Film Review: Spectre (12A)

The Daniel Craig era has elevated our expectations of Bond. Audiences are no longer expecting 007 to simply be popcorn fodder, with the prerequisite gadgets, fast cars, faster women, and exotic locations. You simply have to cast your mind back to the invisible car and tidal wave surfing of the series’ nadir, Die Another Day, to realise that this is no bad thing. However, it also presents a problem – after all, there is comfort in the familiar.

Spectre, much as Skyfall did, attempts to find the balance between the respect for nostalgia and refreshing the franchise for modern audiences. While it doesn’t quite match the quality of it’s predecessor, for the most part Spectre manages to walk the line well. References to the canon abound, from the opening scene’s ‘Live and Let Die’-esque skeleton carnival, to the classic cars (straight from the Sean Connery era), impossibly strong henchmen (Goldfinger), and meteor-crater lair (You Only Live Twice) – to name but a few of many! The film skirts perilously close to playing like a greatest hits montage, remade on a bigger budget. Most of it does feel organic, familiar but fresh, with the notable exception of the truly awful Sam Smith theme song, which is more a parody than a tribute.

Not all of it works. At 148mins runtime, this is the longest entry into the franchise, bloating a film which would have benefited from a bit of judicious editing to trim down some of the midsection fat. Even with such a long running time, attempting to draw together the threads of the previous three films (although ‘Quantum’ is brushed over quietly) feels like it is overreaching somewhat, with the pay-off not being as effective as the tense build up demands.

There are, however, plenty of moments of brilliance, with the pre-credits sequence in particular having a strong shout at being the best in the series. If this is his final outing as 007, working with director Sam Mendes, Daniel Craig has very much succeeded in redefining Bond for a new generation, creating films that have become something bigger, bolder and more important than perhaps they ever were.

Rating: 4/5

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