Bond is back and with quite a wallop, in this, one of the most enjoyable 007 outings for years.
It’s not just that the stunts are bigger and better than ever, the locations as glamorous and monied, or the cast list A-plus; the reason why you’ll come out of a screening of Spectre with a self-satisfied grin on your face is that Daniel Craig – that most po-faced of secret agents – seems to have got his mojo back. This is Bond with a sense of humour and boy does it lighten up proceedings.
Even before the credits start there’s a long, visually-stunning sequence set during the Day of the Dead in Mexico City. Bond walks across rooftops tracking the bad guys, there is a shoot-out and subsequent explosion before a jaw-dropping helicopter fight scene that sets up a series of set pieces that will take us to London, Rome, Tangier, Austria and back to London again for yet another helicopter chase scene culminating on Westminster Bridge. No wonder director Sam Mendes had to make this the longest Bond movie ever; he would have never have packed everything in otherwise.
The theme here is trust. On numerous occasions throughout the film people ask Bond ‘can I trust you?’ (and in one instance Bond hands the questioner his gun as assurance), which is odd when you think about it because secret services are all about smoke and mirrors, lies and disinformation. But as we know, for 007, ‘my word is my bond’ in every sense.
The plot sees M15 and M16 being merged in order to ‘share’ intelligence but it’s obvious that our usual suspects M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Wishaw), Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and of course James himself (Craig) don’t like the fact they are being bossed about by ‘C’ (Andrew Scott), a jumped-up civil servant who believes drones should take the place of actual, living agents.
However, there is a deeper, darker story lurking beneath this and it gradually becomes clear that the mysterious baddie Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz, criminally underused in the first half of the film) has links to both James’ past and various other villains he has met during his career.
As ever, there are glamorous females, although Monica Bellucci’s role seems only to exist so Bond can bed an older woman, while Lea Seydoux as a young doctor lacks any breadth or depth and seems far too fey and fragile to kick ass as she accompanies James to a highly dangerous meeting in the Sahara desert.
So, Mendes hasn’t really changed the formula; just lightened it up, added some new high-tech gizmos and updated a few characters. But it works -just lose yourself in two-and-a-half hours of pure entertainment where every one of the millions of pounds spent on the movie are up there to see on the screen.
Will this be Craig’s last outing as the world’s most famous secret agent? If so, he’s going out with one hell of a bang.