elements with a new gritty modern aesthetic. It began with CASINO ROYALE, which of course was Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel. We were introduced to Bond from scratch, and then throughout next few chapters various other origin stories emerged, including the re-introductions of characters such as Moneypenny, Felix Leiter and Q. When SKYFALL hit cinema screens the series was reinvigorated and the film stood as, arguably, the best Bond film to date. It possessed the charisma, sexuality and brawn that Ian Fleming’s universe established and it paid homage to the previous interpretations. It was the quintessential 007 film.
Needless to say SKYFALL was a hard act to follow. I'm not sure there could have been a more fitting continuation than SPECTRE. Maintaining the heightened atmosphere of the previous film, this new adventure hits the ground running and exploits the nostalgia to its limits. We are thrust into the world of 007 that is completely reminiscent of days gone by and we are reacquainted with the franchise’s archetypal nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who has been absent from the canon since 1981’s FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (although he did appear in the non-canon film NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN in 1983).
The familiarity of SPECTRE is comforting. From the film’s fantastic opening sequence to its snow-covered slope chases and every incredibly conceived action sequence along the way, it is a balls-to-the-wall action thriller. Bond is decommissioned (again) after he disobeys orders and he finds himself alone in the field, chasing a lead that was given to him throughout the course of SKYFALL. In the meantime M15 is being de-constructed and replaced by a high-tech super-surveillance agency and makes fieldwork redundant. With previous 007 story-lines merging to shape the back-story of SPECTRE the result is 150 minutes of pure exhilaration.
Christoph Waltz brings Blofeld to life like a pro and his presence in the film, while limited in terms of screen time, is felt within every frame. The quirky yet menacing demeanour that has come to define Waltz’s appeal in cinema is perfectly suited to this character and he can rest proudly amongst the best of Bond’s adversaries. Daniel Craig is great, of course, as are the rest of the staple supporting characters. A particularly excellent performance comes from former WWE wrestler Dave Bautista. His size and ferocity make him one of the most memorable henchmen characters the series has seen since Richard Keil’s Jaws villain back in the 80s. One of the more perplexing components of the film, however, is the introduction of Monica Bellucci’s character. In the promotional lead-up she was being touted as the eldest Bond beauty to grace the screen, and yet her appearance is reduced to a seemingly insignificant cameo. An actress of her calibre and beauty surely deserves more than a fleeting rough-and-tumble, and we can only hope that there’s more in store for her later down the road. I suspect we haven’t seen the last of her.
SKYFALL set a benchmark that is almost impossible to beat. And yet SPECTRE gives it a run for it’s money and promises a respectable continuation while delivering non-stop action and the promise of an ongoing narrative.