Spectre review: ‘Very nearly a 21st century Goldfinger’

Daniel Craig is James Bond in Spectre. Picture: Jonathan Olley

Daniel Craig is James Bond in Spectre. Picture: Jonathan Olley - Credit: Archant

Spectre may just be the pick of Daniel Craig’s Bond films, but a perfect first half is let down by the finale, says Michael Joyce.

Much of western culture is infused with a sense of regret at having misplaced most of the best things from the ‘60s. The ficticious crime syndicate SPECTRE vanished from the Bond films at the end of that decade and its absence has been keenly felt; the Bond series has spent the last four and a half decades trying to rediscover the glamour and peerless confidence of the Connery/ Lazenby era. In Spectre, Bond 24, they get it back; and then let it slip through their fingers.

The first hour of Spectre is magnificent. There’s been much speculation about what a possible Christopher Nolan-directed Bond film might look like and I would suggest it would be very much like this. It is beautifully shot but mostly it is just so casually assured. Everything is seamless and perfect: even that Sam Smith song.

The Craig era, such a departure when it started out, has now circled all the way back to embrace the classic Bond movie formula. Spectre has all the traditional elements we’ve come to expect from a Bond film and delivers them in more or less the traditional order: it’s just done with more wit, skill, intelligence and zip than before. And yes, just like classic Bond, it is silly, very silly. Spectre is an absurd and outdated conceit, yet the grace with which the film moulds it onto contemporary fears about our surveillance culture is rather smart.

Something happens to the film around the hour mark though. It stops being a modern day Connery Bond, and becomes more of a modern day Moore Bond. Having started out like it knew exactly where it was heading, it loses direction and allows casual globetrotting to replace plot. All the best stunts and action sequences come early on, and that means the climax is the film’s least effective set piece.

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Nobody Does It Better, according to the Carly Simon song, suggesting that in the bedroom Bond offers total satisfaction. The films though invariably leave you a little frustrated, a little unfulfilled. Spectre may just be the pick of the Craig Bonds, but for a while it offers you a glimpse of something much more, a 21st Century Goldfinger.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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For a review of the Blu-ray release of Rock Hudson’s ‘60s sci-fi thriller Seconds, go to halfmanhalfcritic.weebly.com

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