This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 15th November 2015
In this fourth in the largely well-regarded line of recent Bond reboots, Daniel Craig returns as the surly renegade who goes on the hunt of a criminal organisation responsible for world-shaking turmoil that is at once universal and, for Bond, deeply personal.
Meanwhile, MI6 is in tatters, literally and figuratively, as the young upstart running the Joint Intelligence Service looks to shut down the 00 section and instigate the “Nine-Eyes” initiative which would enable intelligence sharing between the world’s most powerful nations. (There’s no disputing the franchise has its narrative finger very much on the world’s current-day pulse.)
A great deal of Spectre’s panache is down to the glorious photography by Hoyte Van Hoytema, who put his rather elegant stamp on cinematic spectacles as diverse as Interstellar, Her and the terrific period drama Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. As a result, Spectre starts with a very smooth, long, opening shot (“oners” used to be special but nowadays you can’t seem to make an intelligent blockbuster without one) then the ensuing scenes showcase lingering moments of well-shot, interesting stillness, rendering even the quiet pauses mesmerising.
But good camerawork is just one of many strong elements to be expected when director Sam Mendes is at the helm. The costuming is delightfully old-fashioned, perhaps taking a leaf out of The Man from UNCLE’s book in harking back to spy thrillers of yore. As Bond bounces across the globe, the locations are rich in variety (from an overcast yet thrilling Mexico City to the energy of Rome to the snowy mountains of Austria) and, as ever, his high-tempo journey moves from plot point to set-piece, engaging us throughout the two and a half hours.
And while Casino Royale toyed with making Bond a kept man before abruptly sacrificing Eva Green at the end, Spectre shows we’re well and truly back into woman-in-every-port territory. French actress Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Colour) is suitably cool as Dr. Madeleine Swann, but more significant is the fleeting cameo by Monica Bellucci, the oldest Bond girl ever at 51, whose moniker Lucia Sciarra (a play on “light-dark” in Italian) also signals a nod to the old tropes.
Multiple use of the very British word “lovely” and a bombastic choral soundtrack signal that this Bond isn’t taking itself too seriously but is still working tirelessly to give you bang for your buck.