Tuesday, 17 November 2015



Well, about time too. Having painfully and humourlessly rebooted James Bond over the course of three films - good films, but noticeably glum - the producers have clearly decided to inject some fun into the series and steer it in the direction of Classic Bond, downplaying the psychological analysis of the maladjusted blunt instrument in favour of glamourous jetsetting and egomaniacal supervillains. In short, going back to the Moore and Brosnan years. And with maybe one misstep, they've pulled it off. Spectre is a whole bunch of fun, noticeably the lightest and silliest of the Craig entries: a Bond movie for people who like Bond movies rather than a Bond movie for people who like Bourne movies.

They've realised that Bond's natural cinematic rival is not the Jason Bourne strain of hard, tough realism, in which everyone's damaged and miserable and no-one's sure what the hell's going on, but the Mission: Impossible school of glossy popcorn travelogue entertainment. Spectre accordingly apes the Cruise franchise, ricocheting breezily around the world from Mexico City to Rome to Tangiers to London, displaying action rather than angst, closer to comic strip than medical notes on sociopathy. With the Bond gunbarrel finally in place where it belongs at the start of the movie, Spectre kicks off at the Day Of The Dead festival in Mexico where Bond is on an unofficial final post-Skyfall mission for M (Judi Dench in a brief video message cameo) that inevitably leads to exploding buildings and out of control helicopters. Back in London, the 00 section is on the brink of being phased out in favour of a global surveillance network run by an obviously treacherous Andrew Scott, while Bond is on the trail of a sinister global crime syndicate that's been behind everything....

It's got the car chases and the fights, the glam women (Lea Seydoux and, surprisingly briefly, Monica Bellucci, probably the first "Bond girl" to be actually older than Bond), the pontificating villain in his secret lair surrounded by minions with no proper firearms training, the massive explosions: in short, everything that screams Classic Bond at you. There's a terrific fight on a train (with the traditional Bond henchman, in this instance Dave Bautista) that's clearly designed to recall the train fights in From Russia With Love and The Spy Who Loved Me. And Christoph Waltz is obviously having fun as megalomaniac Euroscum Oberhauser (sporting a facial wound towards the end which is clearly designed to recall Donald Pleasence in You Only Live Twice). This is much more what we want of a Bond film now the Origins Trilogy is over.

Sure you can argue that the personal backstory between Bond and Oberhauser is unnecessary, and it's painfully obvious that the character is going to be back at some point. Sure you can argue that Lea Seydoux isn't given much to do beyond look fantastic, while Q, Moneypenny and M have far bigger roles than they ever enjoyed before the reboot (M's office is clearly designed to recall Bernard Lee's rather than Dench's). Sure you can pick holes in the plot: why set a building to blow up around 007 but leave a speedboat in full view for him to escape? Sure, you could take it apart like that, but why would you take the Bond franchise that seriously now that it's lightened up a bit?

The aforementioned misstep takes place early on and is over fairly quickly: the quite dreadful opening credits song by Sam Smith, apparently performed while undergoing the rope torture from Casino Royale. Once John Barry left the series (back in the Dalton days!) the vocal numbers have been spotty at best and this is easily the equal of Madonna's ludicrous Die Another Day, and Jack White and Alicia Keys' atonal honkings at the start of Quantum Of Solace. That aside, it's great: there are actual jokes in there, a level of agreeable absurdity, such as Bond wearing an immaculate white dinner jacket at one point, for absolutely no reason other than he's James Bond and that's what happens in a James Bond film, and the large-scale action scenes are properly put together rather than being overedited into a subliminal blur. It's not just that James Bond is back, but James Bond Films are back as well. Now get on with the next one.


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