Spectre review: James Bond is back, stylish, camp and sexily pro-Snowden

Daniel Craig has grown into the role of the British spy with flair and sang-froid and this inventive, intelligent and complex new outing showcases him brilliantly

If nothing else, the spelling of the title should tip you off that this is a thoroughly English movie franchise. Bond is back and Daniel Craig is back in a terrifically exciting, spectacular, almost operatically delirious 007 adventure – endorsing intelligence work as old-fashioned derring-do and incidentally taking a stoutly pro-Snowden line against the creepy voyeur surveillance that undermines the rights of a free individual. It’s pure action mayhem with a real sense of style.

Ralph Fiennes’s M finds himself battling a cocky new colleague Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott) who wishes to abolish the 00-programme in favour of a vast new multi-national computer-snooper programme. The code name of this awful new stuffed shirt is C – and Bond does not scruple to make crude innuendo on that score.

James Bond is cutting loose from duplicitous, bureaucratic authority - in the time-honoured fashion – and plans to track down a certain sinister Austrian kingpin at the heart of something called Spectre, played with gusto by Christoph Waltz. This is the evil organisation whose tentacular reach and extensive personnel may in fact have accounted for all Bond’s woes in Craig’s previous three movies.

The movie doesn’t say so but the “t” in Fleming’s Spectre stood for terrorism – the Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion – and perhaps one of the first uses of the word in pop culture.

Watch a trailer for the film

Is this Craig’s last hurrah as Bond? His somewhat tetchy remarks in interviews preceding this movie – indicating a readiness to quit – oddly mirror the tetchy media comments that greeted the news of his casting almost 10 years ago. Craig showed they were wrong: and I hope he carries on now. He is one of the best Bonds and an equal to Connery. That great big handsome-Shrek face with its sweetly bat ears has grown into the role.

He has flair, sang-froid, and he wears a suit superbly well by bulging his gym-built frame fiercely into it, rarely undoing his jacket button and always having his tie done up to the top. At one point he simply snaps the plastic handcuffs the bad-guys have put on him, with sheer brute strength. Yet there is also an elegant new dismissive tone that he introduces into the dialogue bordering on camp. “That all sounds marvellous,” he purrs when advised of some footling new procedural restriction, adding later: “That all sounds lovely.”

He is particularly vexed at the news that a sleek new car has in fact been reserved for 009. The script by John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth runs on rails with great twists and turns and gags.

We start with a gasp-inducing action sequence in Mexico City for the Day of the Dead. Director Sam Mendes contrives a stylishly extended continuous tracking shot to bring our hero into the proceedings and it isn’t long before an outrageous set-piece is in progress with a helicopter repeatedly looping the loop while 007 vigorously punches the pilot and a fellow passenger.

The film team review Spectre

A clue salvaged from the chaos puts Bond on the trail of Spectre, taking him at first to Rome where he has a romantic interlude with a soigné woman of mystery, played with distant languor by Monica Bellucci. Then he is to infiltrate the horribly occult headquarters of Spectre itself – a wonderfully old-fashioned “evil boardroom” scene for which Mendes manages to avoid any Austin Powers/Dr Evil type absurdity.

Waltz’s chief is an almost papal presence of menace, upsetting all his cringing subordinates by saying and doing next to nothing, and photographed in shadow. When he recognises Bond in the room, he leers: “I see you! Cuckoo!” – a French expression which in fact is to have a darker significance, revealed at the end.

From here we go to Austria and this is where Bond is to encounter his main amour: Dr Madeleine Swann, stylishly played with just the right amount of sullen sensuality by Léa Seydoux. It is of course ridiculous that the pair manage to get away from there to Tangier in such stunning changes of outfit without worrying about suitcases, money etc. but it is all part of the escapist effect.

Madeleine and James’s train journey comes with vodka martinis in the dining car followed by a colossal woodwork-splintering punch-up with a beefy henchman. They appear, moreover, to be the only passengers on the train.


Later, he gets a horrible hi-tech torture scene, with Waltz’s ogre whispering: “Out of horror, beauty....” A new version of the sadism that was on display when Mads Mikkselsen was roughing him up in Casino Royale.

Another person who has grown into his part, incidentally, is Ben Whishaw as the perennially stressed quartermaster and tech supremo Q: Whishaw has developed him as a very enjoyable comic character.

It’s deeply silly but uproariously entertaining. At the end, I almost felt guilty for enjoying it all quite so much – almost.


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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