3.5 stars
“The dead are alive.”

Thus begins Spectre, the latest James Bond extravaganza and the second to be directed by Sam Mendes.
As with his previous effort Skyfall, viewers must suspend all disbelief as the film takes its audience on a rollicking ride through exotic locations, including Mexico City, London, Rome, the mountain tops of Austria and the deserts of Morocco as the body count inexorably rises. Although it may not garner the accolades of its predecessor - which included two Oscars and a BAFTA - Spectre will still be a hit at the box office, embraced by Bond fans and any fellow travellers happy to enjoy over two hours of high-tech mayhem.

The film opens with a visually stunning parade celebrating the Day of the Dead in the Zócalo in Mexico City. The camera follows a man in a skeleton mask and his female companion as they weave through a crowd of similarly garbed people. The atmosphere is highly charged as the ‘walking dead’ are all anonymous, disguised by death’s head masks and ghoulish make-up and it’s not long before we discover that the ‘skeleton’ is actually “Bond, James Bond” (Daniel Craig - Casino Royale / Quantum of Solace / Skyfall). All hell breaks loose when Bond inadvertently blows up a building and is pursued by a helicopter and its ruthless occupant, which both terrifies and awes the crowd as the aircraft careers above their heads with Bond on board battling his assailant. Meanwhile the pilot is attempting to keep control of his machine. No guessing who wins that round but the scene sets up the story that follows. Like all Bond films, it is one loaded with surprises while still following a familiar, winning formula.

Ian Fleming’s main characters are present once again: Judi Dench’s M role has now been assumed by Ralph Fiennes (National Theatre Live: Man and Superman / The Grand Budapest Hotel), who plays it with dead-pan relish, and the roles of Moneypenny and Q have been reprised by Naomie Harris (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) and Ben Whishaw (Paddington); all three appeared previously in Skyfall. New faces include the renowned Italian bombshell Monica Bellucci as Lucia, the widow of a mafia boss - whose brief appearance still manages to make an impression, at least on 007 - and Bond’s latest conquest Madeleine Swann, played by French actress Léa Seydoux (Blue Is the Warmest Colour). Christoph Waltz (Big Eyes) casts a malevolent eye across the proceedings as the latest criminal overlord.

Hoyte Van Hoytema’s (Interstellar) cinematography is brilliant as his camera moves from one extreme high-action scene to another. He succeeds in making us feel like Bond as he takes us into the heart of the most outrageous scenes, experiencing death-defying aerobatic stunts, car chases and falls from high buildings, only to emerge ruffle free, with nary a hair out of place. What’s not to like? And of course Bond’s Tom Ford suits fit perfectly, courtesy of Jany Temime’s costume design. Thomas Newman composes the excellent score once again, as he did for Skyfall. That film must have been a hard act to follow but Spectre leaves little doubt that the Fleming franchise is very much alive and kicking.

This may not be Bond at its best, but it’s still a lot of fun and the action sequences certainly live up to the series’ reputation. As Mendes has said, “Everyone has an opinion of Bond, so there’s no conceivable way of pleasing everybody.” However, sitting expectantly in the cinema listening to Sam Smith’s opening number, The Writing’s on the Wall, you know for sure that he’ll make a pretty good stab at it.


Previewed at Event Cinemas, George St, Sydney on 5 November 2015

Daniel Craig
Monica Bellucci
Christoph Walz
Léa Seydoux

Sam Mendes

John Logan
Neal Purvis



148 minutes

November 12, 2015
Spectre (2015) on IMDb
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