A cryptic message sets in motion events that will see James Bond (Daniel Craig) come face-to-face with the sinister organisation known as SPECTRE. As the newly appointed M, Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), fights political pressures that threaten the future of MI6, Bond follows a trail from Mexico to Austria and Morocco as he is drawn into a confrontation with an enemy from his past, who holds a dangerous secret that will force him to question the value of everything he has fought to protect.
Review by Louise Keller:
Living up to the promise, SPECTRE treats us to everything on the Bond menu - thrilling action, spectacular locations, nail-biting moments, dry humour, glamour girls, gadgets and a chilling villain. Daniel Craig continues his run as a splendid Bond, boasting just the right stuff: a mix of cool and hot in all departments, intellectual, emotional and physical. The result is a film generously endowed with scale as well as a welcome attitude towards killing and violence that is far from complacent. In fact one of the crucial points made by Ralph Fiennes' M in his defence of preserving the endangered 00 section, is the concept of a licenced-to-kill agent whose skills include assessing when NOT to kill.
With the words The Dead Are Alive, the film begins in every sense with a bang by a visually extravagant set piece at the Festival of the Dead in Mexico, complete with its ghoulish skeletal theme and eye-popping costumes. The octopus insignia ring Bond prises from an adversary is cue for the famed music title sequence (Sam Smith's The Writing's on the Wall, not one of the most memorable), involving slithering octopus tentacles and shapely women. On the flip side of the enemy terrorist network with the octopus emblem, is that of the revamping of MI5 network, promising to shut down MI6 and make 00 agents obsolete. Collecting information is what's at stake. (Fiennes is aptly gruff at the prospect as well as irritated by 007's disregard for authority. MI5 boss, Andrew Scott's C is someone we love to hate.)
The screenplay is clever in that it incorporates critical elements from earlier films, playing nicely alongside the backstories, offering depth to relationships and delivering overall emotional impact. There's plenty for which Bond aficionados can watch - from the easy-to-spot white chinchilla to other references and elements that are best discovered in the context of the film.
Director Sam Mendes keeps things together as well as moving: there is a constant sense of pace and fluidity as all the elements are meshed together. The locations are varied, transporting us from rainy London to dusty Morocco, dazzling Rome and the splendour of the snowy majestic Austrian Alps. (The aerial shots are breathtaking.) Boats, planes, trains and cars are all integral in the action sequences - the Rome night car chase in the £3 million Aston Martin prototype is especially exhilarating (watch for the landing); the plane stunts are electrifying. It is somewhat reassuring to see Bond with sweat on his face. As for the humour, there are wonderful droll touches from Ben Whishaw's po-faced Q and Craig's delivery is as dry as his famed, shaken martinis. Let's not forget Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, who has a soft spot for Bond.
Christoph Waltz's Oberhauser, who greets Bond with the word 'Cuckoo', uses understatement in his effective, chilling portrayal. LŽa Seydoux's Madeleine Swann is a lovely addition to the cast (the perfect Bond girl, some might say: smart, beautiful, feisty) and Monica Belluci as the voluptuous widow Lucia is good value, if underused.
Everything is there ready for tasting - it's a Bond degustation.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It wouldn't fit the James Bond image, but in some respects the closing song to SPECTRE might have been 'Everything Old is New Again' (from the musical Chicago), a sentiment clearly flagged by the poster for the film with Bond in a white tux, classic pose with arms crossed and gun in hand. The title itself refers to the historical secret organisation that has been the home of Bond villains (seven Bond films), and whose boss appears with his furry white Chinchilla cat. Blofeld the evil genius character now represents the electronic age's major threat: unchecked information gathering for evil purposes.
The glance backwards by the writers signals a kind of watershed in the development of the new Bond since Daniel Craig slipped his Beretta into 007's shoulder holster. Several times through SPECTRE we are reminded of past villains and past characters, as if it were a tribute show. There are two other significant differences here, but I won't spoil them for you, except to suggest you examine the ending. All this suggests the producers are taking stock of the franchise and trying to ensure that there is a continuous thread to the legacy. Indeed, SPECTRE is closer to a sequel than any of the other Bond films, with Ralph Fiennes taking over from Judi Dench as M. I would have said in the immediate aftermath of the bombing of MI6 in Skyfall, except since then there is a new hi-tech Thames-side skyscraper to house the British security agencies, and that couldn't have been built 'immediately'.
The story is a variation on the theme of global domination by an evil genius, this time using information and computer technology, not nuclear weapons, say. But writers John Logan and Neal Purvis pepper us with plenty of action sequences to avoid having to do too much with it, and spend considerable effort instead on establishing that Bond is still a womaniser who can disrobe and discard them at will. And then there is Madeleine Swan (LŽa Seydoux), who is both a link to SPECTRE and a romantic link to Bond. Seydoux is sensational, and her scientist character a vivid update on Bond women.
Further emphasising the backward glance is the plot point about Bond's childhood and revelations about how that links him to SPECTRE, too. The result is a deeper resonance about James Bond as the man inside secret agent 007, which is no bad thing; they have fleshed out a rationale for his present as well as his past.
Excellent performances from all, and some funny dialogue (mostly throw away lines), adds to the tradition of a wry Bond as do the extended fight sequences whether on board a speeding train or a spiralling helicopter.
My only gripe is the ending which is neither 'old fashioned' Bond nor complete in itself. Is the Bond franchise to be serialised?
Published March 17, 2016
Email this article
SPECTRE: DVD (M)
CAST: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, LŽa Seydoux, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen
PRODUCER: Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson
DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes
SCRIPT: John Logan, Neal Purvis,
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Hoyte Van Hoytema
EDITOR: Lee Smith
MUSIC: Thomas Newman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dennis Gassner
RUNNING TIME: 148 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 12, 2015
SPECIAL FEATURES: .
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Universal Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD RELEASE: March 17, 2016