007 is back in the intriguing Spectre, the 24th instalment of the hugely successful and iconic franchise that helps right the wrong of the previous Skyfall and finally allows Daniel Craig to headline what feels like a proper Bond film.
Beginning with a thrilling fight inside a travelling helicopter during the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico City, Bond takes ownership of a ring bearing a mysterious octopus-shaped symbol.
After being suspended from duty for his shenanigans by a fuming M (the returning, splendidly-cast Ralph Fiennes), Bond goes rogue and secretly heads to Rome to attend the funeral of the man he killed in Mexico, where he meets the widow Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci).
One seduction later results in Bond infiltrating a criminal organization led by Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) who it turns out has a personal connection to Bond’s childhood past.
After barely escaping, Bond heads to the Austria where a meeting with fugitive enemy Mr White (Jesper Christensen) ends with Bond agreeing to protect White’s estranged psychiatrist daughter Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux).
After rescuing her from kidnap in a chase across the Alps, Bond teams up with the reluctant Madeleine as they cross Tangiers, North Africa and eventually London to seek out and stop the work of the mysterious organization of S.P.E.C.T.R.E.
Meanwhile, with all that taking place, M has to deal with matters relating to an intelligence personnel (Andrew Scott) who is keen on seeing the double-O section replaced in a merger deal between MI5 and MI6.
For the past three Bond films, Daniel Craig has proven that he is without doubt the best Bond since Connery, possibly the best Bond yet and this film cements that stance yet again. Owning the part in the way he has displayed since first portraying the part, Craig pushes himself successfully once more mixing the wit and charisma with the charm and brutal nature that has made Bond the hero for so many generations.
Now while the fabulous Casino Royale and the not-as-impressive Quantum of Solace justified examining how Bond became Bond, Skyfall, good as it was, underwhelmed somewhat as it lacked the welcoming formula that the franchise was ready to return to.
Here, though three years late, this film succeeds at giving Craig the ability to headline a Bond film that features the conventions and delivers the expectations that have made the Bond films a welcoming presence in cinema.
While there is no foot chase across the London Underground or a ski-jump off a cliff, there is enough engaging action that will satisfy the most die-hard of Bond fans.
From the breath-taking pre-credits sequence to an exciting night car chase across Rome to the hand-to-hand battle between Bond and the silent assassin Hinx (Dave Bautista) onboard a train, Spectre continues to show that Bond films really are the place to go for genuinely entertaining blockbusters.
Bringing with its intensity is the film’s continued use of memorable supporting characters with both Waltz and Seydoux making for welcome additions to the series in their respective roles of villain and Bond girl.
Waltz continues the strategy of the chief Bond villain of today being played by an Oscar-winning European actor known for scene-stealing performances. He is both chilling and unpredictable in the role which seems like the ideal role for an actor capable of portraying villains with such quiet ferocity.
With a frightening delivery of simplistic lines like ‘‘Welcome, James’’, Waltz arguably plays as the best villain in the Craig era, just for bringing genuine scares from vocals alone, a testament for such a wonderful actor.
Seydoux is also engaging as the psychiatrist whose headstrong nature, beauty and genuine likability makes Swann the ideal Bond girl for today. Part of the film’s success lies with the fact that Swann is given much better treatment as a Bond girl than Severine, the tragic lead from Skyfall whose appalling treatment effectively damaged the structure Bond films have to endear to for it to succeed as proper Bond films.
With memorable supporting characters, impressive action and a typically entertaining performance from Craig as Bond, Spectre succeeds.
Looking back, it feels like what the Pierce Brosnan films would be if CGI was replaced with character study but after three films of seeing something different, it is good to be back to normal. It has to stay this way.