Film Review: Spectre

You only live … 24 times. Time to give up the ghost?

James Bond 007 is one of the longest-running film franchises in history, second only to Godzilla. The first one I saw at the cinema was Roger Moore’s last outing: A View to a Kill. The fact that Moore was clearly well past his sell-by date failed to dilute my childhood excitement and I have since seen every Bond film at the cinema. It is with these humble credentials I offer my thoughts on the latest in the series, Spectre.

Live and let Lynd die
Picking up after M’s death and the events of Skyfall, Spectre reunites actor Daniel Craig and director Sam Mendes. Bond is fighting on two fronts: at home the double-0 program is due to be shut down in order to divert funds to a sinister global surveillance system called ‘Nine Eyes’, while elsewhere he must uncover a vast criminal network that includes all the villains from Craig’s previous outings as Bond, ret-conning this one into more of a personal matter.

Particular reference is made to the late M, who guides him from beyond the grave, and Vesper Lynd – the supposed love of Bond’s life. Lynd is the great flaw in Craig’s tenure – during Casino Royale she supposedly stole Bond’s heart, but this was a poorly drawn relationship. As opposed to say, Diana Rigg, who Bond married at the end of OHMSS, Lynd is only memorable for her icy temperament – yet her corpse keeps getting dusted off to remind us of Bond’s broken heart.

To borrow never dies
Lynd aside, Skyfall was a rare entry in the series, in that the best Bonds are usually those that showcase a new actor. Producers pull out all the stops in order to sell you that new face.

But Skyfall was a mid-term entry that upped the ante instead of dropping the quality. So, Spectre was a great proposition in its potential to offer more of the same.

In this, however, it fails. Following some virtuoso filmmaking in a strong pre-credits sequence set during Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico City, we’re off on the trail of a secret organisation whose stock in trade is, amongst other things, human trafficking and terrorism. Shifting from London, Rome, Austria and back to London, too much feels like perfunctory box-ticking: glamorous European locations, check; world class tailor, check; Aston Martin, check; sinister man with long-haired pussy, check.

SPOILER: Not even the big reveal is remotely surprising. Despite initial deceptions by Eon to claim the contrary, of course Christopher Waltz is playing Ernst Stavros Blofeld – blame the trailers for making that perfectly clear. Instead of the intended gasp, audiences will most likely roll their eyes.

Say never again, again?
With Mendes, Bellucci, Craig, Whishaw, Fiennes, Waltz etc, Bond has never had it better in front of, or behind, the camera. The cast are exceptional but underused; the film is frequently gorgeous, but narratively mechanical, clichéd and lifeless.

It’s tempting to speculate if, like Moore back then, Bond himself is simply past his sell-by date. It wouldn’t be the first time the character has had his obituary written prematurely, but if not this team – then which one? You don’t have to look that closely to catch Craig feeling ‘done with this sh*t’.

Spectre opens with the text: “THE DEAD ARE ALIVE” – I would counter that here the reverse is true.

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