Apprehensive at first to follow-up his Bond-tacular 2012 mega hit Skyfall, American Beauty helmer Sam Mendez – with the help of some apparent arm-twisting from one Daniel Craig – takes another crack at the 007 franchise with Spectre.
The hunter is hunted; Craig’s four-part spell as the battle-weary Bond is seemingly (although not officially confirmed) wrapped up in a blood-stained bow as the events of his previous outings climax in one Christoph Waltz-inspired blow-out.
Still sulking over the events of Skyfall, our favourite womanising lothario – in full rogue mode – is on the prowl for, as ever, some mirky fellows he’s been led to on the instruction of the now-deceased M (Judi Dench).
On the homefront, the future of the 00 programme is under threat by a new security pact led by Andrew Scott’s ambitious ‘C’ as he looks to create the most high-tech surveillance programme ever – much to new M’s (Ralph Fiennes) dismay.
This all comes to a head with the uncovering of super secret organisation, Spectre (think Eyes Wide Shut with suits), led by the mysterious Oberhauser (Waltz), that connects the dots between various Bond-related incidents.
With the help of Lea Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann – the daughter of Quantom of Solace’s Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) – Bond’s got to see the back of a blast from his past content on causing unruly havoc.
You’d be forgiven if you suffered from a cinematic form of travel sickness as we’re jolted across its various locations: London, Mexico, Austria… it’s a cheap(ish) world tour of espionage, deceit and old school villainy.
Moving on from the back-to-basics Skyfall, which cleansed the franchise of the cheesiness it had succumbed to prior to the Craig era, Mendes’ follow-up is bigger, brighter and far more flamboyant. Helicopter-heavy with plenty of seductively dressed ladies for its scotch-chugging protagonist to fawn over, Spectre feels like a somewhat out-of-sorts mash-up of the old and new Bond.
Craig’s ageing operative – hurt, anxious, yet still determined to kick-ass – is still our most soulful 007 to date. Yet this latest instalment tips its cap firmly to the past in both style and substance. Austin Powers-esque muted henchmen (what was that all about!?!), white pussy cats and evil lairs overpower an undercooked storyline that has a very 21st century feel to it.
Waltz, whose dead pan expression is made for a modern day Bond villian, feels underused – succumbing to a rather underwhelming and predictable fate. It is Ralph Fiennes though who deserves the plaudits as the new M. A scene-stealer in his own right, the Oscar nominee’s presence screamed “spin-off series”.
Mendes’ second Bond outing – impressively glam and big on spectacular – seems to get caught in a Skyfall-induced cross-roads. Some eye-catching performances and a handful of head-spinning action sequences make it watchable, but it lacks the heart of its predecessor and the style of Casino Royale to make this anything other than Craig’s third best outing as Britain’s most famous agent.