Director: Sam Mendes
Actors: Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux
He has loomed large in the viewer’s imagination for over half a century. Created by the English author Ian Fleming and first incarnated by Sean Connery in Dr No (1962), cinema’s most enduring superspy shakes and stirs the espionage plot-pourri yet again for his official big-screen adventure No 24. With his customary mix of macho swagger and emotional vulnerability, Bond, James Bond is called upon to hunt down a shadowy terrorist syndicate bent on world domination.
Taking up where Skyfall (2012) left off, returning helmer Sam Mendes thrusts double-o-seven into a deadly conspiracy that aims to undermine the integrity of the British secret service. Mendes, who made his name with American Beauty, advances the story through action set pieces as Bond barrels across several exotic locations on the trail of an adversary briefly encountered in earlier iterations.
Even as it jettisons Cold War-era baddies for more contemporary Euro-villains, Spectre retains many of the franchise’s trademark features: spectacular stunts, a couple of lovelies, and gadgets galore. We are introduced to Her Majesty’s finest secret agent in the prologue set in Mexico during the city’s annual Day of the Dead parade. A tour-de-force tracking shot (courtesy cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema) follows Bond, attired in a skeleton costume, across a hotel lobby, up an elevator, out to the rooftop and finally into the air in a low-flying helicopter.
An age-appropriate Italian widow is a welcome addition to the Bond ‘girls’. But she (the ever-alluring Monica Bellucci) is accorded much less screen time than her much younger counterpart (French temptress du jour Seydoux). Of course, no Bond movie would be complete without its villains. As the arch-fiend, multiple-Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz is uncharacteristically bland. On the other hand, his murderous sidekick (mountain man Dave Bautista) exudes an effective air of menace.
Watch: Spectre review
In his fourth and possibly final foray as Bond, Daniel Craig continues to plug into the popular zeitgeist. In one drunken scene, he even manages the neat trick of — you better believe this — mock-interrogating a mouse.
There is speculation that Craig may holster his Walther pistol following this quintessential-if-unduly-lengthy outing. No matter, for aficionados will still wait with bated breath for Bond No 25. Bring it on. Soon.