Well, this certainly feels like a full stop. Daniel Craig has been slippery and circumspect when asked if ‘Spectre’ will be his final outing as James Bond. From both the tone and content of ‘Spectre’, we’d guess this could be his swansong: this is a film that gathers all the great – and some of the not-so-great – things about the three previous films in the Craig-as-Bond cycle into one rousing, spectacular, scattershot and somewhat overextended victory lap. It works – until it doesn’t.
We find Bond in Mexico City – it’s the Day of the Dead, the perfect excuse for rampaging masked crowds, unexpected explosions and a swooping, supercharged helicopter sequence that’ll have you choking on your popcorn. Then it's back to London for some very bad news: MI6’s Double-0 program is under threat thanks to the machinations of creepy surveillance agent C (Andrew Scott), leaving old warhorses like M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw) and Bond himself facing the scrapheap. Which, of course, doesn’t stop our James from speeding off to Rome, Austria and north Africa on the trail of the titular band of assassins, terrorists and all-round global troublemakers run by the literally shadowy Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz).
So far, so sleek and spellbinding: director Sam Mendes exercises complete control over his material, Craig’s bruised bulldog charm is in full effect and the visuals by crack cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema are rich and ravishing. But somewhere between the introduction of Léa Seydoux’s snappy but underwritten Madeleine Swann and some antics in the Sahara that unpleasantly (and, we’d assume, unintentionally) recall the climax of ‘Quantum of Solace’, the wheels come rattling off this Aston Martin.
One major problem is a ridiculously unconvincing villain: the script attempts to shoehorn a spot of ‘Skyfall’-style backstory between Bond and his enemy, which sadly leaves the character looking more laughable than terrifying, despite Waltz’s best efforts. And this is reflective of ‘Spectre’ as a whole: in trying to do too much, the focus becomes lost. As the second half unfolds, the absence of an emotional core becomes ever more glaring, hopping from one action beat to the next without ever asking us to care – or, at times, understand – what’s going on.
The result is an unbalanced but never less than entertaining film, enthralling and deflating in roughly equal measure, and studded with moments of true, old-school glory. If this is Craig’s farewell to the tux, he’s going out with a whole string of very loud bangs.
Read our interview with Daniel Craig to find out what he thought about the film.