Spectre (2015) Directed by Sam Mendes. With Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris and Andrew Scott.
Under the guidance of Sam Mendes and four screen-writers, Ian Fleming’s James Bond returns for Spectre, the latest all-singing-all-dancing 007 adventure. Back too is Daniel Craig, widely considered the most favourable (certainly the most politically correct), incarnation of the character we’ve seen to date.
Just like Craig slips perfectly into those Tom Ford-tailored suits, as director, Sam Mendes is an excellent fit for the Bond series. With a background in theatre, not to mention the award-winning drama of American Beauty, Skyfall proved that Mendes is a safe pair of hands for 007.
It’s pleasing to find that Spectre successfully continues the Bond legacy, by being a continuation of many of the themes and characters that we have come to know, during Daniel Craig’s tenure. Thankfully, gone are the days of the frivolous, standalone Bond adventures, but conversely, we’re still treated to the finer elements of what has made those films endure; the gadgets, the girls and the cartoon henchmen. Under Mendes, it’s all applied with a certain je ne sais quoi, with a level of humour that is cleverly layered in with the high class, as opposed to being clumsily daubed all over it, à la Moore, Brosnan and bits of Connery.
What I particularly enjoy about Spectre is how unashamedly ‘Bond’ it feels, while retaining a comfortable distance from being a slave to the format. In simpler terms, we get to have our cake and eat it. There’s dramatic sleight of hand in Craig’s performance, which deftly hints at a man searching for a soul, or more importantly, someone to help him unlock it. Enter the fray, French actress Léa Seydoux as Madeleine, not just any old Bond-girl, but a young woman with a direct link to a significant part of the previous three films in this series, and we begin to witness the grass-roots of narrative arcs being drawn. It would be remiss of me to delve much further into plot detail, but suffice it to say, Mendes and his team of writers adopt plot points from previous films to help usher in a new chapter.
Under Interstellar cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema’s artful eye, Spectre is beautifully staged with eye-catching shot compositions. One train sequence could be seen as Mendes’ homage to From Russia With Love, but in truth, it outshines it with ample cabin space to spare. Perhaps it isn’t equipped to scale the dizzy heights of Casino Royale, but then, I can’t think of a Bond film that does. What Spectre is, is a solid continuation of a deepening narrative that gives the audience what it craves, while not resting too heavily on its laurels. 4/5