DANIEL Craig’s fourth outing as the legendary British spy comes to an alarming full circle after a 150-minute thrill ride as Dan Wright reviews SPECTRE.

A thunderous drum beat originating from the Day of the Dead festival is an instant and gripping tactic to lure the audience straight into the 24th installment of the James Bond franchise, escalating an uncontrollable scale of action that alludes to a spectacular roller coaster of an adventure.

Overseen once again by Sam Mendes, director of the film’s storming successor Skyfall, Spectre is a symphony of gorgeous visuals entwined with slick editing that evoke various atmospheric moods throughout the film. Commencing its opening scene in Mexico at rapid pace, the film opens solidly with a tremendous scale of grandiose and thoroughly absorbing action.

Despite the firm opening however, Spectre fails to maintain this façade throughout. There’s no heightened ante or overwhelming sense of danger, instead focusing on creepy voyeur surveillance that undermines the rights of a free individual.

It’s this sense that delivers a somewhat lack of satisfaction when the title credits roll, an undelivered sensational climax despite a very different finale to the past three outings.

At the very peak of Spectre’s performance is the actor behind the British spy himself in the form of Daniel Craig, offering his most complete yet complex portrayal of Ian Fleming’s masterpiece yet. Demonstrating an unrelenting display as James Bond, Craig finds himself delivering a very different Bond compared to previous incarnations we’re perhaps so used to as an audience.

With the ability to dismiss and sneak past his superiors whilst taking command of his peers, Bond demonstrates previously unseen traits of leadership of dedication unmatched by any of his previous selves. The emotional depth covered by delving further into Bond’s childhood ties Spectre to its predecessor perfectly, without turning the film into a forgettable sequel hashed together in the most regrettable circumstances (I’m looking at you, Quantum of Solace).

Craig isn’t the only jewel in this crown however, with Spectre now being able to fully utilise a recognisable MI6 ensemble cast. Ben Whishaw as Q, Ralph Fiennes as M, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, and Rory Kinnear’s Bill Tanner all make a point of excelling in their roles, with the criminally underused presence of Q in Skyfall having an apology delivered in Spectre by a greater, out of the box role.

Daniel Craig in helicopter during Spectre
Striking: Bond was part of a memorable opening sequence in a stand-off with villain Marco Scarria in a helicopter

Andrew Scott’s performance as Max Denbigh is darker than Craig’s suit, and  and Jesper Christensen’s return to the franchise doesn’t go amiss either. Sadly however, Monica Belluci’s addition to the cast as the oldest portrayal of a Bond girl goes cruelly underused, barely grasping any memorable screen time through the film’s course.

Lea Seydoux’s outing as Dr. Madelline Swan is arguably frustrating, seemingly plucked out of thin air to generate a relationship that throws back to Bond and Vesper’s romance of Casino Royale, whilst failing miserably to do so. Ultimately her stance as Bond’s moral rock proves to be a crucial addition, but not one to be celebrated by audiences.

James Bond with Lucia Sciarra
Bond ‘woman’: Much has been made about Monica Bellucci playing the oldest Bond girl Lucia Sciarra (left) at the age of 51 but she only appeared for a short time in the film

Arguably the high point and the most gargantuan sources of anticipation prior to release were the teases of the villainous duo in the form of Dave Bautista and Christoph Waltz, both revelling in a scent of old-school brutal Bond villains. But despite the promising teasers, their significant lack of appearances on screen fail to deliver the menacing and terrifying performance we were seemingly promised.

Bautista’s performance as Hinx during the film’s glorious cat and mouse car chase through Rome churns out the imagery of a gentle giant who would rather not tear Bond and his pristine Aston Martin DB10 to pieces, but rather mild intimidation that acts as this sequences only downside. Arguably, the car chase is the pinnacle of the film, with a gorgeous yet gripping soundtrack overlaying the action and some truly jaw dropping night time visuals.

Waltz limited but precious onscreen appearances opposite Daniel Craig allow him to shine, narrowly missing out on clinching the spotlight in the same way that perhaps Javier Bardem’s Silva was able to do so in Skyfall. Nonetheless, there’s a puzzling torture scene that is purely animated and brought to life only by Waltz’s ability to convince the audience that such a procedure is possible.

Should Spectre be Daniel Craig’s swansong to his tenure as the iconic spy, it certainly delivers on neatly tying up his combined four ventures into a tidy, watchable tetralogy to be looked back on in years to come. Whilst appearing thin and predictable on the entire plot at points, the magnificent pace, visuals and for the most part, soundtrack form the icing on yet another spectacular performance for Daniel Craig’s portrayal of James Bond.

Rating: 12A
Running time: 148 minutes

By Daniel Wright

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