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Film review: Spectre – thrilling action and forgettable women in Bond 24

007 returns to do battle with an old enemy, with the usual high-octane action scenes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 November, 2015, 8:01am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 November, 2015, 3:10pm

Even by James Bond standards, expectations are sky-high for Spectre, the 24th entry in the series. Put this down to the record-smashing US$1 billion success of 2012’s Sam Mendes-directed Skyfall, which provided just the right amount of modernity and nostalgia. With Mendes back, and Daniel Craig returning for a fourth outing as Ian Fleming’s suave spy, Spectre aims for a continuation of this – almost, but not quite, succeeding.

With a vast budget, Mendes certainly has the toys to play with. The opening sequence, recreating the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico City as 007 grapples with a target in a helicopter, is worth the ticket price alone. And that’s before a sexy car chase through Rome, a snow-bound sojourn in the Austrian Alps and a thrilling fight on a train in Morocco, as Bond crunches fists with Dave Bautista’s near-wordless henchman, Mr. Hinx.

There are passing nods to earlier films – though none more so than the return of the titular terror organisation that plagued Bond in the Sean Connery era. With SPECTRE led by Christoph Waltz’s Franz Oberhauser, this eerily-voiced villain has a particular axe to grind with Bond, and – as the brilliantly-designed opening credits hint – there are links back to already-vanquished villains from the Craig era.

Following directly on from Skyfall, where MI6’s building was left in ruins, the new M (Ralph Fiennes) is left with trouble on the home front too, with the cocky MI5 head Max Denbeigh (Andrew Scott) looking to replace the 00 programme with an all-powerful surveillance system, Nine Eyes. Smartly, the script does give Fiennes, Ben Whishaw (gadget-master Q) and Naomie Harris (Moneypenny) more to do than merely sit behind desks in Whitehall.

Shame the same can’t be said about the Bond females. Monica Bellucci is wasted as a mafia widow Bond meets, while Léa Seydoux, as Dr. Madeleine Swann, the daughter of an old foe, is similarly poorly drawn, whispering “I love you” to Bond after barely an overnight stay together. Thankfully, Craig is on fine form – allowing more flashes of humour than ever before; whether or not he will return, his James Bond leaves you wanting more.

Spectre opens on November 5