He’s more like a superhero than a superspy. His tailored suit remains impeccable even as a building collapses, taking him with it. His leather Oxfords maintain an impossible grip on the landing skids of a helicopter in tailspin. Women he’s known for five minutes will drop their clothes after one smouldering look, and the delivery of that iconic line: “Bond, James Bond.”
The latest instalment in the 007-franchise, Spectre, is a tried and tested recipe, but one that isn’t stale. Yet. The story and action-packed sequences don’t throw up too many surprises, but still, Bond trumps any of the other spy franchises like Mission Impossible and the Bourne series. Perhaps it’s Daniel Craig in the title role (who has said he’s hanging up the tuxedo after this, his fourth Bond film). Perhaps it’s the familiarity with things like the shaken, unstirred Martinis, gadgets created by the techie, Q, or the ubiquitous, beautiful Bond-girl.
In Spectre, Bond’s childhood past returns to haunt him. While on an unsanctioned mission in Mexico, Bond kills two terrorists and steals the ring off another, Marco Sciarra. The ring is emblazoned with the image of an octopus. Back in London, it’s revealed James went to Mexico after receiving a posthumous video message from the former M (Judi Dench), who was killed in the previous film. The current M (Ralph Fiennes), however, is less than impressed with Bond’s trail of destruction, and suspends him indefinitely.
Closer to home, M faces an uphill battle with the clearly sinister C (James Scott of Moriarty-fame in Sherlock), who heads up a privately back Joint Intelligence Service. The JIS is looking to get rid of the “archaic” 00-programme, and for Britain to join “Nine Eyes”, a global surveillance and intelligence co-operation initiative, which would give unprecedented access to citizens’ private data and correspondence.
With the help of trusty MI5 secretary, Moneypenny (Naomi Harris), Bond heads to Rome where he attends Sciarra’s funeral. The assassin’s beautiful wife, Lucia (Monica Bellucci), informs James of a secret society, called “Spectre”, whose emblem is the stylised Octopus, the tentacles of which reach across the world. James covertly attends a meeting of Spectre, but is caught off guard when the group’s leader, Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), suddenly welcomes him by name.
Bond escapes and seeks help from a former Quantum member (from the previous film, Quantum Solace). The dying criminal strikes a deal with Bond: protect his daughter, psychologist Dr Madeline Swann (Léa Seydoux), and in turn, she will take him to L’Americain, which will lead him to Spectre. The two will have to travel to multiple locations in a race against the clock (what else) in order to take down Spectre. But as Bond continues to draw nearer Oberhauser, he discovers a disturbing link to a past he’s all but forgotten.
Seydoux is not a new face on the silver screen (she has starred in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Inglourious Basterds, and Midnight in Paris), but brings a freshness to the role of the Bond-girl. The young French actress portrays Swann as a strong beauty, with a more innocent vulnerability (and who can resist that?). In Christoph Walz, director Sam Mendes has created another great villain, although it feels like the boundaries could have been pushed a little further to present a more multi-dimensional evil genius.
Spectre is exactly the kind of pure escapist entertainment you expect from a Bond film, though it doesn’t have the unexpected and brilliant sentimentality of Skyfall. Bar Sean Connery, Daniel Craig has been my favourite Bond, despite my initial reluctance. However, it’s certainly time for a fresh face and I’ll throw my name in the hat for Idriss Elba to take over. The franchise needs another shaken-not-stirred reboot.
Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz
Rating: 4 out of 5