SPECTRE (UK Cert 15)
Director: Sam Mendes
Music: Thomas Newman
Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes
Dear reader, what makes you love a film?
What is it about certain films on your DVD shelf that hooked you? When you search for torrents, what is it that you’re looking for? What is it on movie posters that makes you scour the floor nearby to see if anyone’s accidentally dropped their cinema ticket?
Well, my answer might be a surprise to you, given my position as a critic and my somewhat highbrow sensibilities but if you’re a filmmaker who wants to make me happy for money or sexual favours, the best way to do it by a long way is make your film completely and utterly stupid. There’s little I love more; I love cheesy 80’s slashers, I love 50’s sci-fi movies, I love pseudo-art junk and fart jokes and buckets of fake blood and Tom Green. I love stupid.
So, of course, I am a huge fan of James Bond. There are few things in the cinematic landscape dumber than the continuing adventures of the world’s best paid drunk this side of Tony Stark. Only about half of them are any good. Skyfall was the best film of 2012 by quite a large margin, and its boxers-on-head moronic in every way.
Spectre continues the tradition of being manically preposterous as James Bond drunkenly stumbles around Mexico, Italy, Austria and Tangier hunting down Spectre, a blisteringly stupid organisation who are in control of the entire world despite having evil schemes that are equally obvious and ridiculous.
The script, fittingly, lays the cheese on thick. There are several political jabs at the NSA and government surveillance that are delivered with the subtlety and grace of a basket of hammers, the jokes are unashamed groaners, and the sharp, self-aware dialogue is delivered with gusto by all of the actors, all of whom are clearly game for the festival of foolishness.
Luckily, like the best Bond films, the idiocy does not seep into the filmmaking. Sam Mendes got his start in sombre, moody dramas but he is a natural at directing action, avoiding the tired clichés of close-ups and shaky cam and instead giving us clear, well-framed action that is tense and exciting. The Godfather inspired opening taking place during the Mexican Day of the Dead is easily the highlight, one of the best scenes in Bond history, and all of the film is supported by an exhilarating soundtrack that manages to be at once unique yet familiar. Combine this with the very good pacing of the plot, and Spectre stands to be a top contender for the best Bond film ever made…
… for the first half of it.
It’s almost like switching channels; first, you’re watching James Bond at its best, and then you’re in a really naff episode of Spooks. A predictable, meandering plot revolving around villains who are easily defeated and line up at the end waiting to be arrested, before coming to a close on a deafening and disappointing thud. Save for an incredibly unnerving torture scene Spectre takes such a sudden nose dive in quality that it drills to the Earth’s core. Live and Let Die had a better ending, and that ended with the villain being inflated like a balloon, flying through the sky and then popping.
As I said earlier, James Bond can be incredibly stupid.
While not enough to kill it, the seriously weak ending certainly does a lot of damage to what is otherwise a solid action film. From Russia With Love is safe on its throne as the best, and Kingsman: The Secret Service can be proud of being a Bond parody better than the year’s Bond film.
But Spectre certainly doesn’t eat at the kids’ table either, populated as it is by the unforgivable dreck of Octopussy and Die Another Day. The series thrives on idiocy, and wearing its dunce hat proud, Spectre remains a thoroughly entertaining and thuddingly stupid night out.
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Spectre harks back to the Bond films of old. Where Skyfall was a tried and reasonably untested formula in the series, Spectre brings memories of Sean Connery’s era, arguably the franchise’s finest years.
Daniel Craig is as magnetic as ever in a role he was born to play and it just goes to show that Ian Fleming’s iconic character transcends generations.
With each new incarnation, a brand new breed of fans join the series and become loyal followers and with films of the calibre of Spectre, it’s easy to see why.