Spectre review

Let's gets the bad out of the way first, shall we? That song. That awful, boring, meandering, unmemorable theme song, which easily ranks as the worst Bond film song ever. Yes, worse even than Madonna's Die Another Day, or that thing from Quantum of Solace. The Writing's On The Wall? What a shame they didn't put some better writing on the page. And Sam Smith's high-pitched, incoherent warbling is like fingernails down a blackboard – excruciatingly painful. Still, at least with the Blu-ray you can mute the sound on your TV and enjoy the sexy octopus visuals of the opening credits in peace and quiet.

The good news is that the rest of the film is terrific – not quite as good as Casino Royale and Skyfall, but not as bad as Quantum of Solace (which is not a terrible film, it just lacks plot and narrative to go alongside the great set-pieces). Spectre follows on nicely from the prevous three Craig Bond films, and neatly ties together the events of all of them with an overarching storyline – apparently, the global terrorist organisation Spectre (which historically, in the Fleming universe, stands for Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) was behind it all. And at the head of Spectre is a blast from Bond's past – in more ways than one.

Here we enter spoiler territory, so look away now if you have been asleep for the past year, but yes, after 40 odd years in legal limbo, Blofeld is back. In one of the worst kept movie secrets since Benedict Cumberbatch played Kahn in Star Trek Into Darkness, Christoph Waltz beautifully resurrects the classic villain played previously by Donald Pleasence, Telly Savalas, Charles Gray and Max von Sydow. The plot of Spectre is very modern – data security, global surveillance, the ever-present threat of terrism and the over-reaching power of the state – but it very much harks back to the classic Bond films of the 1960s, with very obvious nods for those paying attention. We even have a male M and a Moneypenny back behind their desks at MI6 HQ.

With his second Bond outing, director Mendes (he also helmed Skyfall) sticks very closely to the tried and tested formula – the sensational pre-credit sequence, the beautiful women (although Bellucci is criminally underused; imagine the fun there could have been if the scriprwwiters had been clever and daring enough to make her Blofeld), the exotic locations, the nonsensical and complicated plot, the marvellous action and stunts, and the ruthless villain. It's everything that an ardent Bond fan coud want: a very slick, superbly shot action thriller with Craig on efficient form as a brutal assassin, great bad guys in Walz and Batista, beautiful Bond women in Seydoux and Bellucci, plenting of hugely entertaining setpieces and loads of wit. Spectre is an up-to-date celebration of everything that is Bond, James Bond; and if it is the final outing for both Craig and Mendes, then they can go out with their heads held high.

EXTRAS: No audio commentary from Mendes, sadly. Ditto no deleted scenes or gag reel. Plus it's also missing some of the bonus features from the Blu-ray's US release, such as a featurette on the history of SPECTRE itself and a music video for Writing's on the Wall (which is no great loss). What there is consists of ... the featurette SPECTRE: Bond's Biggest Opening Sequence (20:12); on-set Video Blogs (9:09) featuring Mendes, the cars, Seydoux and Belucci; Theatrical Trailers (5:18); and a Photo Gallery.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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