SPECTRE review – Bond is more of a stirrer than a shaker

Cineworld knows how to do a Bond premier: Aston Martin DB9s everywhere, blackjack and roulette tables, the staff dressed in tuxes and dresses that made them look as comfortable as Daniel Craig’s wife watching her husband dry hump Monica Bellucci against a mirror. It was all rather exciting. I’d been hyping this one up, too.

In the weeks leading up to the release of SPECTRE, I, rather childishly, shared a James Bond clip every day on social media, hoping that my enthusiasm for tongue-in-cheek action would rub off on people with unequivocally shitter tastes than me. Little did I know, this drawn-out ‘hobby’ – which predominately served to supply me with a few moments of giddy nostalgia – would be a precursor for the length of the film. In plain English: it was bloody long.

You probably think I meant that as a criticism, but I didn’t. The more minutes of Bond killing, screwing and drinking you can fit in, the better, especially when you have scenes like the opening one. It starts in Mexico City on the Day of the Dead; everyone’s dressed like it’s Halloween on Noel’s House Party and Bond (Daniel Craig) already has a lady sprawled out on a mattress for him. There’s an explosion and a helicopter literally starts cartwheeling in the air. All is well. Then that bloody song starts.

Before the vocals even kicked in, I did something I never do and would lament anyone else for doing in a cinema – I tutted loudly, to affirm to everyone in a three seat radius that I disapproved of this nastily contrived, hollow piece of marketing. No amount of animated octopi or fire from the opening title sequence could suppress Sam Smith’s wailing and screeching. I looked around to see if anyone else was furiously shaking their heads, but no. I think they liked it. Typical.

Then the rest of the film gets underway. Bond is bollocked for causing a ruckus without MI6’s permission, which gives cocky Head of Central Intelligence, Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott), further reason to cancel the 00 program. That means Bond has to go rogue while tracing clues back to a secret organisation called SPECTRE. It’s not mentioned in the film, but that stands for Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence Terrorism Revenge and Extortion. Or, as just a noun, it means ‘a ghost’. And it’s also how Ali G pronounces ‘respect’.

That plot starts out suspenseful, with silhouetted shots of Christopher Waltz’s brilliantly menacing antagonist in an evil boardroom scene. But things go a bit stale from thereon. So much time is spent building up the terrorist organisation, there isn’t much room left to do it justice in the final acts. We get a couple of glimpses of a Dr. Evil-style lair, but there’s no major sense of threat. I wasn’t scared. I’d have ’em.

Thankfully, the reincorporation of classic 007 elements is the film’s saving grace. There are cheeky one-liners, gadgets, no-sweat action sequences and brilliantly self-aware (yet tasteful) sex scenes. Dr. Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux) is meant to be the one to steal James’s heart, but I definitely felt more heat in the Bellucci encounter. Her arse cheeks are probably still imprinted on that mirror.

Put that together with the film’s ludicrously expensive location list and this is basically a travel documentary exposing the easiness of European women, with coitally suggestive explosions. Proper Bond.

It seems director Sam Mendez has learned his lesson from Skyfall, realising what these films really need to succeed – humour. I let out a number of belly laughs, but the biggest was actually for Ralph Fiennes as M, who mockingly insinuates that Max Denbigh’s codename stands for a certain four-letter word. “Now we know what ‘C’ stands for.”

SPECTRE is probably the best Bond film we’ve had since Casino Royale, which basically means it’s only better than Quantum of Arse Water and Sky Fell Over. Not the resounding achievement I was expecting, but it was still pleasing to see the return of a more familiar 007. I’m also glad they’re still doing that barrel of a gun, turn and shoot, blood trickling down the screen opening. If they ever stop doing that I’ll probably just give up and become a Tibetan monk.


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