Nine years have passed since Daniel Craig’s first outing as James Bond. In those nine we’ve seen two of the very best Bond flicks and arguably one of the worst. Daniel Craig’s fourth, and penultimate, portrayal of the iconic character promises a very similar treatment to 2012’s Skyfall with several returning characters on and off screen. But does Spectre reach the record breaking heights of its predecessor?

After a few years of playing with the Bond formula, Spectre finally finds a comfortable middle point between the playful silliness of the old school films with their secret bases and their too-evil-to-be-true villains, and the harsh, modern Daniel Craig films with their realistic approach to action and grounded storylines. This change in tone is more than welcome though. After the brilliant but dark Casino Royale, the muddled and confusing Quantum of Solace and the not-very-Bond Skyfall, it’s a breath of fresh air to return to something more like the Bond films of the past.

What makes this film especially impressive is how it brings the stories of the three previous films together. I won’t spoil the surprise but all four films get a joint conclusion. If this is indeed Daniel Craig’s last film, they have finished his Bond arc in a spectacular way. It is unfortunate however that to a viewer who hasn’t seen Daniel Craig’s other Bond films this episode doesn’t make much sense. You could get away with having not seen Quantum of Solace but this serves as more of a sequel to all the films rather than a film by itself. This is not to say that it isn’t thoroughly enjoyable even if you haven’t seen the other three. The action comes at regular intervals, keeping you on the edge of your seat and in many cases in complete awe, especially in a scene involving a car/aeroplane chase. Director Sam Mendes outdoes his Skyfall set pieces, delivering some of the most ambitious action scenes in the franchise so far.

Daniel Craig delivers another fantastic portrayal of the character, continuing his brooding, brutal approach from the previous films. There is also a lot to like in the new core characters, Ralph Fiennes’ take on M, Naomie Harris’ Moneypenny and Ben Whishaw’s Q. These three characters have been a defining part of Bond long before Daniel Craig took the reins and they really make the roles their own in Spectre. Bond’s scenes with Q were especially enjoyable, the banter between the two feeling much more natural this time around. It also helps that he gains much more screen time in Spectre and his part is far less annoying than his last attempt. The same is true of Moneypenny, who is given more to do here than in Skyfall, this time without the friendly fire. Thankfully, Ralph Fiennes has not tried to fill in the hole left by Judi Dench’s M but rather has his own spin on the character. He finds himself as under fire in the position as Judi Dench was in the previous film.  His iteration of M allows him to be a more hands on than what we’ve seen in the past, we see him holding a gun more often than barking orders. The new approach is something I’m excited to see in the films to come.

“Mendes outdoes his Skyfall set pieces, delivering some of the most ambitious action scenes in the franchise so far.”

Spectre’s villains are great but sadly slightly underused. Christoph Waltz is a spectacular actor and he really fleshes out his character although I felt it was an area that could have been given more attention. His scenes are very entertaining and his ability to play a strong villain without being physically intimidating is what makes Oberhauser such a unique villain. The physicality comes from Bautista’s Mr. Hinx; he is the very opposite to Christoph Waltz’s character with absolutely no lines of dialogue but strong enough to give Bond serious trouble. His concluding fight scene is absolutely brutal and something worth getting excited for.

My only problem with the film is its length. There are several occasions when it feels like the film is on the brink of conclusion, then suddenly Bond is thrown into another dilemma. It is also a shame that Monica Bellucci’s character is underused. It remains a complete wonder how James Bond manages to stay so impeccably dressed whether it’s sipping on a martini or fighting thugs while flying upside down in a helicopter. Not even Tom Ford can make Tom Ford look that good, but that is more a jealousy related problem rather than a flaw.

“[Waltz’s] ability to play a strong villain without being physically intimidating is what makes Oberhauser such a unique villain”

Daniel Craig’s Renaissance of the franchise has tied up all of its loose ends and delivered the most classical ‘Bond’ outing of his four films. Craig’s “blunt instrument” approach mixed with old school eccentric villains and larger-than-life secret bases makes this possibly the best James Bond film to date. Although lengthy, there is plenty to love here.

8/10

Lorenzo Calder-Smith

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