Spectre (12A)

four stars

NEVER let it be said Bond does not keep up with the times. Here, in the occasionally baggy but still bang on the money Spectre, director Sam Mendes has delivered an exhilarating Bond for these post-Snowden times, a world in which eyes are everywhere, in the skies, the bedroom, even present at a man’s death. Bond, with his poor old analogue ways, should not fit into this shiny new digital world, but who dares tell the old dinosaur? 

This is the second Bond for Mendes, the fourth for Daniel Craig as the shaken not stirred agent, and already the plan is clear. Unlike with previous, stand-alone Bonds, Mendes and Craig (a co-producer) want to fashion a narrative that goes the distance. The ultimate wham-bam merchant wants to stick around so audiences can learn more about him, feel his pain as he sets a rotten world to rights. One senses Mr Connery, a man’s Bond, would not approve.

The film opens with a chilling prologue - “The dead are alive”. We know, however, that one who has definitely turned up her toes is the old M, Judi Dench. Wouldn’t you know it, the former head of MI6 has left Bond a message from beyond the grave. It does not concern instructions for feeding her cat. 

Just as well, because poor old Bond and his organisation need all the help they can get. They are under threat from a sinister organisation perpetrating atrocities across the globe. Worse, they are caught in the sights of that most terrifying of beasts - a number cruncher. The government wants MI5 and MI6 replaced by a new outfit, one heavy on the surveillance and light on agents on the ground. 

His story set up, Mendes proceeds to tick all the Bond boxes - car chases, explosions, sessions with Q, martini gags, jokes (some crackers), you know the drill. As for the ladies, the much publicised arrival of the oldest Bond “girl” in Monica Bellucci is a let down, with the Italian goddess appearing all too briefly. Instead, it is business as usual Bond women-wise, with Lea Seydoux pushing the envelope of sexism another millimetre with a character who is a psychologist no less. Never fear, she still looks fabulous in a frock. 

Another new face is Christoph Waltz as Franz Oberhauser, whose role has been much speculated upon. I could tell you what it turns out to be, but I’d have to kill you, and that would never do. Let us just say you will not be disappointed. Save that disappointment for a film that has far more air in it than Skyfall and Casino Royale.

Craig, as ever, is the best thing on screen, but at times he looked a little tired, as if he might well be coming to the end of his Bond rainbow. There will be another 007; there is too much left in this pot of gold franchise for it to be otherwise. In the meantime, enjoy this Craig-fuelled thrill ride.