Spectre is a good film, if not great. But, despite some interesting plot developments, is director Sam Mendes really the right man for the job?
Industrial moaning about the latest James Bond film is almost as big a business as the franchise itself.
There is plenty in Spectre for the hard core fan to take umbrage at but the overriding feeling at the end is relief.
Some of his spark may be missing but James Bond will live to fight another day.
The big question is does director Sam Mendes, he of the Oscar-winning American Beauty, really have a taste for the audacious Britishness, epic cinematography, and futuristic, far-flung glamour of a James Bond film?
On this second showing, the answer is undoubtedly no.
The opening-sequence helicopter acrobatics above Mexico City, and even a train streaking across the Tunisian desert at sunset, both fall flat for lack of contrast.
And you have to wonder at the wisdom of filming the Rome car chase at night.
Meanwhile, in what should be the prime Bond territory of the Austrian Alps, there is zero sense that the dizzying Otztal Glacier Road is among Europe’s highest mountain passes.
All that said, Soelden’s Ice Q restaurant, perched on a mountain top, looks even better than it does in the brochure.
As in Skyfall, the biggest victim in Spectre is M. Much reduced, thanks to a plan to subsume the British Secret Service into an ‘unelected’ international organisation of ‘member states’ – EU anybody?? – the film comes dangerously close to Keystone Cops territory as he, Q and Moneypenny bumble around towards the end.
At least, under Mendes’ direction, the clunky references to previous Bond films are now gone. Even the reappearance of that bloody Aston Martin DB5 is kept to the absolute minimum.
In general it is much more subtle now. The scriptwriters have obviously read all the books though the prime inspiration is clearly John Pearson’s 1973 ‘Authorised Biography of 007’.
It helps Spectre tie a lot of loose ends together, including a particular end even avid fans will have been unaware needed tying.
Ultimately Spectre is eminently watchable though it merely moves the game on, rather than up.