The conclusion to the Daniel Craig helmed reinvention of the 007 series looks to end the series on a high. So is it full of British bravado or just brainless Bond bluster?
The narrative begins with the typical efficiency that the series has become known for, with Craig's pursuits centered around locating the elusive Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz). However the film soon escalates rapidly into an expansive plot that involves characters both new and old. It was pleasantly surprising how well Spectre drew together the previous three films and it often felt like a greatest hits compilation of the modern reincarnation of Bond in the best possible way.
The combat is just as brutal and Borne-inspired as ever courtesy of Dave Bautista's Mr Hinx, who is essentially Oberhauser's one man team of henchmen. Action sequences were never dull or overly familiar, with a well struck balance between vehicular and on foot action.
The return of Skyfall director Sam Mendes means that these scenes all move with pace and are buttery smooth, with the opening sequence set during the Mexican "Day of the Dead" festival a prime example of his style.
The film begins with an outstanding seamless shot (reminiscent of Birdman's "one-shot" approach) that moves through the bustling and seemingly never ending crowds of masked revelers to pick out the masked Bond. The festival then forms the backdrop for a high octane pursuit that escalates from a stealthy assassination into a frenetic chase. This is also by far the most global 007 film, with locations ranging from Austria, Rome and Morocco, and each one sprawls effortlessly across the screen with stunning exocitism and beauty.
Excellent additions are made to the returning cast, with Andrew Scott (Sherlock) and the aforementioned Bautista settling in seamlessly among the familiar faces of Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear and Ben Whishaw who all impressed again. Sadly, Scott felt at times underused, so that when the narrative swung back towards London, events involving his character lacked impact. Daniel Craig is just as stellar as Bond, easily mingling wit with grit. However, the real star of the show is Waltz, who is as utterly menacing and downright sinister as hoped. He flourishes from a mysterious, shadowy figure into a completely deranged psychopath that just can't stop grinning at Bond's pain.
Mendes subtly draws out the similarities between Bond and Oberhauser, each of a differingly psychotic nature. The depth of characterisation of Waltz's character, witty charm of the script and ever changing action all combine to confirm once again that there really is no other series that can even come close to the brilliant Bond formula. Spectre also feels nicely nostalgic, as it is after all the end of an era, symbolised by the fact that the classic "gun-barrel" shot is back at the beginning of the film, a lovely touch. It also contains all of the classic one-liners and Aston Martins that have always been a feature of the series.
Spectre felt like the perfect end to the Craig era. Wrapping up all four films in a relatively simple overall narrative provided a more than satisfying conclusion to the series and left me, in contrast to Bond's traditional martini, shaken and very much stirred.